I spend much of my time championing for hands-only CPR education programs and early access to defibrillation in an effort to make my community safer. My “safety hat” also includes other initiatives, one of which has come up for a major decision in recent weeks – providing a safe way for bicycles and pedestrians to cross the Ashley River.
My stance on this issue is a bit selfish – I am a West Ashley resident, owner of a West Ashley based small business, and I enjoy being outdoors. My family and I frequently ride our bicycles and walk the West Ashley Greenway which cuts through our neighborhood. I would be one of the first to take advantage of a safe crossing downtown, but I’m certainly not alone.
Charleston invests huge amounts into infrastructure for city residents and visitors. Unfortunately it rarely seems to be directed towards non-vehicular transportation options – something that the entire region majorly lacks. A recent example was the $290k taxpayer funded, indestructible toilet that was built in a downtown park earlier this year.
I joined the battle to create safe passage from West Ashley onto the Charleston peninsula about four years ago. Besides some gray hairs, I’ve got nothing to say for it.
In this time, the City studied and approved conversion of a northbound lane over the existing Legare Bridge to be used for bike and pedestrian crossing, however concerns with taking a lane away from an already busy bridge resulted in this plan being scrapped.
City officials then submitted BUILD grant applications to support building a new standalone bike and pedestrian bridge over the Ashley River. This grant has been turned down twice and now stands before the Department of Transportation for a third look – this is where we need your help.
The need for a safe crossing over the Ashley River has been apparent for several years. Numerous pedestrians and cyclists have been injured or killed crossing the existing bridge with traffic. Meanwhile, Charleston is growing exponentially resulting in more drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians sharing the roads.
A standalone bridge would have a number of impacts on Charleston safety, traffic, and the economy:
- Keeping cyclists and pedestrians off the road will drastically improve safety.
- Providing a safe way for residents who do not own a vehicle to get to work on the peninsula and return home.
- Prices for parking downtown have doubled in recent years making it more difficult for our many hospitality workers.
- People biking and walking to work reduces the number of vehicles on the road thereby improving traffic, emissions, and overall vehicular safety. There are many West Ashley residents that work at the three hospitals on the West Edge of the peninsula. Many, including my wife Allison, want to bike to work because it’s much faster. Currently, Allison has to drive to a dirt lot over a mile away from MUSC and ride a bus to and from work. If she gets out late, she usually has to wait 15 minutes or longer for the next bus to arrive. Having safe access to downtown would allow her and others to bike directly to the hospital, avoid traffic, and lose the hassle of waiting for a shuttle.
- A substantial economic boost from West Ashley residents being able to dine, shop, and drink downtown without having to worry about driving or parking. The new West Edge neighborhood includes a grocery store, shops, and restaurants but no good way to get there if you’re not on the peninsula already.
- Similarly allowing downtown residents and tourists to explore the Avondale restaurants and shops would boost the economy on this side of the river.
Safe non-vehicular access to downtown has been needed for years. The failure to act on this has kept Charleston far behind thriving cities which have had the forethought to include pedestrian and bicycle access at the center of their long-term growth plans. We need an immediate fix to connect West Ashley to downtown and we need long-term comprehensive solutions to address the regional transportation issues the county faces.
This grant needs your support to move through the selection process. Here is how you can help:
Write your Senators and Congressmen. They need to know that you support this measure and get behind it:
- Senator Lindsey Graham: https://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-senator-graham
- Senator Tim Scott: https://www.scott.senate.gov/contact/email-me
- Representative Jim Clyburn: https://clyburn.house.gov/contact-me
- Representative Joe Cunningham: https://cunningham.house.gov/contact/email-me
Sign the Charleston Moves petition:
And, share this article on social media to show your support and encourage others to do so as well!
Here’s the shortlink for the Tweeters: https://bit.ly/2Ot3hKM