The lowdown on Lowcountry cycling

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge connects Charleston with Mount Pleasant

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge connects Charleston with Mount Pleasant

We bicycled by a bunch of fancy waterfront homes on Sullivan’s Island a couple weeks ago, and I’m guessing we rode right past the weekend getaway for SC Governor Mark Sanford and his poor/rich wife, Jenny. If houses could talk….

The residential island was one stop on an action-packed ride we took around Charleston. I’d never thought of the area as a cycling spot, but indeed it is.

Before heading out, we stopped off at The Bicycle Shoppe in historic downtown. You can rent bikes here (they also deliver to the various outlying islands), shop for bike stuff, or just get some friendly advice from this family-owned store in business for more than two decades. (We’d brought our own bikes.)

We were pointed to the guidebook Lowcountry Bike Rides, which details rides within an hour’s drive of Charleston. It costs $15 and is produced by the nonprofit Coastal Cyclists, a wonderful and very active advocacy group in the area. I’ve been in several such groups, and putting out a book of bike routes is no easy feat. I’m impressed! (Some of the routes are on their website.)

Diane prepares mentally for crossing the Cooper River bridge

Diane prepares to cross the 2.5-mile bridge over the Cooper River

We started out cycling over the massive 2.5-mile-long cable-stayed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, known locally as the Cooper River bridge. We had, in part, the Coastal Cyclists to thank for the awesome separated bike/ped path. When the bridge was being built (it opened in 2005), bike advocates had to fight the many folks who considered the lane a waste of money. Instead, it’s filled with walkers, runners, and bicyclists. At the top you get a great view of the Cooper River and the city, though the way the bridge shakes is a little nerve-wracking.

Fort Moultrie's canons are pointed to the entrance of Charleston Harbor

Fort Moultrie's canons are pointed to the entrance of Charleston Harbor

Wessel missed our turn for the scenic route, and we had an icky traffic-filled ride to Sullivan’s Island.  Once on the wealthy residential island, we visited Fort Moultrie and the Toni Morrison Bench, to commemorate the spot where hundreds of thousands of slaves were first brought from Africa.

Fort Sumter can be seen in a distance from the shores of Mount Pleasant

Fort Sumter can be seen in a distance from the shores of Mount Pleasant

We made sure to take the scenic way back through tree-lined residential Mount Pleasant, which we so enjoyed. It was filled with more million-dollar homes, but most of them historic and understated. The sweetest part was the commercial “Old Village,” which at one point was the center of this now suburban area first settled in the late 1600s.

People enjoy a late-day stroll in Battery Park

People enjoy a late-day stroll in Battery Park in the historic section of Charleston

When we rode back over the bridge it was filled with an after-work crowd, while the roadway traffic was bumper-to-bumper. They shoulda been cycling. We cycled along Battery Park in Charleston, a famous promenade looking over the harbor and passing even grander multi-million-dollar historic homes, and then through residential streets downtown (more gorgeous houses) and finally to our hotel, The Mills House. They were nice enough to let us roll our bikes through the lobby, into the elevator, and into our room. Some hotels are very uptight about bikes. Not this time.

My only word of warning about cycling in historic Charleston is: watch out for the cobblestone streets! You might end up lower in the Lowcountry than you want to be.

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2 Responses to “The lowdown on Lowcountry cycling”

  1. Erik Says:

    Sounds like fun. I was in Charleston earlier this spring and mostly stuck to the downtown area. There were tons of cyclists, but I’m not sure I saw more than a couple that wore helmets. Given those cobblestone streets, I was pretty shocked. They need to do a serious safety campaign, especially for the younger folks.

    • didaniel Says:

      You shoulda cycled over that bridge, Erik. Just a mile or two from downtown. Next time! I didn’t notice the lack of helmets. Actually didn’t see many riders in town, but was outside for only one day. (Mostly in meetings.)

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