Morrison Drive

[June 18, 2024]

In late April 2024, Lizzy Zito and Arianna Gamber were hit by motorists and killed on Morrison Drive. The full details are still unknown to the public, but by mid-June, we now know the women were walking in the bike lane in the area lacking a sidewalk, and were struck by two separate motorists, both of whom left the scene. Both motorists have been arrested and subsequently released on bond.

This horrific incident is not only a tragedy because we lost two young women who were on the cusp of graduation, ready to embark on the next phase of their lives, but it is also a stark reminder of the epidemic facing our region: our streets and bridges are not safe — particularly for our most vulnerable road users. Most of our streets (with the exception of specific historic districts) were not designed for people, so with the evolution of land use and growth in our community, far too often people are left to walk, bicycle and bus along stretches that do not accommodate them. And in fact, are hostile and deadly. Not all of Charleston can be like south of Broad, in that it was built around the human-scale (largely due to a lack of modern zoning), but it absolutely cannot continue to function like an endless series of freeways.

Morrison Drive is not a pleasant or safe street to be on. With the historic East Side neighborhood, Sanders Clyde Elementary School, CARTA stops, and a connection to Wonders’ Way on the Ravenel Bridge, Morrison Drive has not served people walking and bicycling for a long time. As new apartment buildings, hotels, workplaces and restaurants are constructed, the need for bike/ped infrastructure becomes more imperative. And the deaths of Lizzy and Arianna demonstrates that need in the worst way possible.

Over the years, multiple conceptual plans have been designed for various segments of the corridor.

  • Morrison Yard has installed sidewalks on both sides of the street, and plans to install a traffic signal with crosswalks at Johnson Street, as well as a pedestrian connection from their property directly to Wonders’ Way.
  • The City of Charleston’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee approved a concept for biking and walking infrastructure along Cooper Street to the intersection of Morrison Drive. It remains unfunded.
  • Charleston Moves conducted a bike/ped count at the intersection of Huger and Morrison, to help identify improvements for potential inclusion in the City’s Huger Street Streetscape Improvements project. And more recently, we’ve been in discussion with City staff regarding prioritized locations to implement solutions utilizing the Upper Peninsula Mobility Fund, which has money sitting it in, still waiting to be deployed.
  • The City of Charleston has applied for funding to make pedestrian improvements near South Street and East Bay Street, where Karen Simmons was hit and killed while crossing the roadway in her wheelchair in 2023.

Over the past month, we have reached out to both City and State officials to suggest getting together and planning out exactly what improvements are needed along the corridor, and how to get them in place as efficiently as possible. While we have not heard back from City leadership, Mayor Cogswell did tell City Council at the May 14 council meeting that he would bring a Morrison Drive update to the next meeting — that would be today, June 18 at 4 pm. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is conducting an internal safety audit of Morrison Drive, and expects to present their report at the end of June. We have sent them a list of our suggestions, data, and relevant projects of which we’re aware. Morrison Yard is optimistic that their traffic report in support of a signal at the Johnson intersection will meet warrants soon, earning approval from the state.

We will continue to engage with SCDOT, and share with you what we learn and how progress can be made for a safer corridor. And of course, Morrison Drive is only one of many thoroughfares throughout the county that need improvement. Please stay engaged as there are upcoming opportunities to support safe bicycle and pedestrian designs along Savannah Highway, the Crosstown, Ashley River Road/Highway 61, Folly Road, and more. Every harmful incident perpetrated on a vulnerable road user is one too many, and we must work toward preventative designs. We don’t have a supportive streets network yet, but together, we can get there.

A sampling of the abundant press coverage: (June 13) (May 17) (May 15) (May 10) (May 8) (May 3)