Brent Buice travels in the Florida Keys during the Week-a-Year Tour in November 2019.
By Jessica Reid, Communications Intern
Brent Buice, the East Coast Greenway’s South Carolina and Georgia Coordinator since 2017, has tackled transportation challenges and pushed for bicycle safety throughout his advocacy career.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Buice has the responsibility of coordinating efforts to plan, develop, build and activate the Greenway throughout the region. His work ranges from working on small details of trails to determining where to place them.
Every region is different, and Buice’s region may be the most challenging in which to make progress.
“Pretty plainly my region is the furthest behind of the entire route, and there are a lot of historical and geographic reasons for that. There isn't a lot of population on the coast of Georgia. Unlike many of the other states, our state capitol is nowhere near the route for the Greenway. So most of the power, money, influence and decision-making happens at least a four-hour drive from where the Greenway travels through our state in Georgia,” explained Buice. South Carolina is a bit different because it includes Charleston, but the region is still mostly rural.
However, Buice rises to the challenge.
One success story is Awendaw, South Carolina. The community worked with the U.S. Forest Service to convert unpaved roads into multi-use paths at a very low cost. “They did it very conscientiously to be a part of the East Coast Greenway,” said Buice.
Another milestone is his work on the on-road Greenway routing in Georgia, where Buice has been able to create a path along country roads with little traffic. The Greenway’s vision is to have a complete greenway separate from the road, but this current solution creates a safer way to travel than busy U.S. Highway 17. Buice noted that signage is essential on rural roads to help people stay safe in incomplete areas, especially where there may be no cell phone signal.
Buice explained that building greenways is a relay race since it takes many people over time. He said, “We're standing on the shoulders of a lot of great volunteers that came before us.” For example, he recognized the Coastal Georgia Greenway did great work before joining forces with the East Coast Greenway Alliance in 2020.
Creating safe paths is personal for Buice. While attending the University of Georgia, he started biking to get to class but realized the roads were unsafe for bikers.
Around this time, Buice attended an event about the intersection of land use, transportation, public health and sustainability. He told an organizer that he felt the streets were dangerous, and she asked him to be on the Board of Directors. He accepted, served for 10 years and was president the last three of those years. That decision led to a job as executive director of Georgia Bikes, a statewide advocacy group.
While in that role, he learned about the East Coast Greenway as an ambitious project in Georgia and learned it would be hiring a regional coordinator. Buice was moving to Savannah for family reasons, so “the stars aligned,” he explained, for him to be joining the Greenway team.
While an undergraduate, Buice studied linguistics and anthropology. He said, “It was cultural, and we talked a lot about development and their impact on really vulnerable communities. I see a lot of very obvious intersections of that study and what eventually became my interest in active transportation.”
He continues his interest in safe and sustainable transportation in his daily life. He bikes most of the time, which he said works well in Savannah since it is flat and has a robust transit system as a backup. He rarely uses his car, which he and his wife only bought when their daughter was born.
Originally from the northwest suburbs of Atlanta, near Kennesaw, Buice likes many different trails in his coastal region. He particularly enjoys the greenway near Myrtle Beach since it is the only city in his region that has completed 100 percent of its trails.
“The most dramatic part of the Greenway would be the Ravenel Bridge that goes over the Cooper River between Mount Pleasant and the downtown Charleston peninsula. They built a barrier-protected walking and biking path that is part of the East Coast Greenway that has breathtaking views,” continued Buice. “The Spanish Moss Trail in Beaufort, South Carolina, is probably our best and brightest spot of the Greenway in the whole deep South.”
When he is not biking, Buice enjoys walks with his family, beach trips and drawing with his two daughters, ages 3 and 9.
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