Hilton Head Island Awarded ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ Designation

Ready to Ride?

The entire nation just discovered what many people have known for years: that Hilton Head Island is a fabulous place to ride a bike. In May 2011, the Town of Hilton Head Island received the designation of Bicycle Friendly Community-Silver Level by the League of American Bicyclists. Hilton Head Island’s Silver Level award is the first in South Carolina and only the ninth in the United States for communities of its size.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for our community and reflects the decades of investment in pathways, safety initiatives, and infrastructure activities,” said Frank Babel of Squeaky Wheels Cycling Advocacy Group. Babel noted that our residents and almost 1 million visitors who bike the island each year benefit from the investment. The League rates communities on the 5Es: Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Evaluation and Encouragement, as they relate to providing safe accommodation for bicycling.

While the Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation is something to celebrate, it also calls for continuous improvement within a community. The collaborative process that brought Hilton Head Island to this point will continue with the help of the League’s guidelines.

Beach, pathways, lanes, and quiet streets

Low tide on Hilton Head Island creates an exceptional bicycling experience. The sand is hard-packed and the beach is wide. Warm sun, quiet waves, nature and people combine for a fat-tire ride next to the ocean you will not soon forget. Another advantage on the sand is the ocean breeze. It can be cooling, and it helps push you along as you ride with the wind. But, be mindful of the gentle breeze. When you turn around to return, the breeze will be in your face. Save enough energy on your ride with the wind for your return ride and the rest of your day.

In addition to the beach, Palmetto Dunes offers miles of multi-use pathways and lanes, which provide off-road routes for bicyclists. Multi-use pathways parallel Mooring Buoy, Ocean Lane and Queens Folly Road and cross under U.S. Hwy. 278. Yes, instead of “crossing over” to Shelter Cove Harbour you can “cross under” by taking advantage of the “bridge under the bridge.” As you leave Palmetto Dunes, turn right on the pathway, then bear right at the Y in the pathway. You’ll head down and across a small bridge toward the Harbour, avoiding the busy highway.

Exploration and transportation

Where can you go? Within the Palmetto Dunes community, just about anywhere: Shelter Cove Harbour for shopping, Shelter Cove Marina for a charter boat ride, the General Store for a cool drink, Hilton Head Outfitters for a kayak ride, the Dunes House for lunch, the Leamington Lighthouse for a bit of history, the beach for a walk, and finally back to where you started your day. That’s just within the community.

The more adventurous can explore parks and beyond along the island’s 53 miles of public multi-use pathways and trails. Several Hilton Head Island town parks are an easy ride from Palmetto Dunes. Veterans’ Memorial Park and neighboring Shelter Cove Community Park combine into a serene spot for viewing wildlife and natural habitats on Broad Creek or strolling with your quiet thoughts. Chaplin Community Park offers open fields and public tennis courts. Fill your backpack with a Frisbee, a picnic and your racket for an active afternoon. Coligny Beach Park provides another public entry to the ocean at the south end of the island along with a fun, dancing fountain to cool you before your return ride to Palmetto Dunes.

Cycling is an alternate mode of transportation to work and play. And, it’s great exercise. Park your car for a day and see how it feels.

For those who are short on time and into multi-tasking, commuting to work by bike is a perfect way to fit in some exercise, not to mention save gas. On days when she doesn’t have appointments with clients, Dunes Marketing Group Realtor Kathy Schroder rides from her home in Shipyard to her Palmetto Dunes office. “It’s fun! I ride the pathway to work and the beach back home,” she said, adding, “My beach ride home lets me combine exercise and relaxation.”

Schroder is not alone. Fellow Realtor George Flathmann recently arrived for his shift at the Dunes Marketing mall kiosk by bike, enjoying a beautiful spring afternoon. Realtor John Robinson also pedals in occasionally on his new road bike.

Family activity for all ages

Tricycles, trailers, training wheels, toddler bike seats, tag-alongs, recumbent bikes and adult three-wheelers occupy our pathways. All these inventions have helped to expand the bicycle world for the enjoyment of young and old. Many families vacationing on Hilton Head Island are reintroduced to bicycling, an activity that the adults remember from their childhoods but let slip away with their busy schedules. Our flat terrain provides an easy place to learn or re-learn.

“It’s fun to ride here. I can go a long way any day,” said 12-year-old Lauren Doane from Marietta, Ga., a hilly suburb of Atlanta. At home, she waits for her grandpa to pack up the bikes and drive her to a local park to ride.

“It’s like riding a bike” is a phrase often used to refer to something we can’t forget how to do. Give it a try. It’s not unusual to see three generations of a family riding together. Sometimes the oldest generation wears the biggest smile.

Bicycle safety

Wherever you decide to ride, be mindful of your safety. Remember that you’re sharing the pathways, roads and beaches with others: walkers, strollers, dogs, bicycles, children and, in the case of roads, moving vehicles.

The “Share the Road” theme applies to both motorists and bicyclists. One basic rule to keep in mind is that bicycles are vehicles in South Carolina and must obey all traffic laws.

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Be alert.
  • Be visible and predictable.
  • Stop at all stop signs along the pathways and obey traffic signals on roadways.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Make eye contact with drivers.
  • Use hand signals and voice commands to alert drivers and others on pathways.
  • Ride single file on pathways and keep to the right.
  • Pass on the left, verbally announcing your intention with “passing on the left.”
  • Step off the pathways when you stop or rest to allow others to continue.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic within roadways, never against traffic.
  • Be an example for your children. They will do what you do.

Enjoy your bicycle on Hilton Head Island. Have fun and be safe.

For bicycle rentals, visit Hilton Head Outfitters, located at 80 Queens Folly Rd., inside Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. Call ahead to reserve bikes and/or to have them delivered. (866) 380-1783 or (843) 785-2449. For more information or to download a bike trail map, visit hiltonheadoutfitters.com.

Learn more about the League of American Bicyclists at bikeleague.org.