To the editor:
A recent letter from Leslie Alteri regarding Sanibel's shared use path suggested that "user rules" need to be established and communicated to visiting cyclists who use Sanibel's path system.
As an avid recreational cyclist who has lived on the island for 13 years and advocated for path safety, I certainly share Ms. Alteri's frustration with the crowded conditions on the path during "season." The behavior of some bike riders on the path can be very annoying.
Many are visitors who have minimal riding skills and don't understand the basics rules for safe riding. Many are drinking in the sights of our tropical paradise, focused on the kids and grandkids traveling with them, or just trying to figure out how to navigate the island. And some are just knuckleheads who don't understand the concept of "shared use." Unfortunately, this problem will probably always be with us, at least for a couple of months every spring.
However, it is wrong to think there are no existing rules for using the path. In Florida, cyclists are allowed to ride on most roadways, and when doing so they must follow the same rules as a motor vehicle. When riding on Sanibel's shared use path, cyclists are also required to follow state rules, albeit somewhat different than the rules for riding on the road. These require giving the right of way to any pedestrians they encounter, and they also include staying to the right, warning to pass, wearing a helmet (under age 16), using lights at night, and not using earphones. (However, those rules do not require cyclists to "walk their bike" across an intersection, as implied in Ms. Alteri's letter.)
It is also wrong to think there have not been efforts made to educate path users about the state rules and about other safe riding pratices. Over the years, countless attempts at safety education have been made by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, the bike rental businesses, the City of Sanibel, the Sanibel Police Department, the Chamber of Commerce and more. The rules for safe path riding have been published in brochures, posters, and kids coloring books, in weekly newspaper ads, on bike rack signs, on large permanent signboards at the Path Information Center and at Billy's Rentals, even via a YouTube video. We'd like to think these efforts have helped somewhat. However, during season, each week brings a new crop of visitors so education is an endless task.
Despite that challenge, it is good to see an increasing number of people using the path instead of putting more cars on the road. And as the path gets busier, the burden falls on all users to know the rules and to use common sense and common courtesy to keep our path system safe.