Bicycle tourism in Savannah

According to Connect Savannah, at the Second Annual Southeast Biking Symposium, March 22-24, she told attendees that 91 percent of visitors listed safety as their top priority when bicycling, which explains why 93 percent of visitors said they prefer using the island’s more than 100 miles of dedicated bike paths.

The symposium, organized by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, attracts tourism professionals, cycling advocates, planners, and government officials. The conference focuses not only on trends in bicycle tourism but how destination cities can use bicycling to improve quality of life for residents.

Hilton Head is one of only 21 cities to earn gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community status from the League of American Bicyclists and is the only gold-level community in the Southeast. For comparison, Savannah and Tybee Island are both bronze level Bicycle Friendly Communities.

The Town of Hilton Head Island has constructed 64 miles of public pathways through its capital improvement program and another 50 miles or so of trails and paths have been built within private developments.

It’s no surprise that 48 percent of visitors rent bicycles during their stays, according to Pernice, and many others bring bikes with them to Hilton Head. When a community provides a safe walking and biking infrastructure network, visitors and residents use it. It’s a pretty simple equation.

Additions to Savannah’s woefully inadequate inventory of bike lanes and multi-use paths would surely encourage more visitors to explore our city by bike. However, in the wake of the troubling Savannah National Historic Landmark District “Condition Assessment” released last week, some might wonder if we should be encouraging more visitors of any kind. Yet there’s a difference between the affluent, well-educated demographic that goes in for bicycle touring and those for whom to-go cups are the main attraction.

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