Most Lowcountry mayors and political leaders have praised the idea of a 32-mile safe cycling “Battery2Beach” route connecting the Isle of Palms with Charleston’s Battery and Folly Beach.
But they haven’t done much to make it a reality since the idea surfaced a few years ago.
On Tuesday, the nonprofit group Charleston Moves brought together officials and planners from at least five municipalities, plus Charleston County, to kickstart the work.
“We have the tenacity, the dream,” Stephanie Hunt, Charleston Moves board chairwoman, told the group. “You guys have the authority, the power to make it happen.”
The county, state and six cities along the route have agreed to form a new intergovernmental group, chaired by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, to work on the details.
It’s first task? Placing signs on sections of the Battery2Beach route that already exist —and figuring out the best path in areas where it has not been built.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley called the route a wonderful goal and said the city was working to get a bicycle and pedestrian path across the T. Allen Legare drawbridge, where U.S. Highway 17 north crosses the Ashley River — and to open up the James Island connector to bikes, as allowed under a new state law.
Riley said the city has to do engineering studies there that will take some time.
A recent study placed the cost of the Battery2Beach route at $20 million, but that number did not include major infrastructure projects, such as improvements to bridges over Shem, Wappoo and James Island creeks.
Condon said the group will begin work in about a month, and she said the route will be built in small bites, as money and approvals come together. For instance, construction is expected to begin soon upgrading the causeway along Ben Sawyer Boulevard between Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island.
Don Sparks, a Citadel economics professor and veteran cycling advocate, said Tuesday was the first time he saw so many local mayors in one room to talk about bike routes. Riley was joined by Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey and Isle of Palms Mayor Dick Cronin.
Sparks urged the mayors to “take some risks and spend some political capital to make this happen.”
Charleston Moves Director Tom Bradford agreed, saying the nonprofit can’t make the route a reality by itself. “We need your clout,” he said. “We need your connections. We need your knowledge.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.