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Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in FBA | 0 comments

A Saturday with Sanibel

Today we present a special article courtesy of the BikeWalkLee blog on our recent Board of Directors meeting held in Fort Myers.   Thank you to Tom Sharbaugh and Darla Letourneau for being our co-guest-bloggers.

The Sanibel Bicycle Club’s presentation on their bike safety initiatives, including a recent highly acclaimed Cycling on Sanibel” video, greatly impressed the FBA Board and provided ideas that other communities can adopt for using the Internet and social media to get out the word on bike safety. Great job, SBC, and thanks to FBA for giving us an opportunity to showcase one of the many exciting initiatives happening in SWFL.

Background
The Florida Bicycle Association Board (FBA) meets quarterly in rotating locations, and this quarter they held their meeting in Fort Myers on Jan. 23th, with a “meet and greet” event the previous night for local advocates. At each Board meeting, they invite a local bike club or advocacy organization to make a presentation to showcase a local project or advocacy effort. For the Fort Myers meeting, the Sanibel Bicycle Club (SBC) was invited to make a presentation on their Bike Safety Programs.

Introduction: The County-wide Context
BikeWalkLee’s Darla Letourneau (also a Sanibel resident and SBC member) introduced the SBC presentation by putting it into the context of what BikeWalkLee is trying to accomplish countywide. One of BWL’s strategies is to speed up the process of bringing complete streets and improved bike/ped infrastructure to Lee County by taking advantage of emerging digital media as well as traditional media, using tools such as blogs, email groups, and social media and newspaper columns. BWL’s participation in countywide committees, and its involvement in each local jurisdiction (6 municipalities) through its local BWL representative, has created a network that allows quick sharing of information, best practices from around the country, and innovative local projects. BikeWalkLee is particularly focused on sharing information about local initiatives in a way that provides a practical and helpful idea source for other municipalities and agencies and an aid to rapid adaptation to their communities. “Our goal is to get “further faster” through this approach,” said Letourneau.

“Sanibel has been a good example on many fronts–from how to become a Bicycle Friendly Community; how to develop a master plan that is fully implemented; to how to develop public/private partnerships that can provide significant leverage for achieving bike/ped enhancements,” said Letourneau. In its presentation to the FBA Board, SBC demonstrated innovative ways to bring the bike safety message to visitors and residents, ideas which have applicability to the other municipalities in Lee County and elsewhere in Florida, ” said Letourneau.

A team from SBC made the presentation to the FBA Board: Tom Sharbaugh, the co-leader (along with Patti Sousa) of the video project and the lead on the Club’s safety initiatives; along with Bill Sartoris and Mike Miller who focused on the history of the Club and its successful advocacy partnerships with local government. Click here to view their PowerPoint presentation.

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SBC’s Tom Sharbaugh talks about the video project

As Bill Sartoris explained, the Sanibel Bicycle Club (SBC) has been around since 1994, welcoming those who like to ride, socialize and break bread with other cyclists. Clusters of SBC’s “screaming yellow” jerseys can be spotted on the island during their Saturday morning group rides to breakfast, and during their frequent Club treks to explore other interesting areas of southwest Florida by bike.

Mike Miller reported that over the last 10 years, SBC’s bright jerseys have also become a fixture at Sanibel City Council meetings, where members regularly show up to advocate for issues affecting Sanibel’s cycling facilities and infrastructure. The Club has gradually built a positive working relationship with Sanibel’s City leadership and staff, earning it a well-deserved reputation as a champion of Sanibel’s shared use path and as a go-to resource regarding safe cycling conditions and practices.

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Sharbaugh explains the digital media messages

As a popular family beach vacation destination, Sanibel gets lots of visitors, and a growing number of those vacationers want to experience the island’s sights and sounds by bike. Sanibel has 25+ miles of paved shared use path, and in peak season there can be as many as 3,000 riders on the path at any one time. Complicating matters is that many of those path users are inexperienced riders who don’t know the basic rules for safe cycling. They include everything from small children to grandparents who haven’t been on a bike since the Nixon administration.

“To address this need for educating path users, SBC has put its energies into a series of bike safety education programs, “said Tom Sharbaugh. These programs started in 2008 with a series of posters, print ads and bike rack signs, and have continued into the present with digital media messages placed on websites, closed circuit TV systems and youtube.com. To pay for these efforts, SBC created a Club-directed 501(c)(3), the Sanibel Trails In Motion Fund, managed by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which has so far collected more than $50,000 for path improvements and safety education.

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FBA listens intently to SBC presentation

In 2015 the Club partnered with other local civic and business organizations to underwrite an educational video that visitors can watch at home about cycling on Sanibel, designed to deliver safe biking tips in an entertaining package. The FBA Board watched the 7 minute video and was extremely impressed by the quality of the product and the “fun” approach to getting the safety message across, with several members saying it was the best safety video they had ever seen.  Click this link to see the video.

Tom Sharbaugh reported that the video is accessible on youtube.com, as well as on websites run by the Club, the City of Sanibel, Lee County Visitors & Convention Bureau, island bike rental businesses and numerous resorts. In addition, links to the video are being placed on travel sites visited by people planning trips to Southwest Florida. Debut of the new video has brought an increased focus on bike safety on the island, which the club has leveraged with a companion slide show adaptation for digital messages boards.. These are being run as a PSA at local restaurants and businesses. They are also being run at the City Rec Center and on its Facebook page.

FBA Board members were very interested in replicating this approach in other communities.  Sharbaugh also talked about what the City of Sanibel is doing to encourage safe cycling as part of its larger effort to reduce traffic congestion on the island. One of the City’s three recommendations is to “travel around the island by foot and bike”. Click here to see the City’s overall traffic campaign, of which the “Cycling on Sanibel” video is a part (on homepage of City website); and here for the Traffic Message from the Mayor of Sanibel (video)

While the Club’s approach might have a distinctive Sanibel flavor, there are lots of great ideas here that can be used by other communities in their efforts to promote safety. Thanks to the Sanibel Bicycle Club, which has, over its 26 year history, accomplished an effective balance between the social aspects of their club and the all important role of advocacy. The only way to expand and improve the biking and walking infrastructure in our communities is through citizen involvement , on the part of bike clubs, advocacy organizations, other stakeholders, and citizens. There are great benefits for the biking and walking community, well as for the community at large, from this type of sustained commitment and involvement. Sanibel provides a good example.

Links to SBC Presentation Materials:

Editor’s note:  Florida Bike Month will be here before you know it.  Get ready for Florida cycling fun under the sun.  Get ready for Florida Bike Month!  Florida Bike Month is a great opportunity to get out there and RIDE!  FBA will have a special event listing page just for Florida Bike Month activities.  Please use our events form to get your listing on this page.

Bike Florida and Florida Bicycle Association share a common cause in bicycle education for residents and visitors to the Sunshine “Bike-Ped” State.  Share the Road license plate proceeds benefit Bike Florida and Florida Bicycle Association to further these bicycle educational efforts.  What’s on your motor vehicle?  Get the Share the Road license plate!

Did you know Rejjee is the only nation-wide multi-product registry and crowd sourced Lost & Found that includes discount product replacement offers on bicycles?  Rejjee also supports Florida Bicycle Association and FBA supports Rejjee.

Do you have a bicycle story to tell?  Photos to share?  Be our guest and be our next guest blogger!  Send your story and photos to Becky@floridabicycle.org.  Speaking of stories, our quarterly Messenger newsletter is available online for your internet reading pleasure.  Visit the FBA website Home page or click here.

Not a member of FBA?  Really?!?!?  What are you waiting for?  You belong with us – Join FBA Today!

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