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Missy Layfield - Editor

Yikes! Bikes!

One more near miss in the dark. A bike moving at around 10-12 mph on Estero is quickly overtaken by a car going 35mph. In broad daylight, the vehicle driver has time to see the bike and move over, giving them at least the 3 feet called for by Florida law.

That same law calls for front and rear lights after dark on all bicycles operated on a roadway. I see precious few lights on bikes after dark on Estero Blvd. I also don't see reflectors, though recently, pedal reflectors were the only things that saved a bicyclist riding in the road in the dark wearing dark clothing—in other words, he was, for all practical purposes, invisible. He has no idea how close he came to being one more Lee County accident statistic.

Our streets are really dark. Its difficult for many drivers to see bikes and pedestrians in the dark. Especially when theyre driving south on Estero facing a long line of headlights impairing their night vision. When dark clothing is worn and no light is used, those pedestrians and bikes become part of the very dark background. Riding on the shoulder does not make it ok to not have lights.

I understand that for some people a bike is their only means of transportation. People work late hours and its dark when they have to ride home. A bike is cheap transportation. Lights are expensive and easy to steal. All true.

Ive ridden thousands of miles on bikes. I am a fan of bike riding for a lot of reasons. This is not a diatribe against bikes using the roads. Bikes have a right to be on the road. But I sure would like to see a little more care taken by bike riders in our community, especially after dark.

Cyclists face danger from vehicles anytime theyre on the road and I will not minimize the danger cyclists face from inattentive, angry and distracted drivers. My purpose here is to urge cyclists in our community to focus on their own safety by being aware of cycling law and following it.

While bikes have a right to be on the roadway, they have to follow the law and that includes riding in the same direction as traffic and using lights after dark. If riders cant or wont follow those rules, they need to be off the road and on the sidewalk, which has its own hazards.

Pedestrians and bike riders tend to think that drivers can see what they see. The flaw in that logic, especially at night, is that the driver is moving much faster and must see and process what they see faster than the walker or bike rider. Just because you can see the car approaching with its headlights on, doesnt mean the driver of that car can see you. And being seen is the secret to staying alive on our roads.

Visitors often use rented bikes. Are bike rental vendors required to tell people who rent bikes that they must use a front and rear light to ride on the road after dark? If not, why not? Do vacation rental owners and agents who provide bikes explain this simple life-saving law?

And while were on the topic of bike safety, why so few helmets? Dont ride fast enough to need one? Dont want to mess up your hair? Think they look dorky? Doesnt fit with your image of a carefree beach life? All pathetic reasons to risk your brain.

Sitting on a bicycle seat, your head is about 5-6 feet from the ground. That distance is more than enough to cause a head injury were you to fall. Add in an easy bike pace of 10-12 mph and youve increased the force to your head as it bounces off the pavement. Brain injury is a terrible thing, often permanent and life-altering. Wear a helmet.

Florida state law requires all kids under age 16 to wear a helmet, though I see very few on kidsheads. And have never understood the family bike ride with kids with helmets and parents without. Im pretty sure the message is being received loud and clear by those kids. ‘Just as soon as I'm old enough, Im not wearing this helmet because Mom and Dad dont wear one.

Again, do bike rental vendors or vacation properties provide helmets? If not, why not?

Kudos to all the groups that gave away bikes AND helmets this past Christmas! Pairing them together is a strong & smart safety message!

As a vacation destination, we want our visitors to see our Island as a corner of paradise. We are so successful in that quest that many visitors seem to believe that while theyre here, nothing bad can happen. They are somehow protected by a mythical vacation bubble of perfection that surrounds them.

Alas, we fall short of that perfection. We have traffic, crime and the laws of physics still apply. If you get hit by a car here or fall off that bike, that trip to the emergency room is going to be one heck of a wake-up call.

So, lets encourage everyone, resident and visitor to be safe. Watch for traffic. Be visible to drivers. Use crosswalks and make eye contact with drivers. Be aware of and follow bike laws.

When Estero Blvd is completed, our Island is going to have beautiful bike paths for a good portion of the new road. Now would be a great time to start raising our safety IQ as it pertains to bike riding.

Get a helmet and some lights on your bike and use them!

Missy Layfield