Charleston County Council is about to have its spine tested.
See, council members are hedging on this proposed bike lane for the T. Allen Legare Bridge between West Ashley and the peninsula, and the bikers are unhappy.
City Council narrowly approved the bike lane plan in July to the joy of the biking community, but the county — which holds the purse strings — now has reservations. And angry constituents.
There are a few problems. Several county officials don’t think it’s a good idea to reduce traffic capacity on local roads that are just getting more crowded every day.
Some question where the money will come from, since the price tag on this $1.8 million project is nearly double that now.
And no doubt some of them wonder why they should build more bike lanes when the one they put on Highway 61 doesn’t get used. (Admittedly, it’s pretty shoddy.)
But none of that will matter much when bike advocates show up en masse next week at the council’s Finance Committee meeting. Then, it’s a pretty safe bet that council members will make all those reasonable points but, in the end, one or two of them will probably fold.
Why? Well, because politicians listen to the people who show up.
Take note, Maybank Highway residents.
In the spring, the county “tested” the proposed bike and pedestrian path by shutting down one lane of the bridge for a few weeks.
The test said the closed lane had little or no effect on traffic. Which is true, in the area they tested. West Ashley wasn’t hurt too bad at all. Hard to slow down traffic that is already at a standstill.
The real problem came down Folly Road at the intersection of Maybank Highway, which is laughably over-crowded all day. Many folks reported increased commute times of 10 minutes or more.
But, the bike path proponents said, what’s a little inconvenience when you can have a more livable city?
That’s a good point. But Charleston not only has to be a livable city — it has to be a workable city. Because some people have to work. And drive cars. That is a point often lost in this.
What many of those working folks don’t have time for (besides sitting on Maybank Highway for a half an hour) is going to a County Council meeting right after work. They have to cook dinner, corral kids and just unwind.
And that’s why they lose these debates.
You can bet if all those folks showed up and raised hell, County Council would sure listen.
Charleston Moves is right — this bike lane drama has gone on too long, it must end.
But they shouldn’t blame it on politics when they are politicking just as much as — and let’s admit it, more than — the other side. It’s called lobbying.
This is a big decision, and the delays reflect genuine uncertainty.
Ultimately it comes down to James Island. And Councilman Joe Qualey, who lives there, makes the best point of all: James Islanders are hurt most by closing a bridge lane, but get none of the benefit.
Jim Island bikers can’t even safely get to the T. Allen Legare Bridge, so they will have to sit in traffic for an amenity that does them no good.
Unless, of course, the next step is to shut down a lane of the Wappoo Bridge for bikes.
That’s your fair warning, Maybank Highway.
The people who show up in greater numbers almost always get their way (unless they live South of Broad). That’s not fair, it’s just the way it is.
So speak now or forever idle in traffic. If James Islanders really oppose this bike lane, they’re going to have to opt for take-out next week and help brace the County Council’s spine.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org