A proposed bike-share program for Charleston could be a good way to address the peninsula's problems with traffic. And it could ease the demand for automobile parking as well.
But it would also ramp up the need for convenient parking for bicycles.
As envisioned by city staff, the bike-share program would introduce 200 more bicycles and 20 stations in downtown Charleston next year. And already the city has recognized that it needs to manage bike parking in a way that doesn't discourage bicyclists but does clear sidewalks for pedestrians.
When bicycles are locked to telephone poles or parking meters, there is less room for pedestrians. And when the bikes fall down, as they are wont to do, they can be safety hazards.
The city has had some success banning bicycles from sidewalks on King Street between Calhoun and Spring and providing racks nearby on side streets. Merchants have been pleased, but bicyclists say more bike racks are needed.
Now the city wants to extend that ban south on King Street. Police Chief Greg Mullen has promised to provide more parking for bikes. The city should quickly follow through on that promise.
Without adequate bike parking, people are likely to go back to locking their bikes to parking meters, or they might simply stop riding bikes - and instead opt to drive, and park, their cars instead.
As the bike-share program rolls out, the demands for parking will grow, and the city will need to accommodate bikes beyond King Street. One would expect that visitors to Charleston who use bicycles will want to park them in the Market area, or near historic residential neighborhoods as well as on King Street.
The Saturday Farmers Market at Marion Square already illustrates the problem that exists, even absent a bike-share program. Volunteers with the bicycle advocacy group Charleston Moves offer "valet" service for bikes. But the city needs to find more ways to accommodate bicycles so fewer people will try to drive there and be stuck in traffic so heavy that surrounding streets can come to a dead halt.
Already bike parking is a subject of discussion at the College of Charleston. One of the reasons it initiated a small bike-share program last fall was to free up bike parking. It seems students bring bicycles to school, lock them to bike racks and rarely use them. College officials hope the students will opt to use shared bicycles instead.
Over the years, when Charleston predicted it would have more cars than parking spaces for them, the city got in gear and built parking garages. Bicycles deserve the same resolve.
Bikes don't take up as much room as cars. They're environmentally friendly, conducive to good health, quiet and inexpensive.
The bike-share program should be a welcome addition to downtown Charleston. Similar programs have proven successful in Washington, D.C., Boston, Denver and more.
But bicycles don't belong everywhere. Motorists are asked to share the road with cyclists. Cyclists should cede sidewalks to pedestrians.
And a city that encourages bicycling through a bike-share program and that is able to provide parking for tens of thousands of cars should also provide ample parking for bicycles.
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