Thursday, January 13, 2022

BikeWalkLee: 5 ways to be a better bicyclist

BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, January 13, 2022
by Ken Gooderham

If I had the power to change some bad habits exhibited by area cyclists, these are the top five I’d choose (though there are so many bad habits and so little time!):

● Wear a helmet. Has to be top of the list, as it’s the easiest step you can take as a cyclist to stay safe(r). First, it protects your head and brain in a crash, dramatically reducing your chances of injuring a body part that doesn’t take well to damage. Second, it sets a good example for other cyclists – especially kids, who are required by law to wear one. Third, it makes you a little more visible if you pick one in a color that stands out and includes reflectors. Finally, it gives your head some coverage from the elements, rain or shine.

Granted, other countries don’t have the helmet habit you (hopefully) see in the U.S. They also have better bike infrastructure and drivers who are more attentive to sharing the road with riders. In case you haven’t noticed, we have neither of those here in Southwest Florida… although we have seen some progress over the years.

There are riders who argue that helmets can cause more harm than help, encouraging both drivers and riders to make riskier decisions under the false safety of a helmeted cyclist. They also claim helmet design can exacerbate some injuries, and will discourage cycling overall if it is viewed as dangerous.

They’re entitled to that opinion – and to ride sans helmet if they wish. But these arguments strike me as more rationale than rational… people make bad decisions with and without helmets, they just might survive the consequences a little better with one.

● Pay attention when you ride.
Just as we discourage distracted driving, so should we frown on distracted cycling. When you’re talking on the phone while biking, you’re not watching the road – and cycling while holding a phone to your ear is even more dangerous, since both hands should be on the handlebars. Earphones and headphones are no better, depriving you of a critical sense (hearing) that could let you know something bad is about to happen.

Pretty much any kind of distraction can make cycling more dangerous, particularly in the presence of other road or lane users. So when you’re biking, the only thing you should be doing is biking.

● Know the rules of the road – particularly when you’re on the road.
Riding in traffic? You’re supposed to act like a vehicle, per common sense and state law. But if you don’t know what rules apply to you (and why they are a good idea), you’re just increasing your chances for harm when the other (bigger) vehicles are expecting you to behave in a certain way.

Never go on the road? Still need to know the rules, since how you pass other cyclists and pedestrians matters for safety. Simply put, you need to know where and how you should ride (and where you should stop) wherever you bike.

If you always ride by yourself, with no other cyclists, pedestrians or motorists around, you can flaunt the rules all you want. But the minute you add other road (or path or lane) users into the mix, everyone needs to know what’s expected of them in order for everyone to be safer.

● Work harder at being visible and predictable. This is particularly problematic this time of year, with more cyclists (and motorists) and less daylight.

Visibility matters simply as a way for others to see you as you ride, rather than looking past you or (worse) acting like you’re not there at all. Bright colors and bright lights help you stand out from the scenery in the daylight – and help you stand out period in the dusk or dark.

Predictability is taking your obligation as a road user seriously, as well as making it easier for other road users to interact safely with you. Riding in a straight line, stopping when required (not just desired), signaling your intentions (instead of just leaving them guessing) and all the other rules just make it easier for everyone to get on with their day in safety.

Preventive maintenance is your friend. There are a few basic steps you can take before every (or almost every) ride that help to improve your chances of making back without incident… yet too many riders ignore them in the belief that bikes will naturally heal themselves. (They won’t.)

You check the air pressure and tread on your tires to avoid a flat, unless you really like doing roadside repairs. You check the brakes to ensure they’ll stop you as expected. You lube the chain (and anything else that’s squeaking) so it will continue to operate as planned. If you use lights (and you should), you make sure they are working and are charged up enough.

Every now and again (annually is nice), have someone else check out your ride for the things you don’t know to look at (or don’t know how to fix). Cycling is way more fun when you spend more time riding than repairing.

If you’re still planning to ride at night, in dark attire, without lights and helmet, on a poorly lit road shoulder heading into (rather than with) traffic, so be it. Maybe you’ll forget to check your tires and end up with a flat before anything really bad happens to you.

Variant variables

As events (particularly running) are ramping up, so too is the next Covid wave. Aside from whatever precautions you feel necessary to take to protect (or not) your health, make sure to confirm that any races on your schedule are actually being held on the day planned – particularly in January and February, when Omicron is likely to peak in our area. With more racers (and, more critically volunteers) at risk of catching the next iteration, race organizers may need to make some last-minute decisions to ensure their events can go off as planned.




  • Metro-McGregor Kiwanis BUG Chase 5K, Saturday, Jan. 22, Calusa Nature Center, Fort Myers.
  • SYAL Run for the Youth 5K, Saturday, Jan. 29 (postponed from Jan. 8), downtown Fort Myers.
  • Strides for Education 5K, 7:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 5, Florida Southwest State College, Fort Myers.
  • Edison Festival of Light Junior Fun Run (distance varies by age), noon, Sunday, Feb. 13, downtown Fort Myers.
  • Edison Festival of Light 5K, Saturday, Feb. 19, 5:45 p.m., downtown Fort Myers.
  • Hooters River Roots & Ruts 10 Mile Trail Run, Sunday, March 6, Caloosahatchee Regional Park, Alva.
  • Scope for Hope 5K & 2 Mile Walk, Saturday, March 26, Jaycee Park, Cape Coral.


  • Naples Daily News Half Marathon, 7 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 16, downtown Naples.
  • Run for the Paws 5K (dogs welcomed), Saturday, Jan. 29, Civil Air Patrol, Naples.
  • Picayune 10 Miler, Saturday, Feb. 12, Sabal Palm Hiking Trail, Naples.
  • Naples Golden Eagle 5K, Saturday, Feb. 19, Lowdermilk Park, Naples


  • Venice Half Marathon & 5K, Saturday, Feb. 19, 6:30 a.m., Maxine Barritt Park, Venice.
  • Fort Myers City of Palms Half Marathon & 5K, Saturday March 5, 6:30 a.m., FGCU campus.
  • Punta Gorda Half Marathon & 5K, Saturday, March 12, 6:30 a.m., Lashley Park.


  • Tour de Cape 5K Run/Walk, Saturday, Jan. 22, Cape Coral (
  • I Love The 80s 5K, Sunday, Feb. 6, North Collier Regional Park (
  • Yo! Taco Shrimp 5K Run, Saturday, March 12, presented by Cypress Lake Athletics, Doc Fords, Fort Myers Beach (
  • 70s Disco 5K, Saturday, March 5, North Collier Regional Park, Naples (
  • Average Joe 5K Run (you finish in the middle of the pack to win it), Sunday, April 10, North Collier Regional Park, Naples (


  • Tour de Cape, Sunday, Jan. 23, rides of 15, 30, 62 and 100 miles, starting from Cape Harbour (
  • Royal Palm Challenge, Saturday, March 12, from the Collaboratory, downtown Fort Myers. Registration and more information coming soon.
  • Broken 100 ride, Sunday, March 27, from Winn Dixie at Colonial Blvd. and Treeline Ave., Fort Myers.

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 ( 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 ( 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 (



Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, 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


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