A proposed bike lane over the Ashley River from West Ashley to the peninsula has become a defining issue in the upcoming mayoral and Charleston City Council elections.
But candidates are also quietly talking about a study authorized by City Council almost two and a half years ago to examine bicycle access on the James Island Connector.
The difference is that candidates are sparring about whether a bike lane on the T. Allen Legare Bridge Jr. will work or will snarl traffic too much. And they are wondering why the connector study is taking so long — and what it will say.
Charleston County is moving forward on a test period for the Legare bridge project. It is a wise move. Some would like the plan to be ditched immediately, even though traffic analysts say it will work well, delaying traffic by only eight seconds at rush hour.
Certainly the test is worthwhile if it puts people’s minds at rest. Bicyclists and pedestrians must have a safe way to cross the Ashley River, and this is a reasonable step to demonstrate that there is room for both motor vehicles and bicycles on the bridge.
But the fact is that cyclists and pedestrians who live on James and Johns islands also need a safe way to the peninsula, and getting to the Legare bridge poses hazards for them.
It is important to know what the $75,000 study says so that planners can tackle that challenge too. And further, its unexplained delay invites conspiracy theories among people who are already at odds over the issue of bike lanes in general.
It’s time for the city to get the results and share them with City Council and the public.
Bicycling and walking are popular alternatives to driving. They don’t pollute and don’t take up parking spaces. They provide healthy exercise. And they’re a sign of a vibrant city that appeals to all ages — particularly young professionals who are opting to drive less and walk more.
Biking is not a recreational fad that will go the way of the hula hoop. It is how many people choose to go to work and shop.
Every candidate for Charleston City Council and mayor seems to believe transportation is a top issue to resolve. Trying to fix things without putting bicycles in the equation is short-sighted and will be, in the long run, self-defeating for a city that needs to broaden its transportation options.
The more information and discussion about how to provide for bikes and pedestrians, the better.
And that includes the $75,000 mystery study.