CYCLING-LEGENDIN 1961, KEN LAIDLAW WAS AT THE TOP OF THE CYCLING WORLD — OR AT LEAST AS CLOSE TO THE TOP AS A SCOTSMAN HAD EVER COME.

A year after representing Great Britain in the World Championships and the Rome Olympics in 1960, Laidlaw became the first Scottish rider to complete the Tour de France when he finished 65th, earning most aggressive rider honors during the race’s 16th stage.

Then he quit. At age 26 and a world-class rider at the peak of his career, Laidlaw walked away.

“I was an angry young man,” the 77-year-old Sun City resident recalls. “I did what I was supposed to do — I was the first Scotsman to finish the Tour de France — and nothing happened afterward.”

bikepats12Cycling a true passion for island resident

Ron Knight has always worked better with a goal in front of him. It just took him 47 years to figure out that he’d rather accomplish those goals on a bike.

Thirty years and 35,000 bike miles later, the founder of the Kickin’ Asphalt Bicycle Club is still pedaling and still tackling goals riders a half century younger wouldn’t dare take on.

He tackled the 104-mile Assault on Mount Mitchell and Marion on May 19, trying to become the oldest rider to even finish the grueling trek.

“I did this once when I was 71 and I asked around and found out that the oldest person that had ever done it was 78,” Knight said. “I told them, ‘OK, I’ll see you in seven years.’ And here I am.”

REINFORCES ISLAND’S COMMITMENT TO BEING A BICYCLE FRIENDLY COMMUNITY

Long celebrated for its world-class golf courses, thriving arts culture and more than 12 miles of sparkling sand beaches, Hilton Head Island has also gained a reputation as a premier destination for recreational biking.

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The island draws more than 2 million visitors each year, many of whom come to enjoy the nearly 60 miles of pristine public pathways and nature trails by bicycle. Hilton Head Island also boasts more than 50 miles of pathways and shared roadways within its private developments.

In 2011, the League of American Bicyclists awarded Hilton Head Island its coveted Bicycle Friendly Community designation.

bikepats5As more and more people pedal around the island, it’s getting safer to do so, said Frank Babel, co-chair of the Bicycle Advocacy Committee.

“The more riders, the fewer accidents because drivers are used to them,” he said. “The more people who ride, the safer it becomes.”

Even with a spike in the number of recreational riders, the number of car-bike crashes on the island fell 38 percent from 2011 to 2012. The number of crashes rose in 2013, but with so many more bicycles, the rate fell.

“It takes constant education of motorists and bicyclists,” Babel said.

bikepats4Never Stop Peddling the Topic

There is a group that never wants Hilton Head Island to forget about the importance of bicycling to the local economy.

The HHI Bicycling Advocacy Committee, formed after the island earned a silver award in 2011 as a Bike-Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists, tirelessly creates and promotes bike-related events and efforts in order to weave bicycling into the fabric of life on Hilton Head.

The 25 volunteers’ work ranges from building and distributing mobile bike racks at community events in hopes more people will arrive on two wheels, to encouraging the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce’s second annual Bike & Dine Week that paired dining deals with biking.

FACT
The Town of HHI spends $175,000 per year maintaining bike trails and bike lanes. Since 2010, it’s spent $1 million on bike trails, including construction and rights of way.

Charles-Fraser

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Whether you’re bicycling for family time, exercise or simply to take in the local ?scenery, Hilton Head Island offers no shortage of routes, paths and options.

The island boasts more than 50 miles of public bicycle paths, and the private communities contain many more (Sea Pines alone has 15 for your pedaling needs). The beach is rarely more than a few miles away, and at low tide offers so much space that you can feel like the place is yours alone. For these reasons and countless more (amenable weather, abundant sunshine) you can see why Hilton Head Island has carved out a reputation as an unofficial bikers’ mecca.

But these days, it’s a little more official.

Frank BabelImmediately after relocating to Hilton Head Island, Frank Babel began looking for a cause.

“(Professionally), I traveled all the time, so it was hard to do community service,” said Babel. “When I retired here, I wanted to make a difference.” It didn’t take long to find that calling. An avid bicyclist, Babel has become one of the island’s foremost advocates for bicycling safety and awareness. He founded an advocacy group with local bike shop owners, has been elected to a statewide cycling coalition and works with numerous local government agencies on bikerelated projects. But his vision continues to grow.

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