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INTRODUCTION This conflict assessment examines the potential sources of conflict associated with the

This conflict assessment identifies and enables relevant stakeholders to engage in a process of

proposed bike share program in Charleston, South Carolina. Talked about by locals and

mapping their interests, scoping the difference between parties, and exploring the willingness

debated by columnists for several years, a full-scale bike share system may at first

of groups to participate in a negotiation. It offers a chance for all substantial issues to be placed

glance appears a no brainer for a city at the forefront of quality of life issues. A cheap,

on the table and perspectives to be considered. Through a combination of past experience with

accessible bike rental program encourages healthy activity among residents and

the stakeholders and interviews, this report beings with a summary of the history, ongoing

tourists, could reduce traffic congestion and associated air pollution, and provide another transportation option for the narrow peninsula. However, other cities in the United States have had mixed experiences when implementing their bike share programs. There is the obvious learning curve for drivers to get used to cyclists and cyclists to drivers, in addition to the even more contentious loss of parking to accommodate kiosks. Further still exists grumblings regarding the impact of bike share logos and signage on the historic fabric of a city, the role of public funding in a traditionally private sector, and the allocation of precious government resources to quality of life issues in a time of deteriorating transportation infrastructure and growing homelessness.

dynamics, major issues, and current status of a potential bike share program in Charleston. It then moves to an analysis of the primary stakeholders interests, touches on the feasibility of a consensus building process, and concludes with a work plan for proceeding to a negotiated agreement. The primary objective of this assessment is to allow all parties to be heard and to see their interests described in print, along with providing a space through which other parties’ interests can be portrayed accurately and fully considered.


HISTORY Eighteen years ago, Charleston made its first foray onto the bike share program scene. Modeled after a similar

Image Source: Post & Courier

program in Paris, bicycling advocates scattered canary-colored bikes across the historic peninsula in the hopes that residents and visitors from all walks would borrow a bike, ride it for however long they needed it, and then leave it for the next rider. Today, the only thing shared from the infamous yellow bike program is a communal punch line. Within weeks the bikes disappeared, followed shortly thereafter by reports of bicycles washing ashore in nearby rivers.1 Fast forward to modern day Charleston and moment gained from recent Lowcountry alternative transportation victories appears to be strong enough to make a second determined effort at installing a city-wide bike share program. A rash of bicycle-related crashes, resulting in five deaths in a short time period and culminating with a ride of silence in 2013 to memorialize the loss of community leader Edwin Gardner, Charleston’s bicycling community became galvanized.2 Advocacy groups such as Charleston Moves and the Palmetto Cycling Coalition

A tourist rides one the 25 yellow bikes placed around Charleston

began concerted efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety through campaigns for improved infrastructure

while waiting for a walking tour (above).

and through educational programming. The demands did not go unheeded; lane sharrows and other lane

Recent bicycle and pedestrian advocacy victories in Charleston

markings soon graced selected pathways around the downtown district, connecting commuters across the

will make it possible for cyclists to travel from James Island to

Cooper River Bridge to the east to the Battery at the peninsula’s southern tip. Recent victories proved even more

the south or West Ashley to the west, across downtown, and

substantial. In early 2014, advocates negotiated with SCDOT a reconfiguration of the James Island Connector to

over to Mt. Pleasant to the east. While these projects provide


accommodate cyclists , a major step in the long-desired “Battery to Beach” route and secured a majority vote

access for cyclists to other parts of the region, some question

from City Council to fund the conversion of an auto lane on the Legare Bridge into a bike/pedestrian pathway.4

if the benefits justify the costs.


