If you've been thinking of pedaling to work, Friday is the day

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If you've been thinking of pedaling to work, Friday is the day

By IAN LESLIE ileslie@beaufortgazette.com 843-986-5527
Published Thursday, May 15, 2008 in The Beaufort Gazette  |  789 Words  |  local_news

Three times a week Joe DeVito gets out of bed, puts on his helmet and rides his bicycle 13 miles from Port Royal to the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority building in Okatie.
It's a trip he's made for the past three years. Even a heart attack last year couldn't keep him off the bike for more than two weeks.
"I got right back on the bike," he said Thursday. "The doctor said my recovery was directly related to the riding I had done before the heart attack."
DeVito is one of several Beaufort County residents who ride their bike to work, a practice that's becoming more common as gas prices continue to rise. It's also a practice being recognized and promoted today by the League of American Bicyclists, which has dubbed May 16 National Bike to Work Day.
"There is a high, or production-level increase when I get to exercise," DeVito said of his morning rides. "Physically and mentally, it stimulates your mind to do your job."
On Hilton Head Island, 13 municipal workers will ride their carbon fiber and aluminum steeds to the office today.
While there's not a similar group effort north of the Broad River, John Feeser, owner of Lowcountry Bicycles on Lady's Island, said he has seen business pick up as gas prices rise and people choose to grab a bike helmet instead of their car keys.
"People are staring to realize a five- or 10-minute car ride to the grocery story would only take 15 or 20 minutes by bike," he said. "Business probably has increased because of the gas prices. I think it's at least making people more aware."
Feeser's store, northern Beaufort County's lone bicycle shop, mostly has seen an increase in purchases of bike accessories, including helmets, seats, racks and bags.
Feeser said he's also sold a couple of hybrid bikes, which are designed for both roads and off-road bike paths.
"I have sold some to people who have stated that they're going to ride to work, especially to the military guys," he said. "Most of those guys live within 20 minutes of where they work."
On Parris Island, John Holloway, an avid cyclist and the recruit depot's natural resources manager, said he's seen a lot of people riding around the island.
People who work in Holloway's office frequently hop on their bikes to run errands.
"When I first got here last year abut this time, we talked about how we could use bicycles to run some errands," he said. "We are an environmental office, after all."
Though people want to save money on gas, safety is an issue, and Beaufort County north of the Broad doesn't have anything that compares to Hilton Head's 50 miles of bike paths.
"There are more 'share the road' signs that have been installed around town. Still, people who ride bikes say there's nowhere to ride," Feeser said. "If and when neighborhoods can be interlinked through easements and rights of way ... that certainly would encourage a lot more people to ride."
DeVito said he generally feels pretty safe during his ride to work, which takes him from Parris Island Gateway, to S.C. 802 to S.C. 170.
"The 170 ride is OK; there is a 3-foot bike lane," he said. "And Savannah Highway is pretty good. But when you get on Parris Island Gateway there's no lane. Ninety-nine percent of the people who pass you are courteous, but there are always the few who want to scream at you and honk the horn."
Money to widen S.C. 802 from S.C. 170 to Parris Island Gateway has been set aside as part of a bond referendum approved by voters in 2006. That project, which will widen the road from two lanes to four, is expected to include pedestrian/bicycle paths.But money to add bike paths to existing roads is hard to come by.
Holloway used to be a Beaufort County planner and knows firsthand how the best attempts by the county and state to include bike paths in road construction projects often are scrapped when money becomes an issue.
"Slowly but surely, things are improving," he said.
One of those improvements can be found on St. Helena Island, where a bike path was included in the widening of U.S. 21.
The path is used as an example of what could be done to make roads friendlier for cyclists.
Not only does the path provide safety in a heavily traveled area, but it also serves as a link to other rural areas where there are fewer cars and cyclists feel more comfortable.
"That'll be an awesome opportunity," Holloway said.