Persistence appears to have paid off. After pushing local officials for a safe way to pedal between West Ashley and the peninsula, bicycle advocates have their goal in sight.
The state Department of Transportation has okayed a plan that would convert one lane of bridge traffic to bike and pedestrian use.
This is terrific news for a community that has demonstrated, via the busy bike lane over the Cooper River, its enthusiasm for biking and walking.
And while it is not seen by the DOT as a permanent fix (vehicular traffic is expected to increase and eventually require that the lane revert to cars), it is a good way to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians while determining what a permanent solution will look like.
Mayor Joe Riley, who championed the idea, calls the DOT's decision "a game changer." It makes the trip safe and direct between West Ashley and the medical complex where thousands of people are employed.
It also will connect with the West Ashley Greenway, which parallels Hwy. 17 along a former railroad track all the way out to Main Road. And it will connect with a bike/pedestrian path to the Battery and back up to the Aquarium. It completes a link in the East Coast Greenway, a national Maine-to- Florida bike trail.
Tom Bradford, director of Charleston Moves, an advocacy group for cyclists and pedestrians, predicts the lane will become even more popular than the very popular lane on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The bridge is flatter and shorter, and useful for commuters as well as those out for exercise or fun.
That could mean fewer cars on the road, healthier people and cleaner air.
It also will afford people an opportunity to slow down and enjoy a view of the peninsula from a new perspective. Drivers on the bridge have to keep their eyes on the road.
The project will require a barrier between vehicular and bike traffic and significant reorganization of intersections, Riley said. Costs have not been determined, but will likely be paid with city, county, state and federal funds.
Getting this far has been complicated. An earlier plan was to build a foot bridge over marsh west of the Ashley and then attach a cantilevered bike path to the side of the T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge, but engineers determined it was not feasible.
The converted bike lane will be a reminder that it is much more difficult to adapt an existing road or bridge for bike use than to include it in new construction.
But for area bicyclists and pedestrians, it's simply great news.
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