Tourist Dan Davis and his family enjoy riding bikes on Hilton Head Island every summer, but they avoid a stretch of sidewalk running along the edge of bustling Pope Avenue near Lagoon Road.
“We don’t come down this way with a bike because the grandkids aren’t stable enough,” Davis, of New York, said.
It could be easy for a wobbly bike rider to end up in traffic, island resident Ewards Kehn said.
“I ride all the time, so it doesn’t bother me,” Kehn said. “But I see a lot of tourists with kids that don’t ride as much.”
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A partnership with the Town of Hilton Head Island and developer Southeastern could address pedestrian concerns by moving the sidewalk eight feet away from the road. Thick landscaping would be planted within the buffer.
Southeastern plans to build a 115-room Courtyard Marriott at the site along with renovating additional buildings such as New York City Pizza already on the lot.
If approved by Town Council, Southeastern would receive 0.41 acres of land where the town’s visitor center is located, said Jennifer Ray, town urban designer. The town would, in return, get 0.16 acres of Southeastern frontage.
While the stretch of pathway makes some pedestrians and town officials nervous, the town has no record of accidents occurring at the site in the past three years.
Darrin Shoemaker, town traffic and transportation engineer, said there have been six bicyclist accidents in the Coligny area between July 1, 2013, and July 31. Overall there were 81 bicyclist accidents on the island during the same time period.
A plan for the land-swap originated following recommendations from the town’s Circle to Circle Committee that calls for a more pedestrian-friendly Coligny region. The plan was approved by Town Council last week.
Ray said staff saw an opportunity to start implementing parts of the plan when it realized Southeastern could begin developing the property soon.
John Lee, senior vice president of Southeastern, said the company is starting the approval process for design and permits with the town.
The location is prime for the development because of its walkability, Lee said. Guests at the hotel will be only two blocks from Coligny beach.
“It will add value to the property,” Lee said. “A lot of Hilton Head is tired, and adding these newer paths with landscaping will liven up the area.”
David Ames, Town Council and Circle to Circle Committee member, said the land swap is a step in the right direction.
“It is an important step for the community to see, because it is suggesting what the look could be down the road for this area,” Ames said.
Frank Babel, co-chairman of Hilton Head’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, said it is important for the town to remember the long-term goals of the Circle to Circle Committee. This includes separating bike and walking traffic on paths.
“This is probably the single busiest bike path on the island, and it is right next to traffic,” Babel said. “Certainly moving the path upgrades our facilities. Long-term, this needs to be two single paths for bikes and pedestrian traffic. Right now there could be collisions between the two.”
Bicylist sues Hilton Head after accident
A lawsuit was filed against the Town of Hilton Head Island earlier this month in connection with a 2011 bicycle incident that occurred on a path crossing Squire Pope Road.
The suit claims Collin Hess, 14 at the time, traveled through the crosswalk after looking for traffic. It states a vehicle struck Hess as he crossed the road.
Town staff had removed crosswalk signs and paint notifying drivers of pedestrians at an unknown date prior to the accident, says the suit, filed by the Law Office of Thomas Taylor.
Court documents state that Hess will continue to suffer permanent impairment from the accident.
Brian Hulbert, town attorney, said the town had yet be served on the suit. He would not comment further.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation and Beaufort County also are listed as defendents in the suit.