Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bicycles & A Brief Visit to Charleston

A while back we took a trip along the South Carolina coast. The vacation included a (very!) short visit to Charleston and a longer stay outside of Beaufort near Hunting Island. Vacation time means a chance to get out, explore new places and see new sights. And, of course, take note of the way that folks in other places are using bicycles in their every day lives.
Chik-fil-A's savy advertising in the streets of Charleston.
Charleston is an officially recognized Bicycle Friendly Community. Though at the bronze level, the city has laid a foundation for bicycle-friendly amenities, there are still some improvements to make. A debate over the Ravenel Bridge being opened, then closed, then reopened to bicycles was a hotly contested issue in the low-country. In a city that's older than our nation, sometimes changes takes a while. However, it appears, though, that bicycles have become part of the city landscape.  

Biking in the Palmetto State
In Charleston we got out of the car and ventured out to see some common sites like the Central Market, Waterfront Park and famous churches and buildings. Along the way, I noted a few bicycle happenings. When we were trying to find a place to park, I noticed that bikes were also encouraged to park in the same area.
Waterfront Park, Charleston

Shared parking lot for cars & bicyles in Charleston
Charleston has narrow streets. In an area where there's a lot of people moving by foot, it was interesting to me to see that those on two wheels were also encouraged to park in a lot, getting off of two wheels and on to two feet. Tucking the bike racks in the parking lot seemed like an intuitive idea for a place where space is at a premium.

As we strolled along the city streets, nearing Waterfront Park, a hotel had a flight of inviting bicycles outside its front door. An alternative to driving and faster than walking, it seemed to fit the laid-back, slower pace of Charleston. Not to mention they looked cool and comfortable. No need for spandex here!

Curb-side service in Charleston
Seeing people on bikes was fairly common - old, young, black, white, men, women, young adults. Bike riding appeared to be a real alternative way of moving around the historic city for tourists and locals. It was nice to see a city that has been around for hundreds of years has been adapting to movement on two wheels.

Spending an afternoon in Charleston, I hope to be back for an extended stay in the near future. Heading off down the coast to Beaufort under the setting sun, we were excited for what other things we'd find on our vacation. Stay tuned to a future post about Bicycles & A Visit to Beaufort.

Riding off into the sunset

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bike Lane on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I recently read a print article in a local outdoor magazine that posted a question about having bike lanes installed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I thought it was an interesting debate - one worth thinking about - so ventured to the on-line story. Skimming through the comments, I found the back and forth over whether or not to have specific bikeway or shared roadway for cyclists an interesting peak into the changing culture of the country and region.
Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed to allow folks to take in the majestic, rolling landscape from the comfort of their automobile. The tight turns, breathtaking views and narrow road are designed to have folks take it easy. A ride down this national treasure is a much different experience than driving some other regional highways like 85, 40 and 77. Here the road was designed to help people relax, slow down and enjoy the ride.

So, since we are expanding the idea of  what"enjoying the ride" means as a society to include the idea of hopping on bike instead of just getting behind the wheel, why should the Parkway be changed to include bike lanes?  

Reasons in favor of bike lanes:  Providing enhancement (like bike lanes, bike path, bike racks, etc.) will make the route more appealing to those on bikes, which can mean an economic boom to communities near the route and the National Park Service, slowing traffic would enhance safety for all.

Reasons against bike lanes:  Widens the asphalt footprint, drivers who are caught up in the scenery might veer into a bike lane, slowing traffic down too much, political opposition, cost changing things would alter the experience and is that what folks want. 

There's also discussion about allowing those on bikes to have preference on certain sections or on designated days of the week or portions of a month as a way forward. This would be a way to change the programming of the route without as much potential or investment in changing the actual road itself.

All interesting ideas to consider. The southern-most portion of the parkway ends west of Asheville, North Carolina, not too far from the Upstate. Last fall I ventured up that way after a family wedding, and it was breathtaking. Taking a ride along this feasible, fun option to consider, especially in the hot months of July and August. (Just remember to bring enough water and plan properly!)

So, what is place of the bicycle - on this road, on any road and as a part of the American way of life? To me it's exciting we are at a point as a society to engage in this debate! I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic by posting in the comment below.