I heard on the news last night that a man was killed while riding his bicycle on Lee Street at the Marriott when a motorist emerging from the parking garage struck him.
It may be counterintuitive, but numerous studies from both North America and Europe have shown that riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous than riding in the street, mostly because each driveway is an uncontrolled intersection; automobile drivers pulling out of driveways stop not at the sidewalk, but at the street--hence, unless the driver happens to be looking, she or he is unlikely to see a cyclist on the sidewalk.
This is why the Charleston City Code has this provision:
"Sec. 114-706. Riding on sidewalk.
No person shall ride any bicycle upon any sidewalk within the city except where, by ordinance, the council of the city has designated such sidewalk as an official bicycle route and has marked such sidewalk with appropriate signs to that effect. Notwithstanding the previous provision, riders of bicycles when dismounted may lead their bicycles along the sidewalk to stand on the sidewalk provided they are securely placed against a building or other fixed structure and cause no obstruction."
Many, if not most, city codes contain similar provisions.
In the words of John Forester, traffic engineer and, author of the book EFFECTIVE CYCLING: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." This is why the State Code has this provision:
"§17C-11-2. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles.
Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application."
The other 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have similar provisions.
In the majority of cases in which cyclists are struck and either killed or seriously injured by cars, the cyclist contributed significantly to it by unsafe behavior--turning without signalling, cycling against traffic, cycling on the sidewalk, cycling at night, and the like. In short, there are a great many people who know how to ride a bicycle who do not know how to drive one.
When you factor these out, cycling is not significantly more dangerous than driving; and according to the British Medical Association, the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by a factor of twenty to one. Unfortunate incidents like yesterday's at the Marriott should not be used to exaggerate the dangers or to frighten those conisdering cycling away from this healthful and beneficial activity.