Police, SCDOT consider changes after car drives down Ravenel Bridge walking lane

After an elderly man drove in the pedestrian lane of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge last week, questions surround how it was even possible in the first place.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 4:43 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:22 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After an elderly man drove into the pedestrian lane of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge last week, questions surround how it was even possible in the first place.

No injuries were reported, and the driver was issued a citation, but what measures will now be taken to prevent this situation from happening again?

City of Charleston Police Department’s Public Information Officer Sgt. Anthony Gibson says they are very fortunate that the situation was not worse, but they are taking this as a learning experience to make changes as quickly as possible to ensure everyone feels safe while on the Ravenel Bridge.

Gibson says the police department is working with South Carolina’s Department of Transportation to make changes and recommendations to the pedestrian lane.

“This is an ASAP solution for us. We’re trying to implement something and work with SCDOT to make something happen as soon as possible,” Gibson says. “It’s absolutely crucial to get this done immediately.”

He says it’s somewhat of a balance looking at the operational aspects with the safety of everyone who uses the walkway on a daily basis.

The more difficult factor is having a permanent solution like a barricade, railing or bollard that can prevent vehicles from going up the lane, but can be moved if needed.

“We have to balance the free flow of pedestrian traffic and bike traffic while restricting vehicle traffic, but we also have to consider that emergency vehicles have to be able to get up on the pedestrian walkway if needed,” Gibson says. “Think about the bridge run for example, where that may be required to do that.”

When asked, Gibson adds that none of these changes were in place before the incident simply because they had no idea a vehicle could have the ability to get onto the bridge.

“There’s no way that we could have predicted this is going to happen, but it’s about taking those action steps to prevent it from happening further,” he adds.

Many residents in the Lowcountry walk, bike or run on the bridge often; including Mereydth Headrick and Edward Gonzales, who said seeing the car in the pedestrian lane was a shock.

“I mean, it’s like seeing an elephant on the bridge,” Headrick says. “I think you’d never expect something like that.”

Both Headrick and Gonzales say there are enough signage warning drivers about the pedestrian walkway, but adding some sort of barrier, like bumps or posts would make them feel safer.

“One of those kind of little barriers, like outside of Target, where cars don’t just run into something that says don’t drive on this,” Headrick adds.

“I felt safe before, and now I’m a little apprehensive that a vehicle can get through,” Gonzales says.