Summerville, S.C. - Community activist group Bike/Walk Summerville held their Ride of Silence today around the Town of Summerville to raise awareness for cyclist and pedestrian safety. There were more than 50 riders in attendance to support the cause, as well a Summerville Town Councilman Russ Touchberry and Dorchester Councilmen David Chinnis and Todd Friddle. The group was led with a police escort in a Ride of Silence to remember those who have been hit and injured or killed as a bicyclist or pedestrian.
Bike/Walk Summerville was founded in 2019 after Megan Jenkins a 33 year old cyclist was hit and killed by a driver on Hwy 78. According to a petition and Bike/Walk Summerville organizers despite evidence to charge the driver with reckless vehicular homicide, the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) only charged the reckless driver a $232 traffic ticket for the driver’s failure to maintain her lane. The tragedy of the loss of life inspired local resident Sandy O'Keefe and others to start an advocacy group to inspire change at the local level. Sandy spoke just before the ride kicked off to explain the founding of the group and the history of Megan's passing to many of the newcomers.
Local activist Chris McClure who was the main organizer of the event along with Tammie Taylor had this to say about the event:
"The event blew our expectations out of the water, with 50 people in attendance to ride in the event, since we not only had to reschedule from last week thunderstorms, but also that this was the first Ride of Silence in Summerville since 2015. Having Summerville Police Department and Dorchester County EMS come and provide medical attention and traffic control allowed for a unique experience to ride down the beautiful historic district of Summerville. The Ride of Silence represents a growing national issue of increasing pedestrian and bicycle-related crashes and fatalities, and South Carolina is leading the charge in contributing to those statistics. In 2020, SC was second in the nation for the number of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people. With 187 deaths, pedestrians comprised nearly 18% of the state’s traffic fatalities. Keep in mind that this only takes into account fatalities, not injuries or close calls. With the growth the Lowcountry is experiencing, the numbers will only go up if our representatives don't do anything about it. When we think infrastructure, we often think of road widenings and repavings, but we also need to start looking at giving people more choice in how they can travel safely. Of course there is always risk riding a bicycle or walking, but it doesn't take that much money compared to our road projects, while also making it part of our traffic solutions as well, it all goes together. We had Town and Dorchester County Councilmembers David Chinnis and Russ Touchberry ride in the event with us. I hope they can take this unique experience with them onto their respective councils and see the potential Summerville has to save it's small town feel with other forms of reliable and safe travel."
With Summerville becoming a quickly growing Town that has growing pains and traffic challenges, safe cycling and walking could be a key way to not only get more cars off the streets to relieve traffic, but also to encourage foot traffic in the downtown business corridor of Summerville.