BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, April 22, 2021
by Ken Gooderham
It’s safer to ride facing traffic than with it.
The laws of physics, habit and the state of Florida disagree. Physics: Two bodies (or vehicle and bike) that collide head-on create more of an impact than if they collide while heading in the same direction. Habit: Drivers look at what other traffic is doing before they proceed, so if you’re acting like traffic (e.g., going with the flow rather than against), you have a much better chance of being seen by drivers. State: The law is you ride with traffic if you’re riding on the roadway.
You don’t need a helmet if you’re just riding around the neighborhood.
So the roadways are softer where you live? The curbs are covered in bubble wrap and the sign posts and utility poles just bend in the breeze? If not, then you are at as much risk riding around the block as riding across the state, at least in terms of what protections a helmet can offer.
Getting faster on a bike means buying a more expensive bike.
Not necessarily. Getting faster first means getting stronger and more skilled, building the kind of muscle and talent that comes from riding more. At some point, better (usually meaning lighter) equipment helps… but only after you’ve done all the other hard work.
To bike safely, you need a separated path – not a bike lane.
Not really. Many cyclists feel safer on a separated path – but that doesn’t always prove to be the case, due to the many hazards there (walkers, runners, slower bikers, kids, dogs, intersections with traffic… you get the idea). If you’re comfortable riding in traffic and know how to see and be seen, it can be a pretty safe way to go.
Cycling is dangerous, especially at night.
Cycling is as dangerous as you make it, but safety comes with skills, experience and a healthy dose of humility, wrapped in a nice high-visibility package. Cycling in the dark can have its tense moments, but a well-illuminated and skilled cyclist can navigate the night in reasonable safety.
Cyclists don’t pay for the road they ride on.
You mean cyclist don’t have to pay taxes? I need to speak to my accountant about this! Of course, cyclists pay for roadways: Most of them drive (gas taxes), buy homes (property taxes and impact fees), conduct business and otherwise contribute to the general tax base that funds roadway construction and maintenance.
Cyclists break the rules of the road when cycling.
You’re half right… a lot of cyclists don’t strictly adhere to all traffic laws when they ride. Most, but not all, with stop signs and traffic lights being the worst transgressions (viewing the former as a mere suggestion and the latter as a more urgent plea).
Cycling isn’t suited to daily activities such as shopping and commuting.
Depends on how you shop or commute. Bikes may not work for all shopping trips (although cargo bikes can haul a lot of stuff) or for commuting every day (particularly when it heats up), but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t bike to the store or to work sometimes when the circumstances permitted.
It’s OK to ride while listening to headphones.
Nope, it’s both illegal and dumb (talking on the phone, too). State law prohibits it, and common sense says you really want all of your senses – but especially your hearing – working to be aware of what’s going on around you.
To be a good cyclist, you have to be fit.
That’s a “chicken or egg” statement. Cycling may help make you fit, but you don’t have to be fit to start cycling nor to stick with it. It’s a lower-impact form of exercise that can accommodate many levels of fitness – a point made eminently clear when you see who’s out on the bike lane.
If you ride on the road, stay as far to the right as possible at all times.
Not always, but mostly – and not riding in the gutter, but to the right side of the driving lane. However, there are times in certain kinds of traffic and road conditions when it’s smart for a cyclist to “take the lane” – riding further toward the center or left side to discourage motor vehicles from trying to pass due to unsafe or uncertain conditions ahead.
Flat tires are inevitable.
It can feel that way – and it’s a good reason why you need to know how to fix a flat – but there are tires and tubes available that can greatly reduce the chances of deflation. Watching the roadway for tire-eating potholes and tube-piercing litter also helps.
Cyclists must use a bike/shared use path if one is available.
No, it’s not the law – and, for some riders, it’s not very smart. While most cyclists will opt for the path if one is available, it’s usually slower and more congested thanks to the many users moving at various speeds. If you’re a cyclist skilled in traversing traffic and able to keep up a pace that is not that much slower than the posted speed limit, staying on the roadways may be a better choice for you.
Cyclists slow down traffic.
No, traffic slows down traffic. Bad road design slows down traffic. Cramped roadways that don’t give the various road users a place to be slows down traffic.
Cyclists are dangerous for pedestrians.
Not necessarily, as long as everyone works together and stays aware of what’s going on around them. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians and ride both safely and predictably. Pedestrians need to obey traffic rules and be aware of what’s going on around them. But both groups are at much higher risk from motor vehicles than they are from each other.
Bike lights are a waste of time.
Not if you want other traffic to see you. Of course, lights are essential at night, to both see and be seen. But even in daylight, lights fore and aft can make cyclists more visible to drivers – particularly in high-traffic locations.
Cycling is for the young.
Really? Then why am I getting passed by all these old riders all the time? The proper phrase is: Cycling is for everyone.
EVENTS: Here’s the latest in organized running and biking events locally… but confirm with the organizers and be flexible in case conditions change and large-group activities are limited. Of course, wear a mask and act appropriate to your age, physical condition and medical concerns.
FORT MYERS TRACK CLUB (ftmyerstrackclub.com):
- Head & Neck Cancer A Hard Thing to Swallow 5K Run & 2-Mile Walk (in-person and virtual), Saturday, April 24
- Priority Business Solutions Freedom 5K Run/Walk & Gunterberg Charitable Foundation Kid's Fun Run, Sunday, July 4, Cape Coral Bridge
GC RUNNERS (gcrunner.org):
- Tropicool 5K, May 8
- SNIP Collier 5K, May 31
- GCR Firecracker 5K, July 3-5, virtual
ELITE EVENTS (runeliteevents.com):
- USA Independence Day 5K, Sunday, July 4, Estero
- Publix Run to the Arts 5K run/walk – in-person is now delayed to Nov. 20, runsignup.com or runtothearts.com
- Wheel Lee Fun instructional series for young riders. Four weekly sessions beginning July 5, go to crbc.clubexpress.com/wheelleefun for details.
The Caloosa Riders are offering member rides, but some are open to non-members (and it wouldn’t hurt you to join the club); check their ride calendar (caloosariders.org) for a description of the distance and speed, and to see if the ride is open to all.
SW Florida Critical
Mass is offering their usual slate of family-friendly rides. Check out their line-up
online (www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/) for details and times (and to make sure the ride is still rolling).
- SW Florida Critical Mass ride, first Friday of the month. A family-friendly slow night ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Helmet and lights required, meet in the parking lot at 2180 West First Street, Fort Myers.
- Sanibel Critical Mass night ride, second Saturday of the month. Gathers at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel. Lights required, helmets recommended.
- NE Lee Critical Mass ride, third Friday of the month. Gather in the Winn Dixie parking lot on Palm Beach Blvd. about five miles east of the Interstate; gather at 7 p.m. and roll at 7:30 p.m. for a slow ride through Fort Myers Shores.
- Cape Coral Critical Mass ride, fourth Friday of the month. Gather at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly night ride through the Cape; helmets and lights required.
- Saturday Morning Slow Roll, fourth Saturday of the month. Meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction.
If racing is not your thing but you’d like to support their return nonetheless, consider volunteering to help out at the few in-person offerings ahead. With Covid concerns still confining some of the usual volunteers, a few new helping hand would certainly be welcomed.
- 2021 St. Anthony’s Triathlon, April 25, St. Petersburg. Olympic and sprint event
- 2021 Fitness Challenge Triathlon, May 2, Naples. Reverse sprint event
- 2021 Heartland Triathlon, June 12-13, Sebring. Kid’s event Saturday, adult Olympic and sprint triathlon, duathlon and aquabike Sunday.