Renewed hope for safe cycling
The hazards of riding a bicycle are real and becoming ever more apparent as the numbers of cyclists increase along with the volume of motor traffic in the Charleston metropolitan area.
So it's particularly good news that there is a renewed effort to provide cyclists, and pedestrians, safe crossing over one of the most forbidding lengths of urban roadway in the Lowcountry.
A joint Charleston County-North Charleston study is examining the innovative possibility of putting a suitably fortified bike/pedestrian lane down the center of the North Bridge, connecting Charleston and North Charleston, over the Ashley River.
Previous efforts to put a bike lane on the northbound side of the bridge were rejected by the state Department of Transportation because of the difficulty in dealing with on ramps and merge lanes connecting to I-26. The same problems exist on the southbound side.
As planned, the center-line bike lane would extend to Azalea Avenue in North Charleston and an existing traffic signal on the Charleston side of the bridge. Concrete barriers would separate it from vehicular traffic.
Currently, pedestrians and cyclists are banned from using the span, formally known as the World War II Memorial Bridge, because it has no sidewalk access. But some still traverse the bridge via a narrow, slightly raised median, at serious risk to life and limb.
Deputy County Administrator Kurt Taylor said the North Bridge bike lane would provide a safe link essential to connecting North Charleston and the West Ashley area of the city of Charleston for cyclists. It's possible that one lane of the bridge going into North Charleston could be sacrificed for the project -- a change that Mr. Taylor says is supported by Mayor Keith Summey. Traffic on the North Bridge is actually below historic highs recorded when the Naval Shipyard was still open for business.
In addition, Cosgrove Avenue improvements will include a bicycle lane, providing for extended safe access elsewhere in North Charleston.
Meanwhile, studies are nearing completion for bicycle access on the T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge across the Ashley River, between West Ashley and peninsula Charleston, and on the James Island Connector. Access on one of those spans is essential to a comprehensive bike system for the city of Charleston.
Cycling is increasing for commuting as well as for recreation. That intensifies concerns, cited by Frank Wooten on today's Commentary page, about the interface between bicycles and motor vehicles. Directly related to that problem is the challenge of providing safe ways for cyclists to cross the waterways that intersect the urban area.
County and city officials should be supported in their efforts to find innovative ways to achieve bike mobility and safety.
Let's hope the new North Bridge plan will provide a solution.