While the recent bike/pedestrian advocacy victories mark significant milestones in the push for increased mobility options, the projects did not pass without serious debate. From its opening in 1993, local police officers “failed to

Image Source: Post & Courier

recognize” a state law that prohibited bicycle and pedestrian traffic across the three-mile long James Island Connector. In 2012, a resident brought the law to the attention of city officials following the death of local doctor while crossing the bridge. Signage prohibiting bike/ped access were soon installed and police officers began issuing verbal warnings with the threat of future fines.5 While much of public sentiment recognized the glaring oversight in the design of the bridge to exclude non-vehicular traffic, the SCDOT displayed a resistance to fund the necessary studies or subsequent infrastructural changes to alter the bridge during an economic recession. After corralling the support of long-time Mayor Joe Riley, perhaps the most influential leader in the region and a well-known advocate for quality of life issues, advocacy groups soon secured a temporary exemption from the state law and $75,000 for a feasibility study.

New bike rakes installed in downtown Charleston (above).

Similar to the approach taken with the James Island Connector, the $630,000 in studies and a memorandum of agreement between the City of Charleston, Charleston County, and SCDOT for a bike/ped lane across the Legare

The most recent bike conflicts in Charleston surround bike

Bridge flowed out of a mixture of good timing and the Mayor Riley’s clout. “I was determined not to fail the citizens

parking and law obedience issues. Police officers have begun

who have been seeking this and asking for this in one form or another since 1976,” Riley told Charleston City Paper.6

confiscating all bikes along the major commercial streets not

Construction funding passed by an 8-5 vote in city council, with the dissenting council members siting legitimate

locked to designated bike racks and fining cyclists not obeying

concerns from their constituents regarding the reduction in travel lanes on an already congestion access point into

traffic signals and rules of the road. In addition, the College of

the city and the high of cost during a time of severe governmental budget cuts.

Charleston recently decided to confiscate all bikes found on

The lessons learned from the previous conflicts provide a useful resource by which to understand Lowcountry

campus not registered with the city. These decisions highlight the

cyclists’ next major project: a city-wide bike share program. However, bike/ped advocates might also have to

delicate balance between cycling, tourism, and pedestrian space.

confront new issues such as local business apprehensions and preservation-related concerns.


MAJOR ISSUES Previous conflicts between advocates, government officials, downtown businesses, and fiscal conservatives shed some light on the prevailing dynamics that surround bike/ped issues in Charleston. Public displeasure was primarily vocalized through one of the city’s newspapers and eventually squashed through artful maneuvering by local advocacy groups and high-level support from Mayor Riley. However, recent bike related conflicts in the city’s historic commercial corridors and around the College of Charleston have presented a slightly different dynamic: how does the city balance the stated desire to improve mobility options with the more deeply engrained values of preserving the city’s historic character and the nurturing of small, local businesses? The recent decision from the Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, with support from the mayor, to ban ad hoc bike parking to parking meters, street signs, and lampposts along the city’s major commercial corridors in exchange for new bike racks along adjacent, minor streets shows a willingness from local government to negotiate compromised solutions among interested stakeholders. Through an analysis of major issues of stakeholder groups, several underlying sources of conflict can be identified. The issue with the most potential for acrimonious interactions is the conflict between a potentially government subsidized bike share program and the already existing bike shops that rely on bike rental revenues. In a state with strong libertarian influence, the disruption of a free market system through government interference could

Matrix of issues of significant concern to stakeholders regarding the proposed bike share program (above) The issues with the most overlap between conflicting stakeholder groups appears to be location selection, signage and advertising, and

mobilize tea party members. Preservationists and Colleges expressed interest in the siting and design of bike stands,

design appropriateness. This overlap suggests opportunities for

hoping that the chosen locations would not ignore the historic context and could thoughtfully serve multiple

potential mutual gain through negotiation. Other issues such as free

audiences. Addressing the issues of site selection and target markets through a preemptive negotiation process

market competition and stranger danger have the potential to be

could alleviate much of the potential for the bike share program to become a hotly contested point of discussion.

divisive if left unattended.


