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Built for Bicyclers

By Staff | Jan 12, 2012

A digitized composite of Sanibel Bike Club Members (L to R) Kevin Harry, Paul Rozeboom, Phil Olsson, and Patti Sousa during the annual New Year's Day ride which had several dozen participants pedaling over the Sanibel Island Causeway. (Photo by BILL SCHILLER)

With its balmy breezes and graces of green spaces, Sanibel Island holds special allure for those who admire the outdoors. Beyond the beach goers and the crowd at Island Cow Restaurant that typically mooooves outside for lunch, on most days of the week, the climate is appealing enough to observe a variety of people pedaling on bicycles along the sidewalks of Periwinkle Way as well as other popular shared-use paths that snake throughout the City. The Sanibel Island Bike Club is in the process of creating something that will further cater to the biking community. In the coming weeks, a pavilion that serves as something of a Bicycle Visitors Welcoming and Information Center will be erected at a site situated on Periwinkle between Huxter’s Market and the She Sells Sea Shells store.

At present, the site only has some wooden posts marking off the space, but as Bike Club Member and Project Coordinator Tom Sharbaugh explains, with the anticipated arrival of the necessary building materials, ground could potentially be broken on the site as early as next week.

When complete, the 15ft x 12ft pavilion will be complemented with items that include: a comprehensive map depicting the entirety of bike paths throughout Sanibel; information on nature areas worthy of tour (courtesy of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation); details pertinent to the history of the site as well as other significant locations on the Island (courtesy of the Sanibel Museum & Historic Village); a bike rack for parking (donated by Billy’s Bike Rentals); white benches (donated by the Lion’s Club); and a water fountain, which is always refreshing to bicyclers. Support for the project has been so great that Sharbaugh calls it “a great example of community participation.”

The project isn’t costing the City anything as Sharbaugh says the initiative has garnered widespread approval from many who have donated materials to support the project.

The idea reportedly originated with local resident and respected Kiwanian Dick Muench, who owns the land. Some years ago, he offered to donate the land for the building of a gazebo or similar structure, and that bit of generosity eventually prompted the Bike Club to pedal into the project. Sharbaugh, whose career formerly involved advertising and marketing for corporations such as Anheuser Busch, says this is his first stint serving as a construction project manager, but his job has made all the easier given the variety of support.

The project was significantly bolstered by Sanibel’s former Beautification Committee which closed operations last year, but made a major contribution to Sanibel Bike Club’s “Trails in Motion” fund. Sharbaugh says Sanibel was one of the first cities in America to incorporate municipal bike paths within its infrastructure, and he expects that these will only increase in popularity as new generations of bike riders emerge in the community.

The Sanibel Bike Club, he says, has been a long advocate for use of those paths, and that’s something that should be especially appreciated for anyone who knows about road conditions during season… each bicycle means one less car to slow the flow of traffic on Periwinkle. Bicycle Benevolence The Sanibel Bike Club is involved in another important project which appeals to those who do not have bicycles, yet wish they did. For five years, the Bike Club has sponsored an initiative to collect both new and slightly used bikes which, in turn, are donated to those with need in the Collier County farming community of Immokalee.

That project is overseen by Bike Club Board Member Patti Sousa. She says the initiative came about after a Pastor from Immokalee spoke at a local church. When asked what people could donate that would be most beneficial, the Pastor said bikes. “He said this is what people needed most… to go to the store… to get to work… it was their critical means of supporting themself,” says Sousa.

Over the last five years, the Sanibel Bike Club has donated some 500 bikes to Immokalee. Sousa credits the support of seasonal residents (from Canada) Norm and Helen Flemington. The couple is responsible for collecting used bikes which, in turn, are cleaned-up and/or fixed (with help from repairman of Billy’s Bike Rentals). Next week, Sousa says Sanibel’s Congregational Church will host an event allowing for people to bring bikes that can be donated for use. She says repair jobs are typically limited to fixing flat tires or loose chains.

Donations will be collected through February. Anyone interested in supporting this project, or learning more details, is encouraged to contact Patti Sousa at (239) 395-1695.