One reason opponents have been dismissive of efforts to accommodate bicycles in Charleston is that they don’t see enough demand to justify them.
They can put their minds at ease. Seasoned businesses on the peninsula are confident enough in the future of biking that they are putting money into it.
Bike rentals have done well for some time. And hotels have added bikes to the list of amenities for their guests.
Now the city of Charleston is on the verge of launching its peninsula-wide bike-share program — something that has been years in the planning.
Charleston City Council will soon — as early as October — be asked for approval.
And why wouldn’t members sign off on the plan? It would decrease the automobile traffic on city streets, ease parking demands, decrease emissions and provide residents and visitors a healthy alternative to driving.
Charleston County Council members should also take note.
Some are talking about abandoning the county’s promised role in the bike lane planned to span the Ashley River on the Legare bridge.
Not only would that be an injustice to the city, it would be a blow to the community that stands to benefit from becoming more bike friendly.
While the city’s bike-share program, with 200 bicycles, should accommodate demand on the peninsula, West Ashley and James Island residents still need a way to get onto the peninsula by bike.
The bike lane is important for commuters who work at the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston or anywhere else on the peninsula. For some bicycling is a choice, but for others, it is the only affordable way to commute.
Sean Flood, founder of The Gotcha Group, which is to contract with the city to provide the bike-shares, has seen it succeed. Gotcha has programs at Auburn University, North Kentucky University and the Savannah College of Art and Design.
In Charleston, its first municipal operation, it would install about 15 corrals on public sidewalks and streets, as well as on MUSC and College of Charleston campuses. Bikes would be checked out with a smartphone app, online or on a keypad on the rear of the bike. A built-in lock can be released with a numeric code on the keypad, so users can lock it up at any destination. It must be returned to a Gotcha hub for the trip to end. Renters can pay by the hour or by the year. The rates are not yet established.
The city is wise to recognize the benefits of bicycling and to support it with this bike share, the West Ashley Greenway and designated bike lanes like the one over the Ashley.
Unfortunately, some City Council members who opposed the lane but were outvoted are working behind the scenes to persuade County Council to kill the lane.
They had their chance and were defeated. Now they owe it to their constituents to get on board to make sure the bike lane is successful.
And County Council members should follow through on their promise to build the lane.
Tests have shown that drivers will not be delayed by more than a minute or two on their morning commutes — at peak traffic. Projects in other municipalities across the country have proven popular and helpful.
And now local businesses have seen the potential and are on board — where it makes sense to be.
Promising local bike projects
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