Better get some practice before heading out on the little black ribbons lacing throughout Sanibel Island.
While largely safe for most visitors and residents aboard a bicycle, Sanibel surveys gathered for the year show that riders between the ages of 51 though 65 are more prone to injuries, chiefly due to falling, a report issued by the city shows. A few related injuries have been caused by car/bike run-ins, bike on bike, or a cyclist running into an object like a tree or a dog. No bicycle-related fatalities were reported through June.
The typical situation for an injury, according to the city, is a lone rider or small gaggle of middle-aged bikers pedaling a path. Older bicyclists aren't always as nimble as they were as kids, city officials suggest. What often happens is that riders in a group will swing towards one another, to hear directions, to chat, to share the elegance of the island's natural beauty.
Unfortunately, some swing too far, colliding. Others fall navigating, boarding, dismounting a bike, negotiating curves and crossing paths, even checking a cell phone. Because many teens and young adults use bicycles as a means to commute or play, they are less likely to get injured, experts agree. In all, 11 riders to date in Sanibel have been injured. There were 18 last year, 31 in 2011.
Jess Gaskins said anyone considering a bike vacation should first rent.
"There's balance, things to practice if (you're) not used to riding," the Gainesville woman visiting Sanibel said. "It's only smart."
City Manager Judie Zimomra said the community has spent nearly $1 million in recent years to smooth, widen, or otherwise make safe the miles of bike/pedestrian paths in Sanibel. She recommends practicing before rushing on to a trail that in season is as congested as Periwinkle Way.
"The old saying about never forgetting how to ride a bike may not necessarily be true," she said.