Charleston City Council’s decision to conduct a trial run for a bike lane on the T. Allen Legare Jr. Bridge prompted dire warnings of a traffic-jamming fiasco. Alarmed critics warned that with the span over the Ashley already too crowded with four lanes for motor vehicles, reducing it to three would lower the already-tedious pace of cars and trucks to a crawl — and raise accident risks.
But after eight days of the ongoing experiment of closing one lane of that Highway 17 span and eventually reserving it for bikes and pedestrians, the switch appears to be going relatively smoothly.
The county closed the far-right lane of the bridge starting last Monday morning to gauge how much congestion would occur.
No, the lane hasn’t been open for bikes — though a few cyclists have used it. And it’s obviously too early to brand this shift a success.
However, to borrow a line from Mark Twain, forecasts of a quick, evidence-based death of the bike-lane idea were greatly exaggerated.
Some naysayers now assert that traffic on the James Island Connector has increased due to the bike-lane trial. And if the bike lane becomes a permanent fixture, more West Ashley residents might start using the North Bridge instead of the Legare.
Then again, those options offer a reminder that the Legare isn’t the only way to drive across the Ashley River.
The one-way World War I Memorial Bridge from the Peninsula to West Ashley, which lies next to the Legare, has only three lanes.
Thus, it’s reasonable to concur that three motor-vehicle lanes should also be sufficient for the one-way Legare Bridge from West Ashley to the peninsula.
Charleston County spokeswoman Shawn Smetana told our reporter Friday that travel times on Savannah Highway and St. Andrews Boulevard had remained approximately the same as before the lane was closed off. He added:
“We expect conditions to continue to improve over the next two to three weeks and we will complete the post-test data collection during that time.”
Meanwhile, it’s inevitable that the use of bicycles for commuting will continue to increase in our community — and across the nation. Plus, every commuter who reaches a destination by pedaling instead of driving represents another car or truck not on our roadways.
Sure, one less lane across the Ashley doesn’t help motor-traffic flow.
But making practical changes to adjust to the 21st century transformation of personal transportation choices is wise public policy.
And so far at least, making room for bikes on the Legare Bridge looks like a smart move.