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Tolerance for bicyclists on the road — please!

By Staff | Mar 31, 2020

To the editor:

I’ve been meaning to write this letter for years. Last week’s irony finally convinced me.

As I was starting a ride with the Sanibel Bike Club last week, we started on the Shared Use Path (SUP) from The Community House toward the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Once we got to Sanibel-Captiva Road, we were biking at about 22 mph. Seeing a pedestrian ahead, several of us yelled “passing on your left” as is our usual custom. The pedestrian proceeded to yell at us that we were going too fast and should be riding on the road. After riding through Ding, since we were anticipating a pace of about 22-23 mph, we started to ride on the road. You guessed it – about 20 seconds later, another pedestrian walking on the SUP yelled at us to get off the road; we “should be using the path.” This is the problem facing anyone who cycles on the SUP at faster than about 12 miles per hour. For those cyclists who regularly ride between 20-30 mph, it is almost never safe to ride on the SUP. The only exception (in my opinion) is quiet/non-season mornings on the path between Rabbit Road and Blind Pass.

Let me backtrack. I live on Sanibel and use the SUP for commuting, doing errands, walking my dog and running. For all of these purposes, I am generally going less than about 12 mph. At that speed, the path is pretty safe. When riding a bicycle for exercise, I typically travel between 20-25 mph. At that speed, the paths are very unsafe and I would be incredibly irresponsible to attempt to ride on the SUP. So I do my fast rides on the roads. I’ve been called every name in the book! And I get it. I also drive on the island and I know it can be frustrating to have to slow down for a group of cyclists on the road. But please understand – they aren’t trying to aggravate you, they’re trying to be safer.

There are many misconceptions about road cycling, too. The most common is that it’s illegal to ride on the road. Not true. Cyclists are supposed to ride on the right hand side of the road and obey all traffic laws. In fact, the law states that cars must give cyclists at least 3 feet of cushion. Explicitly, per Florida laws, “to pass a cyclist with safe clearance, it may be necessary for a motorist to enter (at least partially) the next lane when and where it is safe to do so.” Unfortunately some cyclists are ignorant of the law that when they are on the road, they are bound by the laws applying to motor vehicles. They’re supposed to stop at stop signs and yield when cars are obliged to yield. If a cyclist fails to follow the law, you have every right to yell at them!

So please be tolerant of cyclists on the road. It is unfortunate, but it’s the safest place for those biking at a quick pace.

Bob Miller