Sanibel's Shared Use Paths and Bicycle Safety were a hot topic on Sanibel in 2015. Thanks to the Sanibel Bicycle Club for all their efforts, and to the Santiva Chronicle for highlighting these issues throughout the year.
Top Stories of the Year (#1 was traffic woes and #3 was Shared Use Paths and Bicycle Safety)
STORIES OF THE YEAR: No. 3—Shared Use Paths and Bicycle Safety
Neal Halleran, Sanibel resident and host of the BIG Arts Forum, is one of the stars of the Sanibel Bicycle Club's entertaining video on cycling safety released in June, 2015. Sanibel Bicycle Club photo
(Above) The ever-present 'Stop' markings on the Shared Use Paths are recommended for removal by the new Shared Use Path Study. (Below right) The rebuilt intersection at Periwinkle and Casa Ybel. SC photo by David Staver
Ride your bike, have fun on it and be safe. That is the consistent message from the City of Sanibel and the Sanibel Bicycle Club. In 2015, the city and bike club both made concerted efforts to make biking better and safer on Sanibel and that ranks as the No. 3 story of the year for 2015 in the Santiva Chronicle.
The paths and bike safety check in only behind the No. 1 story, island traffic, and the No. 2 story, the relocation of Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille, opposition to which heavily involved traffic. The proximity of the Shared Use Path system to the streets and their interaction with vehicular traffic makes the No. 3 story closely tied to No. 1 and No. 2
In 2015 the city embarked on a new study of intersections in the Shared Use Path system of 25 miles of paths. In October the study was revealed. The city received considerable feedback to the study both online and at a public open house at the Recreation Center. Many recommendations were in the study. Many were local to particular areas, but others covered the entire path system. First and foremost is the removal of the painted "stop" markings on the paths, which the bike club stated promote user disregard. The study agreed with that conclusion and on Dec. 1 the city council accepted staff's recommendation to paint over the majority of them in phase one.
One big physical change occurred during the year with the redesign and construction of the crosswalk at the intersection of Periwinkle Way and Casa Ybel Road. In late summer the intersection was rebuilt to move the crosswalk to a safer and less congested place and to create holding areas on the corner where cyclists and pedestrians can wait to cross.
The reconstruction of the intersection was a point of emphasis for the Sanibel Bicycle Club. It was completed with the cooperation of the intersection's businesses, Jerry's Market, Mango Bay and the Bank of the Islands.
Bicycle Club Education Efforts
In addition to the study of the Shared Use Paths, there was much else going on in the biking community. The Sanibel Bicycle Club continued its innovative approach to advocate and share the safety message when biking on the island.
In August, the bike club announced a new extension of its bike safety education efforts, designed to encourage path users to follow safe biking practices.The new effort puts safe biking messages on electronic displays in island restaurants and businesses.
The digital messages followed the release in early June of the bike club's creative and entertaining “Cycling On Sanibel” educational video designed to promote safer cycling on the island's Shared Use Path system and roadways.
The cast included Neal Halleran, Sanibel resident and host of the BIG Arts Forum; Doug Congress, former Sanibel City councilman and vice-mayor; Henry Crater, student at The Sanibel School; and Anna Nguyen, Fort Myers resident and frequent Sanibel visitor.
“Over the years, our club has produced a variety of materials designed to educate cyclists and promote safe biking behavior,” said Sanibel Bicycle Club President Diane Olsson. “Those efforts included posters, fliers and bike rack signs. We expect to engage visitors in a more impacful way before they arrive here through this new video message.”
Biking also had its share of mishaps in 2015.
On May 22, bicyclist Richard Schneider, Sanibel, was seriously injured in a collision with a motor vehicle driven by Gaeton Long, 79, of The Villages. Schneider, 73, suffered severe head trauma after being thrown from his bicycle. He was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital. The Lee County Sheriff's Office cited cyclist Schneider for failure to yield the right-of-way.
On June 4, Michael F. Raab, 64, 551 Hideaway Court, was charged by Sanibel Police for causing a wreck and injuries to bicyclist Steve Martin, 53, Fort Myers, on West Gulf Drive. Dramatic video taken by a riding companion of Martin's showed Raab speed up to pass Martin's cycling group and then slam on the brakes, causing Martin to collide with Raab's vehicle. Martin suffered shoulder and neck injuries. He has filed a civil suit against Raab.
Not directly related to the Shared Use Paths or bicycles, a pair of hit-and-run accidents involving the same man in a wheelchair are loosely related to the safety problems caused by the constant interaction between the paths, bikes, streets and cars.
Douglas N. Tabor, 64, 2007 Mitzi Lane, was taken to Health Park Medical Center, Fort Myers, after being struck in his wheelchair by a vehicle at about 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, at the intersection of Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle Way. Sanibel Police said Tabor was struck by a vehicle that left the scene while it was making a left turn from southbound Tarpon Bay Road onto Periwinkle. The vehicle, reported by two witnesses, was a silver SUV that left the scene eastbound on Periwinkle.
Tabor was the victim of a hit-and-run accident on Aug. 12. He was struck by a vehicle that left the scene in front of 887 Casa Ybel Road, police said. He was taken to Lee Memorial hospital that day in serious condition.
It came to light late in 2015 that the surreys rented by two local bicycle shops are too wide and violate the city's law about width of vehicles on the Shared Use Paths. Rather than rewrite the law, the City Council instead decided to limit the number of surreys on the island and allow only the two bike shops to rent them. Final action on that change is expected at the City Council meeting on Jan. 5.