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Panel keeps pushing for more bike lanes

The Post and Courier: Panel keeps pushing for more bike lanes

BY DAVE MUNDAY
Thursday, July 28, 2011


Three weeks after a well-known local doctor was killed riding his bicycle across the James Island connector, a committee formed to advise Charleston City Council on bike safety is pressing forward with its demands for more bike lanes.

The group is making some progress, said Dan Kelley, chairman of Charleston's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which met Wednesday.

The city of Charleston is studying ways to reserve a bike lane over the Ashley River. The state Department of Transportation is finalizing plans to add bike lanes on St. Andrews Boulevard.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley made a brief appearance at the committee's monthly meeting to reaffirm his commitment to making the T. Allen Legare Bridge safer for cyclists.

"We believe it is absolutely essential," he said. "We will not rest until we succeed. That will be a game-changer, the ability to cross the Ashley River safely on bike and foot."

Riley also said he has been talking to the Transportation Department about making the James Island connector safer. For instance, one short-term possibility is to put poles between the right lane and emergency lane where bikers ride.

"That is under review," he said.

Officials should consider banning bikes from the bridge altogether, Arthur Field of Charleston suggested.

"It's inherently dangerous to ride a bicycle (with so much car traffic)," he said.

"We don't really look at that as an option," Kelley said.

There is no other practical way to get from James Island to the peninsula, because the Wappoo Bridge is even more dangerous than the connector, committee member Courtney Gruber said.

Committee members agreed that police need to educate and ticket bikers who run red lights and ride on congested downtown sidewalks.

Riley pointed out that the city printed up biking safety cards in May to give out to students. They are yellow and say "Bike Right City of Charleston" on one side and have safety and legal tips on the back. Riley said he would check to make sure they are included in student orientation packets this summer.

The law requires bicyclists to ride with the flow of traffic, as far to the right side of the road as possible, and to obey stop signs and stoplights.

The committee looked over Transportation Department plans to put bike lanes on a section of St. Andrews Boulevard by the end of the year. The road will be repaved and bike lanes added between Wesley Drive near the bridge and 5th Avenue near the intersection with S.C. Highway 171 toward Charles Towne Landing.

The committee agreed to ask the DOT to try to extend the lanes all the way to the bridge, to mark the bike paths across intersections and to make the crosswalks more visible.

Mitchell Hollon, an anesthesiologist and cycling enthusiast, was killed July 5 when he was knocked over the guardrail on the connector into the marsh below. The van driver was given a $113 ticket for an improper lane use.

Another high-profile cyclist was killed a year earlier. Edwin Gardner, 64, was struck by a sport utility vehicle on July 21, 2010, while he was riding his bicycle on Montagu Street near Lockwood Boulevard. Charlotte White of Sumter, 21, was charged with following too closely.