Editorial | Bicyclists limited on safe-ride routes

October 16, 2013 

Melia Tyndall was on her road bicycle, going south at 19 mph in a bike lane on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, when a vehicle turned right onto 21st Avenue North and into Tyndall and her bicycle. She was fortunate not to suffer any broken bones, or worse, but is still not completely back to normal 22 months after the crash.

Before she was struck, she was competing in 26 triathlon events a season, but did 17 last year. Triathlon events include a swim, a bicycle ride and a run. Distances depend on the type of event; an international Olympic competition has a 1,500 meter swim, 23-28 miles on a bicycle and a 10 kilometer run.

Tyndall’s experience in one of Myrtle Beach’s bicycle lanes illustrates how bicycle riders can be at risk riding outside of their neighborhoods. In June and July, four bicyclists were killed in the area. From Tyndall’s perspective, there are not enough safe places to ride a bicycle on area roads. One good place to ride is the area between the YMCA and the Grand Dunes. In the busy summer months, the best time to hit the road is in the early morning, before vehicular traffic picks up.

Another side of the story is that some bicycle riders fail to follow the traffic laws.

City of Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea says the city has “lots of places to ride that get a fair amount of use. Problems arise when bicyclists go the wrong direction” or on a pedestrian sidewalk. Kruea points out that the law requires motorists to share the road with bicyclists; however the latter are also required to follow the rules of the road, including stopping at red lights and stop signs. In a pedestrian crosswalk, the bicyclist should dismount and walk his or her two-wheeler.

The city Planning Commission is setting up a bicycle and pedestrian safety subcommittee. The city has bicycle safety guidelines in three languages – English, Russian and Spanish – for the benefit of the many international students who are here in the summer months.

Outside of the city, bicycle riders are not likely to find designated bicycle lanes and extra awareness is required. A mirror on the rider’s helmet is one of those common sense precautions that helps the bicyclist be constantly aware of motorized traffic, particularly on a two-lane road. Veteran bicycle riders know and obey the same rules of the road that they follow when driving.

The Horry County Bike and Run Park has a six-mile loop of climbs, berms, turns and drop-offs for off-road bicyclists. In April, a segment of the Coastal Carolina Off-Road Series was held at the facility of the county Parks and Recreation Department. The series was expanded for 2013. The course is known as “The Hulk’’ and has been welcomed by the Myrtle Beach Triathlon Club and Waccamaw Trail Blazers.

South of Myrtle Beach, several miles of the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway are open in Georgetown County and more miles are in the works. The plan is for a 27-mile path from Murrells Inlet to the bridges at Georgetown. The Waccamaw Neck Bikeway is a segment of the East Coast Greenway, as is Myrtle Beach. The city has 36 miles of dedicated bicycle lanes and multipurpose paths.

Motor vehicle drivers and bicycle riders have the same responsibilities in following the rules as well as sharing the road. And area governmental bodies should strive to create more bikeways in places where they are needed.

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