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Cycling Enthusiasts – share the load to share the road

Lee Walton

Over the past decade or more, local cycling enthusiasts and their elected proponents have become more organized, better politically connected, and increasingly vocal in their demands for the construction of dedicated bikeways in all new roadway and on bridge projects throughout the Lowcountry. Their most visible and costly accomplishment to date is the very successful, highly visible, and politically prized addition of bike and pedestrian lanes on the Ravenel Bridge. With all this dedicated attention and taxpayer funding now devoted to this relatively infinitesimal segment of the commuting public, its only fair that cyclists return the favor and “put a little skin in the game.”

Following the passage of the countywide ½ half-cent sales tax referendum on its third attempt, Charleston County’s RoadWise design team included dedicated bikeways in several of its currently proposed projects throughout the County. The best and most costly bikeway poster-child soon to come off the RoadWise drawing boards will be the ones added to the extremely controversial Harbor View Road Widening Project on James Island. This multi-million dollar state and locally funded project literally pitted neighbor against neighbor and Town against City and County for over three years. Given that the grand majority of funding for this transportation infrastructure project is derived from federal and state fuel tax, it is not only fair, but justifiable that local cycling enthusiasts contribute financially to the construction and maintenance of these costly additions dedicated to their sole use. Likewise, all other RoadWise projects that include dedicated bikeways should include appropriate funding contributions from the beneficiaries of these costly additions. Why should the motoring public pick up the whole tab?

Considering the total cost to acquire additional rights-of-way and retrofit the construction of dedicated bikeways within existing suburban streets and highways, the cost of cycling miles traveled when compared to that of vehicle miles traveled over the same period is tens-of-thousands times more costly, yet cyclists don’t pay a dime in user fees or roadway taxes. The grand majority of motorists don’t cycle on dedicated bikeways, but they currently subsidize those cyclists who do to the tune of 100%.

The time has come for the silent, supermajority of motorist to demand that local cycling enthusiasts pay a reasonable share in the costs to construct and maintain dedicated bikeways and shared bike lanes throughout Charleston County. Likewise, a special safety course and cycling license, for a fee, and an annual bicycle registration fee should not create an unreasonable burden. A better, more appropriately educated and licensed cycling public would also pose less of a safety risk to themselves and the motoring public. Currently, anyone with a bike can cycle down a busy highway, often oblivious to the threat they are to themselves and others. A 175-pound man on a 20-pound bike will always lose in the physics of a collision with a 4,000-pound SUV, regardless of who’s at fault. Proper safety equipment, training, licensing, bike registration and separate bikeways paid for equitably by their users are long over due in Charleston County.

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