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City Council, October 8

Federal grants of over $1.2 million for City Police
Pilot cycle parking program for Lower King Street
Marc Knapp

The agenda for last night’s City Council meeting was light. There was the usual slew of grants or applications for grants, some presentations and annexations. Also, the City’s texting ban received its second and final reading and passed into law.

It wasn’t on the agenda, presumably because it just occurred, but Police Chief Mullen told Council that the City had received a $1 million federal grant under Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to help fund 8 police officer positions for 3 years. The City would provide a 25% match. The police retained under this program would be utilized in public safety in the north and north eastern parts of the City – the Neck, Rosemont etc. The team would be part of a larger group already covering the East and West Sides, and West Ashley. The Police Department also received two other federal grants, one for $225,000 and the other for $43,000. Hopefully there will be an increase in revenue to fund these positions after year three. If not, we are probably looking at another tax increase. The other problem, of course is there is an good chance these new positions will not be filled anyway. There is presently more than a 30% per year attrition rate of officers leaving for other departments..

An ordinance to create a one-year pilot program relating to bicycle parking received its first reading. Under the ordinance, bicycle parking will be prohibited on King Street between Calhoun and Spring Street except in a designated bicycle parking area. As Mayor Riley explained, this part of King Street has attracted a lot of pedestrian traffic, particularly at night. Bikes have been parked next to trees and parking meters and often have fallen onto the sidewalks. These bikes have been obstacles to pedestrian traffic and forced pedestrians onto the roads. The bikes have become a safety hazard, the Mayor said.

The City will be putting up bike stands for use by cyclists along this half mile stretch of King Street.

Presumably, the City will review the success of the program over the year and possibly move to extend the ban on cycle parking except in designated areas to other parts of the City.

Not everybody was happy about the City’s plan. Charleston Moves, a cycling advocacy group asked Council to reject the plan. It thought that the proposed ordinance would discourage cycling. Council member Lewis supported the proposed ordinance but was not happy about surrendering car parking spaces. He again reminded Council that although rules governing bicycles were on the books, they were never enforced. He had witnessed countless times infringements of the law such as riding on sidewalks, or through red lights. Council member Riegel followed Council member Lewis and called for the City to aggressively enforce the law.

Nobody followed up on the calls by Council members Lewis and Riegel. But I think the Council members have a point. I think all of us have had encounters with cyclists who disobey the law. Maybe a first step in gaining compliance is to place prominent signs along streets such as King and Meeting indicating that pedaling on sidewalks is against the law. I suspect that many cyclists are unaware of the City’s rules and would be mindful if there were signs.

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