MYRTLE BEACH — The deaths of four bicyclists in the Myrtle Beach area this summer prompted some members of the diverse bicycling community to join together to promote safety education.
Organizers of the effort want the community to come out and participate in The Respect Ride, which is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in Myrtle Beach. Cyclist of all ages and abilities, and riding on any type of bicyclist are invited to attend the event.
The combination of the four fatalities brought several of us together from different groups to create the ride. If we all band together we can let them know cyclists are here and both cyclists and motorists have responsibilities, Tom Vitt, an organizer of Saturdays ride.
The areas bicycling community includes tri-athletes, mountain bike riders, road cyclists, cruisers and some who rely on bicycles as their transportation, officials said.
From June 11 to July 31, four people were killed while riding bicycles in the Myrtle Beach area. In January a Florida bicyclist was killed in a crash near the bridges going into Georgetown while he was on his way to visit his girlfriend in New Jersey.
Police determined some of those cyclists were at fault in the crashes while in other cases the drivers of vehicles are facing criminal charges.
Anytime you see a rise in a particular kind of fatality thats something you want to give attention to, but in most of these cases it goes back to bicyclist being very aware of their surroundings and motorists being aware that they are there and share the road, said Cpl. Sonny Collins with the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Bicyclist, just like motorists, must follow all traffic laws when on the road.
You must travel in the same direction as a car would go and they have to obey all traffic laws just as a car would. All the traffic controls, devices and lights that apply to a car would apply to a bicyclist, Collins said. And we encourage the use of a helmet for simply for protection.
With millions of visitors and temporary residents in the Myrtle Beach area each year, ride organizers said they hope to get the message out to as many bicyclists as possible.
We think thats four too many. We want to educate cyclist and motorists on the road, but we dont have any illusion of educating all the visitors who come to the area, Rich Griffith said Tuesday and then noted he had just seen a woman riding a bicycle the wrong way on a sidewalk. We want to promote safety among cyclists in our area.
The idea of several groups coming together to improve safety awareness during Saturdays event is welcomed by public safety officials.
Anytime you bring focus to a safety issue, regardless of which group brings attention to it, the attention is good, Collins said. It reminds motorists that bicyclists are out there and we need to watch out for them. And it reminds bicyclists that they have very little protection and safety should always be on their minds as well.
Troopers with the Patrol investigated two of the four bicycle-related fatalities. Myrtle Beach police officers investigated the other two crashes.
The first crash this summer happened about 10 p.m. June 11 pm Carolina Forest Boulevard and resulted in the death of Andrew Roberts, 35, of Conway, who died at the scene.
Roberts was riding a bicycle with no lights and was wearing dark clothing when a 2005 Ford pickup truck hit him near Waterbridge subdivision, said Billy Elder with the S.C. Highway Patrol.
On July 2 about 9 p.m., authorities said Anthony Mark Golinski, 28, of Myrtle Beach was riding his bicycle in the median of Holmestown Road when he was struck by a vehicle. Golinski died July 15 while he was being treated at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center for injuries he suffered in the crash.
On July 10, Jimmy Ray Westmoreland, 75, crashed his bicycle and suffered a head injury when a vehicle turned in front of him about 8:15 a.m. that day, Myrtle Beach police said. Two days later, Westmoreland died and charges were upgraded against a James Junior Littles, 46, of Loris in the crash that happened at Beach Place and North Ocean Boulevard.
Witnesses told police that Westmoreland was riding his bicycle, when a red two-door car pulled out in front of him, which caused the victim to hit the curb, then fall over the handle bars and hit the road. The vehicle had fled the scene before police arrived.
The last in the string of fatal bicycle crashes happened about 10 a.m. July 31 when Myrtle Beach police were called to Ninth Avenue North and Kings Highway where they found 20-year-old Olha Marchuk Craig had struck a Coast RTA bus that was traveling south on Kings Highway.
Police learned Craig was going south on the sidewalk and failed to yield at the intersection and struck the bus, which then ran over her as it turned right.
Organizers of Saturdays ride also are working with Coastal Carolina University students to develop a public service announcement for visiting bicyclist and planning a survey of attitudes towards different modes of transportation, Griffith said. There are limited bicycle lanes on area roads and a few trails, but more can be done.
Were trying to do multiple things on multiple fronts to bring about change. We hope that when we have the ride next year we wont have any deaths, Griffith said. The community is growing more and more. We want to show the local transportation people that we really need to create better access and actually have bike lanes and not just paths.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.