File Photo | Ruta Smith

South Carolina is the second-most dangerous state in the nation for people riding bicycles in a study released last week. For a state that prides itself as welcoming and hospitable, residents’ safety to ride bikes through our own hometowns seems secondary to fluffing pillows for out-of-towners and bank accounts of scorched-earth developers.

It’s more dangerous for people to ride bikes in South Carolina than Florida, according to the report from Streetlight Data, which evaluated the risk for cyclists per bike mile traveled. Florida, which has four times the population, has the most cyclist deaths per capita, but S.C. ranks second, the transportation analytics firm found.

Some Charleston-area governments have backed pedestrian-friendly “Complete Streets” initiatives for almost 15 years. Yet, the area still has some of the state’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation, which only signed on to a “Complete Streets” proposal this year.

So, it’s not surprising that interest in improving road safety for all sputters.

Charleston residents might be excused for not knowing what a protected bike lane is, since the city, with help from the state, just built its very first stub of a protected bike route on Brigade Street downtown. Kudos to leaders and advocates who pushed for it. 

Now let’s do it for real, all over town. More bike lanes mean more cyclists. And, more cyclists mean safer roads for everyone, even drivers. (More cyclists also means less vehicle congestion and pollution.)

May is national Mobility Month. Local bike-pedestrian advocates at Charleston Moves have been highlighting some of their efforts over the past year, including the Brigade Street project.

But, there is still more that can be done to make Charleston a safer place for bike riders and pedestrians.

You can:

Bike or walk to work. It’s still easy to bike or walk Charleston if you’re not crossing any bridges on your daily commute. Using current bike and pedestrian infrastructure is the best way to understand and engage in local discussions about what’s next.

Use transit. Not keen on braving the bridges in rush hour? We don’t blame you. Every CARTA bus has a bike rack out front, so load up your cruiser, start your commute and ride the rest of the way. Local transit options are poised to get a boost in the next decade with Lowcountry Rapid Transit, so it’s time to get used to the idea.

Demand safer conditions. Charleston roads need to be safer for runners, walkers and people on bikes. Local leaders need to make it happen. No excuses. Call your members of city and county council.

Leaders must:

Ensure safe routes across the Ashley River. The new pedestrian bridge across the Ashley River into downtown is an exciting development. But, there must also be a safe way to cross between North Charleston and West Ashley.

Understand mobility’s connection to policy. Better bike and pedestrian access is not only a safety issue. It’s a sustainability challenge, a social justice issue and a quality of life concern.