Hampton Park lane for bikes proposed

Charleston officials are considering a proposal to make the inside lane of Mary Murray Boulevard around Hampton Park into a permanent biking and walking lane.

Bicyclists and walkers soon could get equal footing with the cars that travel the loop around Charleston’s Hampton Park.

City leaders are considering permanently closing the inside lane of Mary Murray Boulevard to car traffic, making the inner section exclusively for bikes and other forms of recreation.

Advocates said the plan is a plus, creating a new route for alternative modes of getting around.

Opponents said it will significantly elevate the danger level as cars and tour buses mix with people on a popular mid-peninsula cut-through.

Going to competing lanes, “is going to cause somebody to get killed,” said area resident Sarah Fick.

City officials said Tuesday that creating the inner bike lane would return the route to its original intent from the early part of last century, when it was designated as a local “pleasure drive.”

“I don’t think it ever was intended to be a thoroughfare,” said city parks director Jerry Ebeling. “It just ended up that way.”

As envisioned, the bike lane would be about 5 feet wide, with a 4-foot shoulder for pedestrians.

While the city controls the park, the true cost is being funded by the Charleston County/Roadwise half-cent sales tax.

The plan is for the road to be resurfaced and crosswalks and sidewalks to be added. About $100,000 has been allocated.

The city wants to go a step further by converting the biking lane.

During a public hearing on the route Tuesday, proponents of adding a bike lane far outnumbered the opponents. The split tended to be on geographic lines, as those living south of the park seemed to back the bike route, and those living north saying it should remain a car path.

“We believe you should be able to share the road with bikes and cars,” said Jeff Glein, president of the Hampton Park Neighborhood Council.

“I’ve never seen a traffic jam on Mary Murray Boulevard,” added resident Kevin Eberle.

“It looks like the safest bike path in the city,” said another advocate, Ian Mills.

Charleston City Council members did not immediately pass the proposal, saying more time, study and input from residents are needed.

One of those concerned was Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who said a similar proposal was shot down in 1993 because of safety concerns.

“The circumstances are not that different, except the year,” he said.

Council agreed to take up the issue again this month with another public hearing. Time is also considered a factor, since Charleston County officials want the city plans in by June so that the resurfacing can go ahead.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.