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How urban mobility nonprofit Charleston Moves lobbies for bike, pedestrian, and public transit improvements

How urban mobility nonprofit Charleston Moves lobbies for bike, pedestrian, and public transit improvements
May 2024

This month, the nonprofit hosts Mobility Month, including a Ride of Silence to honor cyclists who have been killed

Cyclists met at The Royal American for the May 2023 Ride of Silence, a memorial procession through downtown with a police escort to honor cyclists who have been killed and bring attention to the need for safer roads.

Of all of the Lowcountry’s titles and recognitions, one in particular has the attention of local advocacy organization Charleston Moves. “South Carolina ranks as the nation’s third-most dangerous state for pedestrians, with the Charleston metro area topping the state for bicycle- and pedestrian-related fatalities,” explains the nonprofit’s director of programming, Savannah Brennan. “A world-class city like Charleston should never allow that to happen.” 

With a car-free staff of two (Brennan and executive director Katie Zimmerman), plus a fleet of dedicated board members, volunteers, and advocates, Charleston Moves regularly hits the road to attend council meetings, public forums, agency gatherings, community events, and more to ensure safety and access for vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit riders. “We are engaged in most transportation-related projects in Charleston County, from critical intersections to entire corridors that aren’t serving everyone,” says Brennan, citing the group’s vision of “complete streets” that prioritizes all types of users, not just motorists. 

River crossings create a particularly dangerous obstacle. Walkers and bikers often make the harrowing journey across Cosgrove Avenue’s North Bridge without the protection of a sidewalk as cars whiz past at 50 miles per hour or faster. Since 2015, at least four people have been hit and killed, and others have been seriously injured. “They’re not doing this for the adrenaline rush,” stresses Brennan. “Most are commuting to work or traveling to appointments.” In this slice of North Charleston, an area penned by interstates and cut off from grocery stores, education centers, social services, and other resources, the benefits of safe passage would be immense. 

(Left) This year’s Ride of Silence will be held on May 15 and will travel over the North Bridge, which links West Ashley and North Charleston; (Right) Charleston Moves’ Savannah Brennan and Katie Zimmerman.

The proposed North Bridge project links West Ashley’s Northbridge Park with two green spaces in North Charleston, touching down within a mile of two stations for the future Lowcountry Rapid Transit, the first such mass transit system in South Carolina. For years, Charleston Moves has pushed for a freestanding bicycle and pedestrian bridge between North Charleston and West Ashley, repeatedly helping Charleston County apply for $25 million in federal grant money for its construction. Stakeholders expect the federal funding results to be announced next month, and Brennan points out that the same grant funded the Ashley River bicycle and pedestrian bridge, which broke ground in late 2023 (after years-long support from Charleston Moves). “It takes a long time to get infrastructure in place,” says Brennan. “We’re playing the long game.” 

Under its original moniker (Charleston Bicycle Advocacy Group), Charleston Moves has been lobbying for bike, pedestrian, and transit improvements since the early ’90s. During the past three decades, the organization successfully led campaigns for Wonders' Way, the bicycle and pedestrian path on the Ravenel Bridge; the Charleston's Ashley River Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge; Rethink Folly Road, a major segment of their signature Battery2Beach initiative; bike lanes along Mount Pleasant’s Coleman Boulevard and downtown Charleston's Brigade Street; bicycle racks on CARTA buses; dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes on the Isle of Palms Connector; and various sidewalk and multiuse path installations to address gaps in the transportation network. Anyone who’s ever safely walked, run, or cycled across the Ravenel Bridge can also thank this group for the 2.7-mile, 12-foot wide path. “As a grassroots advocacy [group], we rely on the community to share their opinions and observations,” says Brennan, calling this a “people-powered movement.” 

Coinciding with National Bike Month in May, the organization hosts Mobility Month to rally residents around safe and accessible walking, biking, and transit systems. The series of events celebrate the group’s hard-fought wins and keep residents abreast of  progress. As part of the effort, on May 15, Charleston Moves will participate in a global cycling tribute to honor community members lost on public roadways. Fittingly, this Ride of Silence travels over the North Bridge (with a North Charleston Police escort) to demonstrate how much support lies behind this project. Brennan is encouraged to see local governments and SCDOT actively working on multimodal transportation access. “But we need people to speak up to ensure these projects stay in their plans and  are elevated in budgets. Tangible change requires a critical mass of vocal support and participation.”

See a Map showing where improved infrastructure is needed -

WATCH A VIDEO about biking for better bridges: