Monday, March 16, 2015

Starting our own "6ft Flag" Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign

BikeWalkLee is happy to support the "6ft Flag" Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign, a grassroots movement to help improve the safety of cyclists in Southwest Florida. This campaign seeks to raise money to distribute bike lights and raise awareness on the need for improved safety efforts for all road users. Read on to learn more about the campaign's creator and BWL Steering Committee member, Cindy Banyai.

By Cindy Banyai
Was anyone else moved to action after reading Sarah Owen's News-Press Guest Column on changing our culture around bike safety? I think it'a a great opportunity to engage the many ordinary people in Southwest Florida who just want to enjoy the outdoors, the freedom of their bike, spend time with their family and do it safely. 

I want to help us start our own "6ft Flag" Safety Movement, only here in 2015. We at BikeWalkLee want to use this groundswell of support to buy and distribute bike lights to neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and groups -- those that can benefit from them the most. I hope, if you're a parent, a concerned citizen, and a lover of our Florida weather that you will join me, but first let me tell you why I want to do this.

I moved to Southwest Florida from Japan to start my family in 2009. In Japan, I had grow accustomed to the ease of getting places without the need of a car (hello bullet train! -- check out my photo journal highlighting Japanese multi-modal infrastructure), and especially loved the freedom of my bicycle. When I came back to the US I brought with me a "Mama Chari" (Mommy Bike) at great pain and expense! I looked forward to riding my new daughter around town to get all of our daily errands done, enjoy shopping and our local parks. Unfortunately, it did not take me long to realize that the local culture around people on bikes was very different than I was used to, quickly dashing my "Mama Chari" dreams.

Ani-chan and me on the "Mama Chari" in 2011
I knew immediately I would not want to ride on the roads in my beloved "Mama Chari" with my daughter. Most traffic moved too fast and there often was not even so much as a shoulder to ride on, let alone a bike lane. So, I tried the sidewalks. This too was difficult. They are much too narrow to accommodate bikes and pedestrians, as well as opposing traffic. That, and there are several issues with connectivity (paths literally just ending seemingly out of nowhere) and many paths are in disrepair, making them unsuitable for riding a bike and leading my delicate "Mama Chari" tires to constantly get blown (and not a shop in town that really knows how to fix 'em like my Japanese friends!).

It was then I joined the BikeWalkLee Steering Committee hoping to make a difference. Since then I have been working on our communications, especially our newsletter and social media. We have been looking for opportunities to engage regular Southwest Florida concerned citizens and I think we have an opportunity right now.

So, I decided to launch the "6ft Flag" Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign. Bike lights will improve visibility and raise awareness on bike and pedestrian safety issues in Southwest Florida -- helping our policy makers understand that there is support for the much needed change to improve our streets.

We want to raise $10,000 to hand out at least 2,000 bike lights to neighborhoods, schools, and groups. These lights will be distributed through existing channels, so their use and installation can be properly explained. You can donate through our GoFundMe page or by adding a PicBadge to your Facebook page. Any and all donations for this cause will be accepted! Let's do this! #6ftFlagSWFL2015

"6ft Flag" Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign logo

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