The Bicycle Trails in Our Market Common Community
Did you know that there are bicycle paths that weave their way over, about, through and around the entire Market Common? Some of them connect, and others truncate abruptly. We, at the Insider decided to find out the rhyme behind the reasoning for their existence, and where they’re headed.
“If we go back to the beginning when this entire area was being redeveloped in the ’90s,” says Kelly Mezzapelle, planner for the City of Myrtle Beach, “Jack Walker, who was the planning director for the city of Myrtle Beach, conceptualized the Market Common to be a walking community.
“So as they were putting in new roads and refurbishing old ones, they made a point of putting in walking and biking paths, and established them as part of the infrastructure from the beginning.”
The Market Common district is built under the guidelines of the Market Common Master Plan; this encompasses the commercial part of the Market Common as well as the Sweetgrass development and Toffino’s.
“All of the housing developments that have been built in this area are developed according to the rules and regulations of the center point pud— a zoning district— which requires all the neighborhoods to be connected to one another with a series of walking and biking paths,” Kelly explains.
The city formed the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee to oversee the completion of the trails, especially as new developments are still being built. The committee looks at the Market Common Master Plan to see where there are gaps in the bicycle and pedestrian paths, and what they need to do to connect them, so people can get where they need to go by walking or biking.
Kelly staffs the committee along with Diane Moskow-McKenzie, which has been meeting for the past four years.
“If there are recommendations that the city makes, we do the research and the leg work,” Kelly says. “We get things done after the city council has decided what they want to do.”
One of the things that they did was to complete the Myrtle Beach portion of the East Coast Greenway. The East Coast Greenway Alliance is a non-profit group that is implementing a 3,000 mile bicycle path that runs from Maine to Florida.
“Through the vision of Jack Walker,” says Kelly, “we had almost finished. There was only a small section by Harrelson Blvd left to do, and the Market Common asked us to prioritize it. We finished it last year just before Hurricane Matthew came through, the first city in America to have done so. Then this year, we begin building a trailhead behind Seagate Village and Highway 17, to mark the beginning. It will have a picnic shelter, bike stand, water filling station, and a big, ‘East Coast Greenway Welcome to Myrtle Beach’ sign.”
In celebration of both new constructions, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony as well as a short bike ride with the East Coast Greenway Alliance on October 9. The event will take place at the trailhead, which is being named in honor of Jack Walker.
“Right now, the Greenway only goes North,” says Kelly. “That’s the end of the city limits; we’re working now with the county to get the trail to hook up to the one that begins by the Walmart and heads South.”
Ryan Harvey is the traffic engineer who decides on the actual shape of the trails. He’s the boots-on-the-ground guy, and handles any engineering issues that arise.
The paths are specifically designed to not accommodate golf carts, for the safety of both bicyclists and pedestrians.
“We’ve had quite a few bicyclists run off the trail because of the golf carts, so it really is for non-motorized vehicles only,” Kelly emphasizes.
The committee’s next project is focussed on the design of a new park that is across Farrow Parkway near the west end of Grand Park, between Phillis Blvd and Coventry Lane. They are working with the Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority to come up with a name; it’s working title is Linear Park. It will have two lakes and a two mile bicycle and pedestrian trail that will circle it.
There’s an old Air Force building which they’re working on converting into a restroom; they also plan to build a small outdoor classroom into the bank of one lake that could accommodate 15-20 people for group activities.
Kelly says they are hoping to have the path finished some time in the spring.
Another issue they are addressing is that of creating space for cyclists in Market Common who don’t feel comfortable riding on the street. There are 10-foot-wide sidewalks along Farrow Parkway which are wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists. But the 5-foot-wide sidewalks, which are interspersed throughout the rest of the Market Common, are not. The committee is working on regulations to figure out how to meet the community’s needs.
They are also working on an app that will have a map of all the bicycle trails city wide, not just for the Market Common.
“We’re about 6 months out from having that go live,” Kelly says. “And we’re in the beta stages right now for the Market Common trails.”
“The app will be a little bit interactive,” she continues. “It will have descriptions of the trails, and tell what type of vehicle can and can’t be on them.”
Pee Dee Bicycles in the Market Common can outfit you with a bike to rent or own. They have a general map of the bike trails in the Market Common that they created in response to demand from their customers, and they also have recommendations about where to ride.
“Someone could easily get 10-20 miles not getting on any major road in the Market Common,” Jim Whitmore, the owner tells me. “But they would cross a road.”
Pee Dee Bicycles offers group rides that leave daily from their shop, for every skill level— from beginners to intense long-distance cyclists. Many of the rides finish with drinks and dinner someplace in the Market Common.
“We want to build that sense of community, and support the Market Common establishments,” Jim tells me, “so we try to end our rides here.”
Aaron Maynard of Pedego Electric Bikes on Deville Street, in the Market Common, leads group electric bike rides along the Market Common paths on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. If you haven’t before, a group electric bike ride is a novel and fun way to explore the Market Common trails.
See our July and August 2016 editions for more on electric bikes and Aaron Maynard.
City of Myrtle Beach General Planning, 843-918-1050. Find out more about the ribbon cutting ceremony, October 9: Facebook: City of Myrtle Beach.
Call 843-839-4657 to find out more about their free group bike ride schedule.
Call 843-602-6941 or visit them online to find out more about their electronic bike rentals, and group ride schedule.
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