Do you want to experience Hilton Head? I mean really experience it? “Getting on bike is the best way to see the Island,” said bike advocate and member of Kicking Asphalt Frank Babel. Babel, who also co-chairs on the town’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (an ad hoc group of volunteers who work with the town), got involved with improving the area’s pathways almost a decade ago. “I started riding and noticed a lot of debris and root intrusion. I decided my mission was to make it safer and more enjoyable for people to truly tour the Island.”
Since then, Babel has been leading the pack in making pathway upgrades and credits Hilton Head’s town council members for systematically maintaining and improving our bike trails. “Bike riding here has exploded,” said Babel, who also laughed, “And just when you think biking around Hilton Head couldn’t get any better—it does.” This is due in part to several of his committee’s initiatives, which include:
- Expanding the Chaplin Park trail.
- Continuing to grow the bike ambassadors program. Right now Babel has 35 volunteers who must complete a two-hour training program. These ambassadors bike the pathways to help you with directions or to make activity suggestions. They are equipped with maps and first aid supplies.
- Building up the number of bike riders attending the RBC Heritage golf tournament. “When we started three years ago, we parked about 500 bikes,” began Babel. “Last year about 2,800 bikes. And this year we are estimating about 5,000 bikes.”
- Increasing connectivity and circulation. “Enhancements made on Leg O’Mutton Road, Pembroke and Jarvis will open the north end of the Island,” said Babel. “This will connect more parks like Jarvis, Green Shell, and Honey Horn.
- Boosting safety. When Babel first started out on his trek to improving our pathways he said, “There were only half a dozen that had signal light crossings, now we have 45.”
- Creating a biking culture. Hilton Head received the Bicycling Friendly Community award in 2011, has over 110 miles of bike trails and offers approximately 20,000 rental options.
Visitors and residents alike can look forward to increased access in the future with plans to connect Hilton Head to other parts of the Lowcountry like Bluffton and Beaufort, which for Babel means more freedom and fun for all. “When I set out to ride I never know where I am going to wind up. I go left this time or right this time.”