Dan Kelley, who rides through the Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood on the way to his Mt. Pleasant office, isn’t just excited about the new bike lanes on Chapel Street — he’s looking forward to what it could mean for nearby routes like Alexander and America streets. “The good thing about setting a precedent is that a lot can happen quickly afterward,” he says.
If the city of Charleston’s most recent plans to make the Holy City a more bike-friendly burg succeed, Kelley, an organizer for the Holy City Bike Co-Op, won’t be the only cyclist in town feeling like he just got lucky. City leaders have made it clear that the new bike lane on Chapel Street is only the first in a series of bike routes that could soon snake their way across the peninsula and, they hope, over the Ashley River.
City Paper reached out to several Charleston two-wheeled commuters, most of whom use the Chapel Street route, to get their take on the city’s new bike-friendly push.
In the past, Richard Moss says he has put the mirror on his helmet to good use in order to avoid cars on his ride down Chapel Street. “Now, I’ll be able to just settle into the bike lane,” he says. But Moss and other cyclists note that the lanes are still narrow and they’ll be weary of parked cars and the stray doors that swing open in front of cyclists. Moss says other worthy improvements would include leveling out the sidewalk/bike path on East Bay Street and installing bike-sensitive traffic sensors at intersections.
While Chapel Street has new “share the road” signs, cyclist Cory Furse says the city could use more “shared lane” signs on other streets without bike lanes, reminding motorists that the road is for both cars and bikes. “In the opinion of some motorists, the creation of bicycle lanes is confirmation of their belief that bicycles do not belong on other avenues,” Furse says. “Shared lanes, with symbols in the middle of the traffic lane, help to educate people.”
Shawn Leberknight says he doesn’t commute on his bike much now, but a city proposal to resurface Morrison Drive and add some bike lanes will improve the trip when he does. “The biggest reason why many people see commuting by bicycle as ‘crazy’ is because they fear being on the road next to vehicles with drivers who honk and intimidate them,” Leberknight says. “I have my fair share of horror stories.” He says bike lanes can help protect cyclists, but more education is needed so drivers understand what it means to share the road.
One theme we heard from a few cyclists was that bike path issues don’t end at the city boundaries. Ned Hettinger cycles from Sullivan’s Island to the peninsula a couple times a week. “The scary parts are the Shem Creek bridge and the quarter mile before the Cooper River bridge,” he says. In both instances, Hettinger has to ride out into traffic. “I’d really like painted signs in the road indicating that it is permissible for me to be there,” he says, noting he has a mirror and two safety signs on the bike of his ride. “I seriously don’t want to get hit.”