Many visitors and residents utilize our 65 miles of multi-use public pathways, especially during the summer months. Take a bike ride to lunch, to the beach, to a park, to the library, or to a shopping center. Along the way, you will encounter bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, and the occasional squirrel on the pathways. Whether you ride your bike for fitness, transportation, or just for fun, the following tips can help contribute to an enjoyable and safe experience here on Hilton Head Island:
• Wear a helmet. Always. Who needs a helmet? You do. Then, put one on children in bike seats and kids in trailers. Put one on your spouse, your friends, your kids, your parents. If you have a head, you need to wear a helmet. Period.
• Make sure your bike is adjusted properly and ready to ride. Set the seat to a comfortable height. Do the ABC Quick Check before you hop on each day. Take a look at your Air, Brakes, Chain, Quick releases, then do a check ride in the driveway or parking lot before you take off for your ride to make sure you are good to go.
• Start your ride with your bike pointed in the direction you want to travel, both feet down on the ground with your bike between your legs. Stop your bike the same way, putting both feet down before making a move to get off. This might sound ridiculously basic, but many unexpected injuries from crashes happen to even experienced cyclists when starting and stopping their bikes.
• Make eye contact with the driver of motor vehicles that are stopped at intersections and driveways before proceeding to pass in front of them. Always communicate with the driver, not the passenger. Don’t assume they see you, and if you can’t see them, stay put until they move on.
• Take it easy. When the pathways are busy, adjust your speed and yield to slower pathway users, including pedestrians and other bicyclists. Watch for those approaching from the opposite direction, too. Curves in the pathways and greenery can conceal what is approaching, so slow your pace if you are unable to see clearly ahead.
• Pass others on their left and announce yourself before passing them by saying, “on your left!” Use your outside voice, as Mom would say, and give folks time to react. Even better, add a bell to your bike and ring it a few times, too. The sound of a bell travels far and can better penetrate conversation, ear buds and headphones.
• Speaking of ear buds and headphones, leave them home for another time. Your safety depends on knowing what is happening around you. For that, you need to be able to hear the sounds of the cars, activity, and people that surround you. Enjoy the sounds of nature on your ride, then enjoy your music later.
• Obey all traffic signs and signals along the way. Cross roadways only at traffic lights and designated crosswalks. Look left, right, then left again before crossing.
• Ride alert. Don’t get mesmerized by your front wheel on the pathway or by the back of the person in front of you. Keep your eyes up and your head on a swivel, scanning the activity and road or pathway conditions ahead so you are prepared to adjust quickly. Knowing what is happening to the side and behind you helps. Imagine that you are driving your bike as you would your car.
• Ride predictably. Traveling in a straight line, at a steady pace and on the right side of a pathway or roadway allows others to anticipate your actions. Make your intentions known if you are turning, slowing or stopping by using hand signals or your voice. Your movements will be logical and predictable so others can share the space with you safely.
• Be visible. Wear bright clothes during the day and reflective gear at night so others can see you. Use bright white lights and red reflectors at night.
• Behave like a pedestrian when on pathways. Vehicles have the right of way on South Carolina roadways, so wait until your path is clear to safely cross before entering a crosswalk.
• Be prepared. Bring water, a snack, a bike lock, and some cash for impromptu stops. Wear shoes and comfortable clothing.
• Behave like a motorist if you bike on the street. Bicycles on roadways are motor vehicles under South Carolina law, so bicyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities as a motor vehicle operator. Ride with traffic using the rightmost lane in your direction.
• Bonus: Bike the beach! Hilton Head Island’s hard-packed sand at low tide makes for a unique biking experience. Be mindful of the tides so you enjoy the low tides and watch the wind direction. A steady sea breeze at your back is a blast, but only one way. Remember that you will have to ride back against it or work your way off the beach and onto a pathway to home. Avoid encounters with sandcastles, holes, soft sand, beach toys and joy-filled children running to the water (see “Take it easy” above).
• Tip for motorists. When making turns, look left, right, left and right again before pulling into traffic, just like we learned in drivers’ education. Be on the lookout for pedestrians and bicyclist crossing in front of you or in the path of your turns. Make eye contact before proceeding into traffic. They should be looking for you, too, but everyone needs to be alert.
As we roll into summer, have fun and remember the bicyclists’ mantra: Be Courteous, Share the Road, Share the Pathway, Ride Safe.
Linda Warnock serves as the education and safety director for Kickin’ Asphalt Bicycle Club. For additional HHI pathway information and maps, visit hiltonheadislandsc.gov/ourisland/pathways.cfm For a local pathway safety video, visit youtu.be/AV80fnXbg4k.