At a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. called creating a safe bicycle and pedestrian route across the Ashley River "absolutely essential."
Riley said the city was working with county officials to draft a study on the best way to accomplish such a crossing. Riley did not go into any specific plans. The main idea that has been bandied about so far in public debate is shutting down a lane of car traffic on the James Island Connector to use as a bike and pedestrian lane.
Charleston bicycling advocates have long called for a less dangerous bicycle route across the Ashley, but the death of Dr. Mitchell Hollon in a bicycling accident on the James Island Connector in early July sparked renewed discussion of the topic. Currently, bicyclists ride in the emergency pull-off lane on the Connector, which puts them in shaky legal territory. The day after the accident, Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis was unable to say for certain whether bicycling was allowed on the 55 mph freeway.
Under South Carolina law, it is illegal to ride a bike on a freeway, defined as "a multilane divided highway with full control of access, and grade separated interchanges." Violation of the law is a misdemeanor carrying a punishment of up to a $100 fine or 30 days of imprisonment.
Dan Kelley, chairman of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said Tuesday night that it was possible that, even if it is illegal to ride bikes on the bridge, the law is not enforced. There is no sign indicating that bicyclists are forbidden to ride the Connector.
The committee took public input on ways to improve bicycling safety. One meeting attendee suggested placing flexible yellow poles, as are often seen on medians, along the length of the Connector's emergency lane line. Another recommended that bicycling safety tip cards from the police department be handed out at College of Charleston freshman orientation; Riley took a note to see if that could be done. Still another said handicapped parking tags should be made smaller so as not to create a blind spot in drivers' windshields for bicyclists on the road.
The meeting ended with a look at resurfacing plans for St. Andrews Boulevard, which include bike lanes from Sam Rittenberg Boulevard to State Highway 171. The resurfacing is expected to be finished by the end of the year.