Thursday, March 15, 2018

Use caution when biking and walking on congested pathways

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 3/14/18

Even when it’s not crowded, this downtown Fort Myers sidewalk isn’t a place to ride a bike. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY
With high season upon us, our roads aren’t the only place where congestion — and sometimes bad behavior — reign. Many of our pathways are quite busy and some reach capacity at times. Those include some stretches on Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Beach, parts of McGregor Boulevard and sidewalks in the core of downtown Fort Myers. While full-time residents can forego overcrowded restaurants until things get back to normal, that’s not always an option for roads and pathways.

For those walking or running the most common complaints relate to cyclists who use the paths — which are frequently narrow sidewalks only 5 feet wide — but travel fast and fail to warn when passing. Another common gripe is that motorists fail to comply with crosswalks, don’t stop before making a right-on-red or block the crosswalk when waiting to proceed.
Florida law allows cyclists to use sidewalks unless local jurisdictions enact ordinances banning it. Other than a few blocks in the core of the downtown Fort Myers business district and one side of West First Street in the same general vicinity, the rest of Lee County allows bikes to operate on sidewalks. And as far as I can tell there is no enforcement of the city’s ordinance, even though downtown is frequently crowded with sidewalk café tables, diners, servers and other pedestrians. According to Florida law, “A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances” and “A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.”

The law is clear and it should be common sense that cyclists have an obligation to proceed with caution and warn before passing true pedestrians and even other “pedestrian” cyclists. And while there’s no specific language in Florida law related to pedestrians who are running, on skates or skateboards, or those using power wheelchairs and scooters, they should adhere to the same common sense concept so as not to create the potential for surprise and injury when approaching from any direction.

Motorists obviously have a high level of responsibility because of the serious damage vehicles can render.

Unfortunately, Lee County is the most dangerous place in the U.S. for pedestrians, and not much better for cyclists, primarily because too many drivers don’t adhere to the law. It seems so many of us thumb our noses at traffic laws that it’s almost impossible to enforce to the degree necessary to get us off the top of the worst-of list. Add to that the over-design of our roads and lack of adequate bike/pedestrian accommodation in many places and the worse pedestrian environment label is what results. When our roads are maxed out and filled with aggressive, impatient, inconsiderate and distracted drivers, the problems are even more serious. At the very least, sidewalk parking violations can easily be enforced by simply observing the offending cars.

Why this is not the case remains a mystery to me and the fact it’s not addressed is among is one of the reasons we have such a poor reputation.

Like so many other problems in our society, it’s really only a few people who create them. When traffic laws are observed and common courtesy practiced, things usually go smoothly. It’s unfortunate that there are enough who don’t go along with societal expectations that our law enforcers can’t keep up, thus our traffic and especially the bike/pedestrian environment has become dismal and dangerous.¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

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