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« Cyclists vs. Pedestrians | Main | At what point does bicycle friendly become unfriendly? »

Find another route

Derrick Harrison rides his bike to Downtown Charleston each day to his job as a line cook in a restaurant on Queen Street.

His route takes him south on Anson Street then west on Queen Street. Therein lies a problem; Anson is one way going north.

Charleston police have started ticketing cyclists for riding the wrong way, and Derrick has picked up three tickets in the last month, costing $100 a pop.

So has this deterred our wayward bike commuter? No way… According to this story in our local Post & Courier Derrick continues to ride the wrong way on Anson; he would rather risk another ticket than risk his life on parallel Meeting or East Bay Streets.

The question I would ask Derrick is, “Do jobs as line cooks pay so well that you can afford to do that? And while I agree Meeting and East Bay are not good streets to ride a bike, do you think riding the wrong way on a one-way street is safer?”

Cars entering such a street from side roads look only in the direction traffic is coming; they are not expecting cyclists from the opposite side.

Pedestrians too are at risk; in this case I am with the police in issuing tickets.

Look at the map above, Old Town Charleston is a peninsula; its streets are laid out in a rough grid pattern. The streets marked in yellow are the main though routes, I even try to avoid these in my car, and would definitely give them a miss on my bike.

However, there are many other streets that go north and south, and east and west; some are quiet residential streets with little traffic.

For cri’sakes Derrick, find another way to and from work; seeking out alternative routes is one of the fun things about bicycle commuting.

Swing over to the west, find a quiet street to take you south; Queen Street is one way going west so just continue south until you reach Tradd Street (South of Broad.) for example. Take Tradd east until you are past your place of employment, then head north to Queen.

So this might add a mile to your trip, just leave home five minutes earlier. Of course if you would rather keep giving the City of Charleston your hard earned money, I am sure they will be happy to keep on taking it.



Reader Comments (8)

There is a simple solution: Ask the judge to cut the fine to $1. After spending several years covering court cases (albeit in California and Maryland) judges tend to be pretty supportive of low-income people, especially bicycle riders.

But the potential for gloom exists - in California a $100 ticket ends up costing over $400 with court costs, assessment fees, etc. The fine also rises for subsequent tickets issued within a twelve month period. In California paying full pop on three moving violations (one year period) would exceed $2,000. That's too much for any bicycle rider, except perhaps a pesky, red light running Stanford University student (!).

Of course, Derrick could simply ignore the tickets (some folks do) and lose his driver's license, have a bench warrant issued (generally not enforced unless exceeding $5,000) and start running into credit problems.

I've got my own bottom line here. If traffic is bad and there are dangerous situations, I turn on all my lights, wear bright colored clothing and take the lane - the whole darn lane. Somebody hitting me could (would?) be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

I see this all the time here in Louisville. In one part of town on my commute route, there are two one-way streets with bike lanes running parallel to each other. I routinely have to play "chicken" with some guy going the wrong way in the bike lane.

Going ONE BLOCK over there's a nearly identical road IN THE OTHER DIRECTION.

Mr. S, I guess you can count me as a crank too.

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Crowell

Mr. S, had his comment deleted (rightly so I guess), so ignore my last line. :)

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Crowell

I thought Mr. S comment was just plain rude. I tried to pen a suitable response but before I could a sensible comment had appeared, and I decided it was best not to be drawn into a flame war, and just delete it.
It is tough to come up with amazing posts on a regular basis, I try to entertain and promote discusion, and for the most part it works.
It is free, if anyone doesn't like the show, just leave quietly, don't Boo the performer on your way out.

September 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I have trouble with wrong way cyclists. I dislike them when coming my way on a bike and have had the opportunity to nearly tag a couple in one day just a bit ago. There are other routes to get to work, use them. If he were driving a car would he go the wrong way? The inconvenience is the same for motorists also. (they can use one of the yellow routes but even Dave doesn't like to drive there.) Normal practice in cities is to have a one way couplet.

