Easy riders -- Hilton Head adds more bike paths

tbarton@islandpacket.comMay 22, 2012 

Residents in Wexford Plantation and Long Cove Club should have an easier time getting around on their bikes this summer as a new path construction project gets under way.

Work has begun to connect the north side of William Hilton Parkway in front of Town Hall, as well as in front of Wexford and Long Cove, to paths on the other side of the parkway.

Cycling advocates say the improvements will make for safer biking, while nearby shop and restaurant owners hope to see more business.

Meredith Taylor, owner of Gifted Hilton Head at the Village at Wexford, said she does all her errands by bike.

"We don't get much foot or bike traffic, because it's inconvenient to get to us," Taylor said. "... Any convenience, I think, helps business. Being able to get here easily certainly increases our visibility."

Crosswalks will be installed across William Hilton Parkway at Wexford and Shipyard drives and at the Village at Wexford and New Orleans Road. A right-turn lane also will be added on the parkway at New Orleans Road.

"There's a lot of pedestrian and bicycle traffic that crosses at these areas," assistant town engineer Jennifer Lyle said, citing an accident a couple of years ago at Wexford and Shipyard drives where a bicyclist was struck by a turning car as she attempted to cross the parkway.

"Hopefully, we can avoid those situations in the future."

Lyle said medians will have room for bikers to stop after crossing two of the parkway's four lanes, and crossing signals will be installed at the intersections.

The $330,000 project will be paid for with a mix of town tax-increment financing revenue and general property-tax revenue. Construction should be completed by the end of July, Lyle said.

Town plans call for extending the path next year to Fresh Market Shoppes and eventually to Shelter Cove.

Cyclists say conditions for bikers have gotten better over the past several years on the island. Formerly dangerous intersections have been improved with signs, signals and crosswalks.

But some heavily traveled corridors -- this one in particular -- remain dangerous to navigate, said Frank Babel, an advocate for bicyclists' rights on the island.

"This is the backbone of Hilton Head's pathway system," Babel said.

He said a path recently installed along William Hilton Parkway from Gardner to Mathews drives is a good example of such projects' benefits.

Before, people would wander into traffic to try to cross the parkway in front of Starbucks or The Oaks. Now, he said, they walk or bike on the path and safely cross using signals at Gardner or Mathews drives.

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