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Booting Bikes is Bicycle Friendly?

Imagine that you’re driving your car. You get in. You crank it up. You turn on the AC, letting it blow mercifully in your face. You pull out of your driveway and propel your car to your desired destination.

Imagine arriving at your desired destination. You drive around and around and around your desired destination. Then, imagine driving around some more, fruitlessly seeking a parking space that is legal, that won’t have you booted, ticketed or towed.

You can’t find a space to park your vehicle. ANYWHERE.

Do you return to this destination again? Or, do you decide it’s not worth the trouble?

Now, replace all those car references with the word “bicycle.” You want to ride your freaking bicycle to the same place. You’re choosing to 1. save some gasoline; 2. burn some calories; 3. take advantage of natural AC; 4. take a car off the road; 5. pave the way for others to ride their bikes for the same (or other) reasons.

Now, imagine a city that makes it illegal for you to do all of those things, because they’re basically making it against the law to park your bicycle. ANYWHERE.

Yes, people, the City of Charleston, South Carolina City Council is considering an ordinance this evening that would do just that. As the ordinance is currently written, parking a bicycle downtown on any surface other than a bike rack will be illegal.

Illegal? For crying out loud!

The King Street area has around 4,000 parking spaces currently. There are probably fewer than 100 bike racks along the same street, leaving bikers who want to visit King Street to shop or hang out the unfortunate option of attaching their bicycles to other things – parking meters, light poles, and signs.

The City currently doesn’t require businesses to provide bike racks for patrons of a given area, nor does the City itself install nearly enough bike racks to service the number of folks who obviously want to ride their bicycles to visit King Street establishments.

I’m one of those people. I ride my bicycle to King Street establishments. All. The. Time.

Or, I used to. I guess all of those struggling businesses won’t be getting one red cent of my money anymore, particularly if I find out they’re behind this accursed “make bike parking illegal” nonsense.

What’s even more ludicrous – and hyper-hypocritical, I might add – is that the City of Charleston just applied to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Community by The League of American Bicyclists. On what planet can a city that doesn’t support bike parking, that would propose such a ridiculous ordinance, actually obtain this certification?

Please, good people at LAB, put a big, fat REJECTED stamp on this application if this preposterous ordinance is passed. This short-sighted city does not deserve it if we care more about what things “look like” than we do about joining the movement of progressive cities in the 21st century.

And, if anyone comments, “But, this is Charleston…..” on this post, please be warned that I will come through the computer and pound you one. With a friendly, Charleston smile affixed to my face, of course.

50 Comments Post a comment
  1. If I was you and had to get in my car and drive somewhere instead of biking, I would head out of downtown to where the parking is easier. That would mean lots less money for the downtown merchants. They should be screaming about this.

    I think someone is thinking that all bicycle riders are young kids just blocking the way. That sure isn’t true anymore. And the fact that this ordinance is at cross purposes with what they have said they are trying to achieve is just ludicrous.

    City of Charleston, pay attention!!

    July 20, 2010
    • It is so frustrating, Michael. I don’t know who started this one, but people who care about biking and cycling issues ought to be out in force this evening.

      July 20, 2010
  2. boo city of charleston!

    July 20, 2010
  3. Great post, Andra. I hope everyone who rides a bike downtown, along with every local merchant worth their salt, will storm the meeting tonight and make their voices heard.

    Who came up with this nonsense, anyway?

    Although, I must also say that your first four paragraphs epitomize why I, as a native, have all but abandoned downtown as a destination for anything but a very occasional special event. I don’t live close enough to town to ride a bike, and the situation is as described for cars now more often than not. I can find most all of what I need and want in the suburbs without all the hassle, so why should I waste my time and money?

    July 20, 2010
    • Liz, I don’t know who came up with it, but it all happened pretty quickly. No one in the cycling community knew about this until yesterday.

      People with more power than me would be wise to read your comments and take them to heart. We do not need to continue to do things that make it unattractive and mindblowingly difficult to visit downtown.

