Hampton Park lane OK’d

Charleston City Council on Tuesday approved adding a recreational bicycle and pedestrian lane around the park.

It took three meetings and more debate than Charleston has seen in a while, but City Council on Tuesday approved adding a recreational bicycling and pedestrian lane around Hampton Park.

While cars, trucks and motorcycles will still be allowed to drive on the outside portion of Mary Murray Boulevard, the inside loop will be redrawn to feature a 5-foot-wide biking lane.

The very inside of the loop will be designated a jogging and walking path of about 3 feet wide.

For safety, bikers and joggers will be separated by 4 feet of painted buffering.

Tuesday’s 8-4 council vote came after area residents continued to lobby on both sides of the project. Recreation advocates said the two paths are a much-needed alternative, while residents living north of Hampton Park argued that losing the lane will further clog a convenient cut-through.

“Parks are for everyone, and this allows for the most utilization for everyone,” said Wagener Terrace resident Jennifer Scales, speaking for the lane changes.

Others said the mix of walkers, bikers and cars will be a recipe for disaster if just one person ignores the rules or the speed limit, and ends up causing an accident by going outside of their designated lane.

“What’s going to happen with vehicles that are passing but get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle?” asked Suzanne Jones of Huger Street, during the public comment portion Tuesday. She answered, “they are going to use the biking lane to get around that.”

City officials began looking at the lane changes months ago. But several council members fought the idea, partially on safety grounds. That debate also continued Tuesday.

Councilman Aubry Alexander questioned whether the changes were truly for everyone, since skaters and in-line bladers too will have to fight for their space on the road as well, he said.

Another fear, he said, is that accomplished bicyclists will start to race out of control as they try to “max-out” their speed on a legalized road course. He called the route potentially a “training center for future Lance Armstrongs.”

Tuesday’s approval came after council had already agreed to endorse the road’s resurfacing, new signs and street-crossings in the area - all of which is being funded by the Charleston County/Roadwise half-cent sales tax. About $100,000 has been allocated. Separate from that, council wanted to look at adding the bike and jogging lanes. The changes will cost the city about $12,000, according to one estimate.

Mayor Joe Riley supported the recreation lanes and so did members of the city park department staff who drew up the plans.

“It gives everybody a place to be,” Jason Kronsberg, deputy director of parks, said of the separation of walkers and bikers.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or follow on Twitter at skropf47.

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.