Bike access pedals ahead
The Lowcountry is accustomed to thinking about local transportation as cars and, oh yeah, bikes if it's convenient.
It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking.
We can begin by refusing to concede that a long-anticipated bike path across the Ashley River isn't to be. The path just might have to look different from what was being planned.
Mayor Joe Riley's recommendation Thursday to consider converting the southernmost lane on the bridge that goes from West Ashley to the peninsula might be the answer.
After a long and costly ($430,000) study, engineers say the bridge from West Ashley to the peninsula can't support a cantilevered bike path as envisioned and supported by the mayor.
Hernan Pena, city traffic and transportation director, dismissed the idea of using a traffic lane for bikers as unsafe and inconvenient.
But his concerns at this point are speculative. And given the limited number of available options, the plan is worth a look.
Indeed, given that the bike path was projected to cost $4.4 million to build, it makes fiscal sense to try a short-term solution that should be relatively inexpensive.
By giving up the southernmost lane of the Allen Legare Bridge to bikes and pedestrians, motorists still would have three lanes, just as they do on the sister bridge that goes from the peninsula to West Ashley.
City Councilman Mike Seekings, an outspoken advocate of making the city more bike friendly, believes that the public would almost universally like the change when they see how it works. He said he uses the bridges across the Ashley frequently and doesn't run into heavy traffic unless they open for boats.
And should authorities come up with a plan that is more appealing, the lane could be converted back for cars.
Mayor Riley said he will encourage the county and the state to study the plan, which would extend the waterfront path around the peninsula to the West Ashley Greenway eventually.
The reasons to forge ahead and find a way to let cyclists cross the Ashley River safely are many: More bikes can mean fewer cars. Fewer cars can mean less pollution, congestion and dependence on fossil fuels. Biking is healthy and can help combat obesity, which is epidemic.
Not pushing ahead should not be an option. It is a pity that the 57,000 or more West Ashley residents who live within a half-mile of a greenway cannot use those paths to get to work or shop on the peninsula.
And it is a pity that Charleston's spectacular water and marsh views on the Ashley River aren't easily accessible to bicyclists, including tourists and commuters.
The question is not if cyclists and pedestrians should have a way across the Ashley.