I cycle a good bit around Charleston. Anybody that rides a bike in Charleston should be familiar with mybikelaw. They're provide bicycle advocacy and representation. I've never had to use them, but I've heard nothing but good things. I probably have ridden between 4000 and 5000 miles in the last 2 to 5 years.
These are my thoughts:
I hate riding my bike on most of the main roads in West Ashley, specifically because of traffic. I try to treat my bike just like I would my car, while taking into consideration the fact that I can't reach car speeds.
I ride on the correct side of the road and as far to the right as is reasonable. Anytime I have to ride on a road that is narrow it is always a harrowing experience because traffic passes me so ridiculously close. Many drivers seem to have the attitude that bikes shouldn't be on their roads at all.
Riding a bike on the sidewalk is actually less safe because of pedestrians.
It also makes you more unpredictable to traffic because cars don't know what you are going to do if you are on a sidewalk approaching an intersection. I believe it is also illegal to ride your bike on a sidewalk because bikes are treated as vehicles.
With that being said, I see many people riding bikes on the wrong side of the road, or swerving into traffic without regard for cars and causing cars to have to adjust their driving significantly, which raises the chance of either the biker being hit, or an accident with another car. What I would like to see happen is for increased enforcement of both traffic and bikers. I would love to see someone riding a bike on the wrong side of the road ticketed. I would love to see drivers that behave aggressively towards bikers ticketed. If bikers were more respectful to traffic, they may see an increase in respect back.
Unfortunately many bikers don't obey the laws while expecting the laws to protect them. I try to ride legally as much as I can, but there are some areas on my commute where I strongly prefer the sidewalk.
Last year I was up on the sidewalk and crossing over Windemere when a truck hit me. Thankfully I was fine and it only cost $7 to fix my bike (thanks, Affordabike!). The reason I share this story is because I could not file a report or seek redress against the driver because, by being on the sidewalk/in the sidewalk crossing, I was 50% at fault.
Also, as a side note, I find it concerning how many people I observe drifting into or otherwise flagrantly ignoring the Ashley River bike lane.
All in all, the routes that I currently cycle on a regular basis are almost single-mindedly mapped out so as to avoid high traffic areas and narrow roads specifically because of the danger cars present to me.
It is possible to design a road that is safe for both bikers and drivers. I would cite the Glenn McConnell as a road that does well for both bikers and drivers.
Cars can be going 70MPH , but there is an 8-10 foot should where bikers have plenty of room to ride. If we had key roads widened and increased enforcement of both bikers and drivers, maybe we'd see an improvement across the board.
One thing I can't stress enough is to watch out for cab drivers at night; I have had my most stressful near misses with them.
They are completely oblivious, looking for drunk pedestrians, not sober cyclists. I have been run off the road, screamed at, followed- I felt like I was being tortured like a lab rat; never had the blessing of police coming to my rescue to pput the crazy driver in their place. I have been told, when they are yelling at you that you should smile, wave and perhaps begin to sing a catchy song.
I have never tried this because I have a bad temper, usually begin yelling back and follow them if they pass me (esp if they call me a bitch and flip me off); it yields the same results everytime: me crying, heart beating out of my chest, calling/texting my badass cyclist ex and her telling me to go get a shot of bourbon.