In 1994, Linda Ketron, then a new Grand Strand resident, envisioned a system of bicycle trails in Horry and Georgetown Counties. The idea took hold one day after she and a friend met for lunch, and each one drove a mile-and-a-half to get to their destination. If there had been paths, the friends would have gladly walked, or better yet, ridden bikes to see each other. The vision grew into a plan for a bike trail 27 miles long along U.S. 17 from Murrells Inlet to the bridges at Georgetown. As chair of a group called Bike the Neck, she has been steadfast in advocating and working toward this goal. Although progress has been slow and at times daunting, efforts are still being made to bring this project to fruition.
Weekly Surge spoke with Ketron, who is also director of Coastal Carolina University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, to give us a look at the progress of the Bike the Neck trails, as well as overall efforts to make the Grand Strand area more cycle-friendly.
Q: Your mission was originally to have 27 miles – and you have said you would like to eventually bike the whole thing, but how far along is the project at this point?
A: We have 12 miles completed. There is another six that should go out to bid in mid-May.
Q: Is this the North-South Bike Link or the Kings River Road/Waverly Road Bike Path?
A: It’s the two. It’s actually the stretch that comes from Willbrook Boulevard [Pawleys Island] and heads south on Kings River Road to the corner of Waverly and Kings River Road – and then it’s going to turn the corner and come down to the elementary school on Waverly. And there is a path that was already paved years and years ago – what they originally called a sidewalk. For a period of time that will be a transition to connect to the stretch that is completed on [U.S.] 17 – so that’s one leg that is going out to bid – and that’s totally about five miles. Then up in North Litchfield between Boyle Drive and Trace Drive, connecting the path that comes up to Boyle from the Willbrook light. All of these locations and destinations are so familiar to me. I know when I start giving street names, everybody sort of goes blank, but it’s OK.
There is one more mile between Boyle and Trace Drive that will essentially prevent people from using the North Litchfield internal road system as a Share the Road route. They will have a dedicated path that will connect them, say from the Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort area all the way up through the beautiful park route – going across the front of Huntington Beach State Park. So all of that will be connected and there won’t be any more Share the Road stretch up there.
So that will be six more miles. Maybe by the time I am 90, we will have 27 miles. The vision has never changed. It’s just that the timeline kept elongating.
Q: Are drivers really paying attention to bicyclists, and have you seen the area become more cycle-friendly?
A: I do think there is definitely more awareness because people were able to sort of get used to bicycles sharing their roads and seeing them to the side of them. I do think there is more awareness. When we were first putting people out there we would hear all of these grumbles and complaints from the vehicular drivers, saying that all of those cyclists are just creating such hazards. I don’t hear that as much at all anymore. And the cyclists do not complain as much about motorists anymore. And I think it’s because both are coming to the slow awareness that they are both entitled to that space and that they have to share it. I think that there is more care and looking out for one another.
Q: Do you see the Grand Strand becoming an eventual destination for trail cycling?
A: I think that a great deal more than just having this locale be friendly needs to take place. The access routes coming from Florence, coming from Columbia, coming from Charleston - that Georgetown to Charleston stretch is probably the most dangerous stretch on the Eastern Seaboard according to long distance cyclists – they say that is a terrifying stretch.
Probably this is more complicated by the unbelievable development along that whole stretch in Mt. Pleasant, with people coming every which direction. They made no accommodation for bicyclists when they developed all of that. People who really cycle want to cycle to a place that is friendly to hang out in. And this is becoming a friendly place to hang out in – but there is no easy access. They still have to throw their bikes on a rack and drive here.
Q: So it’s more about getting to the friendly places?
A: Yes. Coming down from Wilmington (N.C.), look at that stretch all the way through North Myrtle Beach. And as they put in (S.C.) 31 and (S.C.) 22, these fabulous roads that would have been perfect for transporting cyclists as well as motorists, but they didn’t make any accommodations. The width of the shoulder is still unsafe. And they had the space and the equipment out there. It could have been and should have been done at the time.
- Roger Yale, for Weekly Surge