by Paul Bowers
Starting this week, Charleston police will confiscate any bicycles that are illegally parked on King Street between Calhoun and Market streets.
Under the new rule, bicycles must be locked to bike corrals or racks. If police see bicycles locked to trees, signs, parking meters, lampposts, fences, or other surfaces, they will cut the lock and take the bicycle to police headquarters at 180 Lockwood Blvd., where bike owners must pay a $45 fine to retrieve their bicycles. A similar rule has been in effect on Upper King (between Spring and Calhoun streets) since November 2013, resulting in the confiscation of 207 bicycles over the course of a 10-month period.
According to the City of Charleston's interactive bike map, there are 62 bicycle parking spots in the new enforcement area, which spans six blocks.
Charleston City Council approved an expansion of the bike parking ordinance at an Oct. 14 meeting, and enforcement began on Mon. Dec. 1. Council's decision was protested by bicyclist advocacy group Charleston Moves, whose executive director, Kurt Cavanaugh, said that expanding the enforcement zone without installing new bike racks ran counter to the objective of making Charleston a bicycle-friendly city.
"The city did respond with some additional bike parking in and around Marion Square," Cavanaugh says. "Our concern ongoing is if this is going to be extended along King or is going to be extended off King into other parts of the city."
Cavanaugh says city officials told him that 56 new bicycle parking spaces are in the works in the vicinity of Marion Square, home of the popular Charleston Farmers Market, along with 10 new spaces in a parking garage at King and Queen streets.
"We do still see it as a pretty punitive policy overall," Cavanaugh says.