Thursday, May 2, 2013

BWL Column: Bike safety campaign rolling out

 This week's BWL column highlights activities during Bike Month and the bike/ped safety campaign being launched next week.
  News-Press "Go Coastal" Section: May 2, 2013 BikeWalkLee's Column

May is Bike Month, and that means it’s a perfect time to spend more time on your bike (like we have to twist your arm), to get back on the bike (if you’ve been off the road for a while) and to join others in celebrating what makes bicycling great.

It’s also a time to tackle the issues that might be keeping more people from enjoying the open road on two wheels.

Often, first among those issues is safety. Too many bikers limit their riding or won’t even consider a bike alternative in fear of what awaits them when they stray from their safe neighborhoods and sheltered bike paths. It’s hard to argue with that: Florida ranks as the worst in the nation for cyclist safety with the highest fatality rate for eight years in a row.

Just within the past four months in Lee County, three cyclists have been killed.

So it’s appropriate that a new Florida Department of Transportation campaign entitled “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow! Safety doesn’t happen by accident!” kicks off locally in Fort Myers this month. Keyed to a May 9 launch, FDOT messages will emphasize things motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians should do to keep themselves and others safe as they share the streets.

“FDOT is committed to reducing fatalities involving bicyclists and pedestrians in Florida,” said FDOT Secretary Billy Hattaway. “We have important work to do in Lee County and the other nine focus counties across Florida. Transportation engineers and planners, law enforcement, drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians — are all part of the solution. If all of us are in it together, we can make a difference.”

Don’t forget there’s safety in numbers. So the more people who ride, the more awareness we’ll see by motorists and others to watch out for those on two wheels. These local events can help:
• May 8 is Bike to School Day. So far only one school (Three Oaks Elementary) has something planned, but this could be a chance for any student to break loose from the car/bus routine and bike to class instead. (Just make sure they have the cycling skills and sense of direction to get there safely.)

• On the evening of May 15, two “Rides of Silence” will take place (in downtown Fort Myers and Bonita Springs), part of an annual international event to honor fallen cyclists and promote road safety.

• Bike commuters can hit the road on Bike to Work Day on May 17, or expand their celebration to Bike to Work Week on May 13-17 … or consider a two-wheeled commute any day the mood strikes them, of course. If you’re biking downtown May 17, there will be a refreshment stop outside the Oasis Restaurant at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Jackson Street.

• A fun family event called Safe Kids Day, with a cookout, games, and education booths, is May 18 at Gulf Coast Town Center. Its goal is to raise awareness about ways we can protect our children from injuries and to raise funds to support local and national injury prevention programs.

Even though the temperatures are starting to rise, you can still make Bike Month a good time to bike more — and enjoy more of Southwest Florida.
— 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. For more information, visit, the BikeWalkLee blog at, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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