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The Wappoo Cut Bridge

Posted Jan 07 2010 12:00am

We are indeed lucky in my adopted home town of Charleston, South Carolina.

We have a local newspaper that is sympathetic to the needs of cyclists.

An example is this week when the Post & Courier reported the death of a bicycle rider, and used the incident to draw attention to the plight of local cyclists.

The unfortunate man fell while avoiding construction obstacles and was struck by a passing car. The driver was not charged and no police report of the incident is forthcoming.

I am speculating that the usual situation exists where one man is dead, and the only other witness is the person who hit him.

The reason drivers are expected to pass a cyclist giving ample room, is because of the possibility the cyclist may swerve or fall because of obstructions in the road.

Common sense dictates if there is a combination of road construction and a cyclist, drivers exercise even more caution.

Much of the South Carolina coastline is made up of a series of islands, separated by a maze of inland waterways, and of course bridges connect them all. This limits the number of routes you can take to get from one place to the next.

The old City of Charleston is a peninsula, with the Cooper and Wando Rivers merging to the North East, and the Ashley River to the South West.

South West of the Ashley River, are the Stono River and the Wappoo Creek. (Actually a good size river, in spite of its name.) These rivers separate James Island and John’s Island, both favorite riding areas for local cyclists.

To get to James Island you cross the Wappoo Cut bridge on Folly Road. (Picture above.) This is where the cyclist was killed. It is a drawbridge, and the road surface of the part that opens is a steel grid, extremely treacherous to ride on with skinny road tires.

It is quite wide, three lanes one way and two the other. I rode over this bridge one Sunday morning when traffic was very light. I rode in the center of the inside lane, leaving two other lanes for people to pass. One driver didn’t like this arrangement and skimmed by missing me by inches.

Another time it was raining and I opted to dismount and walk my bike over. The sidewalk is barely 18 inches wide, hardly enough room to walk and wheel a bike.

The only other option over the Wappoo Creek is the James Island Express Way. (Pictured above.) It is essentially a freeway, although bikes are allowed and I have ridden it, it is not for the faint hearted.

Sometime in the far distant future this Expressway will connect with the 526 Freeway to the North, and I suspect when that happens, bikes will not be allowed.

So the Wappo Cut Bridge is it for now; it could be made safer by making it four traffic lanes (Two each way.) instead of the current five lanes. This would make room for a good width bike lane in each direction.

Put a speed limit on the bridge, enforced with cameras. There are a series of traffic lights in both directions, on either side of this bridge; a speed limit would not slow the flow of traffic. Why race over the bridge to then sit at the next red light?

Another great alternative that would not cost a great deal of money would be to pave the West Ashley Greenway; I wrote about it here.

This bike path that is already paved part way, starts less than a mile from the Wappoo Bridge, and runs ten and a half miles south to exit near the Stono River Bridge. This bridge goes over to John’s Island and many quiet rural roads that are favorites with Charleston area cyclists.


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