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On any given night, hundreds of bicyclists navigate the streets and pathways of Hilton Head Island, said Frank Babel, president and founder of local cycling advocacy group Squeaky Wheels.
Many of them violate state law by riding in the dark without a light or otherwise operate unsafely, he said.
Babel and other safety advocates were already mounting a push to increase awareness of bicycle safety and provide safety gear on the island when a 63-year-old bicyclist died after being hit by a car earlier this week, but they said that incident has underscored the importance of the effort.
"It's an issue on this island, and people should be sensitive to it," Babel said. "It's everybody's responsibility."
The unofficial group of advocates formed about three months ago after Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue officials asked public education officer Cinda Seamon to start a bicycle safety campaign.
Seamon then met Babel and joined with Larry Meyers, who like Babel, is a member of Kickin' Asphalt bicycle club.
The trio, which meets regularly, is distributing free helmets, reflectors, blinking lights and reflective arm and ankle bands to people in need.
The reflectors are collected from area bike shops that remove them in order to attach child seats, and the rest of the equipment was paid for by a grant from the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control to the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, a statewide advocacy group, Babel said.
The trio also is distributing about 3,000 tags and 3,000 stickers to area bike shops. The tags and stickers encourage safe biking, list the rules of the road and are designed to be attached to the tubing or handlebars of rented bikes. They were paid for by the club and Fire & Rescue officials, Babel said.
Seamon said Fire & Rescue officials likely will re-evaluate the sticker and tag program in six months or so to determine if it should be continued or expanded.
The trio also gave copies of bicycle laws to sheriff's deputies, bike clubs, bike shops, riding groups, town officials and security officers.
It's not clear what safety measures, if any, Elvia Rojas took Monday night when she was struck near the intersection of William Hilton Parkway and Gumtree Road. The S.C. Highway Patrol has released limited details about the incident, citing an ongoing investigation.
Rojas often biked between her home on the island's south end and her job at the Publix grocery store on the north end. Her bike was equipped with reflectors, and she sometimes wore a helmet and usually traveled with some type of light, her friend Billy Sanders said.
Babel said he next wants to reach out specifically to people who bike to and from jobs, especially those who do so at night.
"There's a lot of commuters, and they need help," Babel said. "We need to figure out how to get to them."
Seamon said anyone who needs the available equipment can contact her, but she said the group is particularly interested in reaching commuters.
"Those are people we'd really like to hear from," she said.