Thursday, December 19, 2019

BikeWalkLee: Oh, what fun it is to ride…

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, December 19, 2019
by Ken Gooderham

Love the holidays? Love to bike? Want to find out a way to combine the two?

Here’s a couple of ideas, depending on your level of enthusiasm.

First and foremost, it’s easy to make cycling part of the holiday simply by biking more often. Put the extra time off most of us get around theholidays to good use by getting out on your bike more often. It’s a great way to get around during a traffic-heavy time of year, not to mention an equally great way to burn a few calories during a food-heavy time of year.

It’s also an activity that can span generations, something a family can do together with a minimum of fuss (assuming you have the necessary equipment, of course). That makes cycling a good thing to mix with guests… either to do something together or to give some people a chance to get away from the visiting horde for a little while.

You may have to listen to your wacko uncle around the dinner table, but you can ride out of earshot when the rants ramp up on a bike ride.

If the holidays mean getting out to look at the decorations, let me share a little secret: The best way to see those lights is while riding a bike. You’re going slow enough to gawk, you can easily stop to watch someone’s lights run through their full display cycle (in the case of decorations on steroids as you’ll find in some neighborhoods), and it’s the best way to hit the side streets without causing a traffic jam.

Obviously, this works best at night – which means you need to light yourself up to be seen. This means a minimum of a headlight (white) and tail light (red, preferably blinking), with more lights never a bad idea. If you can figure out how to combine a headlamp with your helmet (which of course you’ll be wearing, right?), that will give you light where you look.

If you already ride at night, you should be set with the lights you’ll need. If you’re new to the night, your local bike shop should have a good assortment of lighting options – most of which can easily be mounted and removed as needed. These likely will have options for how they are powered as well, whether running on replaceable batteries or able to be recharged. If you’re thinking this night riding might be an activity you’ll do more often, get a mixture of power options: Rechargeables are very handy, but you have to remember to charge them and they can run out of juice at inopportune moments; batteries are bulkier but easy to carry when you need to replace them during a night ride.

The next step in holiday cycling might be to make yourself part of the celebration… by decorating your bike. Not only does this make you more visible at night (always a plus), it’s also a great way to have a little fun on wheels during this most wonderful time of the year. A little research will reveal a lot of lighting choices for your two-wheeled display… wheel lights that can fit on (or around) your spokes, string of lights that wrap securely around your frame, and plenty of options fore and aft.

The next and final step for the more ambitious might be a holiday parade. This is a growing trend in neighborhoods, with bikes and golf carts decked out with all the typical holiday hoopla – and it can be a lot of fun as well as a great way to celebrate together as a community.

However, it can also be a lot of work, necessitating some planning and coordination to keep everyone sane and safe. You’ll need to pick a date and a route, get the word out to encourage participants and parade watchers alike, and (if you’re doing this on public roadways) coordinate with the public safety folks. At the very least, the police need to be aware that roads will be full of slow-moving vehicles; more likely, you’ll want them to be part of the parade to keep other (faster) traffic at bay – something officers are very good at doing.

These parades can draw a crowd – both on wheels as well as those along the route who enjoy the decorations and applaud the decorators. And the event can expand or contract as much as you want, from a simple parade to a full-blown block party and everything in between. They can quickly become a holiday tradition as well, assuming you have people who want to put in the time year after year to make it all happen.

Just remember: Whatever you do to bike through the holidays, let the focus be on fun. That’s a gift everyone will be happy to get – and to give.

Ready to ride or run? 

Run? There’s a break in races for the holidays, before the new year (and new resolve) kicks back in. Those looking for an event can try the Marco 5 Mile Hill Run on Saturday, Dec. 21 (details at, or ring in the new year with the Jan. 5 Hooters River Roots and Ruts 10-mile and 5K run at Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva (details at

Ride?  Critical Mass has these regularly scheduled rides on tap:
  • Friday, Dec. 20: NE-Lee Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7 p.m. at the Winn-Dixie, 14600 Palm Beach Blvd.
  • Friday, Dec. 27: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at 7:30 p.m., start at 8 p.m. at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly ride through the Cape.
  • Saturday, Dec. 28: Saturday Slow Roll 8 a.m. meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction.
  • Friday, Jan. 3: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. A family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers gathering at 7:15 p.m. and starting at 8 p.m. Bring all your friends and meet in the Publix side lot at First Street Village.
Lights required for night rides, helmets recommended for all, details at

If you’re looking for a good ride and some cycling camaraderie, look no further than the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club. Check out their ride calendar and you see a ride for almost every day of the week (never on a Friday, but even more on weekends), all mapped and planned for your enjoyment. The Riders even tell you how fast (or not) you’ll need to be to keep up… click on the ride of your choice for all the details and even a map. All at

Both?  The multiple-length HITS Endurance Sarasota Tri is Sunday, Jan. 5, offering sprint, Olympic and half Ironman distances, all running out of Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota (


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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