Proposed law would allow cyclists on some freeways
The legal cloud of biking over the James Island connector and similar freeways could be lifted under a bill being peddled by state Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms.
The bill would let the state Department of Transportation allow pedestrians and bikers on controlled-access highways if a local government calls for it and if the department concludes there’s no other safe route.
While Senate Bill 1375 would apply statewide, its most immediate impact could be on the James Island connector, which the city of Charleston and the state recently closed to bicyclists several months after a cyclist there was struck and killed by a vehicle.
Tom Bradford of Charleston Moves, a nonprofit that has been pushing for bicycle access across the Lowcountry, said the connector still is the safest route between downtown Charleston and James Island.
Bradford said he recently biked to the island via the drawbridge over the Wappoo Cut and was almost blown off the bridge by a passing truck.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “It’s unconscionable that we can’t do better.”
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said he supports the bill and thinks it will clear the Senate Transportation Committee, which he chairs.
However, Grooms said it is getting late in this year’s legislative session, so its passage is far from a sure thing.
“At this time of year, as we’re approaching the end of the two-year legislative session, bills that make sense sometimes are not passed,” Grooms said. “Generally, it doesn’t have to do with the bill itself. It has to do with other matters.”
Earlier this year, the state posted signs on the James Island Connector that make it clear that bicyclists and pedestrians are prohibited.
However, some cyclists have continued to use it, and Bradford said he has not heard of anyone being given a ticket, which carries a maximum penalty of $100 or 30 days in jail.
The city, state and Charleston County are working to convert one lane of the northbound drawbridge over the Ashley River to a bike and pedestrian path, but that project wouldn’t address cyclists’ access to James Island.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.