The News-Press, 2/15/2018
by Ken Gooderham
"I am a semi-serious road cyclist from the UK, lucky enough to spend winters in Fort Myers. Whilst I am OK with using the cycle-only lanes (i.e. Sanibel Causeway), there are times when using the footpaths (which are not really suitable for road cyclist because of pedestrians, uneven surfaces, etc.) I take to the road. More and more, I am receiving abuse from motorists telling me in not-a-polite-way to get off the road."
"As I understand it, I am entitled to cycle on the road…. However, I have become concerned for my safety and now try to use the footpaths, albeit not suitable for a semi-serious cyclist. The question I have: Is there any policy to educate/inform car drivers about cyclist rights on the road?"
This is not an uncommon concern, for both visitors and residents cycling our area – particularly now when usage of both roadways and bike/ped lanes is high. So the short answers are: Yes, cyclists have a right to ride on the road; and no, there is not a formal push to educate drivers (although we keep trying).
There are rules aplenty that address cyclists and motorists on the roadways – look up Chapter 316 in the Florida Statues or check out a concise guide to bicycle and pedestrian laws from the Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org – a great cycling website overall). There are also plenty of rules that govern how motorists should act around both cyclists and pedestrians – and none of them allow for abuse and harassment.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And while there are signs and statutes warning motorists to behave (and most of them do), there’s always a few who think that screaming obscenities or endangering cyclists is great fun.
There are also a few who think the mere presence of a shared-use path means all cyclists should be on it. That’s not the law – and it’s not even very smart. If you’re a “semi-serious cyclist” – meaning able to maintain a certain speed with ease – shared-use paths are actually more dangerous than the roadway. There’s the crowded path, of course, with a variety of users moving at a variety of speeds (all much slower than you), not always in the same direction, plus there’s a plethora of intersections (driveways, roads, etc.) with motorists more intent on the other moving vehicles than on what’s coming towards them on the pathway.
That’s why serious cyclists take to the streets, as is their right. The fact that some of them fear for their safety when doing that is unfortunate – doubly so in an area where cycling should be a viable transportation alternative. (The fact that one more bike on the road often means one less car on the same road is even more incentive.)
What can cyclists do?
• Know your rights. You have as much of a claim to the roadways as other vehicles.
• Obey the rules. To be treated like a vehicle, you need to act like one.
• Know when not to fight. You’ll never win a battle with a two-ton vehicle.
• Find strength in numbers. Find other cyclists to ride with, and improve your odds.
• See and be seen. Dress brightly, ride smartly, be aware of what’s around you.
The more drivers see cyclists sharing the roadways, the more accepting (and less abusive) they will be of their fellow travelers… at least that’s the hope.
Upcoming meetingsTwo cities, two sets of workshops, means Feb. 27 will be a busy day for bike/ped advocates:
Florida DOT is holding a public meeting on improvements for San Carlos Blvd. from Summerlin Road to Estero Blvd. 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Chapel by the Sea Presbyterian Church, 100 Chapel Street, Fort Myers Beach.
The issue is an operational analysis to find ways of cutting travel times along this busy corridor when adding travel lanes is not an option. That means looking at alternatives – including mass transit and bike/ped – as well as identifying deficiencies and enhancing safety.
Can’t attend? Written comments are welcomed and you can find out more online at www.swflroads.com/sr865/sancarlosboulevard/.
Bonita Springs also kicks off a three days of visioning sessions to discuss the future of bike trails in the city.
The kickoff meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 27, 5:30-7:30 p.m., followed by an “open studio” Feb. 28 1-5 p.m. and a studio “pin-up” 5-7 p.m., ending with a “work in progress” open house March 1 5:30-7:30 p.m.
All meetings will be held at City Hall, 9101 Bonita Beach Road. For information, call (239) 949-6262.
Ready to ride or run?
Run? The biggest race around returns this Saturday night, with the Edison Festival of Light 5K taking to the streets of downtown Fort Myers at 5:45 p.m. Don’t need the spectacle? Try the Babcock Ranch Doggie Dash 5K Saturday morning, or the Paradise Coast half marathon/5K in Naples Sunday. The following weekend brings 5Ks in Labelle and Naples. Details at ftmyerstrackclub.com and 3dracinginc.com.
Ride? Cyclists can reach Critical Mass in Cape Coral Feb. 23 (night) or at the Fort Myers slow roll the next morning. Lights required (for night rides), helmets recommended. (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events.) Looking for more of a challenge? Try the Dirty Hamster 100, an off-road ride through the Babcock-Webb WMA. You can ride multiples of a number of loop lengths – 25 or 10 miles off road or 10 miles on pavement (caloosariders.org).
Both? Nothing nearby in the near term, check out trifind.com or active.com for events in the state.
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.
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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.