MYRTLE BEACH — Bicyclists and pedestrians could eventually begin to see safer roads and sidewalks in Myrtle Beach if a new city committee is successful.
The newly formed Planning Commission Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee had its first meeting Tuesday to share concerns and begin to lay out goals toward creating the city’s first master plan for bicyclists and pedestrians in the city.
“We’re going to take an inventory of sidewalks and look at how we might be able to improve biking in our community,” said Bill Pritchard, who chairs the subcommittee.
The subcommittee was created as a result of the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission working through the city’s comprehensive plan and determining that it needed to look more closely at bicycle and pedestrian safety. The ad-hoc subcommittee of about 12 people includes members from city staff, Horry County staff, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, Coast RTA and some with other backgrounds.
Members of the subcommittee, many of whom described themselves as avid bicyclists or walkers, shared concerns about safety in different areas of the city and offered suggestions of how those issues could be fixed. Suggestions ranged from adding signs warning drivers of pedestrians or bicyclists in certain areas to instituting a no-right-turn-on-red law for drivers.
“Some of your ideas are radical,” Pritchard said to Roger Means, a Seagate Village resident and Coast RTA bus driver, who suggested the no-right-on-red law as well as installing more left turn only arrows at traffic lights. “But it’s something that we can discuss.”
Means said his main concern was safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.
“Golly, last summer I saw four people killed just driving around,” he said.
Four bicyclists died in the Myrtle Beach area this summer, with two of them being in city limits. On July 10, Jimmy Ray Westmoreland, 75, crashed his bicycle and suffered a head injury when a vehicle turned in front of him at Beach Place and North Ocean Boulevard about 8:15 a.m. that day, Myrtle Beach police said. Two days later, Westmoreland died and charges were upgraded against James Junior Littles, 46, of Loris in the crash.
On July 31, Myrtle Beach police were called to Ninth Avenue North and Kings Highway at about 10 a.m. where they found 20-year-old Olha Marchuk Craig had struck a Coast RTA bus that was traveling south on Kings Highway. Police did not find the bus driver to be at fault, saying Craig was riding on the sidewalk and failed to yield at the intersection.
Organizers from the bicycling community held The Respect Ride in September aiming to improve safety awareness among bicyclists. The area’s bicycling community includes tri-athletes, mountain bike riders, road cyclists, cruisers and some who rely on bicycles as their transportation, officials said.
City budget director Michael Shelton, who helps organize meetings for international students who come to the Grand Strand each summer for seasonal work, said at least one student typically dies as a result of a bicycle crash each year.
“They’re not as experienced bike riders as people think they are,” he said. “But it’s the only way many of them can get around. Our bus system is probably not as developed as it is in their countries.”
Pritchard said international students are not the only ones who have difficulty getting around Myrtle Beach.
“There are people who are recreational bikers as well as those who depend on [bicycles] to get around – as well as walkers,” he said.
Pritchard and others on the subcommittee all said an important piece of any recommendations they might make would be education – educating not only drivers, but also cyclists, pedestrians and law enforcement.
Pritchard said he hoped the subcommittee would be able to establish a base of information during the next few months and present recommendations to the Planning Commission sometime in the spring. He cautioned subcommittee members to be patient with the process.
“It’s amazing how long some of these things take,” he said. “You put it in the visioning process and it takes a very long time to come to fruition. … But hopefully we’re planting the seed in the mind of the people who have the purse strings.”
The subcommittee will meet every first and third Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the first-floor conference room of City Hall, 937 Broadway St. in Myrtle Beach. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 5.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.