Yikes: Make room for more bikes

ALISON LAM/PHOTO PROVIDED A recent view of a bicycle parking lot in Fukushima-shi, Japan.

Don’t like bikes?

Too bad. Many more of them are soon coming your way on local roadways.

The folks celebrating that ongoing rise stress that bicycles give residents a much lower-cost means of transportation. They also cite health benefits, both for exercising cyclists and for anybody who breathes air less polluted by auto emissions thanks to down shifts from fossil fuel to body power.

Those decrying the bike boom warn that it at best aggravates motor vehicle traffic (and drivers), and at worst is downright dangerous.

And many of us do prefer driving to biking as a means of getting from Point A to Point B — especially when most points in these parts are especially wet, hot or cold.

A particularly sizzling topic was addressed in a Sunday letter to the editor asserting that relatively few “career people” would use the bike lane planned on the T. Allen Legare Jr. bridge for commuting into town over the Ashley River.

The letter argued that the inevitable grime that comes with riding a bike “pretty much eliminates most people who have to be clean and well-groomed in order to perform their duties at work, or have to take supplies with them in order to work.”

And: “That leaves recreational riders, who seem to be the most vocal about having bike lanes.”

And: “When it is cold or rainy, not one bike rider is anywhere to be seen.”

Actually, numerous bike riders were seen when it was rainy — and windy — downtown Monday morning.

There also were plenty of bike riders to be seen on Charleston streets during last week’s cold snap.

And while bad weather does move some people from bikes into cars, climatic conditions are often quite nice around here.

Also seen in — and beyond — Charleston in recent years: a steep climb in the number of biking commuters, including “career people.”

As the accompanying photo shows, lots of snow didn’t stop lots of people from parking their bikes there en route to their daily destinations.

OK, so that picture was recently taken in Fukushima-shi, Japan, where my son lives, by a friend of his.

No, as the image proves, those bikes were not glowing in the dark.

And my son revealed Monday, in an exclusive interview for this column, that it’s “common” for Fukushima-shi residents — including him — to commute via bike in rain, sleet, snow, et al.

One of many memorable sights from my 2013 excursion to Japan: legions of suit-wearing businesspeople bicycling in lanes marked for that purpose on ultra-wide (but not Ultraman) Tokyo sidewalks.

Lots of them had briefcases in baskets, too.

My daughter also lives in a very bike-friendly city — Portland, Ore.

That’s right — two grown kids, and they reside nearly a combined 10,000 miles from me. What are they trying to tell their dear old dad?

Back to our Holy City, which is inexorably becoming a biking city:

A “strategy” from the Mobility and Transportation section of the Tourism Management Plan released Monday by the city’s Tourism Advisory Committee:

“Increase the use of transportation modes, other than the automobile, such as bicycling, walking and public transit by visitors and residents.”

In other words, you’re not just going to see more residents on bikes.

You’re going to see more tourists on bikes.

Tim Keane, the city’s director of planning, preservation and sustainability, confirmed that continuing course during a Monday meeting with the Post and Courier editorial staff, citing collaboration with the nonprofit Charleston Moves group to expand bike-sharing programs.

Hmm. Why not provide bikes for passengers leaving the new cruise terminal so that they can roll off some of the excess pounds acquired while gorging from the buffet line aboard ship?

As for the Legare bridge, Mayor Joe Riley told us Monday:

“There are three lanes leaving the peninsula [on the World War I Memorial bridge to West Ashley], and that works. So we’ll have three lanes entering the peninsula.”

He offered assurance that “experts” project a minimal imposition of extra driving time due to the new bike lane.

Riley added: “I know it will be heavily used as a commuter option and will be a wonderful recreation and fitness amenity.”

Maybe you think you know better than the mayor.

Yet both sides on this issue should know that just as more bikes are now on our roads, even more are coming soon.

So whether you’re pedaling on two wheels or making your moves behind a steering wheel, be nice — and careful.

And before rejecting the idea of riding a bike yourself, listen to how happy Fats Domino sounded in 1961 on the B-side of his No. 22 Billboard single “What a Party.”

Written by Domino, Pee Wee Maddux and Jack Jessup, “Rockin’ Bicycle” proclaims:

“Ain’t got a Cadillac or big old De Ville,

I’m just a little guy not a big tire wheel,

But I can prove my love is true,

On my rockin’ bicycle that’s built for two”

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.