by Paul Bowers
Bicycle advocacy group Charleston Moves recently made a couple of big moves, hiring a new executive director and moving into a new office in the 1600 Meeting building.
The new director, Kurt Cavanaugh, comes to Charleston by way of New York, where he was deputy director of the park conservancy organization Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn. Before that, while attending grad school at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Cavanaugh was the co-founder of the advocacy group Bicycling In Greensboro (BIG).
"I naïvely put up a poster in a coffee shop: 'Where are the bike lanes?'" Cavanaugh says. Working with a friend who had some experience in advocacy, he put together a public meeting in 2005 for people interested in making Greensboro a more bike-friendly city, and 80 people came out. At the time, he says, Greensboro only had one informal bike lane, and it was on the campus of UNCG.
Cavanaugh says he happened to be working as an advocate at the same time city government was working on master planning for infrastructure, and by the time he left Greensboro two-and-a-half years after co-founding BIG, the city had installed more than 20 miles of bike lanes.
Here in Charleston, Cavanaugh just finished his first week as director of Charleston Moves, a group that has pushed for initiatives including the West Ashley Greenway, a Battery to Beach bike route, and increased bike lanes on city streets. Previously run out of ex-director Tom Bradford's house, the group recently started renting office space in 1600 Meeting, a renovated former Exxon office building built in 1926 in the Neck. Cavanaugh hasn't quite settled in yet — his office space, for one thing, still does not have lights in the ceiling — but he's already worked out a list of priorities.
One item on the list is ensuring that the city's planned bike-pedestrian lane on the Ashley River Bridge gets installed. "It's kind of ride-at-your-own-risk over there," Cavanaugh says.
Another concern on Cavanaugh's list: a shortage of bicycle parking, especially downtown. Third, he says he wants to focus on bike lane connectivity so that bicyclists can have clear routes from one part of town to another.