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Allen University HYPE Team partnering with City of Columbia leaders

au_hype620Safe places to bike and walk in the Allen University area of downtown Columbia are questionable, but thanks to the work of the Allen University HYPE Team, change could be on its way. Since attending the HYPE Summer Leadership Institute in June, youth from the Allen University Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy have been hard at work developing their physical activity project.

The team conducted a walkability assessment on the Taylor Street corridor of Allen University and found some concerns for the University’s students and the surrounding community. In addition to being in a high traffic area, the assessment findings included evidence of cracked or broken sidewalks, graffiti, and litter – all factors that make the area seem unsafe and unappealing for biking and walking.

“There was a lot of trash, a lot of cracked sidewalks. It wasn’t safe for people in wheel chairs or with canes. It also wasn’t pleasant because there were a lot of trees and a lot of dead things,” said Aaliyah Day, member of the Allen University HYPE Team. “And we also didn’t see very many trash cans. I know that discourages a lot of people when it comes to not littering.”

Because the focus of the project is sidewalk and bike lane improvement, the HYPE Team approached Walk Bike Columbia for assistance. Walk Bike Columbia is an alliance of partners, led by the Central Midlands Council of Government and the City of Columbia, whose mission is to improve safety and mobility for City of Columbia residents and visitors. Walk Bike Columbia suggested the HYPE Team conduct a bicycle and pedestrian count on the Taylor Street corridor.

“The purpose of doing the pedestrian bicycle count is so that the City of Columbia can actually work on improving the sidewalks for the pedestrians and improving the bicycle paths for cyclists in this particular community,” said Dr. Gennetta Mitchell, Allen University HYPE Team adult advisor and Allen University professor. “ So they wanted to see how many people actually use the sidewalks during the day and how many cyclists are using the roads as well.”

The Allen University HYPE Team presented the findings of their walkability assessment and the bicycle and pedestrian count to Walk Bike Columbia on October 13. Walk Bike Columbia will include the assessment results in the City of Columbia’s Master Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. The group provided the HYPE Team with a few recommendations on how to move their project forward:

  • Notify the S.C. Department of Transportation of their concerns/findings through their online system
  • Join the Better Block Movement
  • Coordinate a community litter pick up day
  • Contact the S.C. Department of Forestry regarding potential beautification/tree planting projects

“We hope to be able to work closely with Bike Walk Columbia as they start to make their decisions for this particular area and we hope to be very influential in their decision making process as it relates to this particular area in Columbia,” said Dr. Mitchell.