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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Moser's Column:Opposites attract: Experiencing the trails of Sanibel and Alva

This week's Moser column focuses on the good and bad of cycling on Sanibel, the mountain biking trails in Caloosahatchee Regional Park, and an update on safety issues at Briarcliff.

Nov. 21, 2012

Like so many other local residents, day-trippers and visitors from around the world, I’m a big fan of Sanibel Island. Luckily for me, a few weekends ago I had an opportunity to cycle on Sanibel’s extensive pathway network, providing a tour of the island for Tim Bustos, Florida Bicycle Association’s executive director, himself a first-time visitor to Southwest Florida. He was in town to present Sanibel Bike Club with a Share the Road mini-grant for its outstanding welcome center project on Periwinkle Way.

If you haven’t been to the island for a while you’ll find some new paths, a few existing ones widened, and many places to park your bike and explore nature trails, beaches and historic sites. A few years ago, the League of American Bicyclists designated Sanibel a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community, something the bicycle advocates are proud of (although, for some reason, the city seemingly doesn’t really embrace this achievement). But with all the great things about Sanibel and its pathway system, there are a number of problems that sometimes make for testy and even dangerous situations for all users of the paths and roads.

Seasonal population increases means corresponding congestion on the roads and paths, oftentimes resulting in both being overcapacity. On roads, this means gridlock on the paths, it results in chaos between pedestrians and cyclists, especially if proper etiquette isn’t understood or practiced, which is too frequently the case when folks are weaving, making unexpected moves and moving too fast for conditions. The fact that some very busy paths are still only the width of a sidewalk adds to the problem.

Misunderstanding between motorists and path users occurs at many intersections because of pavement markings that suggest path users must stop at almost every intersection, even when the path runs adjacent to the through roadway. But because it’s counter-intuitive for path users to stop when they otherwise wouldn’t, and the fact that there’s no corresponding stop sign, thus is unenforceable, most continue on, rightfully assuming they have the right of way through the intersection.

According to the city, police officers will soon be patrolling on bicycle, a move that could help improve conditions, assuming they’ll address motorists’ infractions as much as those by cyclists and pedestrians. Educating, rather than strict enforcement, would be the best approach, so perhaps “pathway ambassadors” (i.e., community service aids or official volunteers) would be more appropriate than full-fledged law enforcement officers.

On to Alva
The day after being on Sanibel’s paved trails we rode Caloosahatchee Regional Park’s single-track mountain bike trails. Again, this was Tim’s first visit so we took it easy, although it ended up being more for my sake than his. He’s an accomplished unicyclist who’s ridden some of the most challenging trails in the U.S. on his one-wheel bike. We were at the park to exhibit and meet the participants of Caloosahatchee River Watch’s annual River Ride. This year’s ride saw the most participants ever, all who were treated to an excellent day. Kudos to Keith Kibbey and all the River Watch volunteers!

Advocacy notes
Pressure continues to mount on the Florida Department of Transportation to make the safety improvements on Metro Parkway at the Briarcliff Road intersection that should have been in place before the highway opened. Residents, injury prevention specialists and traffic safety officials, as well as the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, are imploring FDOT to act quickly before another person is severely injured or killed. There’s more on this subject at BikeWalkLee's blog.
 
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334- 6417.

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