CURRENT STATUS On March 31, 2014, the City of Charleston released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to own and operate a bike share program below the Crosstown Expressway. After over a year of gauging interest among private companies, local

Image Source: Sam Spence

non-profits, and collaborations between the two, interested parties will have 60 days to submit a proposal detailing the scale, funding model, and operational specifics they hope to employ. City staff expect that if the RFP process proves fruitful, that a full launch of a bike share system could take place sometime in mid-2015. One potential bidder, Charleston Moves, claim to have conducted focus groups and identified twenty potential sites that could hold ten bikes each. The advocacy group’s founder Don Sparks believes later phases of the program could support upwards of 40-50 around the region.7 Reason for such optimism may in part stem from the bike share pilot program currently being conducted at the College of Charleston. The College’s Office of Sustainability recorded over 300 bike check-outs from August to November 2013 and over 100 check-outs in March 2014 for their eight bike system. To date, the program has spread primarily by word-of-mouth, with little advertising on campus. The success of the program has opened up The City of Charleston hosted a bike share demonstration by

conversations about doubling the number of bikes offered at their single check-out location.

Bcycle, one of the private companies expected to bid on the

However, the optimism may be pre-mature, other cities across the United States have found mixed success in

recently released RFP (above).

implementing bike share programs in historic districts. Of particular note is the deployment of Citibike stations in

While a 2009 Citizen’s Survey found that 90 percent of respondents




accommodate transportation users including cyclists,


to other

cities have found mixed success in implementing a bike share program in historic districts.

New York City. Some residents of Washington Park argued that, while not against the program in general, the Citibike kiosks and logos were out-of-character with the landmark district and better siting could free up valuable on-street parking spaces.8 One Brooklyn resident told the New York Post, “Homeowners on these blocks can’t even repair a crack in their sidewalk without [the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission] watching so why does Citi get a free pass? Plus they’re friggin’ hideous”.9 To date, preservation commissions in New York, Boston, and Washington, DC have signed off on bike share programs, siting the fact that kiosks are impermanent installations.10


STAKEHOLDERS One of the most crucial steps in the information-gathering process is determining what parties have a stake in the proposed bike share program, what issues are most important to them, and under what circumstances the parties will agree to participate in a negotiation. In order to understand these complex relationships, the assessor drew on past personal experience with local bike advocacy groups, the City of Charleston’s planning staff, the College of Charleston’s pilot bike share program, preservationists, neighborhood associations, and bike shops in Charleston. In the case of unorganized groups such as tourists, auto drivers, and unhoused populations, the assessor attempted to infer potential positions, and local tea party newspaper columnists served as a proxy for the libertarian viewpoint. The next four sections map the interests, positions, best alternatives to a negotiated agreement (BATNAs), relationships, resources, and timelines of the four directly affected stakeholders: the City of Charleston, bike shops, preservationists, and bike advocacy groups. In addition, the substantive interests of some of the other potential stakeholders are outlined and analyzed. In the instances where personal experience or media sources provided dated or incomplete pictures of the viewpoints of the various stakeholders, interviews were conducted. College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability, City of Charleston’s planning department, Preservation Society of Charleston, Partners for Active Living, and Upstate Forever staff members engaged in 30-minute phone interviews over the course of a three day period. These interviews observed a set protocol that consisted of the following the open- and closed-ended questions:12

Diagram depicting the many overlapping relationships that exist among bike share program stakeholders (above).

What is the history of the conflict?

Bike shops appear to have little influence by themselves and

What issues are important to the stakeholders?

most likely would have to find an uncommon partner in local

Would they be willing to engage in a consensus building effort to address the situation?

libertarian political groups in order to make waves with the

Who are the other influential stakeholders?

city government.


CITY OF CHARLESTON Image Source: City of Charleston



Increasing and improving available transportation options

The mayor-led government has shown a desire to move in

in order to preemptively mitigate traffic congestion and

step with preservation groups and, when funds are

improve the quality of life of residents. Lame duck mayor

available, with bike/ped advocacy groups. However, the city

with substantial political clout could desire to complete

has butted heads with neighborhood groups and libertarian

one more legacy project at the end of this tenth term. The

political factions in the recent past over issues of

city could also benefit from potential profit-sharing and

development, tourism, and tax increases.

divert funds to other roadway projects.



