Despite all the improvements and additions Lee County has made to the local biking infrastructure, there are still many places in this area under-served by bike or multi-use paths. If there are sidewalks, bicyclists often take that option — sometimes to the chagrin of walkers who view that space as their own. And all too often, biker increase the risk by riding where it’s not designed to accommodate them.
But if there are no paths or sidewalks, what’s a cyclist to do? Hit the road!
For many, that’s a scary thought — and, given our area’s appalling record for cyclist injuries, you have a right to be concerned. But you also have a right to be on that roadway (it’s state law), and it can be safer for you to be there than cruising the sidewalk.
Find that hard to believe? Experienced cyclists will tell you the more you act like a vehicle, the better off you can be when sharing the road. But the key is to act like a vehicle: Go (and stop) with traffic, be obvious and predictable, signal your intentions and be aware of your surroundings.
Think about it: As a driver, where is your attention focused? On other vehicles, usually. So if a cyclist is acting like one of those vehicles, chances are a driver has a better chance of seeing them than if they are acting like a pedestrian — or just not acting consistently at all.
That’s not to suggest you grab your beach cruiser and start riding down U.S. 41 — yet. To make this work, you need to have the skills — and know the rules — well enough to feel comfortable becoming part of the vehicle stream. Frankly, it also helps to know the local road system, so you can work with roadways that consistently have a place for you rather than one that doesn’t or that has a lane for a few miles, then doesn’t have anything at all.
You do have a right to be on the road, bike lane or not, but there are times that having a little extra room makes sharing the road with (much) larger vehicles a lot more inviting.
Nonetheless, the most important things you need to hit the road are skills, knowledge and confidence. Skills to be a consistent and sold bicyclist. Knowledge to follow the rules – formal and unspoken. And confidence to ride with mindfulness, anticipating problems before they occur and taking control of your ride conditions rather than mindlessly meandering down the highway.
One of the best ways to build those skills and confidence is a course called “CyclingSavvy,” developed by the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) as a way to encourage cyclists to have the wherewithal to take their rightful place on the road – and recognizing the best way to do so was a hand’s on training effort that combined experience and explanation.
So FBA created a new modular structure, consisting of three 3-hour sessions:
• The Truth and Techniques of Traffic Cycling: A 3-hour classroom session on traffic laws, crash prevention, bicycle driving principles, and unique traffic management strategies.
• Train Your Bike: A 3-hour on-bike skill-building session held in a parking lot.
• A Real-World Tour: A 3½ hour experiential, on-road learning experience on local roads to put what’s been learned in the first two sessions to use.
The first two sessions may be taken a la carte and in either order, so riders who want to improve their bicycle skills without the hands-on part can still benefit from this opportunity and, maybe, build their confidence to the point of taking the three-hour tour to see how they can hit the road right here.
There are a number of local instructors available to local riders, and information on the courses and how to contact them is at cyclingsavvy.org. (Other groups also offer cycling instruction, although many focus on athletes instead of average riders, so bear that in mind.)
You may never decide that being a road-savvy cyclist is a (bike) path you want to take, and that staying on the paths and walks is biking enough for your desires. That’s great — biking is certainly about enjoying the physical sensation of moving yourself along at a people-powered pace.
But remember that there will be many times paths and sidewalks aren’t available so you’ll be forced onto the road. For that reason alone, and if you ever decide you want to use the road – or just want to hone your cycle skills to be a better rider – there are options out there to make it easy to do.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition advocating for complete streets in Lee County.
• Saturday, July 19: Beat The Heat 5K, Jaycee Park, Cape Coral. Entry $20 adult, $15 youth, $25 day of. Race starts at 7 a.m. (3dracinginc.com/races.asp)
• Saturday, July 28: Eagle Lakes 5K, Eagle Lakes Community Park, 11565 Tamiami Trail East, Naples. Entry $28 before, $35 day of, $21 students. Race starts 7 a.m. (eliteevents.org/eagle-lakes-extreme-5k.html)
• Saturday, Aug. 9: Cape 5K, Jaycee Park, Cape Coral. Entry $20 adult, $15 youth, $25 day of. Race starts at 7 a.m. (3dracinginc.com/races.asp)
• Saturday, July 19: Englewood YMCA Sprint Triathlon, Englewood Beach, 2100 N. Beach Rd., Englewood. 7 a.m. start. $70 individuals, $140 teams to June 9. (southcountyfamilyymca.org)
• Sept. 13-14: Registration is now open for the fourth annual Galloway Captiva Tri weekend. Saturday is the kids’ day with three age groups (6-8, 9-10 and 11-13) enjoying the fun of multisports. Sunday, the adults take to the water and roadways in a sprint triathlon (swim/bike/run) covering all of Captiva Island. Spaces are limited for all events, so register now – no waiting lists this year. Information at captivatri.org.
• Sunday, Oct. 5: Marco Island Triathlon 2014, Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, 400 South Collier, Marco Island. 8a.m. start $85 individuals, $160 teams (thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)
Tell us about your ride
• Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.