After four deaths in 2013, bicyclists unite to increase awareness and make our roads safer for all
Along with the sports bikes and Harley-Davidsons, bikes of another breed are cropping up around our area. These are the human-powered type. Mountain, cruiser, beach, road, triathlon, flat bar and comfort bikes are growing in popularity not just as a means of transportation, but for recreation, exercise and competition. With this increase in bicycling activity also comes a tragic side effect: Horry County has seen four bicycle-related deaths in 2013 and numerous accidents.
Seeing the tragedy of these four deaths, a group of dedicated cyclists banded together to bring awareness to the need for mutual respect between bicyclists and drivers. One of the initiatives of this effort was the Respect Ride on September 21, which started at Plyler Park in Myrtle Beach. Approximately 150 riders on all types of bicycles rode the 6.4-mile route. The goal was to raise awareness of the need for bicyclists and motorists to share the road. At the halfway point of the ride, near where 75-year-old Jimmy Ray Westmoreland died in a bicycle accident, the group stopped and had a moment of silence in honor of the four people killed.
“We think that’s four too many. We want to educate cyclists and motorists on the road, but we don’t have any illusion of educating all the visitors who come to the area,” said one of the organizers of the ride. “We want to promote safety among cyclists in our area.”
The group is also working on other initiatives with Coastal Carolina University College of Science students. They are developing a public service announcement for visiting bicyclists and are planning a survey of attitudes toward different modes of transportation. The public service announcements will be shown to international students who come to live and work in the area. Many of them come from countries where cycling is a way of life. They may be unaware of the laws and safe practices of riding in the area.
The ultimate goal of the organizers is to work with local and state transportation officials to develop better access for cyclists on roadways. “We’re trying to do multiple things on multiple fronts to bring about change. We hope that when we have the ride next year we won’t have any [bicycle-related] deaths [in our community],” a spokesman 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.”
The organizers plan to make the Respect Ride an annual event. For more information about bicycling in the Grand Strand area or to become involved with the efforts to increase safety, visit www.myrtlebeachcycling.com.