Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Moser Column: March is Florida Bicycle Month — let’s all ride courteously
Dan's column this week provides a timely reminder of the "rules of the pathways". As Dan reminds us..."
the 'do unto others …' rule goes a long way in making our interactions better for everyone involved."
Florida Weekly, Feb. 24, 2016 "Outdoors" section
It’s high season here in Southwest Florida so our roads are overflowing with cars, trucks and RVs, making it slow-going. What better time to ditch the car and instead use a bike to get around? Reducing roadway congestion is just one of the reasons March has been designated as Florida Bicycle Month. While we still recognize and participate in May’s National Bike Month, the cooler weather this time of year is generally much more conducive to getting novice or occasional cyclists on their bikes than May, when the heat is on. From our many crowded beach communities to our very congested baseball spring training venues, using a bike rather than driving is an excellent option for getting there, with ease of parking being one of the primary benefits.
For those who may be motivated to rediscover cycling as well as folks who ride regularly, whether to avoid driving in seasonal bottlenecks or for any other reason, I’d like to provide a “rules of the pathway” refresher so everyone’s ride will be safe and enjoyable.
Bollards along pathways are one of the many hazards bicyclists face. One of the first things to keep in mind is that while it may seem reasonable that using sidewalks and other pathways intended exclusively for non-motorists is safer than operating a bike on the roads, the facts don’t show that to be the case. First off, sidepaths that are less than 8 feet wide are designed for pedestrian traffic. Also, less than 20 percent of bike crashes involve motor vehicles, with the vast majority of them being a fall from the bike, something that’s very common on sidewalks and bike paths because of the many obstacles and hazards opposed to on the roadway. Another major threat is that far too many drivers fail to stop properly when coming from a side street or driveway and instead proceed directly to the edge of the intersecting roadway, meaning they cross or stop in the pathway users’ space, creating a dangerous situation. The same goes for motorists who exit the through road without yielding to or even considering sidepath traffic. However, knowing that so many people who ride bikes will use the road only when a sidepath isn’t available — regardless of the comparative safety factors — I’d like to review the rules and etiquette of the pathway.
Whether it is a place like Sanibel, where one could get to almost any destination exclusively on the island’s many multi-use sidepaths, or elsewhere on Lee County’s growing network of pathways, there are numerous things to deal with. This is particularly true this time of year, when the paths are congested with residents, tourists and day-trippers of all ages and abilities. The vast mix of user types alone is a challenge: Bicycles of all shapes and sizes (including specialty rental bikes that can carry as many as nine riders) and operators of varying skill and experience levels; fitness walkers and runners seeking to continue on uninterrupted; sightseers on foot and wheels, oblivious to happenings around them; in-line and roller skaters who may or may not have themselves under control; skateboarders and Hoverboarders showing off; unpredictable children and dogs darting back and forth across the pathway, their leash a potential hazard; and folks using motorized wheelchairs and other assistive devices. (To experience a great example of just how crowded and diverse pathways can get visit Lakes Park on a weekend day.) And let’s not forget about those aforementioned drivers who frequently cross the path as well as sidepath users crossing the streets that are also very congested and filled with impatient, distracted drivers.
¦ Rule One: Pedestrians have the highest priority on any pathway designated for non-motorized use; cyclists must always yield to them.
¦ Ride to the right except when passing slower pathway users and maintain a predictable path except when avoiding others, debris or other hazards.
¦ Florida law requires cyclists to alert others with some type of audible warning (voice, bell or horn) when about to pass from behind; if those about to be passed do not respond it’s up to the cyclist to pass safely by proceeding cautiously and slowing down.
¦ Florida law requires lights to be used between sunset and sunrise whether operating on the pathway or road.
¦ Operate at a much slower speed than when on the road, especially when others are present or anticipated.
¦ Group riders should be sure to share the path.
¦ Signal turns and stops to alert others of upcoming actions.
¦ Never block the pathway when stopped; pull off to the side so others can safely proceed.
¦ Pay attention, which means forgoing electronic distractions like texting and talking on a smartphone while in motion; using headphones or earbuds is illegal in Florida.
And, maybe most importantly, be courteous and cut others some slack, even toward those who are being less than considerate themselves. Like life in general, the “do unto others …” rule goes a long way in making our interactions better for everyone involved.
For updates related to Florida Bicycle Month activities as well as all matters bike/ped be sure to regularly visit Bike- WalkLee’s blog, bikewalklee.blogspot.com.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
>> Saturday, Feb. 27, TALC Scholarship 5K, Rotary Park, Cape Coral (3dracinginc.com)
>> Sunday, March 6, Hooters Half-Marathon, Fort Myers (hootershalfmarathon.com)
Cycling and other events
>> Saturday, Feb. 27, SWFL Critical Mass Morning Slow-Roll, Downtown Fort Myers (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL)
>> Friday, March 4, SWFL Critical Mass, Downtown Fort Myers (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL)
— Dan Moser is a longtime bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at email@example.com or 334- 6417.