32-mile bike route would cross eight bridges

Some bridges along the Battery2Beach route have dedicated bike lanes and ample space for bikes and pedestrians, such as the Breach Inlet bridge between Isle of Palms and Sullivan's, and others don't. David Quick/Staff

A 32-mile bike ride that starts at the beach, skirts a scenic harbor, passes shrimp boats and marshes, shops and restaurants, historic neighborhoods and suburban enclaves would most certainly inspire local people and visitors to put on their helmets and pedal.

Its promise of injecting $42.1 million annually into the local economy should inspire people focused on the bottom line.

And both should inspire local and state governments to attend to the trickiest part of the Battery2Beach route — bridges.

The challenges can be met. Look at the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River. Its design allows safe passage for bicyclists and pedestrians, and it is immensely popular because of it.

The city of Charleston is working with the S.C. Department of Transportation to dedicate one lane of the T. Allen Legare Bridge from West Ashley to the peninsula for bikes and pedestrians.

But that fix is being seen as temporary — only until increasing vehicular traffic demands it be changed back or until the bridge is replaced.

That’s not such a stretch to imagine. It is among 20 bridges that AAA Carolinas deemed most inadequate in the state.

Also on the list is the Wappoo bridge, which connects West Ashley to James Island. It too is part of the Battery2Beach route.

But in its current, bike-unfriendly state, it is a major obstacle to commuting cyclists.

Charleston Moves, a non-profit organization promoting bicycling, walking, running and public transportation, has been forumulating ideas for Battery2Beach for two years.

Local and state governments have known for decades that these bridges need to be altered or replaced if biking is to be accommodated safely. But AAA’s list notes in both cases that there is “no work programmed.” Why?

Even if the money is not available to begin construction right away, plans should be made for what the crossings ought to look like. And those plans must include lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.

And all the while, local officials should be pushing for construction or selective upgrades.

The North Bridge over the Ashley River, while not part of Battery2Beach, is key to commuting bikers, and, as another of the worst bridges in the state, should have repair or replacement plans that include bike passage. It provides access between North Charleston and Charleston.

The health and environmental benefits of people parking their cars and using bicycles instead should be enough to get planning started.

But Charleston Moves last week reported on a cost-benefit study showing that Battery2Beach, which would cost $20 million, would pump more than twice that into the local economy in a year.

A way to improve local lifestyles, health, traffic and air quality — and to make it pay for itself?

It’s a deal too good to ignore.