Bicycling advocates ask state to lift bike ban on connector

Sign foreman Bryant Wilder Sr., with the state DOT, crosses the on-ramp of the James Island connector as crews install signs Monday warning about the prohibition of pedestrians and bicyclists from the bridge.

Grace Beahm

Charleston's leading cycling organization is asking the state to rethink its ban on bikes on the James Island Connector, saying the "blind eye" officials turned for years allowed for a safe route and an easy option for those without cars.

"That 'blind eye' was common sense," Tom Bradford, of Charleston Moves, said in a letter to S.C. Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge Jr.

"The JIC was and is by far the safest of only two nearby routes between the Charleston peninsula and populous James Island," he wrote. "Everyone crossing between James Island and the peninsula is compelled to use it. But now common sense has lost out."

The state Department of Transportation last week put up signs prohibiting bicycles and pedestrians on the connector. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said crossing the route on bicycle or by foot is illegal under state law, even though the city had failed to recognize that.

Bradford said his group and other organizations are coming up with a new plan to use the Legare Bridge across the lower Ashley River, along with a limited section of the connector, without making cyclists use on or off ramps. In the meantime, he said the alternate re-routing of cyclists across the Wappoo Cut bridge is not a solution that anyone in the cycling community wants.

On the Wappoo Cut, "no safe margins exist and a treacherously slippery grid in the roadway is bound to cause accidents," Bradford wrote. "By forcing people to use this route, your department is putting them in much greater danger than if they continue using the JIC."

The connector was closed to riders after a cyclist was struck and killed crossing it over the summer, something Bradford pointed out was blamed on an inattentive driver, not the acts of the rider.