BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, November 18, 2021
by Ken Gooderham
As anyone who’s been out on the road recently can attest, traffic is up and season is here. What’s also here, at least according to some national observers, is a rise in reckless driving.
Broadly, this increase in inappropriate motoring is a lingering malady from the pandemic, a time when traffic dropped off dramatically thanks to shutdowns and restrictions.
The lure of the (more) open road brought out the speed demon in some drivers, who saw less traffic as a reason for more MPH. That was tolerable in quieter times, but the need for speed has apparently continued even as the roadways returned to their more congested state – a recipe for recklessness bringing a rise in crashes.
What does that mean for Southwest Florida? Potential disaster, as more high-speed drivers take on our low-speed/high-traffic roads.
What does that mean for SWF cyclists and pedestrians? Also disaster, at least in those areas where motor vehicles and people-powered transportation intersect. Combine faster vehicles and more reckless drivers with road design that rarely favored cyclists and pedestrians – and vehicle design that never favors slower, less protected vehicles – and we could see a similar spike in damages and deaths locally.
Southwest Florida (like many tourist areas) has always grappled with the challenges of conflicting driving cultures suddenly sharing the same roadway. When people used to driving on the straight and empty country roads of the Midwest merge into traffic that includes drivers who’ve cut their teeth on high-speed interstate traffic – think I-95 and the 75-mph moving parking lot approach – bad things are bound to happen.
So, cyclists and pedestrians, as always proceed with caution when sharing the road (or even being adjacent to it). And drivers, take a breath and ease off the gas a little – at least enough to keep your road rage on a low simmer.
Infrastructure in the news
With a bill investing in infrastructure finally signed into law, the wish list of projects looking for funding will certainly exceed even the considerable cash earmarked by the legislation.
That prompts two thoughts:
1) Along with all the worthy and deserving projects locally, we urge officials tasked with doling out the dough to remember that bike/ped facilities are infrastructure, too. When money is being allocated to maintain and upgrade existing roads and bridges, make sure there’s enough to make those thoroughfares more bike/ped friendly. And if funding can be found for a few new projects, using some of those dollars to expand and connect existing bike/ped paths and lanes will pay a lot of dividends in the long term.
A key element of the bill that's encouraging: "The bill also points to the need to protect ‘vulnerable road users,’ including pedestrians, bicyclists and others. It instructs states to map out within two years all serious injuries and deaths among them, including road conditions and individual demographics, and identify high-risk spots and possible remedies. If vulnerable users make up 15% or more of statewide fatalities in a year, state officials must spend at least 15% of certain safety funds to confront the problem."
2) The funds may be federal, but the projects they will pay for are driven by state and local transportation and government officials. Those are the closer-to-home folks bike/ped supporters need to contact to push for improvements and enhancements in the existing facilities.
Ultimately, that infrastructure funding is neither blue or red – it’s green, as in money and as in ways to protect the environment by both getting people out of cars (when feasible) and making those cars move in a more fuel-efficient fashion.
T-Day minus 7
There’s still time to lace up those running shoes and trot like a turkey in one of the many Thanksgiving Day (or day-adjacent) races locally. Check out the events list elsewhere on this page to see the many options being offered.
Those used to heading to Cape Coral for the annual Turkey Trot, plan to re-set your navigation app to get to the Edison-Ford Estates this year, as the race has crossed the river to wind through downtown Fort Myers. (There’s still a virtual option if you’re not in to in-person.)
Cyclists also get a post-turkey day gift, with two multi-distance rides set for the Thanksgiving weekend.
So whatever your choices, enjoy a group event to go with your fun, family and food.
FORT MYERS TRACK CLUB (ftmyerstrackclub.com):
- Turkey Trot, Thursday, Nov. 25, 7:30 a.m. at its new location at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. In-person and virtual.
- City of Palms River Run, Saturday, Dec. 4, 8K run and 2-mile walk downtown Fort Myers.
- SYAL Run for the Youth 5K, Saturday, Jan. 8, downtown Fort Myers.
GC RUNNERS (gcrunner.org):
- 2021 GCR Thanksgiving 5K, Thursday, Nov. 25, 7:30 a.m. Cambier Park, Naples and virtual
- Coach McGarity 5 Mile Hill Run, Saturday, Dec. 18, Marco Island.
ELITE EVENTS (runeliteevents.com):
- Thanksgiving Day 5K (two races), Thursday, Nov. 25, Hertz Arena in Estero and The Village Shops on Venetian Bay, Naples. 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. respectively
- Christmas Glow Run 5K, 5:45 p.m., Sugden Regional Park, Naples.
- Naples Fall Classic half marathon and 5K, 7 a.m., Sugden Regional Park, Naples.
- Christmas Glow Run 5K, Saturday, Dec. 18, 6 p.m., Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota.
- Sarasota West Coast half marathon and 5K, Sunday, Dec. 19, 7 a.m., Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota.
- Publix Run to the Arts 5K run/walk, Nov. 20, downtown Fort Myers runsignup.com or runtothearts.com
- ELCP Turkey Run 5K, Saturday, Nov. 20, 8 a.m., Donna Fiala Eagle Lakes Community Park, Naples (active.com)
- FGCU 10th Annual Gobbler 5K and 1-mile run, Thursday, Nov. 25, 7:30 a.m., FGCU campus (runsignup.com)
Turkey Leg Metric Century, Friday, Nov. 26, 7:30 a.m., 62- and 20-mile
routes, starts from Daniels Crossing Shopping Center, Fort Myers.
Annual Iron Joe Turkey Ride, Sunday, Nov. 28, 7:30 a.m., distances of
5, 10, 20, 40 and 62 miles. Eagle Lakes Community Park, Naples.
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..
- St. Anthony’s Triathlon (St. Petersburg) has been rescheduled again, now to May 1, 2022, Olympic and sprint
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDEHave 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.