From our 2016 College Student Guide.
You see them everywhere in Charleston. Faculty and staff at local colleges use them to get to work, students ride them to class, and local residents use them to get just about everywhere on the peninsula.
But as a college student, especially an incoming freshman, you may or may not need a bike to get around. Most places you'll want to go are within walking distance, so consider whether it's really worth it before you buy a bike, lock it up outside your dorm, and proceed to let it rust for six months.
Sharing the love
If you think you might just need a bike every once in a while, CofC's Office of Sustainability offers a bike share program. Once you're signed up for it, all you have to do is show your Cougar Card (student ID) at the front desk of the Stern Student Center and you'll be able to check out a bike for the day. You can even rent a small trailer that hooks on the back of the bike to carry your backpack, extra books, or groceries. To sign up for the program, visit the Bike CofC website at bike.cofc.edu.
The nitty gritty
If you do decide to bring your own bike to the College of Charleston, you have to get it registered with the Department of Public Safety (unless it is already registered with the City of Charleston). Take your bike to the Public Safety office at 89 St. Philip Street (next to Mail Services and across the street from McAlister Residence Hall and Einstein Bros. Bagels) and let a staff member know you need to register it. You'll fill out some paperwork and they'll give you a registration sticker to slap onto the frame of your bike. That's it. Easy as riding a bike. If you're asking, "What will happen to you if you don't get your bike registered?" The answer is that Public Safety reserves the right to impound it. So, just do it.
Be safe ...
Bike theft is a problem in every city, and Charleston is no exception. To guard yourself against theft, always lock your bike to an immovable object using a sturdy chain lock or a U-lock. If you're at the College or on King Street, you can't lock your bike to any old street post. Make sure you use one of the designated racks, or your bike could be confiscated.
... And legal
Bikes are treated just like motor vehicles in Charleston. This means you must obey traffic signals, signs, and rules about one-way streets. Additionally, CofC's policy is that you can't ride a bike on the sidewalk if there is a parallel roadway. Bicycles are also required to have a white light on the front and a red light in the back so that you can be seen after dark. You can easily find these online and in most bike shops. Wearing a helmet is highly recommended, but not required by city law or CofC policy.
Where to get one
The Student Government Association hosts a bike auction each semester selling bikes reclaimed by public safety due to rule violations. Bikes can be expensive, so these auctions are great for finding a functional bike for a good price. Keep an eye out for this semester's date (usually toward the end of August) and then bring cash or check to claim your new wheels. If new and shiny is more your style, there are two bike stores downtown (Affordabike and The Bicycle Shoppe) and several others off the peninsula.