Jeff Speck: Towards a More Walkable and Bikeable Greenville


World renowned urban planner Jeff Speck spoke to a receptive crowd at the Clemson One Auditorium on 12 April.  This event was organized by AIA Greenville, and Bike Walk Greenville was pleased to be one of the sponsors.  He followed with a small session for city staff and sponsors at City Hall on 13 April.

Jeff Speck has two TED Talks, each with over a million views that he recommends that those who missed his speech take 15 minutes to view one of these videos.

The best part of his presentation in Greenville was his focus on our city.  He started with the highest praise for Falls Park which he said was spectacular and a world class park.

His most important comment that brought a big smile to my face was that Greenville needed a downtown network of protected bike lanes, and by so doing our city would prosper!  He commented that the Swamp Rabbit Trail was primarily for recreation, not transportation.

He ended his presentation with praise for the 1 ½ mile 30 minute walk on Main St from Pendleton St to Academy St saying such a lengthy interesting walk is unprecedented in cities our size, and once the new construction at the Greenville News site is completed, the street will be an interesting walk for its entire length.


Some of the other key points in these two sessions were:

  • Parked cars are important for protecting people walking, and in enjoying the sidewalk for an outdoor meal. He showed a slide from Miami where a restaurant’s sidewalk dining tables were empty on the side of the street that had no parking, and full on the other side that had parking.  The restaurant ultimately went out of business.
  • One Way Streets should be replaced by two way streets where possible. This may be difficult for our downtown as we have one-way streets to and from I-385, but he thought it is not impossible to change.
  • Narrow the lanes to 10 ft, as it helps slow traffic. We have many very wide lanes in our city that can be narrowed to make room for bicycle facilities.
  • Look for opportunities to do road diets from 4 lanes to 3 , studies prove this configuration can handle the same traffic counts and allows room for bicycle facilities.
  • Consider eliminating some traffic signals and replace with four way stop signs- perhaps at McBee and Main St. Allows elimination of turn lanes at such intersections.
  • Plant more street trees downtown- he thought Main St wonderful, but the rest of downtown seemed lacking from the aerial view he showed.
  • When asked about making suburban roads walkable- he commented this only makes sense for shopping streets which have residences nearby. If you build sidewalks in areas where nobody lives or shops, you make it safer, but it will seldom used.  He suggested prioritizing downtown beyond Main St before taking on other challenges in the city.
  • The safety implications of slowing traffic was stressed and he showed the graphic that emphasizes you live when you get hit by a car at 20 mph and die when hit at 40 mph. This is the same message as my 9 April Greenville News Commentary


Jeff Speck and Frank Mansbach in conversation prior to his 12 April talk

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