The News-Press, February 13, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Seasons means more people, which means more traffic. This is even true on our bicycle and shared-use facilities.
But, unlike our motor-dominated highways, cyclists are usually happy to say: “The more, the merrier!” More users means more support (and demand) for bike/ped facilities and more visibility for cyclists and runners/walkers overall – which then often translates to more safety thanks to increased motorist awareness of bike/ped users sharing the road (or at least the intersection).
The only downside to more cyclists and pedestrians can be less latitude for operator error. By that I mean a moment of inattention or indiscretion can be overlooked on an empty bike path… but has the potential for danger (or at least sparking path rage) on more crowded facilities.
This is where common sense and common courtesy come into play, to keep all users safe and happy (at least happy about sharing the path). Alas, even though they should be “common,” both sense and courtesy can be illusory at times.
How can we as bikers and walkers change that?
The first and best thing we all can do is pay attention. Sounds simple in practice, but in these distractive times it can be more challenging than one would think.
However, just as we say about driving, when you are cycling, running or walking, the most important thing you should is to cycle, run or walk – period. Not talk on the phone, not read or send texts, not listen to noise loud enough to take your attention away from your surroundings.
But that ubiquitous smart phone has the capacity to make even the most sensible among us pretty dumb unless we consciously work not to succumb to its distractions. I have seen people walk into traffic, almost ride into stationary objects and otherwise be completely oblivious to what’s around them while their attention is absorbed by that tiny screen.
It’s a recipe for disaster… so please, please, put down the phone when you are in motion. That goes for cycling, running, walking and, of course, operating a motor vehicle.
If the other path users know you will bike predictably (stay in your lane, no weaving or swerving or sudden stops) or walk consistently (no sudden changes in direction, no errant kids or dogs), everyone wins. And the need to be seen is crucial, albeit less so than when dealing with motor vehicles… but particularly in lower light and busier settings.
There are plenty of other tips that can make you a safer biker or pedestrian; a simple online search will give you an array of options. However, experience often is the best teacher, so look around you when you ride or run and see what others are doing that puts them (and you) at risk. Then learn from their mistakes and remind yourself not to repeat them.
Examples? It only takes seeing one near-miss to remind you to walk or run facing traffic – particularly when you are on the same level, not on a sidewalk – so you can see that car that’s impinging on your space and either take evasive action or wave them back onto their part of the road.
Similarly, it only takes one near-miss when someone riding towards you on a bike path either is so busy looking at the scenery or talking to a fellow cyclist that they don’t see you heading their way in the opposite direction until you make enough noise to get their attention. Then you’ll remember to watch the road and not ride side-by-side on a narrow path with ongoing traffic.
Cyclists, always yield to pedestrians… and warn them as you approach if they seem to be clueless (and even when they’re not). Pedestrians, always be aware of your surroundings… and don’t just blindly expect that everyone else around you is looking out for you. Both of you, always move to the side of the path when you stop to talk, drink, take a picture or otherwise cease forward motion.
And everyone, always be a good person to your fellow bikers, runners and walkers. There’s enough rudeness and incivility in the world already, don’t feel the need to add to it when you should be enjoying a nice ride, a good walk and a pleasant time outdoors.
Ready to ride or run?
Run? A burst of activity as the winter race season hits its stride… lead out by the venerable Edison 5K this Saturday night. Lots of participants, lots of spectators, lots of traffic and road closures… so be prepared. Looking for less noise and more miles? You have three half-marathons to choose from: The Paradise Coast half/5K at North Collier Regional Park this Sunday, the City of Palms half/5K at FGCU on Feb. 29, and the Lazy Flamingo half in Fort Myers on March. If 5Ks are your preference, there the Run the Lakes for Cypress Lake Middle at Lakes Park on Feb. 22 and the Naples Golden Eagle 5K in downtown Naples Feb. 29. Details at ftmyerstrackclub.com, runeliteevents.com, runsignup.com and gcrunner.org.
Ride? Critical Mass has these regularly scheduled rides on tap:
- Saturday, Feb. 15: 2020 Edison Festival of Light Parade Ride. A cyclist awareness ride, so they’re going for lots of riders and not a lot of speed. Gathers after 4 p.m. at the Edison restaurant to ride over to the Fort Myers high for the parade. Details at meetup.com.
- Friday, Feb. 21: NE-Lee Critical Mass night ride, gathers at the Winn-Dixie, 14600 Palm Beach Blvd. Lights required, helmets recommended. Details and start times at meetup.com.
- 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. Details and start times at meetup.com.
- 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. Details and start times at meetup.com.
You can also head south for the 10th annual Tour de Marco, with 15- and 30-mile rides on Sunday, Feb 23, to benefit Marco YMCA (www.marcoymca.org). If you’re planning ahead, plan for the 22nd annual Royal Palm Challenge on Sunday, March 9. The Caloosa Riders offer a fun-filled day – and rides for everyone, at 15, 40 and 62 miles. Starts and ends downtown at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Collaboratory, so make a day of it! Online at www.caloosariders.org.
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 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.