Get out and enjoy Florida Bike Month
We’re already halfway through March so if you haven’t been on your bike much lately it’s time to get out there and enjoy one of the best times of the year to do so. In fact, Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) thinks the timing is so good they have been able to convince the governor’s office to designate March as Florida Bicycle Month annually for about a decade. And considering how thick Southwest Florida’s motor traffic is — and will be until at least Easter — getting around by bike is practical as well as fun.
Designating March as Florida Bike Month (we still celebrate National Bike Month) serves a number of purposes, one being the previously mentioned fact that at this time of year much of the state experiences overloaded roadways so it serves as a congestion management option. Another is because the month of May — when National Bike Month occurs — is generally so hot that it’s difficult to get any new riders out there more than once, if that. Most experienced and dedicated cyclists know how to acclimate and adjust accordingly, which goes for the rest of the summer as well, even with thunderstorms being daily threats. But, understandably, those just getting back to biking may not be too enthused about dealing with Florida’s blistering heat in May.
Both Florida Bike Month and National Bike Month also focus on education and awareness. For cyclists, that means taking time to become familiar with and complying with the rules of the road and pathways as well as learning safe cycling techniques.
The American Bicycling Education Association (abea.bike) is an excellent resource for that information. Motorists, too, are reminded of what rights cyclists have, what responsibilities anyone behind the wheel has, and are encouraged to be patient with all fellow road users, whether they be other drivers or vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Stay Alive…Just Drive! (sajd.org) is an excellent resource that isn’t just about the “usual message” for safe driving.
Along with education and awareness efforts, some of our governments are doing a better job than others in improving conditions for non-motorists, making it easier for everyone to share space.
One of them, Cape Coral, a Bike-Friendly Community as designated by League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org), has recently been awarded Florida Bicycle Association’s Bike-Friendly Community of the Year for 2016, and continues to get the safety message out thanks to an excellent working relationship between the city, Cape Coral Bike-Ped and local businesses. Sanibel (a Silver-Level Bike Friendly Community), is a model for pathway-focused infrastructure and has ongoing safety awareness efforts taking place, thanks to a partnership between the city, Sanibel Bike Club and the island’s bike rental businesses. Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers Beach are also moving in the right direction so I’d like to recognize them for their efforts during this year’s Florida Bike Month.
Something that’s not related to bike month but is used to raise awareness year round are ghost bikes. A ghost bike is a bike painted a ghostly white — including tires, seat and handlebars — and is usually placed near where a cyclist lost his or her life in a traffic crash. Similar to the “Drive Safely” markers placed along our roadways to indicate where someone was killed in a motor vehicle crash, the intent is not to scare anyone off the road but rather to memorialize the victim and make passersby aware of the need to operate safely.
As part of Florida Bike Month’s education and awareness efforts you may want to visit Lee County Constitutional Plaza in Fort Myers (AKA Darth Vader building, which includes the Tax Office and Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, among others) on Tuesday, March 21, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. If you’re in the Cape it’s happening on Thursday, March 23, same hours, at the Tax Office there (1039 SE 9th Ave., behind Cape Coral City Hall). I’ll be there to answer questions, take your comments and will have bike maps and other information you may find helpful.
Be sure to visit BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.org) for advocacy news and active-living events happening around Lee County and Southwest Florida, including all of the upcoming Critical Mass rides throughout Lee County and beyond. ¦
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and 334- 6417.