Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, August 14, 2019
|On Captiva Island, cactus and Spanish bayonets intrude into the paved shoulder that serves as an unmarked bike lane. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY|
Biking to the store recently and getting drenched by a downpour, I was reminded that while it’s great to get outside to and use our own power to get around, our natural and built environment is fraught with its own challenges. Weather is one obvious example. But there are many things that present hazards other than Mother Nature.
I’m an animal lover but dogs can be a problem. A leashed dog whose owner isn’t paying attention or is oblivious to the hazard they can create can easily take a person on a bike down by entangling them or causing an evasive maneuver that goes awry. The dog itself usually isn’t the problem when this occurs but rather the owner. Dogs behind fences have startled me many times when running or walking along a fence. Worse is when they’re behind an unmarked invisible fence and come dashing toward you. In fact, my wife, Maria, was bitten by a dog that breeched its invisible fence so those devices do not always perform as they claim.
Aggressive dogs allowed to run loose or who “get out” are another story altogether. I’ve been chased by packs of dogs when bike riding and running in rural areas.
|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
Squirrels, in particular, can cause bicyclists to have to brake hard or make a quick evasive maneuver that may result in a crash. I’ve experienced their antics a number of times. Fortunately, I never crashed or flew over my handlebars as a result (it helps that my top speed is 15 mph). Certain bird species that nest in trees near sidewalks and other pathways can get quite aggressive during breeding season. More than once I’ve been dive-bombed when running or walking by trees in which their eggs must be. And I’ve seen signs posted warning of such activity. Snakes are more common on unpaved surfaces versus paved ones and they usually aren’t a threat but I’ve had to make a U-turn or change my route on two occasions when I encountered rattlesnakes that blocked the way. Both incidents were on unpaved trails but one was in an urban setting.
Landscaping can be quite daunting as well. It can physically block the way and be a visual obstacle. But it can injure as well. Spanish bayonets, bougainvillea and similar thorny plants have no place being planted adjacent to where people walk, run or ride. One example is the Whiskey Creek wall along Summerlin’s pathway that frequently has thorny bougainvillea overflowing the wall into pathway users’ space. Another is on Captiva where Spanish bayonets and other cacti in the county right of way intrude into the paved shoulder that serves as an unmarked bike lane.
McGregor Boulevard’s royal palms are indeed beautiful but they act as problematic visual obstacles for drivers and nonmotorists alike. Falling palm fronds from them could easily cause serious injury if they land on a sidewalk user. Coconuts from coconut palms overhanging pathways can be just as dangerous. I’ve seen many fronds and coconuts crash onto the sidewalk over the years, and not just on McGregor. Stay alert and don’t wear headphones or earbuds because hearing them as they break loose is sometimes the only warning you’ll get.
To learn about this topic and more, visit bikewalklee.blogspot.com and www.streetsaliveswfl.org.¦
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.