Thursday, September 28, 2017

Irma’s debris demands caution for bikers, walkers

BWL Column
The News-Press, 9/28/2017
by Ken Gooderham

Image: The News-Press
Well, wasn’t that exciting?

“That,” of course, is Irma, which blew into town Sept. 10 and wreaked enough havoc to keep us busy for months. Hopefully we’ll see the debris piles gone in time for Halloween, and giving thanks will have some new meaning this year.

A massive cleanup lies ahead, but at least power has been restored, most stores have re-opened and roadways are returning to “normal.” The bike and pedestrian infrastructure may take a little longer for a couple of reasons.

First, traffic comes first – and post-natural disaster, it’s hard to argue that getting vehicles back on the road takes priority, However, some people’s main form of transport may be a bike or their own feet, so we hope their paths get more passable soon.

Second, there are some good sized obstacles (e.g. trees) still waiting to be tackled. Some paths were cleared very quickly – kudos to government and private workers who made that happen – while others still have large trees down that will take some time to be cleaned up.

Third, the debris removal process will be slow – and, unfortunately, some of that debris is on shared-use paths, bike lanes and sidewalks. That’s why the Sanibel path system was closed to use post-Irma, to ensure debris removal did not have to compete with bike/pedestrian traffic. (At the rate the city was proceeding with cleanup, the paths may be open already.)

Unfortunately, some of the debris problem was caused by property owners who thought it was OK to pile up their vegetation either in the roadway or on bike lanes and sidewalks. (Note for the future: It’s not OK… “on the right-of-way” means the edge of your property nearest the road, not in the road itself.) There are also some paths where fallen trees on private property are blocking the way on public rights-of-way, which slows down cleanup crews who may feel uncomfortable clearing the mess (or who may need access to private property to do the job safely).

Most people got debris removal and placement right (thanks!), but just one errant pile or large downed tree can push bikers and walkers into traffic.

Fortunately, most drivers have also been aware of this, and are working to avoid cyclists and pedestrians as well as the pile of branches in the road. Perhaps having to deal without traffic signals for a few days (which went surprisingly well, it seems) tuned up drivers’ awareness of obstacles and the need for patience.

So what should you do to negotiate debris-endangered paths, lanes or sidewalks? On foot, step carefully and be aware of your surroundings (and traffic), or find another route if possible. On a bike, ride defensively, know your limits and, if in doubt, get off and walk around the obstacle. Even little pieces of debris can mess up your balance (and, thus, your ride), so proceed with caution.

If you rode around post-Irma before everything dried up, you should also do a little post-storm cleanup on your bike (if you haven’t already). Clean and lube your chain, check your shift and brake cables (and spray them to be safe), check your tires (not all the storm debris was vegetation, remember) and in general clean up your bike so it’s ready for your next ride… hopefully in the not too distant, debris-free future.

And while you’re hoping, include a hope that this hurricane season quiets down and the storms stay away from Florida, Texas and all the other places that had a visit from Harvey, Irma, Jose or Maria.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Race options start picking up with a MADD 5K walk/run at JetBlue Park Sept. 30, Moe’s Corporate 3-mile Run/Walk in Naples Oct. 5, and St. Andrews Run for the Starts 5K at Jaycee Park in Cape Coral Oct. 7. Details at, and respectively.

Ride? Look for the regular Critical Mass rides: Friday is the Cape Coral ride at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday is the morning slow roll in downtown Fort Myers, and the original downtown Fort Myers ride convenes on Oct. 6 at 7:15 p.m. For night rides lights are required, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at

Both? You can head north (Siesta Key Sprint Sept. 30) or south (Marco Island Spring Oct. 1.) If you registered for the Galloway Captiva Tri (cancelled due to Irma) and want your race T-shirt and medal, you can pick them up Friday 5-7 p.m. or Saturday 1-3 p.m. at Galloway Ford in Fort Myers.


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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