In the spring, six local and state government organizations started searching for ways to improve Folly Road by gathering input from the people who use it the most. Combining those suggestions and the recommendations from a team of urban planners, the coalition presented last week a detailed proposal to “Rethink Folly Road” from the Wappoo Bridge to Folly Beach.

Components range from quick fixes to intensive overhauls, but the overall plan would unquestionably be a vast improvement for a long-neglected and vital corridor.

Most of the people who attended the spring meetings travel Folly Road by car — about 96 percent, according to an informal survey. But comments gathered at those meetings overwhelmingly addressed bicycle, pedestrian and transit infrastructure rather than improving car traffic.

In other words, current dependence on cars probably has a lot to do with the lack of safe, convenient and attractive alternatives.

Sidewalks line long stretches of Folly Road, but they lack shade, landscaping and a buffer from traffic. Intermittent gaps force pedestrians to walk through the grass or cross four lanes of traffic, usually with no designated crossing area.

Existing painted bike lanes are narrow, and grass, weeds, sand and other debris in the roadway frequently force bicyclists to veer into traffic.

The Rethink Folly Road plan advises expanding or building new sidewalks as multi-use paths for both pedestrians and bicyclists. Paths would be separated from the roadway by a buffer of trees and native plants that help clean up run-off pollution while providing shade for bikers and walkers.

Eventually, commercial centers would be reconfigured to shift businesses toward the multi-use path and move parking to the back. Pedestrians would benefit from easier, safer access and everyone could enjoy the visual upgrade of trading asphalt for storefronts.

The roadway itself would also get a few beautifying upgrades. Landscaped medians with periodic pedestrian islands could make driving more pleasant, boost safety and even improve traffic flow by slowing it slightly.

And slowing down could actually be key to improving congestion on Folly Road, even though the idea seems counterintuitive. According to engineering studies, the optimum speed for maximizing flow and lane capacity on a congested roadway is about 30 mph. The proposal suggests reducing the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph for most of the corridor, with slightly higher speeds in the transition zone between James Island and Folly Beach.

Longer-term ideas include setting up a special “Folly Trolley” that would shuttle beachgoers from a park-and-ride location to Folly Beach using a dedicated bus lane. Bicyclists and pedestrians might eventually enjoy a marsh boardwalk connecting James Island to the beach.

Those who didn’t attend the meeting can still submit comments on the plan at Rethink Folly Road will incorporate those suggestions in the final plan, which is expected to be released in December.

It must then be approved by the city of Charleston, the town of James Island, Charleston County, Folly Beach and the S.C. Department of Transportation.

Folly Road desperately needs an upgrade, and the proposal so far should give James Island residents and commuters hope for a safer, greener and more pleasant future.