Wearing signs on their backs bearing slogans such as "Same roads, same rights, same rules," Hilton Head Island cyclists took an 8-mile ride Wednesday evening commemorating fellow bikers who have died on public roads.
The worldwide "Ride of Silence" event is an opportunity to honor fallen cyclists and to highlight the right of riders to share the road with cars -- an awareness effort that continues throughout the year, said island bicycle club Kickin' Asphalt founder Ron Knight.
On Hilton Head, cyclists say conditions for bikers have gotten better over the past several years. Formerly dangerous intersections have been improved with signs, signals and crosswalks. Along with other safety features such as bike paths, those efforts earned the island a silver metal from the League of American Bicyclists last year -- making the town the state's only community and one of the few in the Southeast to earn the distinction.
Knight said that while Hilton Head is safer now, riding in more rural areas is still a risky venture.
In Beaufort County, the S.C. Department of Public Safety reported 32 accidents involving cyclists in which 28 riders were injured in 2010, the most recent year data is available. Three cyclists died on Beaufort County roads that year -- the highest number in five years.
Statewide, cyclist advocates say the outlook is worse.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking's 2012 Benchmark Report says South Carolina is the second most dangerous state in the nation for bicycling, with 13.5 deaths per 10,000 bicyclists.
A 2008 state law allows bicyclists to ride in the roadway if they choose. However, many remain unfamiliar with the law, especially visitors who may come from states that have different rules, said Frank Babel, an advocate for bicyclists' rights on the island.
"In other states when a bike or pedestrian is in a crosswalk, traffic is supposed to stop," Babel said. "In South Carolina, the car is supposed to yield."
- Activities to celebrate National Bike Month, April 21, 2012
- Pedal power: Hilton Head gets bike-friendly silver level award, May 3, 2011
- Hilton Head bike group pedaling toward gold designation, Dec. 11, 2011
- Beaufort to paint shared-lane markings for cars, bike on city streets, Aug. 11, 2011
- Group targets bike-safety, awareness, Oct. 31, 2009