BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, June 3, 2021
by Ken Gooderham
But if you think a little more about road design and exercise changes wrought by the pandemic, it starts to make more sense.
With rare exceptions, road design in the U.S. is driven by one main goal: To move motor vehicles as expeditiously as possible. Any other road user – especially pedestrians and cyclists – are an afterthought to the overarching function.
True, pedestrians and cyclists are sometimes accommodated in road planning. Sidewalks and bike lanes are often included (albeit often after the fact), and many busy intersections have some level of signaling to boost pedestrian safety (again, often after the initial construction).
But, in general, the vast majority of roads are meant for motor vehicles alone, designed to make driving as easy as possible.
That’s why, even when the pandemic pushed many vehicles off the road, the ones that remained were driving faster than ever. Less traffic and wide open roadways equals the need to speed.
And vehicle speed is the key to killing pedestrians, the difference between injury and fatality.
Now, add in the rise in pedestrians and cyclists thanks to the pandemic, which closed off many other forms of exercise and got more people to dust off their walking shoes or bicycles as a way to stay fit (and stay sane) in the face of shutdowns and social distancing.
It probably didn’t help that many of these new walkers and bikers weren’t up on their rules of the road, the ways to stay safer when interacting with motor vehicles.
So, more pedestrians and more speed was bound to lead to more deaths, sadly.
|Image courtesy: nhteendrivers.com|
But this should not deter you from walking or cycling even as the world opens back up and more exercise options are available to you. There are simple steps you can take to help make your walking safer:
- Be predictable: Follow the rules so drivers know what to expect. Walk facing traffic, sidewalk or not. Cross at intersections if possible, or at places where you can see (and be seen by) traffic.
- Be visible: Bright (and reflective) colors make it easier to be seen, as does walking on well-lit roadways or carrying a flashlight if you walk at night.
- Be aware: Don’t be distracted by your devices or shut off any of your senses (especially hearing) that let you know what’s going on around you.
- Be wary: Don’t assume drivers see you, will yield to you (even when they are supposed to) or will stop in time. Watch for distracted drivers whose attention is diverted by devices, other traffic or the endless quest for that primo parking space.
- Be smart: As the most vulnerable road user, you have more at stake than anyone else. Act like it.
There’s one more: Be supportive of efforts to make roadways more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. Push for sidewalks, bike lanes and complete streets – anything that helps make roadways safe for all users.
And when you get behind the wheel, remember what it’s like to be a pedestrian in the land of motor vehicles – and drive accordingly.
Summertime has squeezed local running and biking events, with July 4 the biggest bump on the horizon. It’s still smart to confirm events with the organizers and stay flexible in case conditions (and pandemic guidelines) change.
FORT MYERS TRACK CLUB (ftmyerstrackclub.com):
- Membership 5K Fun Run (untimed) & Annual Meeting, Sunday, June 13, 5 p.m., Eastwood Golf Couse, Fort Myers.
Business Solutions Freedom 5K Run/Walk & Gunterberg Charitable
Foundation Kid's Fun Run, Sunday, July 4, Cape Coral Bridge
GC RUNNERS (gcrunner.org):
- 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 Heartland Triathlon, June 12-13, Sebring. Kid’s event Saturday, adult Olympic and sprint triathlon, duathlon and aquabike Sunday.
- Fort Desoto Triathlon, June 26, Fort Desoto (St. Petersburg), sprint and Olympic
- Sirens & Merman Triathlon & Duathlon, June 27, Sarasota
- Top Gun Triathlon, July 17, St. Petersburg
- Siesta Sprint Triathlon, Aug. 1, Siesta Key
- Fort Desoto Triathlon, Aug. 14, Fort Desoto (St. Petersburg), sprint and Olympic
- Fort Desoto Triathlon, Sept. 11, Fort Desoto (St. Petersburg), sprint and Olympic
- St. Anthony’s Triathlon (St. Petersburg) rescheduled to Oct. 1-3, 2021
- City Island Triathlon, Oct. 10, Sarasota