The News-Press, August 13, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Today, I want to talk to the pandemic pedalers… those who took up (or returned to) cycling as a result of the coronavirus crisis. (Runners and walkers are welcome to read on, of course, but this is particularly pertinent to cyclists.)
Welcome, or welcome back. We hope your new cycling habit continues… even now, which is a lot warmer than March or April when you first got back on the bike.
Southwest Florida is great for cycling (even in the summer!), with flat terrain, generally clement weather and a goodly number of bike lanes or paths.
It’s the last item I want to talk to you about today. Typically, the biggest obstacle for most new or returning cyclists is have somewhere to ride where they feel safe. Sometimes a lane by the side of a roadway is enough, but many new riders really prefer to be away from motor vehicle traffic as much as possible.
That’s what has fueled the growth in bike paths in our area – and the growing backlog of bike facilities that are sought but not yet bought due to insufficient funding for construction.
Some municipalities are gung ho for bike/ped facilities, while others are just so-so. Outside the cities, the county struggles to keep up with bike/ped demand, although some of that is driven by jurisdictional issues as well as the cost to retrofit roadways built without bikers and walkers in mind. New roadways are being designed to accommodate all (or at least more) users, and new facilities for old roads are moving forward, albeit slowly.
It’s important to keep new facilities in the works, because that’s probably the single best way to encourage new riders as well as keep those who have taken up biking pedaling into the future. If people have a safe place to ride, they’ll keep riding… and if they have a growing network to utilize, one that lets them go where they want to safely, not only will biking not get boring, it might even convince some of them to leave the car in the garage (particularly in season) and bike to run their errands.
So what can you as a new rider (or even an experienced one) do to encourage more bike/ped facilities?
- Use them. More bikers out and about creates more of a bike-supportive atmosphere, both from other bikers and motorists as well as from government officials and transportation planners. Demand creates demand.
- Ask for them. Think your neighborhood needs more bike/ped opportunities? Find out who’s in charge of that for your area, get your neighbors together and start a drive to build or improve your infrastructure. In government as in most everything else, if you don’t ask you don’t get. It’s not a task for the impatient (or, frankly, the impolite), but our area has a lot of success stories where neighbors banded together, made their case for better bike/walk infrastructure and now have a bike lane or shared-use path to show for it.
- Thank them. One of the biggest mistakes people can make when dealing with governments is forgetting to thank officials when they do the right thing. (Giving them hell when they don’t just comes naturally, apparently.) A little appreciation goes a long way, and if someone in office or in government does what you ask of them, they deserve a “thank you” (at the very least) in return.
|School's out. Image: peopleforbikes.org|
Support your local run/bike club
For those who like organized group rides or runs, it’s been a long, dry spell since the coronavirus clamped down on in-person events. While some September and October races and rides are tentatively on the calendar, the ongoing spike in cases is undercutting the chances those will actually come to pass (although we can hope that’s wrong).
Just because they aren’t holding events doesn’t mean that local run and bike clubs have disappeared. The runners have turned to virtual races as a way to build camaraderie, while some group rides are being attempted with staggered starts to foster social distancing.
What it does mean is that a significant revenue stream for these clubs has been reduced to a trickle since races and rides (which charge a fee to participate) can’t be held. While these clubs aren’t being run to make a profit, they do have expenses to maintain equipment and infrastructure – expenses that may not dwindle even as events evaporate.
So if you want to keep these rides and races alive for the future – and, yes, there will be a day when we can meet up sans masks and ride or run as one – consider joining in one of these clubs… or renew if you’re already a member.
Members typically get discounts for events and from local bike or run shops, among other benefits. But even without that, these clubs will need your support to survive until the pandemic passes on and life returns to whatever we will be calling normal after this is over.
Ready to ride or run?
Nothing new on the race calendars, just virtual events and the promise of racing to return come the fall (Covid willing). Keep checking the usual websites for updates… be prepared to sign up, but also be prepared to deal with postponements if the rules on gatherings don’t change.
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.