To the editor:
I read with interest the letter by John Bredin about cycling on Pine Island. I too am an avid cyclist and very concerned about safety issues.
I want to point out that many people don't know some of the basic laws of the road when it comes to cars and bicycles. No doubt there is shared responsibility for both to avoid one another, but I think there are still some drivers of cars who think bicycles have no right to be on the road with them. In fact bicycles have equal rights to cars on all public roads, even if there is an adjacent multi-use path to choose instead. Cars have to give bicycles a 3-foot berth and bicycles can't unreasonably impede traffic unless preparing to turn or avoid a dangerous situation. While on the road pedestrians should always walk against traffic and bicycles always ride in same direction of traffic. Many times this is not the case and I have almost collided with oncoming cyclists suddenly appearing coming the wrong way.
When a cyclist passes a walker on the bike path it is prudent to slow way down, call out "passing on your left" and give a few seconds to see if the person acknowledges you. I had an experience where I did just that and the walker moved right and then suddenly decided they did the wrong thing and quickly moved left and knocked me off my bicycle, which landed on top of them! Ringing a small bicycle bell as you approach walkers from behind has actually been shown to be the most reliable way to avoid a collision on multi-use paths and should be considered by Pine Islanders who frequently ride on the path. Also, just because you ring the bell doesn't mean you don't have to wait to safely pass, because you do. Recently an impatient rider came up quickly behind my wife and me, rang his bell and basically pushed my wife off the path where she almost crashed as he sped off. If you come from behind it is your responsibility to guarantee safe passing, not the walker or rider in front.
Courtesy and common sense trump all the rules so keep that in mind at all times. Lastly, I would ask that those few idiotic drivers who decide to lean on their horn as they pass you on the road to please stop doing that! I assume they are ignorant about the law of sharing the road with cyclists and also don't realize how jarring, shocking and dangerous it is.
The bottom line is that Pine Island is a wonderful, unique haven for certain type of people who don't gravitate to the other crowded, claustrophobic areas in Florida. We generally like a little more privacy and perhaps less rules and are maybe a bit more independent thinking. However, we have to honor and strive for tolerance of our differences and work to be courteous to each other, particularly when it is easy to do so. There is no better place to demonstrate this than the interface between bicycle riders and motor vehicles on Pine Island.
Jeff Horowitz, MD
St. James City