This week's column focuses on sidepath etiquette, following the Golden Rule--"do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." The advocacy section talks about playing "defense" in this year's Florida Legislative session.
Florida Weekly, Jan. 18, 2012
“Road riding is the last place I want to be — the sidewalk is where I ride.” No matter what the facts are in terms of safety, efficiency and availability of sidepaths (sidewalks or multi-use paths meant for bikes), many cyclists shun the road whenever possible. That being the case, there are rules of behavior there just like there are for anyone operating in the street. Based on what many of us experience each and every day, the majority of users apparently don’t know the rules or choose to ignore them. This is particularly problematic for vulnerable pedestrians who are sometimes terrorized by inconsiderate cyclists or even runners, especially those in groups. Of course, pedestrians can be hazardous to cyclists as well.
Even in a place like Sanibel, where there’s actually a good chance of getting to a destination exclusively on multi-use sidepaths, there are numerous problems encountered and that are caused by the users themselves. This is particularly true when the paths are congested with residents, tourists and day-trippers of all ages and abilities. The mix of modes is a challenge in itself: Bicycles of all shapes and sizes (including surreys that can carry as many as nine riders) and operators of varying skill and experience levels; fitness walkers and runners making their way with purpose; sight-seers on foot and wheels, oblivious to happenings around them; in-line and roller skaters who may or may not have themselves under control; unpredictable children; dogs darting back and forth across the pathway, their leashes a potential hazard; and folks using motorized wheelchairs and other assistive devices are some examples. And let’s not forget about vehicles frequently crossing the path to access driveways, as well as sidepath users needing to traverse the streets that are sometimes very congested and filled with impatient distracted drivers.
Not just on Sanibel’s paths, but anywhere people share limited space where many hazards exist, having rules of etiquette is a must. Some, in fact, are law as well as common sense: for example, warning others when about to pass from behind. Cycling at a much slower speed than when on the road, especially when others are present or expected. Paying attention to the surroundings, which means foregoing the iPod, texting and yapping on the phone while in motion. And simply being courteous and cutting others some slack, even toward those who are being boneheads themselves. On the sidepath and life in general, the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” goes a long way.
Well, the 2012 Florida legislative session has begun earlier than ever this year and those of us working toward complete streets and other measures to improve cycling, pedestrian and transit conditions aren’t quite sure what to expect. The one issue that’s dominating the early weeks — and perhaps buying some time to better prepare for the unknown — is redistricting, a task that must be completed in a timely manner so those seeking election in the fall and prior primaries will have time to take the steps necessary to qualify and run a campaign. As I’ve mentioned in prior columns, we’ll likely be playing defense in an attempt to minimize potential setbacks. It’s too early to report on anything specific, but rest assured that Florida Bicycle Association, Rails to Trails Conservancy and BikeWalkLee are working with our partners toward the overall goal of bettering our bike/ ped/transit environment. To that end, FBA has engaged a Tallahassee-based lobbying firm; RTC has a full-time staff person in Tallahassee; and members of BWL’s steering committee sit on FBA’s legislative committee so it has direct input into the process.
In another statewide matter, I was recently interviewed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which came to Florida to conduct a pedestrian safety assessment. Along with a number of others throughout the state who regularly work to improve conditions for non-motorists, small groups were asked about obvious problems (e.g. highest fatality rate in the country), lesser-known issues (e.g. misguided safety awareness campaigns instituted by FDOT), and possible solutions (e.g. instituting complete streets). Based on the background of many of the folks interviewed and the apparent interest and urgency NHTSA has expressed in helping us reverse the trend of being number-one in both bike and pedestrian fatalities each year, I’m optimistic that some good will come of this assessment.
Running/Walking: Calusa Bug Case 5K, Saturday, Jan. 21, Calusa Nature Center (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) Tour de Cape 5K, Saturday, Jan. 21, Cape Harbour (www.capeparks.com) Prostate Cancer Awareness 5K, Saturday, Jan. 28, Lakes Park (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) Edison Fest 5K, Saturday, Feb. 18,downtown Fort Myers (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) Hooters Half Marathon, Sunday, March 4, Fort Myers Hooters @ Edison Mall (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
For more Lee County running events, visit Fort Myers Track Club (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) and 3-D Racing (www.3dracinginc.com).
For Naples/ Collier running info, it’s the Gulf Coast Runners (www.gcrunner.org). Charlotte County running information is at www.zoomersrun.com. Walkers can visit www.meetup.com/Walking-SWFL.
Cycling & Other Events: Tour de Cape: Sunday, Jan. 22, Cape Harbour, Cape Coral (www.capeparks.com) Royal Palm Ride, Sunday, March 4, Buckingham Park (www.caloosariders.com) Visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, www.caloosariders.com; Florida Mudcutters www.mudcutters.org; Naples Pathways Coalition www.naplespathways.org; Naples Velo, www.naplesvelo.com; Peace River Riders, www.peaceriverriders.com; and Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club, www.coastalcruisers.net for more information on local bicycling activities, including weekly rides. The Florida Bicycle Association www.floridabicycle.org is your source for statewide happenings.