Monday, December 29, 2014

BWL Column: Safety is a gift that isn't found under Christmas tree

On this, a day of gifts, may we suggest one more? This year, give your loved ones (and yourself) the gift of safety — of enjoying a ride walk and getting home alive and intact.

We're not suggesting anyone sets off intending to be harmed or hurt when they go for a walk or a ride. But there are behaviors that can put you at peril — sometimes your own, sometimes by others — which you can compensate for and which will make you considerably less likely to be hurt when you're just trying to be healthy.

Remember, being safe doesn't have to be complicated; in fact, keeping it simple and making some of these suggestions part of your regular routine can keep you safer without a second thought.

Wear a helmet, wear a helmet, wear a helmet. There's simply nothing else you can do that will do more to protect you than this. Why? Bones heal, brains don't.
Act like a vehicle. Meaning ride with traffic when on the road (and even when not), because that's what drivers are looking for. Obey the traffic rules, particularly when there are other vehicles around. Be consistent and predictable in traffic, so they know what to expect of you.
See and be seen. Wear bright colors that help you stand out from the scenery. Put lights front and back if you're out early or late — or just to be a little more obvious to others. Signal your intentions when possible. And ride defensively … when you're the smallest thing on the road, watch out for what those bigger, heavier and faster than you are doing.
·Use your advantages — but don't make them disadvantages. On a bike, you can turn quicker and stop faster than a motor vehicle, which allows you to avoid problems by being nimble and quick. But remember those vehicles around you may not be so agile, so gauge your moves according so you don't get caught by someone else's mistake.
Walkers & runners:
Pay attention. Distracted walking is a serious problem, and when you're too engrossed in a phone call or unable to hear what's going on around you because your earphones block all noise, you could walk or run right in to a bad situation.
Anticipate problems. While bikers and other vehicles should give you the right-of-way, don't count on it — but do walk or run as if you are the most vulnerable thing on the road… because you are. And if you're having to use the road because there's no sidewalk, do so facing traffic so you can see what's coming at you and be able to react before things go from bad to worse. This suggestion — which is also the law in Florida — does not apply to cyclists, who should always bike with the flow of traffic.
Share the road or path – or get out of the way if necessary. If you have to walk on a bike lane, there's room for both you and the bikes – but you may not be able to walk side by side all the time. On a multi-use path? Be cognizant (and accommodating) of all the other traffic and you'll all have a good time. And if you're walking your dog, keep them on a short leash around other walkers, runners and bicyclists – so your dog understands to stay near and the other path users understand you have things under control.
Be visible. As with bicyclists, bright colors and lights when it's early or late make other road users more aware of your presence — always a good thing.

Make driving the most important thing you do. Get off the phone, don't send a text, stop doing your make-up and save breakfast for the table . When you're driving your vehicle, make that the only activity you're engaged in.
Obey the rules — and make sure you know them, too. There are plenty of laws about how you have to interact with cyclists and pedestrians — and they exist for a reason. Know them and follow them.
Be the better person. Don't drive like you have to get there first, drive so everyone can get there safely. Yield, even if you don't have to. Stop, if someone else doesn't. Slow down, when conditions are uncertain or crowded. Move over, and give other users their space. And, most of all, leave the rage and revenge back in the garage.
Remember you're the biggest thing on the road. Your 2 tons (or more) of steel can do much more damage to other users such as walkers or cyclists. Your mass makes it tougher to stop. Your bulk makes it harder to turn. And your speed simply multiplies all these assets (or, more correctly, liabilities). So don't drive like you own the road (you don't) – drive like you share the road (you do).
The gift of safety isn't found under a tree, wrapped in pretty paper or tied up in a nice bow. But for you and your loved ones — and all the other road or path users anywhere you roam — it can be the most important gift of all.

BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at

Upcoming events
Jan. 10: Seahawk Sprint for Music 5K (, Jim Jeffers Park in Cape Coral. Registration 7 a.m., race 8 a.m.
Jan. 11: 12th annual River, Roots & Ruts Trail Run, Caloosahatchee Regional Park, Alva. Half marathon and relay 8 a.m., 5K fun run 8:15 a.m. (
Jan. 17: Tour De Cape 5K Run/walk, is designed for advanced and novice runners. Check in begins at 6:30 a.m. Race time is 8 a.m. Starts at Cape Harbour in Cape Coral. (
Jan. 24: Cypress Sprint for Music 5K, Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers. Registration 7:30 a.m., race 8:30 a.m. (
Jan. 31: Calusa BUG Chase, to help Lee County students Bring Up Grades. 5K run through the grounds of the Calusa Nature Center, 3450 Ortiz Ave. Fort Myers. Registration 6:30 a.m., race 7:30 a.m. (
Feb. 8: Publix Run to the Arts 5K, at ArtFest Fort Myers. Run or walk, race or fun. Registration 7 a.m., race starts 8:15 a.m. at Edwards Drive in front of Harborside (
Feb. 21: Swamp Stomp 5K, Grandeur Oaks Town Center located on State Road 80 just north of Cowboy Way. Benefits the Caloosa Humane Society. Registration 6:30 a.m., race 7:30 a.m. (
Feb. 21: Edison Festival of Light 5K, downtown Fort Myers. Race at 5:45 p.m. (
March 1: Hooters Half Marathon. 7 a.m. start, course starts/ends at Hooters (Edison Mall), winds through McGregor neighborhoods to downtown then south on U.S. 41. (

Cycling & other events:
Jan. 18: Tour De Cape. Routes from 15, 30, 60, and 100 mile courses in the west and north sections of Cape Coral. The event provides a continental breakfast, lunch, on route rest stations with snacks and beverages, SAG vehicles, Police support, and route maps. All rides start from Cape Harbour in Cape Coral. (
March 22: 17th annual Royal Palm Classic. Starts/ends at Fort Myers Brewing Company, 12811 Commerce Lakes Dr, Suite 27-28, Fort Myers. Race starts at 8 a.m., 62-, 30- and 15-mile distances. Registration opens in January. ( or
March 28: Pedal and Play Punta Gorda. Details to come.
Jan. 10-11: HITS Triathlon Series, Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. Open, sprint Olympic half and full. (

Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you'd like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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