The various Three Rivers Greenway sections are among the safest places in the Midlands to ride a bike. The only hassle is getting your bike to the greenway. I lower my handlebars and toss my beach cruiser in the back of an old Toyota Matrix.
If you don’t have a hatchback, truck or bike rack — or even a bike — there is an option. The local bike share Blue Bike SC has a checkout station in the parking lot at Columbia’s Riverfront Park. For $2, you get access to the bike for 45 minutes, which is long enough to pedal the full length of the 4-mile canal embankment trail and back if you don’t dawdle. If you decide to take your time, it’s $2 more for each 30 minutes.
If you enjoy the trip and want to come back, there are monthly and annual Blue Bike SC membership options. It’s mobile app-based, so you need a cell phone. While you can sign up at the checkout kiosk, you really should check out the Blue Bike SC website before heading to the park.
If you want to explore Columbia, you can dock the bikes at any of 18 stations at key locations throughout the city. That does require an uphill ride to most downtown sites, and you’re best heading up Laurel Street rather than the much busier Taylor or Hampton streets.
Blue Bike SC began in 2018 as a means to promote short bike trips that connect large employers, colleges, shopping venues, and tourist destinations. A similar bike share in Charleston, Holy Spokes, has been a big hit with tourists on the historic peninsula. Columbia has fewer tourists and its tourism draws are less centralized. Based on Blue Bike SC statistics, it appears the most common use of its bikes is to recreate at Riverfront Park.
The Riverfront Park station routinely ranks No. 1 among docking sites. In 2020, activity at the Riverfront Park station was nearly double the next four stations on the list combined. It seems recreation is as important as connection for Blue Bike SC users, even if that wasn’t the original goal of the bike share.
With that in mind, I’d like to see Blue Bike SC expand to other spots on the Three Rivers Greenway system. The 7-mile round trip on the new Saluda Riverwalk would be the ideal 45-minute trip. Connecting a dock at that site with any of the others, however, would require riding on busy Greystone Boulevard, so a Saluda Riverwalk site would be even more exclusively recreation-oriented.
Blue Bike SC is owned by the City of Columbia, which pretty much rules out docking sites on the West Columbia or Cayce portions of the greenway. There is a docking site in the museum complex on the east side of the Gervais Street bridge, which makes it relatively easy to take a Blue Bike over the bridge to the West Columbia Riverwalk.
It seems to me there’s an opening for a separate bike share along the Cayce and West Columbia riverwalk sections. Imagine the possibilities with docking sites at one end of the trail at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center or the Courtyard by Marriott and near the other end of the trail at the West Columbia Amphitheater. To move beyond recreation, connect those with docks in the Cayce River Arts District on State Street or near the restaurants further up State Street in West Columbia.
These are the sorts of things I ponder as I ride my own bike along the greenway. (As always, if you have any questions or comments about anything in my blog, you can contact me at [email protected].)