      July 20, 2010
    • Liz, You are not the only person who avoids downtown because of what is perceived to be as a difficult place to get around. Many don’t know where the parking garages are and then don’t want to pay $2 just to be able to go to their favorite store. Like you, I don’t do as much downtown as I did when I lived on the peninsula within bike range of everything.

      July 20, 2010
  4. Andra, take a look at the City of Charleston FB page here

    Friday’s status update references a survey offered by the Civic Design Center. People are being asked to take this survey ostensibly for the purpose of helping the city of Charleston improve biking related issues, such as a greater number of racks for parking, etc.

    So, what gives?? 🙂

    July 20, 2010
    • In the interest of full disclosure, the Director of the Civic Design Center is my husband.

      He and his team have been working for quite a while now on improving the conditions for bicyclists on the peninsula. To be fair to him, I don’t want to put any words in his mouth about this ordinance or how it came about, but I will say that the CCDC had nothing to do with it.

      Beyond that, he can comment directly on the blog and give any information that he deems enlightening.

      July 20, 2010
  5. Thanks for the inspired post. Put a post up on TheDigitel about the new ordinance.

    And a link here, of course.

    July 20, 2010
    • Thanks Ken. I know a lot of Digitel readers are riders. I hope they won’t let this go unchallenged.

      I appreciate both your reading and your comment very much.

      July 20, 2010
  6. The Digitel currently has the best summation I’ve seen of the lengthy ordinance language.

    Ken Hawkins put a link in his comment above, and I’m providing another one here:

    July 20, 2010
  7. WTF? I cannot believe this! It seems like stupid stuff from people who only drive cars.

    July 20, 2010
    • This is so, so shortsighted, Cheryl. Why not just provide more parking?

      Interestingly, the ordinance also claims that the City will invest more in bike parking, but there are absolutely no plans or funding on the horizon for additional bike parking.

      July 20, 2010
      • Andra, thanks for alerting us all to this issue. When I lived downtown, I rode my bike everywhere. Then and now there are so few places to park them. It was only at the library that I found bike racks.

        Will merchants be allowed to place racks outside of their stores? Doubtful as then those would be cited as “blocking the sidewalks.”

        My guess is the city wants to force all bikes to the parking garages where there are limited bike racks. And like you, I doubt that the City will be adding more anytime soon. I see more business for the merchants in South Windemere and other near to the peninsula locations.

        July 20, 2010
  8. The Smoking Lamp #

    This is the stupidest law I have ever heard of. Lots of my customers ride their bikes to my business. They spend time and money with me and I am greatefull for it. Just because the mayor and his friends don’t like the way it looks? Really? Look at Paris, Rome, Copenhagen and many other cities. Many historic cities were not built to accomodate cars. Bikes are perfect….they take up no parking spaces, don’t cause the air to smell bad and make no noise. I will accomodate as many bikes in my store as I can since I am sure that city will not be installing bike racks.

    July 20, 2010
    • Amen! Thank you for giving a bike supportive merchant perspective. I know you’re on King Street, and this ordinance could really hurt merchants there.

      July 20, 2010
  9. Just blogged this same issue on the Daily Kos,-SC

    Breathtakingly stupid proposal. As usualy, I turn over the rocks in SC’s culture and expose how this, like everything else, in SC is connected to it’s miserable history or race and class hatred.

    July 20, 2010
    • Thanks for sending me a link to your article. Lots more background info there.

      July 20, 2010
  10. Updated information about City Council meeting tonight at 5PM:

    The agenda for City Council’s meeting tonight provides for no time to comment on the bike ordinance. Therefore, comments will have to be made during the community participation session, which will occur between 5 and 5:30PM.

    Please, if you care about biking, come out and say two sentences (not a speech) about how opposed you are to this proposed ordinance.

    July 20, 2010
  11. My son Jackson and I will be there. He’s coming over Wonder’s Way on his Trek and he couldn’t possibly be angrier than he is.

    There is a big difference between not keeping promises and projects which never get built or funded and tearing basic necessities out of people’s lives.