Significant financial and staff resources, plus decision-

The mayor and city staff have openly supported the

making authority on city land and right-of-ways.

project and recently released a RFP.



Want to take advantage of current momentum and

Install a limited number of kiosks on city-owned land with

implement before Mayor Riley’s tenth and final term ends

potentially city-backed financing. This route could open

at the end of 2015. Threat of delay could force compromise.

the door for protests from Tea Party advocates on behalf


Lower Peninsula right-of-way ownership shows that the city

of local bike shops or by preservation groups if the internal

may have to cooperate with other levels of government to

design review process is not thorough and sensitive

implement the bike share program (above).

enough to the historic district’s character. Sweep under Rug

Chompin’ at Bit



Sustaining revenues from current bicycle rental market

Each bike shop operates individually and do not have large

targeted at tourists and from students seeking low-priced

chain store ties. Some do have ongoing relationships with

bikes. In general, holding onto the financial stability

local advocacy groups and could co-submit a bid to own and

offered by their current business model.

operate the bike share program.








Knowledge of the market and how to operate a successful

competition. "Imagine if the city decided to open a

bicycle rental company, in addition to media sympathy.

five-star steakhouse that was cheaper than everyone


else's," co-owner of Affordabike Daniel Einhorn told the Charleston City Paper.


BATNA Procedurally there is little the downtown bike shops could do, save file an expensive anti-trust lawsuit against the winning bidder that is likely to fail. The best option is for individual bike shops to submit an offer in response to the RFP and encourage libertarian media to support the “local option.�

Image Source: Affordabike


Must submit bid by May 29, 2014 or stall the RFP process long enough for new political leadership to take office. Local bike shops owners must contemplate joining together in WILLINGNESS TO ENGAGE IN A NEGOTIATION PROCESS

an attempt to stop the RFP process, submitting individual or group bids, or altering their current business model that rely heavily on bike rentals and sales of new bikes to college students.


PRESERVATIONISTS Image Source: The Digitel



Ensuring a balance between the messiness of a productive

Possess a strong working relationship with the mayor and

city and the antebellum charm that defines Charleston as

city staff and have a history of supporting NIMBY efforts

a place.







combination of preservationists and historic college campuses could block the installation of kiosks directly on

Have not publically stated a position but interviews

campuses if their interests aligned.

suggest that signage is less problematic than ill-placed bike stations that do not match the context, such as in


residential neighborhoods with little space for new

Knowledge about the planning process, unusually strong


citizen support, and significant financial backing.

of King Street from automobiles and bicycles alike on the



second Sunday of every month (above).

Like the bike shops, there is little procedurally that they

Used to operating on long timelines and willing to sit and

can do if the bike share designs and locations pass the

projects for years.

The City of Charleston closes off a major commercial strip

The strong relationship between preservationists and the city could encourage collaboration and prevent and






neighborhoods, and preservationists working against a bike share program.

city’s stringent internal design review process. However, the combination of historic preservation groups, bike shop owners, and motivated neighborhood associations could force a long enough delay for either the political leadership to change over or for RFP bids to be rescinded.




The growth of bicycle ridership in the Charleston region

The advocacy groups have the ear of the mayor and

and increase funding dedicated to bike/ped research and

increasingly developed ties with preservation groups (each


year the two groups work together on a historic bike tour)

Image Source: Streets Blog USA


would help prevent anti-bike share or pro-local coalitions POSITON Have publically championed a city-wide bike share

that could derail the RFP process. RESOURCES

program and one group, Charleston Moves, have suggested that they might submit a bid themselves.

Diverse background of board members (transportation engineers, media professionals, lawyers, and more lawyers).

