South Carolina to build car-free community

Bicycle City in development phase

A car-free community called Bicycle City could be built in Lexington County, South Carolina. Co-developers Joe Mellett and Newton Boykin hope the idea could start to become reality as soon as this autumn.

The company behind the scheme is Ohio-based Bicycle City LLC, which has been working on the project since the early 1990s. It has already spent US$1 million buying 140 acres of property in Gaston, near Columbia.

“The concept behind building Bicycle City is one that we support,”said Bill Nesper, director of the League of American Bicyclists. “A community that is built around bicycles is awesome – I hope it's a success.

"It seems to me that the places people are starting to want to live in, work in and visit are places that build good facilities for bicycling and encourage bicycling throughout the community. So, yes, this seems to be a place where people would want to move.”

According to its website, Bicycle City will be a car-free community with an eco-friendly design. Opening plans include 10 homes powered by solar and wind energy. Property sizes will range from 800-1,600sq ft, and prices will start at $100,000. Residents who own a car will be able to park it on the edge of the community nearest their home.

Gaston was chosen as the location for several reasons, including:

  • Weather is mild and suitable for riding year-round.
  • Columbia Amtrak train station is just a 50-minute bike ride away, with a closer extension expected to open by the end of the year. 
  • Good air and water quality.
  • Nearby organic markets.
  • Access to mountains and beaches.
  • Nearby college.
  • Columbia has earned a bronze level status with the League of American Bicyclists Bike-Friendly City programme.

“South Carolina in general has a lot of bicycle-friendly areas and communities,” Nesper said. “It makes sense to do something like this in a state where the people already understand the concept. It's also an affordable place to live, with a mild temperature, and it seems to make sense.”

Internationally recognised land planner Ozzie Nagler, who worked on the nearby Harbison and Three Rivers Greenway projects, is constructing a non-asphalt system of trails and bike paths throughout the community. It's hoped this could make the town a tourist destination.

Bicycle City isn't the first proposed car-free city in the US – another project is underway outside of Oakland, California. The German cycling-only city of Vauban was built five years ago and now has a population of 5,000.

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