Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to make traffic less terrifying

BWL Column
The News-Press, 8/3/2017
by Ken Gooderham

Are you a cyclist who’s afraid of traffic? Well, you’re not alone… there are a lot of bike riders who go out of their way (or don’t go out at all) to avoid mixing it up with motor vehicles.

But avoiding cars and trucks isn’t always feasible, so there will be times when there’s no getting around getting into traffic. What can you do to make that a safer and less stressful situation?

  • Bike defensively. Assume that an oncoming vehicle will do something you won’t like and be prepared to avoid it. This doesn’t mean riding in a perpetual state of fear, but it does mean paying  a lot of attention to the vehicles around you and what hazards they could pose. Usually, nothing will happen… but better to be ready than to be taken by surprise.
  • Plan your ride routes to minimize motor vehicles… or to maximize safer facilities. Don’t pick busy streets unless you have no other choice. Do pick roadways with well-designed bike/ped facilities, where there’s room for everyone to travel. Know your options and pick roads with more room or less traffic.
  • Act like the vehicle operator you are. Ride with traffic (it’s the law), where drivers are more likely to see you. Signal your intentions when around other vehicles (that means bikes, too). Remember your limitations as a vehicle (no protection, say) and your strengths (faster to stop and more maneuverable, for example).
  • Be aware. Pay attention to what’s going on around you so, no cell phones) and use all your senses – meaning no earphones(it’s the law).
  • Be visible. In traffic the last thing you want to do is blend in. Wear bright colors, have flashing lights… whatever it takes to be seen by drivers. (Oh, and wear a helmet, OK?)
  • Be predictable. Ride steady and straight, don’t swerve into another vehicle’s path or ignore a traffic signal… as the more vulnerable vehicle, you’ll never win any of those interactions.
  • Be in charge. Don’t assume the other guy will stop in time or stay out of your way. If something goes awry, stop and wait for the offending vehicle to move on.
  • Be friendly. Wave at motorists who do the right thing. Make eye contact with drivers so you know they see you.
  • Be smart. If someone is driving or acting like a jerk, don’t engage them. You need to be the bigger person since they’re operating the bigger vehicle. Reporting an incident is always an option.

All this may never make riding in traffic a welcome experience, but they can make it a safe one. They will also give you skills you’ll need to use your bike as transportation, not just recreation – which can also be a good thing for your life (and health and waistline and wallet, etc.).

Bikes, cars and trucks can coexist on the same roadway – particularly ones designed for everyone to have a safe space. (Those kinds of “complete streets” really are safer for all – even motorists.) And if you approach riding in traffic with the right attitude – that you have a right to be there, but that right comes with responsibility – the experience can be a good one for all involved.

School’s back!

Next Thursday marks the start of another school year… and back to school means students will be back on the streets. Whether waiting for the bus or riding or walking their way to school, expect to see more kids out and about.

That means motorists must be more watchful both early morning and later afternoons, both for students along the roads and walkways, and for the buses picking them up. Watch for the school bus’s red lights and, unless you’re on a roadway divided with “a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide,” be prepared to stop.

A good time to trim

Summer rains bring summer growth… and soon your yard looks like a jungle as the tropical plants take over.

While you’re staying busy staying ahead of the vegetation, be sure to take a look at any trees or bushes you have adjacent to trafficways – bike, pedestrian or motorized.


Makes it safer for everyone… bikers and walkers can ride or walk safely on the sidewalk or bike path, and motorists can see what’s coming if the overgrowth is under control.

Makes it better for your plants… since, if vegetation impinges on a public road, sidewalk, bike path or other right-of-way, DOT (or some government agency) has the responsibility to keep that right-of-way clear. When they cut, they work to clear out vegetation first… not always the best for your plants.

So keep the way clear and trim your trees and bushes.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? There’s a Cape Coral 5K on Saturday ( at Jaycee Park. Later in the month, look for the North Collier Regional Rampage 5K on Aug. 29 (

Ride? You’ll always have Critical Mass rides: Saturday is the fourth anniversary downtown Fort Myers ride, starting at 5 p.m.; Aug. 11 is the NE Lee ride, followed on Aug. 12 with the Sanibel ride. The cycle finishes with the Estero Ride on Aug. 18. For night rides lights are required, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at

Willing to drive a little? There’s Tri Sarasota (sprint and international) on Saturday, and Tri at Siesta Key (sprint and super-sprint) Sunday. Nearby, there’s the Naples Junior Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 12, at North Collier Regional Park (, and the Galloway Captiva Tri weekend Sept. 9-10… kids events in three age groups on Saturday and the adult sprint on Sunday (


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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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