BATNA TIMELINES The installation of a bike share program – either by

Advocacy groups such as Charleston Moves, Coastal Cyclists,

Charleston Moves or by another bidder – that succeeds

Desire to maintain the current RFP timeline.

the Coastal Conservation League, Safe Streets Save Lives, and

through a heavy-handed government approach and starts


the Palmetto Cycling Coalition have spearheaded numerous

at a limited scale. A limited roll-out could cut either way: it provides a measured approach to gradually growing the program or the lack of stations diminishes public enthusiasm and the limited number of bikes places a financial burden on the winning bidder.

bike awareness campaigns and have served as the force behind all major bike-related changes to the region.




Improved access to off-campus activities and a decrease

“Green Funds,” purchasing power, and activism.

in the cost of bike ownership and threat of theft. COLLEGE INTERESTS


More available bike parking space, expanded station

Control over campus siting, endowment, fundraising,

availability, and shifting legal liability to city or company.

administrator time




Influence at design review meetings, electoral votes, and





character, control over who enters each neighborhood The College of Charleston’s pilot bike share program might offer few lessons for a scaled up city-wide version along with

(for some areas) campaign finance funding



Citadel. Originally begun via a small grant from a professor

Equitable access for transportation.

Experience cycling roadways.

in order to reduce the number of students bringing bikes to



campus storing them on the campus’ limited bike rack space,

Access to downtown, decreasing travel time around

Purchasing power, word-of-mouth recommendations

and never using them, the bike share program has grown

peninsula, avoiding cost of taxi to beach (no bus access).

a BATNA for the college and for the nearby MUSC and

into a relationship building exercise among students, public safety, the grounds crew, faculty, and school administrators.


BARRIERS TO RESOLUTION The breakdown of the major stakeholders’ positions, BATNAs, relationships, and resources reveals a couple of potential conditions that could prevent a forthright consensus building process. First, a large power and resource imbalance exists between the local bike shops and the city/advocacy group partnership. Without the ability to successfully mobilize libertarian (the College of Charleston hired a politician with Tea Party ties as their new president this past month and was met with protests from the student body), preservationists, and neighborhood associations to join together around common interests, bike shops will lack a platform by which to be heard. The other groups have shown in the past an ability to stifle projects under their jurisdiction; however, a preemptive engagement process to listen to and incorporate the concerns of these groups could be powerful enough to discourage any coalition building. The second condition that may undermine a consensus building process is the lack of pressure, by way of deadline or political mandate, to form a consensus building process. While options that create mutual gain are possible, if the city has no outside pressure to finish the project by a certain time or in a certain way, then they may choose to circumvent stakeholder concerns and swallow any potential outcries after implementation. Fortunately for those that may oppose some manifestations of a bike share program, there may be incentive for Mayor Riley to launch the program before leaving office in late 2015. In addition, the mayor has demonstrated a willingness to engage stakeholders on the wrong side of power imbalance. If any other those in opposition are able to create a coalition, tap into the desire of the mayor to leave a bike share legacy project, or appeal to the open-mindedness that has characterized the city government over the past several years, then the following actions are based on heavily on suggestions and language from Susskind and Thomas-Larmer and should be taken to create a consensus building process.


ACTIONS TO REACH AGREEMENT GOALS The purpose of the Charleston Bike Share consensus-based negotiation process is build agreement among all the stakeholder groups regarding the procedure by which bike share stations are located and the general structure of the program and its influence of adjacent neighborhoods, landmarks, and businesses. While the process will be advisory, it is the state intent of Mayor Riley to adhere to the intent of the guidance in proposing procedures and structures if consensus is reached. REPRESENTATION A. Selection: Planning department staff members are appointed by the Mayor with full decision-making authority. Other members include the owners of local bike shops, representatives of major bike advocacy groups, representatives of prominent preservation groups, leaders from the Neighborhood Association Consortium, and the representatives from each major university on the peninsula. In addition, representatives from Spartanburg and Greenville’s bike share programs will be invited as “non-voting” members. B. Role of Members: Members are expected to fully participate in all meetings of the committee and to articulate their views and the views of their constituencies. They are also expected to keep constituencies informed about the deliberations and to actively seek their input. To this end, members should make an effort to stay in contact with all relevant individuals and groups with regard to the subject and the results of each meeting. C. Role of Alternates: If a member is unable to attend a Committee meeting, then the member’s designated alternate will sit at the table and participate in the discussion. In order to appoint an alternate, the rest of the group must be assured that the alternate maintains all the same decision-making authority as the original representative. D. Role of Members of the Public: Meetings are closed to the public but meeting minutes will be maintained by a city staff member and posted at a easily accessible location on the city’s website within one week of being agreed upon.


PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF MEMBERS AND ALTERNATIVES Members and alternates agree to 1. Attend all the regularly scheduled meetings 2. Arrive at each meeting fully prepared to discuss the issues on the agenda. Preparation will include reviewing meeting minutes, technical information, and drafts of singletext documents distributed in advance of each meeting. 3. Present their own views and the views of the members of their constituencies on the issues being discussed and be willing to engage in respectful, constructive dialogue with other members of the group. 4. Strive throughout the process to bridge gaps in understanding, to seek creative resolution of differences, and to commit to the goal of achieving consensus. DECISION MAKING The purpose of the process is to share information, discuss concerns and viewpoints, and build consensus. The group will operate by consensus, and every effort will be made to meet the interests of all the participating stakeholder groups. Consensus is defined by there being no dissenting members. There will be no formal votes and no one member can be outvoted. If members disagree with the approach or solution selected by the reset of the group, they should make every effort to offer an alternative satisfactory to all stakeholders. Willful absence will be equivalent to not dissenting. Any consensus achieved on a specific issue will be tentative pending an agreement on all the issues being considered by the group. If the process generates a consensus on the procedures and structure, members agree to support and advocate for he agreement within their own organizations and stakeholder groups as well as with the public. WORKING GROUPS Working groups may be established to undertake more in-depth discussion or carry out discrete tasks. These working groups will meet between meetings of the full group and will report back on the results of their discussions when asked to do so.


COMMUNICATION Participation in discussion will be restricted to the members seated at the table, unless the facilitator sets aside time on the agenda for others to speak. In order to facilitate an open and collaborative discussion, all those seated at the table will 1) speak one at a time 2) each person will express their own ideas 3) refrain from personal attacks 4) may every effort to stay on track 5) and strive to listen well and be open minded. Members are expected to communicate concerns, interests, and ideas openly and to make the reasons for their disagreements clear. In the event that member is unable to speak about a concern directly to another member, he or she can contact the facilitators outside of the meeting, and all concerns expressed to facilitators outside of the meetings will remain confidential. ROLE OF FACILITATORS Facilitators will be responsible for formulating the agenda for all meetings, facilitate the proceedings, conduct any joint fact-finding, synthesize points of agreement and disagreement, prepare single-text drafts of proposals between meetings and summaries after each meeting to be sent to all members prior to the next meeting, assist in consensus building, ensure compliance with all rules, and serve as a confidential communication channel for all members. RATIONALE The proposed actions to reach agreement are heavily on the work by Susskind and Thomas-Larmer and useful framework by discussion can happen without binding a sole member to the process. The expectation is that three meetings will be necessary: a stakeholder meeting following the scheduled RFP meeting, and mid-RFP selection process meetings, and a meeting post RFP process to finalize and formalize and agreements. The inclusion of the bike share program representatives from other cities is to help the stakeholders creatively brainstorm options such as advertising exchanges and local maintenance plans that have proven successful in their cities.


REFERENCES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Susskind, Lawrence, Sarah McKearnan, and Jennifer Thomas-Larmer. The Consensus Building Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Reaching Agreement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1999. Print. 13.

Conflict Assessment  
Conflict Assessment