Walking, biking path proposed over Ashley

Traffic moves across the T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge linking West Ashley and the Charleston peninsula Tuesday afternoon. A recent study gave the bridge a failing grade for bike and pedestrian accessibility.

The Ashley River bridges are among the most-hostile crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians in the Charleston area, but change appears to be on the way.

On Tuesday, Mayor Joe Riley announced the results of a study that proposes an estimated $4.4 million improvement that would link the West Ashley Greenway to Lockwood Boulevard via a cantilevered structure on the harbor side of the peninsula-bound T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge.

The link, which would be 10 feet wide, also would include a paved extension of the greenway along Albemarle Road, under the Herbert Fielding overpass, to a boardwalk across the marsh. The lighted, wooden boardwalk would link to a bike-pedestrian path along U.S. Highway 17 north to a steel structure on the south side of the Legare bridge and to a paved extension to Lockwood.

It's the latest in flurry of ambitious bike-pedestrian initiatives by the city, which has included extensions of the greenway and other bikeways in West Ashley.

A study conducted by The Citadel for the Maine-to-Florida East Coast Greenway recently addressed the Legare bridge's bike-pedestrian deficiencies. The study gave the bridge an "F" grade for bike and pedestrian accessibility.

Once again, officials pointed to another bridge project as an inspiration for making the proposed improvements.

"The Arthur Ravenel (Jr.) Bridge has reminded us that bridges need not be, and should not be, barriers to bicycle and pedestrian movement. (Bridges) should facilitate it and encourage it," said Riley, at a press conference in a hotel parking lot with a panoramic view of the proposed project.

While he called the link an "amenity," he added that it is not a frill.

"It's a basic right," Riley said. "People should have the ability on the their bikes and on their feet to negotiate and enjoy the community in which they live."

The city already is working on funding the design and construction of the project. It is asking, or will ask, for funds from Charleston County's half-cent sales tax program (which funded the feasibility study), the Charleston Area Transportation Study Committee, the state Transportation Department and federal government.

"We are committed to getting it done," Riley said.

Carl Miller, chairman of the city's bike and pedestrian committee and past president of the Coastal Cyclists, said that local cyclists are concerned about safety and will be happy with the plans.

Charleston "is a world-class city with less than a world-class bike-ped infrastructure. The ongoing commitment to getting this done is very important to us."

Councilwoman Yvonne Evans said the plans are a "wonderful move into the future" for another reason.

"We are all becoming more aware of our carbon footprints and this is going to potentially take cars off the road. That's a good thing for everybody."