Thursday, June 27, 2013

BWL Column: Enjoy excursion bike-friendly Sanibel

News-Press "Go Coastal" Section 6/27/13
BikeWalkLee Column

For 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.
With 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. 
Off-island 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. 
Bringing 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. 
If 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 ( and Finnimore’s Cycle Shop (

The 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 accordingly.
 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.

More information
Plan your ride: Download a user-friendly (and nicely illustrated) Sanibel path map at and 
 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.

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