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Sanibel Bike Club picks up another award

By Staff | Mar 23, 2016

Sanibel Bike Club board members (L to R) Diane Olsson, Norm Flemington, Becky Afonso (Executive Director of the Florida Bicycle Association), Patti Sousa, Helen Flemington and Fred Fowler, were presented with the “Florida Bicycle Association Bike Club of the Year Award.” BRIAN WIERIMA

For tourists, part-time and full-time residents alike, there is a way to take full advantage of biking on Sanibel by being a part of its award-winning Bike Club.

The Sanibel Bike Club has proven for the second time in its existence to being one of the best in the state of Florida, after being named as the 2015 Florida Bicycle Association Club of the Year. The group also won the prestigious award in 2011.

“Biking on Sanibel is massively important, because it is not only a recreational draw, it also helps alleviate the heavy traffic,” said Sanibel Bike Club president Diane Olsson. “We are pleased to win two now.”

The Sanibel Bike Club has over 250 members throughout the year, with all different skills of riders. They meet every Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. at the Community Park and ride together to Doc Ford’s for dinner.

Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m., a group gathers at the Community Park and take different trips to such Sanibel destinations as the Normandy, Sunset Grille and to Captiva.

Accepting the Florida Bicycle Association's Bike Club of the Year Award were Sanibel Bike Club members Tom Sharbaugh, Patti Sousa, Diane Olsson (President) and Becky Afonso, who is the Executive Director of the FBA. PHOTO PROVIDED

“Anyone is welcome to join us, the only stipulation is you have to wear a helmet,” Olsson said. “We also hold social events such as potluck dinners throughout the season.”

Board member Patti Sousa said the club draws everyone from leisure riders to more serious, expert bikers. The 26 miles of bike paths are obviously the biggest draw, but so is the social factor.

“People specifically come here for the bike trails and then it ends up being a reason why they buy here, because they want to stay active as they get older,” Sousa said. “We are people from all walks of life, but the common denominator is we like to bike.

“We have some members who haven’t been able to bike for the last five years, but the social element keeps them involved.”

Over the course of the last two years, the Bike Club undertook a big project into making a safety video for the shared used paths on Sanibel.

The Sanibel Bike Club had a booth set up at the Farmer's Market on Sanibel March 13, and had its safety video playing for guests. The video was the big reason the Sanibel Bike Club won the Florida Bicycle Association's Bike Club of the Year Award. PHOTO PROVIDED

They worked close with the City of Sanibel and developed a useful tool sharing methods to keep bike riders safe while enjoying the trails.

The video has had good exposure, which is available on the City of Sanibel website at www.mysanibel.com/, the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce website at sanibel-captiva.org/ or on the Bike Club’s website at sbcsite.altervista.org.

It also was the main reason the Sanibel Bike Club won the Florida Bicycle Association’s 2015 Club of the Year Award.

“It was a no brainer,” said FBA executive director Becky Afonso. “This particular club last year, caught my attention with their video. It truly was the best thing you want to put out there. The community was able to get involved by securing grant money ($4,000 from the TDC) and then going out and raising the other funds. The community takes ownership, now it’s being played internationally.”

It’s a model in which the FBA and the State of Florida can follow as they expand on their state trails.

“That’s the education component we have struggled with,” Afonso said. “It’s the perfect model of where Florida is going in trails in general. It is one of the best safety videos I’ve seen.”

With help from its members and residents, the Sanibel Bike Club was able to raise the $20,000 needed to help fund the video after the TDC $4,000 grant.

Also in 2011, the Sanibel Bike Club had two of its members win the FBA’s Volunteers of the Year Award, for their work on the Bikes for Immokalee program.

Norm and Helen Flemington helped spearhead the program which ultimately delivered 600 donated bikes through five years of collections to the residents of Immokalee, with the help of Billy’s Rentals, which hauled the bikes.

“It was such a great experience, because they were so appreciative of the bikes,” Norm Flemington said. “The island was raised about a half an inch after gathering that many bikes.”

Sousa added the program was such a hit, they still hear about it today.

“We still get phones calls asking if we are accepting bikes, yet,” Sousa said.

Although the season is winding down, the Sanibel Bike Club still will have its weekly rides Wednesday and Saturday, as well as its final off-island trip to Hutchinson Island April 18-19.

To find out more about rides or joining the Sanibel Bike Club, visit its website at sbcsite.altervista.org.