    July 20, 2010
  12. A little more on the bike vs. car double-standard:

    With the improvements made on Lower and Upper King over the past few years, the first people the city heard from were area businesses whose customers couldn’t park near their stores. It’s probably fair to say that at least half these people are driving from outside the local area to come patronize their stores, and the businesses were right to be frustrated.

    Fast-forward to now: These new ordinances would effectively do the same thing, permanently. Except that this time, the people affected would almost all be local residents, with a smattering of tourists on rented bikes, who live and frequent the local businesses–a critical portion of their customer base these businesses depend on when tourists and students head home.

    The pitch is the same as it’s always been. The city should do everything it can to encourage people to get out of their cars and walk or ride a bike. In this city, the meters will still be filled and folks will still be visiting the area, if they can find a place to lock up.

    July 20, 2010
    • Sam, I don’t understand how city officials don’t get this one. Most of my adult friends who live downtown have bikes and use them regularly. That’s one of the key perks of living downtown – the ability to use pedals or my own two feet to carry me to the places I want to go. It isn’t just students who ride (and I’m happy the students ride, too, because of the premium on downtown parking.)

      I try to buy from downtown merchants whenever I can for the same reason – a city that does not have a wealth of retail shopping options within easy reach by foot or bike is not really a city. How can the city not favor bicycle friendliness?

      July 20, 2010
      • It’s funny to think that the reason this law was proposed is *because* bicycles are so popular in the city. If it wasn’t an issue to locals, parked bikes wouldn’t line the city’s most popular areas.

        July 20, 2010
  13. FUMING mad. This would be so detrimental to so many downtown businesses whose local repeats keep them in business. Any smart business owner will oppose this. I, for one, will confine myself to my tiny walkable area. I also think the appeal of living downtown and paying those big downtown prices would all of the sudden seem far less appealing. I don’t understand people who don’t FULLY and HAPPILY embrace bicycles and who don’t make it EASIER on those who ride them. Cycles do so much for the betterment of the environment, health, safety and more. What do cars better? Deep pockets of car and gas companies is about it. The future has two wheels, my friends. Don’t do it, Charleston! Bad, bad move!

    July 20, 2010
    • Especially frustrating is that they would propose this now, when it is an oven outside. I agree with you, Caroline. I like to walk places when I can, but in summertime, I just arrive too dewey (or soaked, because I sweat buckets.) I would never choose to do my shopping or eating anywhere that I couldn’t ride when it’s this hot out. People choose to live downtown, and pay extra, for this lifestyle.

      July 20, 2010
  14. Randall #

    I wish I could say that I am surprised by this but sadly I’m not. The City has turned its attention away from King Street, King Street businesses and Charleston Business for some time now. Many of us property owners on King have investing 10’s of thousnads of dollars on Streetscape, I for one over 63K in tax reassessment. BTW during all this King Street work they “forgot” to put in bike stands? Isn’t there a Charleston Green Initiative, In the 1st paragraph they say CO2 four times! On the City’s own web site it says “As the Charleston area grows, it is increasingly important to plan for bicycle and pedestrian access through the City and the region.” Who’s running this tomato cart?

    July 20, 2010
    • Randall, I feel your pain. Every time I ride over to King Street to eat at Fish (and you know that’s at least once per week), the measly two bike racks at the corner of Radcliffe and King are almost always full. Ditto for the ones at Basil. Ditto for the ones at Joe’s Pasta.

      Once again, we’re just not focusing on the right things.

      July 20, 2010
  15. spokejunky #

    I saw that Charleston was on the LAB list for a cycling friendly city and repeated the same sentiment as you adding ‘a bike lane on a bridge does not a friendly bike city make’. Sure a designation such as this makes for great real estate turn over you still have to give it more than face time. Such initiatives as closing down car spaces and inserting bike racks:

    or cordoning off sections of a parking garage comes to mind:

    or contacting your Charleston BikePed advocacy committee and asking them what they and Charleston are doing to move the bicycle as a viable source of transportation:

    July 20, 2010
    • Right on. All of these initiatives have been discussed here and there, but the car is still IT in downtown Charleston, whatever lip service they want to give to bicycling friendliness.

