SC DOT Responds to Cyclist Death By Considering Bike Ban

The James Island Connector (shown here during the James Island Connector Run) is one of the only points of entry into Charleston, which is surrounded on three sides by water. But SC DOT recently said they aren't sure if cyclists should be allowed to use the road. Photo: Things to do in Charleston

For almost two decades Charleston cyclists have been using the James Island Connector — a highway-like corridor that is one of the only points of entry to the peninsula that is the city of Charleston. After the recent death of a cyclist, the South Carolina Department of Transportation decided it might not be legal for cyclists to use the road.

Tom Bradford at Charleston Moves explains:

The facts are as follows: The prospect of a ban reared its head a few months ago, and since then we have been in frequent contact with Mayor [Joseph] Riley and other Charleston officials. And despite frequent reports to the contrary, the ban has not yet been imposed. We have very little reliable information about when it will be imposed, and if it will be strenuously enforced if it is imposed.

The law banning cyclists and other non-motorized vehicles from “limited access roads” in South Carolina has long been in effect. In full knowledge of this, however, Charleston officials, have recognized that there was no safer way for cyclists to cross between the Peninsula and James Island and have turned a blind eye to that law ever since the Connector was built. For this, the cycling community can be grateful.

We know that in other states, exceptions are made for cyclists on individual freeways where no other routes for cyclists exist. There are no such exceptions allowed for in South Carolina law, and our crisis was perhaps inevitable because of that fact.

Meanwhile, this week the League of American Bicyclists weighed in on the controversy, saying it was disappointing that Charleston, a league-certified “Bike Friendly Community” would be considering what is essentially a bike ban. They also had some harsh words for Albuquerque, another Bike Friendly Community, which is having a similar problem. “Ironically, both come in the aftermath of tragic fatal crashes involving cyclists in those communities, and neither of the bans really does anything related to solving the causes of the crashes,” the League said in an email blast.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Rights of Way reports that Portland, Maine’s attempts at smart growth have failed to effectively discourage sprawl. The Dallas News Transportation Blog says that both Charlotte and Dallas are exploring a new way to finance light rail investment. And Charlottesville Tomorrow explains that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that planning commissions do not have the power to allow developers to deviate from zoning ordinances.