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Jeeze. Derrick can keep doing it because, so far, he's been successful at not being hit by cars expecting traffic from the wrong direction of travel. Are motorists supposed to specifically watch for him? One would guess Derrick thinks so. Bike Salmon (as per the Bike Snob) make me crazy whether I'm riding or driving. If they're going to ignore one traffic convention, how many others are they going to dismiss? And, how am I supposed to anticipate which others they might respect, and which they'll choose to ignore.

I do know from taking newbies on the road that their inclination is to ride against traffic. They claim to feel safer being able to watch traffic come at them. It's a struggle to convince them how/why that's not the case. I usually can get through with arguments about faster closing and reaction times, but the desire to see what's coming is strong.

Doesn't sound like Derrick is thinking in those terms, however. He just prefers the road he's traveling and he's going to ride the shortest distance between two points. Period. The person I feel sorry for is the hapless motorist who - never expecting a bicycle to be coming at them from the wrong way, either turns into Derrick, or clips him. 'Cause, sooner or later, the odds are... Gonna be a really bad day all around.

For the extra mile or so, fer gawds sake, Derrick, observe the darned traffic laws.

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

While I am generally in agreement that bicyclists that flout the rules of the road create real problems of perception and safety for all bicyclists, I happen to know this particular street intimately, and have ridden it both directions for years: Anson Street is not your typical city street.

It is one lane wide, with a single parking lane, and traffic rarely makes it to 15-20mph. Much of the time, pedestrians are walking in the street, because the sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk abreast. Bicyclists have likely ridden this street both directions for over one hundred years. As it is the safest and most direct route from the Eastside to the heart of downtown, it is a preferred route for dependent riders biking to and from work in the restaurants and hotels—low income primarily minority bike riders passing through the expensive Ansoborough neighborhood. It is reminiscent of the Charleston that was not so segregated, when all classes and colors lived and worked in close proximity. In fact, up until two months ago, Anson was also a common round-trip route for the bicycle patrol that has its headquarters at one end of the street, and its primary beat at the other end.

Anson is a street that could exemplify the European “woonerf” or “home zone:” a street that is shared equally amongst pedestrians, cars, bikes, and horse carriages. It is certainly not the right answer for every street, but it has actually worked on Anson Street of its own accord. Regrettably, not everyone follows its unwritten rules; some bikers blow right through the stop signs, some play chicken with the oncoming cars. But most bikers and pedestrians use common sense, and pull to the side, or step back onto the sidewalk, when a car is oncoming. It is certainly anathema to a litigious society, but its informality provides a disobedient resistance without threatening anarchy.

Up until three weeks ago, Anson was a daily route for me. The day I got a warning ticket, I obeyed the law and pedaled over to East Bay Street, where I was immediately put at risk by an automobile driver trying to get by me before the street narrowed with a row of parked cars.

The truth is, Anson Street is the only safe route on the east side of the Charleston peninsula. And regrettably, the City and the neighborhood have demonstrated little interest in making Anson Street work legally as it has spontaneously for the past century. It was always a little bit stressful to know I was riding against the law, but the stress paled in comparison to the stress one experiences riding amongst the congestion of East Bay, Meeting or King Street.

Derrick may find a new route, but it won’t be as safe. Or he may give up and find a way to drive or catch a ride, adding more congestion to the already overburdened arterials. Either way, if Anson Street is lost as a street shared in common by drivers, bikers and pedestrians, it will mark more than the passing of a convenient route for ‘those scofflaw bikers.’

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Vaseline


I've ridden nearly all of your "yellow brick" roads on my last vacation to Charleston. Incivility from motorists and the limitations of road widths (due to the antiquity of the city) were the only issues I faced.

With the proper training and guidance, one can gain the confidence to enjoyably ride anywhere. Even in Charleston. We have major connectivity issues by design in Orlando. Many of our students leave the course equipped with the ability to ride the less than desirable roads, but only long enough to connect to their regular or alternate route.

Yes, route planning is most fun, as in finding those alternate routes, especially when traveling on a bicycle.

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRodney

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