In the absurd equation of American privilege, my family of five owns four cars. I am a driver, and I hate traffic as much as everyone. It angers and frustrates me, makes me late (which I don’t need help with). I curse the brake lights and exhaust fumes in front of me. What I rarely do is admit that by virtue of being in my car, I am contributing to the traffic.
Our potholed roads, while far from perfect, are not the problem. Our rusting bridges, with or without bike lanes, are not the problem. The fact that we have too many people, with more coming everyday, in a confined footprint carved by creeks, rivers and marshes, with few transportation options other than the automobile, a two-ton vehicle (I note typically transporting only one passenger), is our problem. Traffic is a symptom of a larger disease.
My hope is that engineers can remedy any concerns resulting from a converted merge lane on Folly Road, but even if they can’t, increased traffic along Maybank Highway and Folly Road is unavoidable. More people, more cars. It’s simply a matter of time.
The only solution is to get people to consider sharing a ride, or taking buses, trying ferries, bicycling, walking. Building more roads is not a long-term solution when there really is no physical place to put more of them.
Our roadways are our biggest public space and common public asset. Making them complete streets, with safe access for cars, bicycles and pedestrians, is one step toward a sustainable solution.
I believe our community is big-hearted enough to make room for everyone. When I bike commute, it’s by choice, but plenty of our neighbors don’t have that luxury. The people on foot or bikes on their way to work, bravely crossing the Ashley on a three-foot-wide sidewalk meant only for maintenance access, deserve safety on our public roads no less than citizens who drive cars.
If we prioritize community over commute times; if we travel with compassion and adopt behind-the-wheel patience in the auto traffic we help create, we all win.