The News-Press, February 27, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Some upcoming running and riding events will be asking motorists to share the road… or, in one case, get off it altogether for a few hours.
That can draw drivers’ ire for the minor inconvenience, but it really should make motorists happier. Why? Safety.
Safety for the event participants, of course – but safety for motorists as well. By keeping runners or riders either out of traffic or keeping traffic away from them, everyone wins.
Runners and riders have a better experience, both in terms of safety and overall. And motorists ought to feel a little relief by knowing there will be separation from the more vulnerable road users and that this is a well-run event.
Because, trust me, no event organizer wants to close roads – they have to in order to ensure everyone’s safety. And the process of closing a road involves a lot of planning and moving parts, including deputies and other public safety personnel, strict scheduling and, of course, barricades and cones – both the boon and bane of any outdoor-event organizer.
The goal of any running or riding event is safety… fun and camaraderie, too, but safety first. That’s how you build a reputation for putting on a good event, that’s how you get permits (or at least signoffs) from the public safety agencies – and, most of all, that’s how you get people coming back year after year. Frankly, killing off your target audience is bad for business.
For drivers, the impact on traffic from this events this weekend and next will be minimal – again, the result of something that’s carefully planned, not accidentally achieved.
The three events are:
- Saturday, Feb. 29: The City of Palms Half Marathon and 5K, which will take place essentially on the FGCU campus.
- Sunday, March 1: The Lazy Flamingo Half Marathon and 2-Person Relay, which runs from the Lazy Flamingo restaurant just south of College Parkway up McGregor Blvd. to downtown and back.
- Sunday, March 8: The Caloosa Riders offer the Royal Palm Challenge, with bike rides of 12, 40 and 62 miles starting and ending at the Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers.
The first thing to know is that the two runs kick off when many people are still asleep (6:30 a.m.) while the ride starts anywhere between 7:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. depending on the length you choose.
The second is that the impact on motor traffic will be minimal in two of the three. The City of Palms event will only affect traffic on the FGCU campus, which is likely not very busy early Saturday morning. The Royal Palm rides will take off from downtown, but the two longer routes head over the Edison Bridge to North Fort Myers and Northeast Lee County – on roads either with decent shoulders or limited traffic.
As an aside, if you’re interested in riding in the challenge – or just learning more about safety in group rides – the Caloosa Riders offer an excellent one-page Safety Brief on the Royal Palm event website. Worth a look for any cyclist.
The most impact may be with the Lazy Flamingo run, which will close southbound McGregor Blvd. for three hours (6:30-9:30 a.m.) Sunday morning from West First Street to Camelot Drive; north- and southbound McGregor will be closed from Camelot Drive to College Parkway. There’s a strict three-hour time limit to finish the race, which will further minimize impact on the motorists; as the last runner heads south from the West First Street turnaround, crews will follow behind picking up cones/barricades and opening the road.
There may still be time to sign up for any of these events, but if you want to get in on the half marathons check to see when registration actually closes. (Needless to say, you should also be trained and ready to tackle 13.1 miles, as that’s not something you should do on a whim.)
If you’re so inclined, the events are probably still looking for volunteers, if you’d like to sign up and lend a hand. It’s a great way to see what goes on behind an event, and the organizers will be happy to see you – since events such as these live and die on capable volunteers willing to pitch in to make it a success.
Bike me out to the ballgame
With spring training in full swing, a reminder to baseball-loving cyclists that both local parks – Fenway South Park east of the interstate and Hammond Stadium inside the CenturyLink Sports Complex at Six Mile Cypress Parkway – are easily accessed by the Daniels Parkway bike path which ties into the larger bicycle network serving that part of the county. Since Daniels traffic can turn in to a slow-moving slog on game days, those who are willing to pedal to the parks can avoid the traffic hassle and work up a thirst for a ballpark beer to boot.
Ready to ride or run?
Run? Besides the two half marathons mentioned above, this weekend also offers the Naples Golden Eagle 5K in downtown Naples on Saturday. The following weekend brings the Scope for Hope 5K (plus walk and fun run) at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers and the Baker Park 5K in Naples – both on Saturday. Details at ftmyerstrackclub.com, runeliteevents.com, runsignup.com and gcrunner.org.
Ride? Besides the Royal Palm Challenge on March 8, Critical Mass has these regularly scheduled rides on tap:
- Friday, Feb. 28: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly night ride through the Cape. Lights required, helmets recommended.
- Saturday, Feb. 29: Saturday Morning Slow Roll, meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction.
- Friday, March 6: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. A family-friendly slow night ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the Publix side lot at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor 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? If you’re planning your tri schedule, here’s what is on tap in the next few months:
- Saturday, March 28: Escape from Fort Desoto Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon, plus Aqua Bike (https://www.thunderboltmultisport.com/Events/Escape-From-Ft-Desoto)
- Sunday, April 26: St. Anthony’s Triathlon, sprint and Olympic distances, St. Petersburg (https://satriathlon.com)
- Saturday, May 30: Sarasota Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon, Siesta Key (trisarasota.com).
- Sunday, June 7: Naples Fitness Challenge reverse triathlon, Naples (http://www.thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)
- Saturday, June 13: Heartland Triathlon, sprint and Olympic triathlon, duathlon and Aqua Bike, Sebring (runsignup.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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.