Facing a future characterized by natural disasters induced by climate change, it is our responsibility to be as environmentally responsible as possible. Posterity will judge us for what we do now and the lives of countless innocent people depend on it. That is why it is so heartening to see the progress our Department of Transportation has made in recent years in terms of improving bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Blazing a trail many other agencies could follow, and giving reasons for optimism that in the near future, green options for transportation will be the norm in South Carolina, making it easier for everyone to participate in saving the planet.
Our greatest accomplishment on this front in the past year was the legislature’s passage of the state’s Complete Streets bill, which will reduce the necessity of carbon-based transportation by leaps and bounds. By ensuring most new roadways have bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways, we will have created a network of corridors connecting the entire state. The new connections will make walking and biking a plausible option for many who did not previously have easy non-car commutes to work or school. It will now be possible to make the majority of our transportation carbon-neutral.
Many of the improvements are not only to help commuters, but also to expand the recreational avenues across our area. The West Ashley Greenway, in particular, comes to mind. It is not only a benefit to our environment, but also the health of our citizens that free, clean and beautiful means of keeping an active lifestyle are expanded. Especially with the prospect of a pandemic with no foreseeable end due to anti-vaxx sentiment allowing for new variants to evolve and many other emerging health concerns. Staying healthy is no longer a personal virtue, but a public duty. To that end, it behooves us to make these improvements.
The end result of the trend these bills are forging will be a new South Carolina — a labyrinth of green alongside the old matrix of gray to dominate the significant portions of people’s lives spent commuting and exercising outdoors. Adjacent communities will no longer be separated from one another by major construction projects, as has happened with a focus on car-first transportation policy. This will be a place where the air, the land, the wetlands and the waterways will be cleaner, and without oil runoff and exhaust fumes currently poisoning our region. In short: We are making South Carolina a healthier, more verdant and more vibrant place.
For a state known by all the metrics in which it lacks progress, these changes are a pleasant counter to that narrative. They’re an indication that South Carolina could soon proudly claim designations reserved for the places that score high in quality of life, the environment and human vitality. These are small steps in the direction of transforming this place into one known for its hope and for the glowing radiance of its human goodness. With a little more work, people will look here to see a vision for what this country could be and an example for other communities to follow.
Marvin Pendarvis represents District 113 in the South Carolina House of Representatives.