More bicycle-involved traffic accidents happened on the north-end of Hilton Head Island than the bustling tourist center at Coligny this year.
Ten of the 19 vehicle vs. bicycle crashes that have happened across the island through October -- the most current available data -- occurred along William Hilton Parkway between Beach City Road and Shelter Cove Towne Centre.
Of those 10, half involved injuries. Most happened when a car struck a bicyclist while making a right turn off the parkway, said town traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker.
That's contrary to the conventional wisdom that crashes happen in the heavy bike traffic along Pope Avenue. But it underscores the town's efforts to make that corridor safer for bicyclists, Shoemaker said.
Overall, the number of incidents is on track to be the second lowest annual total since the town started tracking accidents in 2007. The low point came in 2012 when only 16 crashes occurred.
"We continue to see a lot more demand on our pathways in recent years ... so the fact that the numbers don't seem to be following a trend upward is a success," Shoemaker said.
The town has added additional signs in some cases, cleared brush and redesigned the bike and pedestrian paths at Folly Field Road and William Hilton Parkway.
That intersection remains the most dangerous for bicyclists on the island, with seven collisions since July 2012, including one non-injury incident in October, according to town data. But since the crosswalk was redesigned, those numbers have declined overall, Shoemaker added.
"Especially during the summer time, it's a challenge," said Marc Grant, who leads Town Council's Public Safety Committee. "It's congested. Everybody's trying to make that left turn and then you have that traffic coming from Folly Field. Everybody's trying to get to the beach, the condos are packed, but we came up with some good suggestions that we'll work on."
The incidents provide only a snapshot of the actual number of bicycle-involved accidents, though, because they include only those that are officially reported to police.
The practical number of bicycle incidents is certainly higher, but there's no way to track them, said Frank Babel, co-chairman of Hilton Head's Bicycle Advisory Committee.
The Bicycle Advisory Committee hopes to change that over the next year by pursuing automated trackers that could help provide bicycle traffic data along the town's miles of multi-use paths and by partnering with Hilton Head Hospital to report the number of bike-related injuries, Babel said.
This summer, Hilton Head joined Cambridge, Mass., as the only communities on the East Coast to earn the League of American Bicyclists' "Gold Award" designation for its 60 miles of paths and promoting safe riding.
As bicycling continues to grow on the island, it will become even more important for the town to track and mitigate any dangers for cyclists, Babel added.
"What the data has shown throughout the country is that the more bikes are present, the less crashes there are," Babel said, citing Portland, Ore., as an example. "It runs counter to what you'd think, but the more bikes there are, the more everyone is paying attention."
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