HICKS COLUMN: Welcome to the concrete jungle
Dan and Rebecca Knapp are going all Joni Mitchell on the city of Charleston these days.
The couple is fond of saying the plan for the West Ashley Greenway is little more than a scheme to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”
That’s half-right, anyway. Because when this greenway project is finished, it won’t be a parking lot — it will be an expressway.
The West Ashley Greenway master plan calls for paving a 10-foot-wide strip down the middle of the path between Folly Road and Stinson. That would be fine in some places, except the snakes might gripe.
The problem is that in far too many stretches of the greenway, there’s not much more than 13 feet of flat surface. If you want to walk off pavement, you’ll be on a pretty steep hill.
Or in the marsh.
And that is the Knapps’ main concern.
“We’re not fighting the paving,” Dan Knapp says. “What we want them to do is scale it down in the narrow parts to five feet.”
That’s reasonable, and would leave walkers with a bit more of a safety zone. But so far, no one’s listening.
Folks who walk the greenway regularly know the drill:
Every few minutes, some yahoo on a bicycle buzzes by without a word, scaring them or forcing them to jump off the path. Some of these people are somewhat obnoxious and, like much of society, oblivious to their fellow man.
But they have nice stretch pants.
Of course, that behavior pretty much fits with downtown bike traffic, which more often than not blows through red lights and stop signs — and illegally cruises on the sidewalks — screaming for people to get out of their way. They’re not doing the cause any favors. Once the greenway is paved, the problem is only going to get worse for walkers.
Knapp disputes the claims of city officials who say the path has to be 10 feet wide to meet federal guidelines. He says 5 feet is fine for wheelchairs and the like. Unless, of course, the intention is to build an interstate.
The city held public hearings on this issue years ago, and they got all kinds of interesting ideas. A water fountain at dog level, for instance.
No doubt something should be done to keep parts of the greenway from becoming too muddy to use after it rains, but surely some sort of clay, as some folks suggested, would be a little more environmentally friendly.
Knapp says this is going to turn the greenway into another Ravenel Bridge, where bikers routinely terrorize walkers — treating pedestrians much like cars treat them.
You know, these days the city is catering to bikers like Congress courts the NRA. Which would be fine if this plan wasn’t going to kick all those walkers to the curb. And that’s certainly what’s going to happen. Might as well put up stop signs and guard rails — this is going to become another street.
If city officials aren’t going to listen to the Knapps and a growing chorus of upset West Ashley residents, they should at least change the greenway’s name. The Schwinn Superhighway has an appropriate ring to it.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.
or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.