Two Wheels Are Better Than Four

Dec 7, 2010
Outside Magazine
Bike City

Bike City, South Carolina    Photo: Peter Arkle

DOESN'T LOOK like much of a city, huh? Bingo. Bicycle City (, a 160-acre community now in the works in the rolling hills outside Columbia, South Carolina, has dreams of growing up to be ... a village. As a prototype for a planned network of car-free burgs, the first pedal-powered, mixed-use hamlet in the nation will start small and stay that way. Initially, a handful of LEED-certified homes will anchor a lakeside parcel of forest and meadow, with an option on at least 628 additional acres—and plans for business spaces, a school, and, naturally, more trails, as well as a high-speed road-bike course. Planners envision America's answer to towns like Zermatt, Switzerland. "Bicycle City is holistic," says co-founder Joe Mellett. "We'll address climate change, childhood obesity, and alternative energy—and hope to have a great diversity of people and ideas."

But what will daily life there be like? Residents will park their cars at the edge of the village and use public carts or bike trailers to haul home any goods purchased outside of town. Prefer to ride? Nearby are the huge new state farmers' market (4.5 miles), a greenway running along the Congaree River (7 miles), and downtown Columbia (12 miles). A multi-use market center will feature a café and offer bike rentals and repairs. For green thumbs and foodies, at least two community plots will be set aside for organic gardening. A central park will feature a modern playground at one end and an entertainment gazebo at the other, and the property's surrounding forest and fields will feature some five miles of singletrack, with more planned.