The News-Press, December 5, 2019
by Ken Gooderham
The latest rankings of Bike Friendly Cities (and more) are out, and Cape Coral (the only local community whose ranking was up for review this fall) retained its Bronze level of bike friendliness. It joins three other Southwest Florida communities honored for bike friendliness: Sanibel (gold), Venice (silver) and Naples (bronze).
Why is this a big deal?
It’s independent: The ranking is done by the League of American Bicyclists, formed in 1880 to promote the newfangled transportation mode known as cycling. The group established the criteria, handles the judging and confirms conditions on the ground.
It’s quantifiable: For its five levels of friendliness, the League established metrics in five areas… its “Five Es”:
- Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park.
- Education: Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride.
- Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling.
- Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users.
- Evaluation & Planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option.
For example, for Cape Coral the “Steps to Silver” include more (and more nuanced) bike facilities, a look at speed limits, more bike parking throughout the community, encouraging bike commuting and safety for young riders, establishing a Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee for the city and enhanced data collection.
However, the way the program is matrixed communities can quickly and easily see the points of progress up the scale of friendliness. FYI: the five levels mentioned above run from Bronze to Silver to Gold to Platinum (five of those nationwide) to Diamond (which no one has met… yet).
The Bike Friendly Community program, established in 1995, currently recognizes 488 communities for their commitment to bike safety, plus almost 100 more who earn Honorable Mentions for beginning the steps to win a BFC ranking.
This year also brings the biennial Bike Friendly State rankings – and Florida ranked No. 10 overall!
Since the state is ranked the most dangerous for pedestrians (according to Smart Growth America’s 2019 rankings), with eight of the 10 most pedestrian-dangerous metro areas (including Cape Coral-Fort Myers at No. 8), a decent showing for bike friendliness is a bit of a surprise.
What pushes Florida up the rankings is its spending on infrastructure (tops in the nation) and its policies and programs (fourth in the country). Holding the stat back is its ranking for evaluation and planning (particularly bike/ped safety) and for legislation and enforcement (winning a D for laws restricting bicyclists and pedestrians).
As with the communities, the League offers advice and ideas for improvement, along with kudos for past successes. One hopes information plus incentives inspires improvement.
There also are rankings for Bike Friendly Businesses and Bike Friendly Universities, each of course with its own metrics.
Local business ranks by the League:
- Acme Bicycle Shop, Punta Gorda – gold
- Real Bikes Venice – gold
- Bikes International (Venice) – silver
The next deadline for submitting to be a Bike Friendly City is Feb. 5, 2020. (Businesses and universities have different application deadlines, but all in 2020.) Details at https://bikeleague.org/bfa.
Ready to ride or run?
Run? A burst of events before the holiday hiatus: The venerable City of Palms River Run (10K and walk) is Saturday in downtown Fort Myers, followed by the Florida West Coast half marathon and 5K Sunday at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota. The following weekend brings two events – the QBE Shootout 5K and the Naples Christmas Glow Run 5K – Saturday, followed by two more – the Naples Distance Classic 5K/10K/half marathon at Eagle Lakes Community Park, and the Jingle Bell 5K at Babcock Ranch – Sunday. Details at ftmyerstrackclub.com, westcoasthalf.com, gcrunner.org, runeliteevents.com, naplesdistanceclassic.com and active.com, respectively.
Ride? Critical Mass has these regularly scheduled rides on tap:
- Friday, Dec. 6: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. The usual First-Friday Critical Mass ride through downtown Fort Myers is on hold this month.
- Saturday, Dec. 14: Sanibel Critical Mass ride (also their Christmas ride), gathers at 7 p.m. at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel.
- Friday, Dec. 20: NE-Lee Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7 p.m. at the Winn-Dixie, 14600 Palm Beach Blvd.
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 caloosariders.org.
Both? Sunday, Jan. 5: HITS Endurance Sarasota Tri, with sprint/Olympic/half distances, Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota (hitsendurance.com).
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, 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 www.BikeWalkLee.org.