Thursday, July 25, 2013

BWL Column: Five things about summer cycling and five summer safety tips

This week's BikeWalkLee column in News-Press is the feature story in today's "Go Coastal" section, about places to bike in Lee county this summer and safety tips for summer biking.
 BikeWalkLee's Column:  News-Press "Go Coastal" Section, July 25, 2013
Part I:  Five things about summer cycling 
 It’s hot out there, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a great bike ride, especially since the tourist crowds have thinned out. Here are five spots to enjoy a nice ride, get some great exercise and have lots of fun:
NP/Getty Images/Polka Dot RF
Lakes Park: A good place to start a longer ride or you can keep your ride inside its confines if you’re just getting used to riding ... and plenty of things for the nonriders to do as well. Bikes can be rented if you don’t have one, there’s plenty of shade and places for a drink, and the park connects to both the Summerlin and Six Mile Cypress/10 Mile Linear Park path systems. (click here for Map)

Sanibel: Lots of options for ride length and scenery (and even a choice of bike shops for rentals if necessary). Many paths have some shade or places to stop, and the more populated routes have lots of stores where you can grab a cool drink or get in from the heat (and do a little shopping). (Click here for Map.) 

Veterans Memorial Parkway: Not always great for shade, but a number of shopping centers where you can get a drink or get out of the heat for a little while. Mostly a protected ride and you can go as far as you like or throw in some explorations of adjacent Cape neighborhoods. (Click here for Map.) 

Beach biking: No, not on the beach (illegal and really bad for your gears and chain) ... but from one beach park to the next. (Think swim to cool off, ride to dry off, then repeat – perhaps with a cool beverage in between.) A couple of choices: Bowditch to Lyn Hall Park on Fort Myers Beach (the road improvements on North Estero have made this very bike-friendly), Turner Beach to Hagerup Park on Captiva (a wide shoulder, low speed limits and shade make this a good choice), or Lovers Key/Carl Johnson Park to Bonita Beach Park (with a bridge thrown in just for fun).

Around your neighborhood: Bike rides don’t have to be major productions; in fact, an impromptu ride can be the most fun of all. Ride down the streets you know and see them from a new perspective. Ride to a summertime event (weather permitting), and avoid the hassle of finding a parking place (but do bring a bike lock). Get out in the early morning or early evening (thanks to late sunsets), and say “hi” to neighbors you don’t often see (or haven’t had the chance to meet). Bicycling, at its heart, is a social activity, a chance to see the world at a slower pace so you can take more of it in. Take advantage of that.

Hand holding water bottle /
So you’ve decided to take a bicycle ride this summer? Here are five safety tips you need to remember:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! (And, did we mention, drink more water?) Drink early, drink often, drink plenty (8-10 ounces per 15 minutes of exercise is one common rule of thumb, and that’s assuming you start out well hydrated).

Dress cool: Cotton is not your warm-weather friend on a bike. Look for moisture-wicking materials (which draw sweat away from your skin) and things that will dry quickly. Light colors reflect more heat and help you stay visible to traffic – and wear a helmet (better vented and safer than just a hat) and good sunglasses.

Ride early: Get your ride in before the heat of the day hits … meaning get back before 11 a.m. unless there’s some cloud cover. You can also ride late when the worst heat is over, but you run a better chance of rain and should really have a light in case it gets too dark for safety. Plus whenever you ride, don’t forget sunscreen!

Get acclimated: Don’t jump on your bike for the first time this summer and expect to ride two hours during the hottest part of the day. Building up your mileage and your tolerance to heat takes weeks (not days), and always watch for any sign of heat-related illness as a sign to stop, cool down and seek assistance if necessary.

Be ready for rain: Since you never know when the skies could open up in Southwest Florida, it’s just smart to throw in a jacket or poncho to keep you dry in a passing shower. But if you get caught when it pours, seek shelter if there’s lightning and ride with even more caution if roads get wet.

 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. Information, statistics and background online at

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