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EXPERT TO ADDRESS THE ISLAND’S BIKING FUTURE

During his three decades shaping national and international bicycle and pedestrian policy, Andy Clarke has seen cycling become an important economic driver and a growing response to concerns about the environment and public health. The planning and policy expert has helped lead the revolution of bike-friendly communities. One of the leaders of the Bicycle Friendly Community program — Hilton Head Island enjoys gold-level status — Clarke will serve as keynote speaker for the the Southeast Biking Symposium.

andyThere, tourism professionals, cycling advocates, planners, government officials and bicycling enthusiasts will gather to discuss how to take the cycling scene to the next level.

Below, Clarke shares his perspective on what Hilton Head is doing right, and where it can improve as a bike-friendly community.

Question. Are you seeing more resort towns like Hilton Head waking up to the tourism potential of cycling?

Answer. Not just resort towns. There’s competition from places that aren’t the traditional tourist resorts. We as a company — Toole Design Group, where I am director of strategy — recently worked on a project in Brownsville, Texas, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which is not perhaps on the short list of top 10 destinations in the world. What’s great about Hilton Head is that it provides the best example of just how simple it is to do this, to get people walking and riding. You see people riding on the trail system who would never ride in their communities back home. They’d never dream of riding to work or riding to the store or doing what they do on a bike on Hilton Head.

Q. With its gold-level status as a bicycle-friendly community, Hilton Head is obviously doing something right. Where could we improve?

A. What’s going right is that the age-old bones of a great trail system are being upgraded and improved. You look at what’s going on in Palmetto Dunes and you see the significant upgrades and improvements in the core trail system, that’s huge. The challenges are always getting across the main roads. The underpass to get you to Shelter Cove is a huge deal, but it’s one crossing of a very busy, very fast road that stretches a long way. It’s great that you can go long distances across either side of U.S. 278, but you have to be able to get across it where you want to.

The biggest thing unique to Hilton Head is that it would be awesome if you could get between plantations and neighborhoods and in and out of the gates on foot or bike more seamlessly. That would give you a huge advantage over driving. At some point, it will have to be addressed.

CHANGE THE WORLD—RIDE A BIKE

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Hilton Head Island will host the Southeast Biking Symposium from March 22-24. Amid discussions of cycling advocacy, participants will enjoy a beach bike ride, fireside chats, a s’mores party and a bike ride that stops at Wingwest. To register, go to http://bit.ly/SEBRegistration.