      July 20, 2010
    • i’ve lived in and visited a number of places over the years, and I have to say that out of all of them Charleston is perhaps one of the least bike friendly places I’ve been in. Even in Detroit, where I spent 3 years, I could have easily gotten around to most of the places I needed to on a bike and felt reasonably safe. Here, not so much.

      The bike lanes and roads with wider lanes Charleston is starting to put in are a start, but they are way too disconnected. they form ‘islands’ of ridability, but in between is like swimming in shark infested waters. Don’t get me started on the numerous bridges.

      July 21, 2010
      • What’s even more scary about riding here is how impatient so many motorists are with bikers. I mean, I admit that some cyclists are rude, but geez.

        I hope the decision last night to address bike parking first will be the beginning of a much bigger investment in making riding easier for all of us.

        July 21, 2010
  16. Kenny #

    There’s more information in the Post and Courier ( The article includes an interview with one of the drafters, Mike Seekings. He says in the interview that he wants to see a plan in place for actual bicycle parking spaces before the resolution would go into effect (and there have to be at least three votes before the ordinance is approved). So this isn’t going to go into effect tomorrow, and it seems that the people behind it recognize that real provisions have to be made before they can institute something like this.

    Please, just don’t go to the meeting tonight sounding like a Tea Partier at a Town Hall Meeting. That doesn’t help anyone. If it means that the city actually has to provide real parking places throughout the city for bikes, then that’s a good thing.

    Also, here’s a link to an article detailing other initiatives to help bikers and pedestrians in the area (

    July 20, 2010
    • Kenny, these are all good points. I do hope that the City will provide more bicycle parking, because it is needed – whether or not this ordinance passes.

      July 20, 2010
    • Kenny, the biggest problem with this reporting and your comment is this: the ordinance, as it is currently written, does not actually force the city to provide additional bike parking for anyone. While Seekings and others may say that they intend to do this, the ordinance is not written to force them to do it. Hence, I’m skeptical that they actually intend to. Otherwise, they would put it in the ordinance.

      Lest anyone think they don’t need to come out tonight and force them to put that language in there……..

      July 20, 2010
  17. Kenny #

    Sorry, the link to the article about this specific ordinance is

    July 20, 2010
    • Happy to preach. 🙂 Love your post as well. Thanks for including it above.

      July 20, 2010

    Charleston City Council heard all of our concerns and thought they were valid. They voted not to enact the bike parking ordinance and have sent it to City Staff and the bicycle + pedestrian committee.

    The Charleston Civic Design Center, City Planning Staff, and bike + ped community will develop a more proactive strategy and present it to City Council in 60 days.

    Thank you to everyone who commented here, who came out to speak out against this ordinance, and who advocate for bicycling in Charleston.

    July 20, 2010
  19. michael maher #

    Great post, and great results!

    July 20, 2010
  20. Excellent! Way to go on getting people cranked up to get out and make a difference.

    July 21, 2010
    • I’m very grateful to anyone and everyone who tweeted, wrote, called and came out. Collectively, it made a difference.

      July 21, 2010
  21. michael maher #

    Everyone interested in bicycling in Charleston should make sure to take the Charleston Civic Design Center’s Bicycle Use Survey:

    July 21, 2010
    • I’ve taken it, and I concur. It takes less than 2 minutes. Easy-peasy.

      July 21, 2010
  22. this is my benchmark for a bike friendly city (which also happens to be where I grew up)

    I spent a lot of time biking those roads, and could get around the city better and faster on my bike than my friends could in their cars (although winter did put a bit of a damper on things)

    July 21, 2010
  23. Cities! Horrors! This is awful – MOVE TO THE COUNTRY IMMEDIATELY! I have piles of bicycle parking, I even have old fire hydrants that your dog can ‘visit’ with impunity! Or you can lean your bike on – just be careful though, I have a rather large pig who has no respect for tires.. quite fancies them actually! c

    November 7, 2015

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