Charleston officials have burned a lot of tread trying to encourage more bicycle use throughout the city. They just don’t like the clutter that occurs when bikes get locked to trees, sign poles and parking meters, blocking sidewalks.
In an attempt to clean up the rights-of-way, bike parking is about to be banned on all King Street sidewalks between Calhoun and Spring streets as part of a one-year pilot project.
Instead, cyclists will be directed to park in designated racks placed in the street where previously the city had operated metered spaces for cars.
Mayor Joe Riley said the switch is part of the city’s multi-pronged approach to better incorporate bike usage.
In this case, he said, it puts more responsibility on cyclists to be more aware of what happens when they leave a bike behind.
Sidewalk clutter or a felled bike is dangerous any time of day, Riley recently told members of City Council in addressing the idea. “It could cause injury,” he said.
As envisioned, cyclists would have to tie up in one of five special bike “corrals,” which previously had been paid meter parking sites. There will be spaces for 10 bikes in each corral. Additionally, bike racks have been added to the side streets around King for overflow.
Violators face a severe penalty. Bikes could be confiscated or a city lock could be clipped onto any illegally parked bike.
The confiscated bikes would be released only after the violator shows proof of ownership and pays a $45 fee to cover the cost of removal and storage.
Any bike that is not claimed after 30 days would be deemed “abandoned” and set for disposal by the city, likely through a police department auction.
The city doesn’t plan to immediately launch a ticketing crackdown without first going through what it said is a biker-education process. Bikes on private property wouldn’t be targeted. Enforcement would be done by uniformed police and city code and parking enforcement officers.
King Street and local neighborhood leaders said they like the idea. “It’s a livability issue,” said Robert Ballard, past president of the Radcliffeborough Neighborhood Association.
Ballard compared the responsibility of safely situating and parking a bike to being equal to parking an automobile.
Not all members of City Council wholeheartedly support the idea. Councilman James Lewis noted that to create the corrals, the city had to surrender five parking spaces, leading to the loss of meter revenue in a heavily traveled business district.
“We’re taking some good parking spaces,” he said. “I just hope this will work.”
The corrals have been in place for a couple weeks. Council is expected to give final approval to the pilot on Tuesday.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.