Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, hopes one day soon visitors can drive to Hilton Head Island and never have to step foot in their car again.
"With more than 100 miles of pathways, the island has created a pathways system that is practical. There are still some gaps in the network, but you can really get about everywhere on the island by bike," Clarke said Tuesday afternoon before presenting the Town Council with its silver level designation as a bike friendly community. "You toss the keys for the week or two weeks you're here and leave the worry of traffic and driving to get around behind, just as you leave behind the worries of your work or whatever you're vacationing from."
About 1 million visitors pedal around the island annually, according to figures compiled by Frank Babel, founder of Squeaky Wheels Cycling Advocacy Group.
"What really stands out about Hilton Head is its understanding and appreciation to cater to tourists, realizing biking is a big part of the vacation experience," Clarke said. "It's phenomenal, the numbers, and the island has the potential to do more to become a paradise for cyclists -- becoming as renowned as for recreational cycling as it is for golf and tennis."
He provided the town with the following suggestions for how it can achieve such a goal:
* Installing signs visible to drivers informing them of the pathway network
* Slow traffic down and make cyclists more visible for safer crossing at busy intersections
* Close gaps in the pathway network
* Set an attainable target for increasing the percentage of commuting done by bike
* Make bike-safety a routine part of public education
* Create goodwill ambassadors to promote cycling
* Create dedicated routes and itineraries for families to take bike trips/tours of the island
* Improve pathway signs to better show where people are and how far they are from key destinations on Hilton Head
* Study the economic impact of cycling to get a better handle on what it means for the island
On Wednesday morning, Clarke, league vice president Elizabeth Kiker and Rachael Kefalos Bronson and Cait Costello of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition will join members of the Kickin’ Asphalt Bicycling Club for a Hilton Head Island beach bike ride, starting at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort in Palmetto Dunes. The special guests and bicycle club members will be led around the Island by Frank Babel, local bicycling advocate and founder of Squeaky Wheels; and Ron Knight, president of Kickin’ Asphalt. Riders will meet at Palmetto Dunes Outfitters at 8 a.m.
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