Thursday, July 4, 2019

The simple joys of being able

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, July 4, 2019
by Ken Gooderham

It’s amazing how much we take for granted the simple act of being able.

Able to walk. Able to stand up. Able to do the mundane motions and everyday activities that most of do without thinking.

Losing your ability to be able, even temporarily, can be a dramatic change in your daily life. Your independence is challenged, your routine is wrecked and your world can become a smaller and more difficult place to endure.

Keep that in mind when you hear people advocate for better streets, more bike/ped facilities and steps to make more areas accessible to all. Because that really comes down to a fight to be able – on two fronts.

First is the ability to engage in exercise as the means to make yourself more fit – more able. Second is the opportunity to succeed despite your ability, because your world, your environment, is more able to accommodate whatever challenges you physically face.

Having bike/ped facilities more accessible and more inviting encourages people to ride, run or walk more regularly – the key to both getting healthy and staying healthy (or more able). And that ability to be able can mean you’re able to keep your physical skills sharper longer or help your recovery those skills more quickly in the aftermath of illness, surgery or other physical setbacks.

Biking can help your mental abilities as well. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research claimed people scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning after 30 minutes of spinning on a stationary bike than they did before they rode. (This applies to other forms of exercise as well.)

The flip side of more bike/ped facilities and more “complete” streets (designed with all users in mind) is opening up options and taking down obstacles to people dealing with physical challenges. Providing a safe place for folks to ride, run or walk also provides a similarly safe place for people with physical challenges to move about. And designing our roadways to accommodate more than cars and trucks means creating space for people to move safely without the benefit of motorized transport.

There are other good reasons to improve our bike/ped facilities, of course… to help people who bike or walk for transportation, as a recreational amenity that attractive to visitors, even as a way to boost businesses by getting people out of their vehicles and walking or riding in front of shops and restaurants (since it’s really hard to window-shop at 50 mph).

But if better facilities help people get fit and stay fit, better able to do all those routine activities that make up your average day, that’s a big boost to make people more able to enjoy life – whatever physical challenges may come their way.

Best bike cities cited

A new list of best cities for biking worldwide was recently released, this one focused on places working aggressively to make their urban spaces more amenable to bikes (and less to cars) through infrastructure, investment and incentives.

Ad you might expect, no American cities cracked the Top 20; in fact, only two North American cities showed up, with Vancouver and Montreal tied for 18th place. The preponderance of places ranked high were European, as you would expect, although Bogota, Tokyo and Taipei did make an appearance.

What’s interesting is how this particular ranking is organized. Researchers looked at investment, of course, but also the bike culture, the streetscape, the leadership – and the places where these places could still improve.

Interested in finding out more? Go to

Ready to ride or run? 

Run? Unless you got up early this morning, you missed the traditional Fourth of July 5Ks – the Freedom 5K on the Cape Coral Bridge, Moe’s Firecracker 5K at Fleishmann Park in Naples, and the USA Independence Day 5K at Hertz Arena in Estero. No other organized runs on the horizon until late July.

Ride? You can extend your holiday celebrations to Friday night by joining the SW Florida Critical Mass ride through downtown Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required, helmets recommended ( If you miss that, the next Critical Mass ride is July 13 on Sanibel. Planning ahead? Plan on joining Wheels & Wings July 13-14, with ride lengths of 15, 32, 50 and 62 mile rides in and around Punta Gorda (, The cyclin summer camp Wheel Lee Fun returns July 8 for ages 8-15 at 1941 Hill Ave., Fort Myers (

Both? Upcoming events include:


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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