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Bike riders after dark a safety hazard to walkers

By Staff | Aug 11, 2010

On Monday night around 9:45 p.m., Robert Coscia was taking his dog, Chloe, for a walk along East Gulf Drive.

While the pair strolled along the shared use path, from out of the darkness came two bicycle riders, neither of whom had any lighted equipment on their vehicles. While one of the bicyclists swerved into the street to avoid a collision, the other skidded to a stop just before striking the resident and his dog.

Coscia brought up the incident during Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting’s public comment portion. He not only shared the dramatic details of the incident, but he called for the city to launch an investigation into possible code violations, which he called a "huge safety hazard."

"I know that if there was a car rental company on the island, you wouldn’t let them rent cars without headlights on them," said Coscia, "It’s a real safety issue."

Coscia also pointed out the dangerous section of the shared use path he was walking on, located between Elinor Way and Nerita Street. The longtime islander stated that a narrow S-curve is located along a blind curve along the thoroughfare, which may have contributed to the incident.

According to the Sanibel Police Department, six warnings were issued to bicyclists riding without lighting equipment during 2009. Thus far this year, they have issued 10 warnings.

Commission chairman Michael Valiquette noted that he would like to see audible warning devices (i.e. bells, horns, etc.) installed on all bicycles and rented vehicles on Sanibel, while fellow planner Tom Krekel suggested that bicyclists use the official verbal warning "Passing on the (left or right) " for safety purposes. Paul Reynolds also stated that businesses and condominiums who rent out the equipment should advise their clients not to use them after dusk or before dawn.

During the meeting, Mayor Kevin Ruane told Coscia that he would look in to the matter to determine if city codes are being violated or if safety can be improved along the shared use paths.

Later that day, Coscia sent an e-mail to various city personnel, requesting an investigation of the Aug. 9 incident to be conducted.

"I guess a good question would be, how would a bike rental company obtain a license to operate or get a license renewal without this type of state mandated gear provided to the end user?" he wrote. "We see helmets worn/provided to those under 16 years of age, as mandated by state law. Condominium complexes allowing free bikes to use I can see flying under the radar, unregulated or checked. There are also personally owned bicycles, too, that are not in compliance."

Coscia suggested that perhaps the city could provide additional education and awareness for both tourists and residents.

"Public awareness might help a lot in rectifying this situation," he added.

City Manager Judie Zimomra immediately replied to Coscia’s inquiry, passing his request along to Sanibel’s Chief of Police, Bill Tomlinson.

"Every year over the past eight years, we have continued to increase public awareness through education with the Sanibel Bike Club as well as through the rental companies," she wrote. "As we evaluate your additional suggestions, we will keep you updated."