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Editorial: Make Charleston County's first protected bike lane a model for many more

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Brigade Street Apartments.JPG (copy) (copy)

Bikers pass a new apartment complex being built along Brigade Street on Charleston's upper peninsula. Lauren Petracca/Staff

We’re encouraged to see work begin this week on significant new bike and pedestrian improvements along Brigade Street, a major east-west route on Charleston’s rapidly changing upper peninsula. But it’s only one of several such projects that have been in the works for a long time, and state and local governments should pick up the pace.

The city and the S.C. Department of Transportation announced Monday that the project will make Brigade the first street in Charleston with protected bike lanes — welcome news given the rate of accidents along the street, which is one of only a few upper peninsula east-west routes that extend under Interstate 26, from Morrison Drive to Rutledge Avenue (Brigade’s name changes to Cypress Street west of the interstate; the improvements focus on Brigade from the Lowcountry Lowline under the interstate east to Huguenin Avenue).

The changes include new crosswalk markings more visible to drivers, including pavement marking. At Meeting Street, Brigade’s most dangerous intersection, the work will include flashing beacons to warn motorists that they must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk as well as curb extensions, which reduce the distance pedestrians must walk in the street.

The vision for the improvements took shape more than two years ago and occasionally was a source of frustration as it took time to get the city and state on the same page.

Katie Zimmerman of Charleston Moves said the project has diverse support, partly because city staff wisely went to North Central, East Central and Bridgeview neighborhoods to explain the change and seek feedback.

Similar bike lane projects are in the works locally along Folly Road, from Ellis Creek to the Walmart, and along part of Coleman Boulevard.

The Brigade work will include green paint delineating the bike lane, an increasingly common feature in other cities but one that is new to South Carolina.

Ms. Zimmerman said the value of such pavement markings is that they not only signal to cyclists where it’s safe to travel but also serve as a more visible share-the-road cue to those driving cars and trucks.

For years, local transportation plans have called for significant improvements to make bicycling and walking a safer, more appealing option — the city’s 2018 People Pedal Plan called for specific improvements to Brigade — but funding and construction work has lagged in many spots.

The current project was possible partly because Brigade was scheduled for repaving. The state will cover that cost, while the city will spend almost $300,000 on further improvements.

The new work on Brigade should set a precedent for cooperation between the state and local governments to help make such worthwhile projects possible.

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