MOUNT PLEASANT - Burton Rhodes bikes 38 miles round-trip most days from his home here to his job at Folly Beach, and his ride along Chuck Dawley Boulevard often is the most harrowing part of his commute.
So when he saw highway workers repaving the road earlier this month, he posted a question on Charleston Moves' Facebook page asking if bike lanes were being added.
They were not, but within a week, the nonprofit advocacy group, the town government and the S.C. Department of Transportation traded phone calls and emails and figured out a way to make Rhodes' ride safer.
"For me, it's a big deal," he said. "I commute down that road every day."
The saga of Chuck Dawley Boulevard goes to show how state and local governments - despite policies of trying to make streets safer and more attractive to cyclists and pedestrians - still need a nudge to get that done.
But it also shows how one person can make a difference.
Tom Bradford, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Charleston Moves, said the group had not been aware of the Chuck Dawley repaving, which was a state project.
But after Rhodes' Facebook post, Bradford - who was then on vacation in Michigan - fired off a quick email to the state Department of Transportation and Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page asking about the possibility of adding bike lanes.
"We never figured a battle is lost until all the work is done," he said.
Charleston Moves volunteer Pat Sullivan followed up with several phone calls, and Page got involved, too.
"I certainly can't take credit for it," Page said, "but thank goodness Charleston Moves is doing a great job and the biking community is doing a great job. We're all trying to be great partners."
State highway engineers determined there was too much traffic moving too fast to narrow Chuck Dawley's lanes enough to provide bike lanes, but it was able to narrow them enough to add about 2 feet to each of the outside lanes - enough to make sharing these lanes safer.
These wider lanes will be striped with sharrows - a marking to alert motorists to share the road. Page said the town agreed to repaint the sharrows as needed, a relatively small cost.
Sullivan said Rhodes' Facebook post was done on June 4, and the change was agreed upon a week later.
"Even though we were at the midnight hour, we were able to turn the situation around," she said.
Rhodes said he never has been hit on Chuck Dawley, but has had some "hairy" traffic encounters there. And while there won't be bike lanes, he said he's pleased with the wider lanes and sharrows. "Every little bit of additional bike access is good," he said.
Bradford said it probably helped that Charleston Moves has tried to engage constructively with local and state officials "rather than bashing people over the head."
"I couldn't have scripted a better pattern of communication where somebody on the ground riding a bike saw something happening, was curious about it and asked a question," Bradford added. "From that standpoint, it was kind of like a perfect scenario."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
Burton Rhodes’ post on the Charleston Moves Facebook page got the wheels turning for putting shared bike lanes along Chuck Dawley Boulevard in Mount Pleasant during its resurfacing. While he often bikes along that stretch to get to work on Folly Beach, on Tuesday he biked there with his girlfriend Carrie Loy and brother Henry Rhodes to get to the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market.×
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