The people of my home town of Charleston, South Carolina, are proud of the new Cooper River Bridge. (Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.) Opened in 2005, it is a beautiful structure, and connects the Charleston Peninsula with Mount Pleasant on the east side.
The new bridge replaced two older bridges (Since demolished.) built in 1929 and 1966. The old bridges were narrow and with no provision for pedestrians or bicycles.
Cyclists on the Charleston side, wishing to ride in the Mount Pleasant area, would have to transport their bikes across by car, and vice-versa. Commuting by bicycle or even walking the four miles across was not an option.
In the initial planning stages, the new bridge was also to be for motorized traffic only. However, local cycling advocacy groups, along with pedestrian and running groups successfully petitioned for a separate bicycle/pedestrian path to be added.
This is a tremendous triumph for these advocacy groups, because since it opened the path is used by hundreds of pedestrians, runners, and cyclists, every weekend.
Walking or riding the bridge is now one of the “must do” things for visitors to Charleston. The only way to really appreciate the view of the harbor and the old city of Charleston, is on foot or by bicycle.
The picture at the top shows the bridge from Charleston Harbor side, looking inland. The pedestrian/bike path can be seen on the near side. There is a cement barrier between the path and the motorized traffic, which is four lanes in either direction.
Recently the City of Charleston, built a bike/pedestrian path on Bay Street, leading onto the bridge path entrance.
On the Mount Pleasant side the path emerges on Coleman Blvd. This is a wide road, with a bike lane, two lanes of traffic each direction, and a center turn lane. Coleman Blvd. is the direct route to the beach communities of Sullivan’s Island, and The Isle of Palms.
Some disturbing news has just come from the City of Mount Pleasant. Together with the South Carolina Department or Transport, they are planning to remove part of the bike lane from Coleman Blvd. and reroute cyclists onto side streets.
The reason; to allow parallel parking of cars on Coleman Blvd. Once again, making provision for automobiles is more important than people. Pushing cyclists off onto side streets will only reinforce the average motorists view, that cyclists don’t belong on Coleman Blvd.
I rode Coleman Blvd. on Sunday, and I fail to see why they need to park cars on this particular road. It is a normal business district that you would see in any American city, and every business has its own ample parking lot.
Local bicycle advocacy groups are asking that they keep the bike lanes along side the parked cars. My personal view is that this is a bad idea. I must emphasize this is my view and not that of any other group.
This would not be a problem but for a certain number of drivers who can’t seem to exit a vehicle without flinging the door open with complete disregard for the passing cyclist in the bike lane.
This negligent action usually results in the death of the cyclist as he is knocked from his bicycle into the adjacent traffic lane and under the wheels of a passing vehicle. Two such deaths have occurred this month in Chicago, and in Moorestown, New Jersey.
The City of Chicago, which is trying very hard to encourage bicycle riding, has taken criticism for bike lanes next to parked cars. On their own city website, they have posted a safety tip urging cyclists to use the outside edge of the bike lane, leaving at least a four feet door zone. (Left.)
The Charleston area has precious few bike lanes as it is, we cannot afford to loose what we have. Mount Pleasant’s plans are a huge step backwards. We have this beautiful bridge with a bike path, encouraging people to ride over to Mount Pleasant. Cyclists need to be accommodated when they get there.
Here is an idea for the city planners. If you must park cars on Coleman Blvd. put a four foot “Door Zone” next to the parked cars. (Clearly marked “Door Zone.”) If necessary make the bike lane only eighteen inches or two feet wide at the point.
I feel this makes more sense than making a five-foot bike lane, then advising cyclists (On some obscure website.) to only use the outside one foot of the lane. Coleman Blvd. is a wide road; if necessary make the traffic lanes narrower and lower the speed limit.
It is my understanding that this whole parking cars issue is because of plans to make Mount Pleasant a new and vibrant town center. Lowering the speed limit and enforcing it, would ensure that motorist do not simply speed through on their way to the beach. And in doing so completely miss your new and vibrant town center.
More on the Coleman Blvd. plans here.
Footnote: In the top picture you can just see the two old bridges behind the new; as mentioned in the article, these have been demolished.
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Mon, June 23, 2008
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