The News-Press, April 9, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
The streets of Southwest Florida may be emptier thanks to the coronavirus… but its bike lanes and shared use paths have never been busier.
Let’s hope that people who are now finding biking, walking and running as their exercise of last resort eventually embrace this newfound habit as their first choice for fitness.
What’s driving this new surge? Obviously, closing gyms, pools and other exercise options over COVID-19 concerns has opened up the option of taking to the streets and paths as a way to stay fit. But it’s more than just the desire for health… it’s the desire to get outside and to see other people (at an appropriate distance, of course).
To those who have laced up their shoes or dusted off the bikes in response to the pandemic, welcome. We’re glad you’re getting out and staying fit, and hope you pick up a few new habits that will continue even when the day comes (eventually) when life returns to whatever the new normal ends up being.
But if you’re new to the lanes and paths, we’d like to remind you of a few helpful tips (but not too many… we’re all getting way too many restrictions in our daily lives right now).
- Act like traffic (because you are!): Whether in the bike lane or on a sidewalk, act as much like the other traffic as you can. Bike in the same direction, signal your plans to turn or stop, be predictable.
- Be bright to be seen: Whether using bright colors or bright lights (or both), your goal is to stand out to other traffic, not to blend in.
- Helmets: Smart for all, but a must for kids (it’s the law).
- Bike defensively. Assume the worst and take control of any situation – whether with a motor vehicle, other cyclists or walkers and runner (and kids and dogs).
- Avoid distractions or impediments… such as earphones, smart phones, smart watches and other tech. Doing something else while you’re riding means you’re not paying attention to riding – and that’s potentially disastrous.
Walker & runners:
- Don’t act like traffic, at least in terms of direction. Walk or run facing traffic, so you can see when someone is not paying attention with enough time to take action.
- Be visible… bright colors during the day, bright lights at night.
- Share the path or lane. Particularly with more people out and about, don’t insist on walking three abreast and pushing other users into the roadway.
- Be aware of your surroundings, in terms of other people, vehicles, threats to safety, etc. For example, this is not the time for the noise-cancelling headphones that cut off a vital sense, but for earphones you can hear through
- Take care of your feet, because whether walking or running you want your feet to take care of you.
- Stay hydrated.
- Protect your skin with sunscreen.
- Dress appropriately for the temperature.
- Make it a family activity if possible.
- Have fun!
County park closures expanded
More people may be out walking, running or biking, but they’ll a little less space in which to do it.
With the official “Safer at Home” executive order kicking in April 3, Lee county expanded its park closures to include county parks that had still been open to (and popular with) walkers, runners and cyclists. This includes the Ten Mile Canal Linear Park and the bike path that runs from Colonial Blvd. to Six Mile Cypress Parkway, as well as Lakes Park, a popular bike/walk connection between Summerlin Road and Gladiolus Drive.
So if you were used to using those paths as part of your walk or ride, you’ll need to find another route.
Ready to ride or run?
Alas, group activities for running, riding or triathlons are on hold for the foreseeable future. So unless you’re into virtual races, your real-world events will have to wait.
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.