Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 12/19/2018
|Bike parking is not overlooked at Sanibel’s Farmers Market. Darla Letourneau / Courtesy Photo.|
Congratulations to the city of Sanibel for achieving gold-level Bike Friendly Community status from the League of American Bicyclists, a designation that was announced earlier this month. After being awarded bronze and then silver status the last two go-rounds (re-certification is required every four years) a very strong application resulted in moving up a notch to the next-to-highest platinum level.
Anyone who lives on or has visited Sanibel Island can attest to the functionality and beauty of its pathway network. Some of the improvements made in the last four years include widening of two miles of pathway, a new path to Bowman’s Beach (one of the best beaches on the gulf, in my opinion), removal of unnecessary/inappropriate STOP pavement markings (getting that done was like pulling teeth), additional and enhanced crosswalks, repair and resurfacing of much of the network, an ongoing robust public-private campaign promoting the use of the pathway network as an alternative to driving and safety awareness aimed at both users and motorists.
Center to Roadside Park, just beyond the historical Bailey Homestead, which is accessible from the trail. It’s more of a foot trail but bikes are allowed. This nature trail is a real gem and has free parking/ trailheads at both ends, something very rare on the island. There are also many other equally wonderful unpaved trails on the island, most being within various parts of J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
While the pathway network is world-class, there remains a glaring lack of on-road facilities and bike-friendliness for those who ride bikes too fast for pathways. Although there will probably never be significant roadway accommodation due to limited right-of-way space, signage and pavement markings (i.e., sharrows) making clear to drivers that cyclists are to be expected as part of the traffic flow and an overall acceptance of on-road cycling by city leadership would go a long way.
Making roadway operation a practical and welcoming option for those who routinely hit speeds of 18-22 mph would also make it safer for pedestrians and novice/inexperienced/shaky cyclists on the paths — many of whom are riding bikes for the first time in many years as part of their vacation experience. A safe pathway speed is no more than 15 mph, much slower when congested and where frequent driveway openings exist, two common conditions on many parts of the network.
In terms of the pedestrian environment, Sanibel may want to consider applying for Walk-Friendly Community status, which is modeled after LAB’s Bicycle Friendly Community program and is operated by the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center, one of our country’s most respected bike/ped research institutions. WFC is also supported by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, a national clearinghouse on bicycling and walking funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Preparing the application for WFC status would perhaps lead to ideas and policies that would benefit pathway users and on-road cyclists alike.
Sanibel actually has an opportunity to consider applying for that designation as it begins an update of its Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan, an effort that’s funded through Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization and is just now getting off the ground. As was the case with the BFC application process, Sanibel Bike Club will be a major player. But just as relevant in developing the BPMP is the inclusion of nonclub residents and visitors (i.e., daytrippers and island-based tourism professionals who will represent non-local visitors). That vital element should include both a formal stakeholder committee (a requirement of the funds being used) and robust outreach beyond the usual one or two in-person input sessions (think online opportunities). Considering that Sanibel was able to move from being a bronze BFC to silver and now to gold in three consecutive cycles, it’s very likely it will do a great job in updating its Shared Use Path Master Plan. You can find Sanibel’s current plan (from 2009) at mysanibel.com and bikewalklee.blogspot.com. ¦
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and 334-6417.
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) 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.