years, Sanibel has been the gold standard for bike-friendly communities
in Southwest Florida — or, more correctly, the bronze standard, since
that’s the distinction the town earned in the Bike Friendly Community
designation from the League of American Bicyclists.
an extensive system of interconnected shared-use paths and the most
bike-friendly folks around, the island offers plenty of riding options —
plus, in season, bicyclists can often make better time traversing the
island’s main drag thanks to the tourist-clogged roadways.
locals can either ride out to the island via the Sanibel Causeway, rent
a bike from an island outlet or park and bike from a number of starting
points. If you take the Causeway, you’ll be on the spacious (by local
standards) shoulder along McGregor Boulevard from Shell Point Village
on, and your legs will get a good workout climbing over the high bridge,
a rarity in elevation-challenged Southwest Florida.
your bike? Parking options include: all the public beaches (for a fee);
some parking at two small city parks on Periwinkle Way (Roadside Park
and Sanibel Community Park); at Bailey’s General Store (corner of
Periwinkle and Tarpon Bay Road); at the Wildlife Refuge and the Sanibel
School (both on San-Cap Road). Some require payment and may have other
rules for use, so check the signs.
you don’t own a bike, not to worry ... there are two major bike rental
companies on Sanibel that rent a wide range of bikes for all ages and
skill levels. Both are located on Periwinkle Way: Billy’s Rentals
(billysrentals.com) and Finnimore’s Cycle Shop (finnimores.com).
island measures 13 miles (as the bike rides) from the Lighthouse to
Blind Pass, with some 23 miles total of pathways. You have two main
options for riding — the commercial corridor of Periwinkle Way or the
more residential Gulf Drive, a circuitous route that winds from East to
Middle to West Gulf Drives. The two connect at numerous points — Rabbit
Road, Tarpon Bay Road, Casa Ybel Road, Donax Road and Lundgren Boulevard
— so it’s easy to create a loop that’s as long as you want.
Heading toward Blind Pass, one favorite side trip is unavailable this
summer, as Wildlife Drive through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National
Wildlife Refuge is closed for repairs. The ride to the pass is still
worth the trip, and you can continue on to Captiva (riding the
shoulders) if you’re willing to share the road with slower (25 mph)
traffic for the 3.5-mile ride.
A few tips:
Be sure to visit the Path Welcome Center (established through a
public-private partnership spearheaded by the Sanibel Bicycle Club),
along the Periwinkle path between Lundgren and Donax. It’s a good way to
get oriented to the path system and to learn a little about Sanibel’s
history and natural environment.
This is a shared-use path, meaning it includes walkers, runners and
bikers of all skill sets — so it can be crowded at times and requires a
sharp eye due to a variety of forward speeds. Those who prefer a higher
gear can opt to ride in the roadway, but there’s not much room so be
ready to share the road.
If you’re looking for places to eat or drink along your ride,
Periwinkle has the best options. Some of the other routes — particularly
the Gulf Drives and San-Cap Road — have a scarcity of shops, so plan
It’s Southwest Florida, so bring water and stay hydrated.
Finally, summer on the islands means mosquitoes — something those who
live on the mainland can easily forget. While Mosquito Control does a
good job at controlling the pests, those who find themselves popular
with the winged bloodsuckers might want to pack some repellent.
Plan your ride: Download a user-friendly (and nicely illustrated)
Sanibel path map at news-press.com and sanibelbicycleclub.org.
Looking for parks? Go here for a map of all Sanibel parks, beaches and
public parking facilities: City of Sanibel website.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition advocating for
complete streets in Lee County — streets designed, built, operated and
maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians,
bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. BikeWalkLee.org.