A team at the table
Read between the lines of the signs that will designate the area’s Battery2Beach bike route, and you’ll see “good health,” “lower emissions,” “fun,” “exercise” and “cost-savings.”
But another between-the-lines message might surprise some — the people who are making it happen.
The group of volunteers has no real authority, but it represents every municipality that the route crosses — Folly Beach, James Island, Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. It includes people from the S.C. Department of Transportation, Charleston County and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.
Before the group was formed last year, Battery2Beach was a dream of Charleston Moves, a non-profit group that advocates for bicycling and other alternate transportation. Charleston Moves acting director Tom Bradford knew it would take an array of players, so he designated people to take up the task.
Where often groups with no real authority go around in circles and fade away, this group coalesced under the leadership of Charleston County Council member Colleen Condon. They share up-to-date information, collaborate on problem areas, offer each other encouragement and do their homework.
“I’ve been in the news business, and I’ve seen how these things go,” Mr. Bradford said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Members are enthusiastic. They are energetic about their tasks.
It is particularly encouraging that the DOT has participated fully, given criticism often aimed its way regarding bicycle accessibility.
The group has been successful in overcoming some of the obstacles along the Battery2Beach journey — and improving other parts along the way.
“It showed me that groups can make things happen in a stunning way,” Mr. Bradford said. “I think some of the members were as surprised as I was.”
The first of the signs designating the route is to be planted soon, even though there is more work to be done. There is not yet a firm solution for the leg of the route that crosses the Ashley River, for example.
The B2B is an achievement noteworthy in itself. Eventually, people will be able to bicycle safely from Folly Beach to the marina on the Isle of Palms, experiencing the extraordinary and diverse assets of the Lowcountry along the way. But the intergovernmental committee also signals that regional communication and cooperation can work. This group succeeded in establishing a bikeway.
Contrast it to the machinations, conflict and double-talk that the public has seen on the I-526 extension. As DOT commissioner Harrison Rearden said at Thursday’s meeting, “There is something going on in the back room,” regarding the agreement to build the controversial highway.
And recently, the original plan to build an intermodal transportation center for the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority collapsed, with no explanation how it happened and who’s responsible.
How about another citizens group to take on other local transportation issues?