Committee considers more bike lanes, new law to make Myrtle Beach safer

Committee considers more bike lanes, new law to make Myrtle Beach safer

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee voted to pass a resolution to help make city roads safer for cyclists, walkers, and runners.

As city crews have moved utilities underground from 6th Avenue South to 9th Avenue North on Ocean Boulevard, they have also improved the sidewalks and added bike lanes. But between 9th and 14th Avenues North, there is a gap in the bike lanes. Tuesday the committee voted unanimously to send a resolution to city council recommending crews take action to add bike lanes there.

In September 2015, most of Ocean Boulevard was part of a safety audit to see what needs to be fixed and improved. Crews with the Federal Highway Administration rode around with committee members to see where they might need to add more signs, cross walks, bike lanes, and maybe reduce speed limits. One major concern from the audit is how many sidewalk and bike lane gaps there are in the city, which causes confusion and safety issues.

According to police reports, between 2009 and 2014, there were a total of 27 bike crashes along Ocean Boulevard in city limits. Committee members say that's why they work so hard to make changes and improvements.

"Make Myrtle Beach safer," emphasized committee member Roger Means. "We can leave our hotel or our residence, get on a bicycle and feel reasonably safe. That we could exercise, we could commute to work and be able to do that within Myrtle Beach."

The committee discussed ways to encourage drivers to slow down and teach everyone how to share the road. Means shared his observations after visiting Cincinnati, Ohio and Lakeland, Florida. He was looking to see how drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians interact there, and if any ideas could work at the beach.

"The streets in Myrtle Beach are complicated in that they go from wide to narrow in short distances. The speed limits are so varied. Because of the varied speed limits, it makes it difficult for connectivity," said Means.

Means said he noticed an attitude of respect and that pedestrians always had the right of way in both Cincinnati and Lakeland. He said there were also no bike lanes. But there were more signs, some with flashing lights, warning of cyclists and pedestrians.

"It's all about attitude," said Means. "If you can just for a minute, before you take off in your car, get the right attitude. Because you're not the only one on the road. Your schedule doesn't mean anything to anybody else but you. But running over somebody means a lot."

Means recommended to the committee that there should be a law stating if any driver collides with any pedestrian, cyclist, or golf car, it would automatically be considered a crime, not just a traffic citation or accident. He suggested jail time or a fine should be the penalty that gets drivers' attentions.

That is just one recommendation. Committee members said it would need a lot of discussion and research to see if something like that is feasible, legal, or enforceable. The committee decided Tuesday that they needed to brainstorm more possible ways to encourage drivers to slow down and share the road and protect everyone.

The public is welcome to attend the committee meetings and share any concerns or be a part of the discussion. The next meeting will be May 17.

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