We take for granted walking, running, and biking the Ravenel Bridge. But without a mighty push from Charleston Moves in the early 2000s – then called the Charleston Bicycle Advocacy Group (CBAG) – the bridge would have easily been built without a bike and pedestrian lane. “This group did the drudgery, going to endless council meetings, developing a coalition, and creating a smart ‘can’t wait to bike the bridge’ postcard campaign that eventually got the support of the mayors” explains Katie Zimmerman, Executive Director of Charleston Moves. She volunteered for the organization before she joined them as an employee in 2017.
She’s proud of the work that Charleston Moves is committed to. More projects are being added to their website as times call for thoughtful consideration from all municipalities on issues like safe access to walking and biking. For many reasons.
“There are definitely health and safety aspects to consider but so much more. Like environmental: we place a lot of value on the waterways in this area for tourism, ecology, and the fishing industry, and yet the runoff from vehicles undermines that, not to mention how harmful air pollution is. You must give people more affordable options to get around, especially in the Peninsula where it’s a matter of efficiency too. Access elevates a host of other things like affordable housing, more job options, and having money in your pocket to spend on something other than car payments and insurance.”
Most see bike and pedestrian lanes as a no-brainer, but there is multi-layered red tape that can get in the way and bog down the process. “The state of South Carolina controls most of the roadways and bridges, which is fairly unique. Let’s say you want to retrofit a street. The state controls the street, the county holds the purse strings, and the city, who might have the best intentions, has to follow state standards and source funding. Lots of cooks in the kitchen!”
In 2009, Charleston Moves launched an ambitious Battery2Beach initiative with a vision to create 32 miles of continuous bike and pedestrian lanes from the Battery to major beaches in the Charleston area. To date, more than 40% of the ‘segments’ in the route are completed. A robust Mount Pleasant Way bike and ped path is in the works and is seeking infrastructure dollars.
All eyes have recently been on a major puzzle piece, the Ashley River Bike and Ped Bridge that will allow for a safe crossing from West Ashley to Downtown Charleston. It’s still three years from completion, but the contracts are signed, and the money is locked in. It’s a design-build project, meaning construction can begin even before the design is complete. But sometimes, even when all the arrows point to ‘go,’ last-minute changes can happen. Case in point, the Downtown Bike Path.
With a city council in favor of a buffered bike path on King Street, everyone assumed this important foot forward for bike safety was assured. “Two members balked, and it fell apart, and a widened road to accommodate cars and bikes together was proposed, which we were not in favor of.” The public rallied, and the project was taken off the table. While it’s back to the drawing board, Katie sees it as a win and points to public support as key.
With more safety action plans, policies, and projects in the works, she depends on public engagement. “We’ll let people know when it’s time to participate. Go to charlestonmoves.org, check out their ‘Take Action’ tab, and sign up to receive their emails. Connect @chasmoves.
“The more affordable, safer, cleaner, and healthier options we have to get around, the better off we all are.”