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Bicycling mishap a rider warning of caution

By Staff | Jun 3, 2015

Sanibel has commissioned a study of its mixed-use pathways. CRAIG GARRETT

A cyclist has been deemed at fault in a May 22 collision with a motorist.

It almost always goes the other way. Some 30 bicyclists have been killed in Lee County since 2009.

And all bicyclists have a story about an uncouth driver.

Cycling groups are among the most vocal in advocating for safer roads and to caution drivers, especially in Sanibel and Captiva where bicycling is an industry.

But Lee County authorities determined that Richard Schneider on a green and white bicycle had entered into a marked crosswalk on Periwinkle. One driver jammed on his brakes, the other wasn’t as quick and collided with Schneider. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and carried no identification, officials said.

Police roadway markings indicate where a Sanibel bicyclist collided with a motorist on Periwinkle. CRAIG GARRETT

Initially listed in critical condition, Schneider was later upgraded to fair condition at Lee Memorial.

He could not be reached for comment.

Two days before the Periwinkle mishap, members of the Sanibel Bicycle Club had sponsored an island event honoring injured or killed bicyclists. Cyclists on the 10-mile Ride of Silence wore dark glasses and didn’t speak in honoring fallen comrades. Many shared stories of run-ins with motorists. The Ride of Silence was worldwide.

That a member of the bicycling community was deemed at fault in a car/bike collision was a reminder that drivers aren’t always the transgressor, something the Sanibel Bicycle Club acknowledged. While club spokeswoman Patti Sousa wouldn’t address the May 22 mishap, she did stress that cyclists need to be more cautious.

“There’s a (bicyclist) ditty that you can be right, or you can be dead,” she said of roadway crossings, adding that club members expressly wait at crosswalks until all motorists are aware of the rider. “There’s no way (a rider) should trust someone to stop.”

Sanibel police chief William Tomlinson said bicyclists in Sanibel’s 25 miles of mixed-use pathways have the option of riding crosswalks, but suggested that walking a bike is safer.

Sanibel is now in the first stages of a mixed-use pathway study. Some riders told the city that too many “Stop” markings for bicyclists in roadways and crosswalks de-sensitizes them to the mismatch with vehicles. Researchers will collect path user, vehicle traffic and crash data, prepare recommendations for improved signage and markings, including best practices in other states, and present the findings. Citizen input will punctuate the ultimate decisions.

Sanibel last November was recognized with a silver award by the League of American Bicyclists. The city in 2010 was awarded a bronze designation by the association that was founded in 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen to advocate for paved roads. The silver “Bicycle Friendly Award” recognized Sanibel’s commitment to improve conditions and investing in bicycling pathways, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies. There are some 326 US communities with the same silver status, only three others in Florida.