New study on Ashley River Bridge bike lane exposes doubts

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - For ten years, cyclists have been waiting for a bike lane on the Legare Bridge connecting downtown Charleston to West Ashley.

A new study was presented to Charleston County that claims this bike lane should not be put in.

"It's a great form of exercise," Bob Markisello said. He is a regular cyclist around town and says the commute over the Ashley River on bike is dangerous. "A few folks I know work at MUSC but live in West Ashley. For them, the Legare bike lane is a big issue because they're risking their safety."

The conditions even scare him.

"It's frightening and I have 50,000 miles on a bike on roads. I don't scare easily."

The new study indicates adding a bike lane to the bridge would add a 30 to 40-second delay on traffic in the area.

"I don't know how much of a difference one minute delay of service is," Markisello said. "When are the politicians going to start thinking of the safety of cyclists?"

Charleston County project manager Richard Turner said, however, the delay has a domino effect.

"The biggest kicker that we saw was a level of service 'F' the day the lane closure would be put into place," Turner said.

The bridge would be considered at a 'failing level of service'. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) would then have the opportunity to come in and order the removal of the bike lane.

Charleston County Council chairman Vic Rawl said he does not agree with spending millions of dollars if the lane would reopen to vehicular traffic in one to two years.

"In the final design and construction, it would just pass $2 million," Turner said.

"$2 million might be a lot of money but how much is a life worth?" Markisello asked. "There is little reason not to do this so the only answer is new leadership. We're in the 21st century and we're struggling to get Charleston into the 20th."

Other ideas have been looked into, including building an additional area strictly for pedestrians and cyclists to cross back and forth.

"It could not handle additional load without a substantial amount of upgrades to the bridge, ranging from $18-60 million," Turner explained.

Building an entirely new bridge is also an idea floating around.

"We've had those discussions with the SCDOT and, at this point, they're telling us that's beyond 10 years," Turner said.

No future studies are planned for the bike lane at this time.

Charleston County Council will address the new study Thursday, August 17. To see the study in its entirety, visit this site.

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