The town became the only community in South Carolina and one of five in the Southeast to receive a silver level award from the League of American Bicyclists, earning it certification as a Bicycle Friendly Community. Thirty-two communities nationwide have silver designations.
The league announced its latest round of bike friendly designations Monday. About 50 cycling advocates stood next to their bicycles in the Town Hall parking lot Tuesday, holding signs of "HHI loves bicycles," as Mayor Drew Laughlin read a proclamation recognizing May as National Bike Month.
Hilton Head was one of three communities to earn silver, along with Boston and Sisters, Ore. Nearly 180 communities in 44 states have received bike friendly designation, including Greenville, Spartanburg, Columbia and Charleston.
The league recognizes communities that provide safe accommodations for cycling and encourage biking as a means of transportation and recreation. Communities receive a bronze, silver, gold or platinum rating.
Hilton Head has more than 100 miles of paths for runners, walkers, skaters and bikers, giving it high marks, said league spokeswoman Meghan Cahill. The island also scored well when it came to connectivity, road crossings for bicyclists, path maintenance and bike rentals.
Cahill noted that 20,000 bikes on the island are for rent, and kiosks throughout the path system contain bike-safety material and maps.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment for our community and reflects the decades of investment in pathways, safety initiatives and infrastructure activities to support residents and the nearly 1 million people who bike yearly on our island," said Frank Babel, founder of Squeaky Wheels Cycling Advocacy Group.
Town and chamber of commerce officials said the recognition will help attract more tourists, increase property values and improve public health. The chamber plans to tie the recognition to marketing efforts to promote the island as bike-friendly.