ESMMYC Guest Speaker Tom Bell on Biking Initiatives in Rock Hill

by Kellie B. Cooper

York County, SC (Apr. 8,  2019) As Americans become more health conscious and strive to integrate physical activity into daily routines, they are recognizing the importance of “active transportation.” Active transportation benefits health (lowering the risk of chronic diseases, and improving mental health), health equity, the environment and the economy. Yet according to the CDC, only 3% of adults bike or walk to work in South Carolina, and only 13 cities in the state have adopted some form of a Complete Streets policy as of 2016 [1].

At February’s general meeting, Eat Smart Move More York County (ESMMYC) hosted Tom Bell, Outdoor Recreation Superintendent from the City of Rock Hill Parks, Recreation, and Tourism department (RHPRT). Bell spoke about Rock Hill’s efforts to increase physical activity in the community. Many of their initiatives target children, helping them now and into the future as they develop into leaders who make and influence policies. RHPRT’s initiatives focus on teaching kids how to ride, bike safety, bike laws, and how to use biking to engage with the surrounding community.

Much of RHPRT’s outreach has been focused on the school system. They recently bought balance bikes for their preschool and kindergarten program to teach kids to ride at a young age. With the older kids, the focus is more on teaching safe riding and following the rules of the road (but giving extra help on the side to those who haven’t yet learned to ride). Mayor John Gettys is also an advocate for increasing cycling in the community. He has identified related mentoring opportunities in underserved communities to promote skill development, a sense of ownership, and teamwork.

RHPRT also offers learning opportunities to surrounding school districts that combine kayaking and cycling with South Carolina Education standards.  School children take field trips that involve a guided bike rides while learning the history of the Catawba River. They are developing partnerships with and providing support to local schools to start bicycle teams and clubs and are piloting a club at India Hook elementary. The Cycle to Success outreach program travels to the Emmett Scott after school program two Fridays a month. The program incorporates character development, bike safety and group rides.  Also underway is the development of a National Interscholastic Cycling League in South Carolina, a middle and high school aged program that allows kids to compete with other schools across the state. The ultimate goal for this program is to feed into middle and high school bicycling teams and which could open opportunities for kids to go to college on a cycling scholarship.

Bell stressed the importance of having policies and a built environment that supports safe biking and pedestrian activities if outreach programs are going to be sustainable in the long run. The City of Rock Hill is making strong planning efforts by developing the Connect Rock Hill plan that identifies several opportunities to improve conditions for walking and biking as future funding sources are identified. However, many communities in York County have yet to adopt a Complete Street policy, which experts believe is critical to ensure that transportation planners and engineers routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users regardless of age, ability or mode of transportation.

It is up to all citizens across York county to get engaged with the planning process in their respective communities and advocate for safer conditions for walking and biking.  With increased advocacy and demand for walking and biking, the option of adopting a Complete Streets resolution may be the best strategy for communities who are focused on improving the long term health and quality of life if its citizens. ESMMYC and the Bike Ped Task Force of York County will try to keep citizens informed of public meetings focused on bike ped planning initiatives. Do your part, show up and be heard!


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Data, Trend and Maps [online]. [accessed Apr 08, 2019]. URL:


Kellie Cooper is a senior at Winthrop University, majoring in Exercise Science with a minor in Biology. She is currently interning with the Upper Palmetto YMCA, and is serving on the communications committee with ESMMYC. She is passionate about healthy living initiatives, health education, and health equity, equality, and policy. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

About the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County (@BPCYC)

  • Vision – An engaged York County where bicycling and walking are safe, accessible and preferred forms of transportation and recreation
  • Mission – To support York County and its communities becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly
  • Strategy – Educate, advocate, and promote the health, economic, environmental and social benefits of bicycling and walking