Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Moser column: Cycling tourism on the rise in Florida

This week's Moser column highlights the increase in bike tourism in Florida and the importance of attaining an environment of respect and tolerance between all users of the public rights of way if  Lee County is to fully take advantage of bike tourism opportunities.

Florida Weekly "Outdoors"  June 25, 2014
Dan Moser's column
Dan Moser
Lee County and the rest of Southwest Florida may truly be paradise in many ways but some things are, let’s just say, “still maturing.” One of the attributes fitting that description is our cycling environment. While clearly not anything resembling a bicycling mecca, Lee County and the rest of Southwest Florida are poised to join other parts of the Sunshine State as a destination for those wishing to make cycling the focus of their vacation or as a way to enhance their overall experience when visiting. Sanibel Island, of course, is an exception, at least for family-oriented cycling, and has been deemed a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, a designation well-deserved.
Recently, the value of being able to get around by bike or making cycling an important part of a vacation has gotten the attention of our tourism promoters as our infrastructure has improved. Wayfinding, in the form of signs posted specifically for cyclists and pedestrians, is perhaps also part of the reason for this increased awareness. Some examples include: the 36-mile Tour de Parks and 9-mile University Loop being two marked routes on the east side of the Caloosahatchee River; Cape Coral’s 90-plus miles of routes that will all be named and signed by the end of this year; and Pine Island’s 14-mile path (28-mile round trip) that runs the entire length of the island with a link to Cape

The Tour de Parks Wayfinding sign. The Tour de Parks wayfinding sign Coral and its extensive network currently being considered. Overall, things area looking pretty good in terms of both on-road and separated pathways around much of Lee County. Conditions stand to be even better once TIGER grant improvements are completed. But one important element remains a serious problem.
For our area to truly become a place where the average person wants to ride, whether resident or visitor, we motorists must become more aware and accepting of cyclists on our roads and within intersections. Communities elsewhere around the country that are known for being bike friendly — and that reap the benefits of that reputation — have an environment of respect and tolerance between all users of the public rights of way, something we must attain here. All the infrastructure and wayfinding in the world won’t help if we continue to lack mutual cooperation. As usual, you can always learn more about this and other bike/ped matters on BikeWalkLee’s blog (
SunRail-bicycle connection
Exploring bicycle tourism elsewhere, the folks in and around Orlando know an opportunity when they see one (it’s not the number one tourist destination for nothing). But this time it’s not the likes of Disney or Universal Studios jumping on it, but rather a small group of cycling enthusiast who recognized the potential of something new that has real potential. On the first weekend in August they will be launching a bike tour that includes the just upland running SunRail service between downtown Orlando and its suburbs to the north.
The SunRail-St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Tour begins on the train in Orlando, then becomes a bicycle tour at the current end of the line in DeBarry (there are plans to extend it further north). The week-long bike tour travels along the 260-mile St. Johns River-to-Sea trail, one of the longest multi-use trails in the southeast U.S. It passes through five counties and uses part of the East Coast Greenway (, the trail that, when completed, will run from Maine to Key West. The many sponsors of this inaugural tour include VISIT Florida, East Coast Greenway Alliance, Florida Office of Greenways and Trails, Florida Bicycle Association, Bike Florida and numerous local tourism offices and chambers of commerce. There’s high hopes for this simple but brilliant idea, one that won’t require a tour operator. Anyone will be able to purchase a train ticket, follow the maps and GPS coordinates, and make his or her own lodging and dining arrangements, all of which adds to the tourism economy.
Staying local
Summertime means quite a drop-off of cycling and running events in Southwest Florida, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening. Beginning on Friday, July 4, the Freedom 5K ( takes runners across the Cape Coral Bridge. On Saturday, July 5, it’s the Naples Pathway Coalition Liberty Ride (, followed by Peace River Riders’ Wheels and Wings Ride ( on Sunday, July 6. Summer fun runs are also taking place throughout the area so there’s still plenty to do.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
— Dan Moser is CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and program director for the Florida Bicycle Association. He can be contacted at or 334- 6417.

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