City takes wrong Hampton Park course

Hampton Park (File/Staff)

Glorious Hampton Park is about to be mishandled. With so much right about this jewel in the northwest section of Charleston, the city is about to violate its very essence — its balance.

As it sits it has trees, splendid flower beds, running and walking trails, exercise stations, broad promenades and open fields. It is there for everyone.

It also has two-lane Mary Murray Drive encircling it to allow hundreds of vehicles daily to the park and through it to work, to the grocery, to The Citadel, wherever. The drive is closed two evenings a week and Saturday mornings to vehicles. It all works well.

But the city evidently is bowing to a handful of vocal people, perhaps 10 or 20, who want to walk/run on Mary Murray in defiance of traffic and the law. Please remember, there are paved and packed-ground foot paths, wide and a-plenty, just a few steps away. So the city is going to take a lane of vehicular traffic away and restrict it to foot and bicycle traffic only. They will do this with painted lanes.

There are problems here. This is a potential violation of S.C. Department of Transportation regulations — foot traffic too close to cars. Plus, foot traffic and bicycles don’t mix well together in the same lane. I have witnessed that volatile mix while running over the Cooper River Bridge.

Now the city, I understand, is also concerned about speeding vehicles on Mary Murray. I am, too. I see school buses, police cars, vendors and civilians ripping around the park every day. It is a 20 mph limit there, folks. But I believe the city’s solution to confine vehicles to a single lane is ill-conceived.

May I suggest enforcement of laws already on the books. Get foot traffic off the streets. Since there inevitably will be even more vehicles and bicycles — and people — as Charleston grows, there will be more and more danger if the already fine rules are not observed better.

And to improve voluntary compliance, fight ignorance. That is, get the right word out.

May I suggest broadcasting relentlessly the prescribed ways to use the streets and sidewalks. Use various media and signage. Display the rules of the road for foot and bike (and skates and skateboard) traffic. It will also reduce arguments.

And to slow traffic on Mary Murray Drive post more and better speed limit signs. Make them lower and better looking, per resort islands. After all, Sea Biscuit hasn’t raced there for almost 100 years.

I believe the need for law enforcement may recede, too. We should not want or allow anyone else to be injured to spur us to the right action.

And if we raise the bar — i.e. inform people; practice the right, accepted rules; and enforce — we will accommodate more and more people. We should do this because it is a fundamental fix, not a Band-Aid that actually punishes the people who want to do it correctly.

It is a win-win. Owen G. Meislin

Grove Street Charleston