Columbia ranks among top "bike-friendly" cities in the nation

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COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia ranked No. 42 in the nation in a ranking of best bike cities by Bicycling magazine.

The biennial list takes multiple factors into account, including miles of bike lanes, percentage of female cycling commuters and the number of cyclist-friendly bars. Columbia finished better than other larger cities like Atlanta, Milwaukee and Detroit.

"It's a full-press system," said Ted Curtis, Columbia's bicycle/pedestrian coordinator. "It's not just a trail here and a trail there that people go to. Columbia has a really nice integrated system with not only trails, but streets with bike lanes and bike boulevards."

The ranking shows Columbia has 2.9 miles of bike lanes per square mile. The city jumped two spots since the last ranking in 2014.

In 2015, Columbia adopted a task force on pedestrian safety, with 15 members appointed by the mayor, intended to "evaluate available resources and provide recommendations on what can be done by the city government and by citizens themselves working in a cooperative way to decrease collisions between automobiles and pedestrians," according to the city's website.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas and First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin serve as the two co-chairs of the task force. They intend to propose a new Vision Zero policy to the city council in November.

"We should design and operate our transportation system with our number one priority being safety," Thomas said.

The plan is centered around designing infrastructure and roadways to eliminate all pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. The plan states that those deaths are avoidable, and therefore, unacceptable, Thomas said.

Biking is also a good way to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, and using a bike in favor of a car could save the average family $9,000 per year, Thomas said.