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We need to go back to the drawing board for the bike paths

By Staff | May 18, 2016

To the editor:

Sanibel prides itself on being a “bike friendly” community, but perhaps it is time to make it “bike smart.” Our bike, or shared use paths, were created as a means for local residents to get around the island. For the most part residents know the rules and abide by them. The influx of tourists, many of who have not been on a bicycle in years, presents a whole different set of issues that needs to be addressed before tragedy strikes. We are currently awash in signs along Periwinkle that mostly indicate pedestrian and bike crossings, three or four at each spot. I thought we were trying to decrease the number of signs, not add more.

Here is what has been done this past year and my thoughts on each:

To prevent bikers from sailing across intersections without even slowing down, a trial was set up at several intersections using vertical stop signs. This seems to work at the Tarpon Bay/West Gulf intersection, but it means more highly visible signs. Perhaps the ones currently on the pavement could be painted yellow to be more visible and then vertical ones would not be needed.

Two new signs at the intersection of Periwinkle and Casa Ybel that direct cyclists to walk their bikes across and a holding pen constructed to prevent overflow bikers from blocking the path while waiting to cross Periwinkle. I have seen the pen used once. The jury is out on the new sign although they do seem to be working as long as the traffic warden is present.

At entrances to the shops there are three-way signs alerting everyone to look both ways. The motorists seem to notice them. I am not so sure about the cyclists.

“Shark teeth” are at pedestrian crossings to indicate that the motorist should stop. The bikers just ride across.

Some days it is chaos out there. I wonder if our visitors are not more than a little confused as they seem to feel that on bike friendly Sanibel they have priority and subsequently cross roads without even looking. If drivers were not so cautious there would be many more bike versus car incidents. There needs to be some educating big time. The YouTube video is a cute idea, but unless it is mandatory to watch before renting, it is pretty useless. I don’t see Teddy Tourist thinking, “Oh let’s go to Sanibel and rent bikes. I wonder if there is a video about it.” Social media is a terrific way to present information, but it does not fit every situation.

The spandex crowd is a whole other issue as they look as thought they are training for the Tour de France, earnestly pumping away on our completely flat roads while slowing down traffic, but it is the group on the shared use path that are my main concern.

The bike club and the city have worked together on this before. I suggest it is time to go back to the drawing board on this issue. What about a few police officers on bikes during season? The old “cop on the beat” idea might just be the answer. They could educate, as well as remind folks about the rules of the road. They could also address the alarming number of children under the age of 14 either with helmets, or wearing them so improperly as to render them useless.

Jane Holder