Hilton Head Island has been working hard to become a place which is safe for bicycle rides and walkers. In 2000, there are 12 crosswalks which had pedestrian signals on the island. As of 2016, there are now 46 intersections with pedestrian signals. Four new signals are being installed at crosswalks on Pope Avenue and Lagoon Road, so there will soon be 50 pedestrian crossing areas. The goal of adding these pedestrian crossing is to prevent pedestrian collisions and to prevent crashes involving bicycles and cars.
Despite the efforts to make roads safer for walkers and bicycle riders, Island Packet reports there have been an increasing number of crashes happening. Officials are unsure if it is an increase in pedestrian and bike traffic which has led to more accidents happening, or if the rising crash rates are just an aberration.
Regardless of whether the elevated collision rates are likely to be repeated or not, the fact is people are still being hurt now- and motorists as well as pedestrians and bicycle riders need to take precautions to try to reduce the rate of collisions from occurring.
In Hilton Head, there are normally an average of 1.5 to two bicycle collisions each month. This is the same number as a decade ago, despite the fact there were 10,000 to 12,000 bicycles for rent at that time and there are now 25,000 rental bikes on the island as well as an additional 10,000 bikes which are privately owned.
This year, however, there has been a big increase in bike accidents. During just a four month period of time, there were 13 bike-vehicle traffic collisions which happened, as compared with five over the course of 2015. The majority of the accidents are occurring at intersections.
Part of the problem may be that people don't know exactly how to obey the walk signals. At crosswalks in Palmetto Dunes, for example the crosswalks advise pedestrians to yield to vehicles. This is different from signaled crosswalks on William Hilton Parkway.
While state law mandates motorists give pedestrians the right-of-way at crosswalks, pedestrians aren't supposed to go into the walk unless there is an adequate traffic gap which makes it safe. It is left to pedestrians and bicycle riders to stop, scan for traffic, and determine if the gap is adequate or not. Pedestrians and bicycle walkers may not be able to make an accurate assessment of a safe gap, and low rates of compliance are identified in terms of bicycle riders obeying signs to wait for a gap. When well-intentioned motorists yield for bike riders and pedestrians even when there is not an adequate gap, this exacerbates confusion.
Pedestrians need to make sure they are doing the right things when it comes to avoiding accidents, and drivers also need to ensure they make safe choices so they don't endanger bicycle riders and walkers.