By SCOTT GRABER
I have a friend, Dean Moss, who wants to do one thing before he dies. Well, maybe two things.
Most long-time residents in Beaufort County know that Dean Moss was responsible, in large measure, for expanding the operations of the Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority.
Moss took a small utility and made it larger, much larger. Bringing water (by canal from the Savannah River) was not Moss’ idea, that dream was first dreamed by Joab Dowling in 1963. But its fair to say that Moss took Dowling’s modest system and turned it into a vast empire of pumps, pipes and lift stations.
Before Dean Moss retired (2011) he made sure the Water Authority acquired the right of way once owned by the Port Royal and Western Carolina Railroad. Moss put Water Authority pipes in this right of way. However, he also dreamed of riding a Pinarello Dogma F8 atop the old rail-bed between Yemassee and Port Royal, SC. And after a great deal of work by Moss, and others, the Spanish Moss Trail came into being.
Birthing was not without complications. The biggest was convincing adjacent landowners that the Trail would not attract thieves, hoodlums and dope dealers to the Mossy Oaks, Ribaut Island and Cottage Farm neighborhoods. Moss and Sissy Perryman worked through these objections and eventually most homeowners realized the Trail was an amenity that improved the value of their homes.
But in the end there was the fact that the Trail did not connect with downtown Beaufort. Nor did it connect with Port Royal’s soon to be developed port. This lack of connectivity means that few families will get on their bikes (in Mossy Oaks) and pedal to Saltus (or to Fish Camp) for the she crab soup or the stuffed flounder.
Beyond connectivity there are other, ongoing problems the biggest being the perception that (in America) the right of way belongs to the automobile. Hundreds of thousands of balding engineers spend their lives making sure that large, sedentary men … driving large Tahoes or Tundra trucks … can move efficiently and speedily from their suburban homes to Costco.
There is little time or effort spent by these engineers to make room for bicycles. This is not the case in the Netherlands where 18 million people own a total of 22 million bicycles.
“It’s not just that every busy street has a handsome bike lane, paved in dark-red brick. It’s that on Dutch streets, bikes rule the road. They take priority in design and traffic flow. Traffic circles are laid out so that cyclists need never stop for cars. Busy intersections often have overpasses or underpasses so that cyclists never have to slow down,” writes Dan Kois in the New Yorker.
And in New York City there are Citi Bike rentals on almost every corner, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has just built 100 miles of new, dedicated bike paths. But annoyance to biker and their carbon fiber bikes remains baked into most Americans who believe that they are guaranteed an Escalade and 70 mph highways free from sweating, panting, helmet-wearing cyclists.
Even in New York there are fights over new bike trails that remove parking spaces from the City’s inventory.
Opposition to the Bay Street connector initially focused on the placement of a bike path along the bluff overlooking the Beaufort River. There were residents who believed that the loss of parking (along the bluff) was fatal. (Mayor Keyserling for his part favors a route along King or North Streets — away from the magnificent view that one acquires when one travels down Bay.)
Other residents were concerned that the bike path will make access to their Bay Street properties more difficult. Opposition in the social media has slowed-down the pathway placement, but Moss is indefatigable and will soon present options. But finding consensus will be difficult.
Port Royal is a little different . Apparently the developers, Gray Ghost, have decided where to locate the spine road (and the Trail) running from Ribaut Road to the redeveloped port.
But the lingering problem here may be the creation of a new intersection and getting SCDOT to sign off on that intersection.
Dean Moss has spent the biggest part of his retirement trying to bring safe bicycle transportation to Beaufort. He has found allies and money in unusual places.
And almost everyone believes that getting people out of their SUVs and onto bicycles is a good thing.
But his fight to find connectivity, and overcome notions about priority, continue.