The News-Press, July 20, 2016
|Shared-use paths: a safer environment for |
younger bicyclists (news-press file photo)
“Best” is a relative term, of course. The best facility is the one you’ll use, the one that gets you where you want to go – which means cyclists don’t have a choice in most instances, since there’s usually just one way to get there. However, each has its pluses and minuses from a cyclist’s perspective.
■ Shared-use paths: These are separate from the regular roadway, open to use by both cyclists and pedestrians. (Think most of Sanibel, the Ten Mile Canal path or the Six Mile Cypress path.) A true shared-use path is supposed to be 10-12 feet wide, but in reality such paths can be far less spacious around here… so you work with what you have in front of you.
- Separated from motor vehicles, which makes many riders and walkers feel safer (and thus more likely to use).
- Separation also means less likelihood of inadvertent use by motor vehicles (although you can still find people parking on these paths even when it takes more work to do so).
- Mix of users means a mix of speeds, so proficient cyclists may be frustrated and the biker/walker interactions can get dicey at times.
- By design, they are set back from roadways, so at intersections you’re less likely to be seen by drivers and more likely to have vehicles blocking your path (since they pull forward to see traffic and don’t see you).
- Maintenance can sometimes be an issue, since they are less used by motor vehicles which tend to get more attention from road repair folks.
- Can offer a mixed bag of widths, signage, etc.
■ Bike lanes: These are part of the roadway, usually marked for bike/ped use by lines and/or symbols. (Think Treeline Avenue, many parts of Cape Coral and U.S. 41.)
- Easier to be seen by drivers, since you’re part of the road flow (not set back in the bushes).
- Better for fast cyclists, since there’s likely to be fewer slow riders and walkers using this lane.
- Closer to fast-moving traffic, which takes some getting used to for new cyclists.
- Easier for vehicles to trespass in your lane, either by accident or when drivers use the lanes to turn, detour, park or just wander.
- Works best when everyone agrees on which way traffic should flow, meaning walkers facing traffic and cyclists going with traffic. When everyone is going everyway, problems ensue.
- Better chance for debris (particularly the tire-slicing kind) since it’s right next to the driving lane and way too convenient for the stuff that’s falls off (or is thrown out of) motor vehicles.
- Some “bike lanes” are hardly more than a wide shoulder… beats nothing, but sometimes not by much.
■ Sidewalks: Adjacent to the road, usually raised slightly, always too narrow for cyclists but sometimes the only choice you have that’s not on the road itself. (Think McGregor Blvd., College Parkway, etc.)
- For cyclists, almost none... unless you just don’t want to ride in the road itself and are willing to proceed with caution. A positive note is that, when sidewalks and bike lanes are in place together, everyone has a place to travel… cyclists in the lanes, pedestrians on the walks and motor vehicles in the driving lane itself.
- Where do we start… too narrow, rarely trimmed of intruding vegetation, often poorly maintained or of inconsistent quality. You’re supposed to yield to pedestrians and motorists rarely see you coming, so it’s the worst of both worlds.
A hot-weather tip
Whether riding or striding, this time of year it’s all about timing (avoid the peak heat times of day) and route (let the wind and shade work for you, or at least give you a break along the way). Best choices are early morning (before the temps seriously spike) or early evening (particularly if you can go out after the rain passes through).
Ready to ride or run?
Run? Hot weather melts the race schedule this time of year, but there’s still a few events planned: On Saturday, July 23, it’s the Eagle Lakes 5K, Eagle Lakes Community Park, Naples (eliteevents.org). On Saturday, July 30, there’s the inaugural Black Girls Run! 5K, which will start and end at the Carrie Robinson Center, 2990 Edison Avenue, Fort Myers. (3dracing.com).
Ride? Critical Mass rides rule (but you may want to confirm the times, as summertime may force changes): Friday, July 29, is the Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at 7:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out at 4706 SE 11th Place for a family-friendly ride (lights required, helmets recommended). On Saturday, July 30, SW Florida Critical Mass will offer a starter/sightseeing ride; gather at 9 a.m., roll at 9:15 a.m. from 2160 McGregor Blvd. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction. On Friday, Aug. 5, it’s the original SW Florida Critical Mass ride, a family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix (beginning at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out) at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. (twitter.com/swflcm or http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/)
Both? Your next local tri is Saturday, Aug. 6, for the TRISK Tri Siesta Key Olympic and Sprint Tris and Duathlon (multirace.us). On Saturday, Sept. 3, head north for the Venice Sprint Sept. 3 (swflymca.org) – or stay put and be part of the Galloway Captiva Tri Weekend Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 10-11 (space still available, but the kid’s events are almost sold out) (captivatri.org).
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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 www.BikeWalkLee.org.