By SARAH DONOVAN
Posted January 24, 2010 at 7:39 p.m.
Naples may not be friendly to those who pedal, but that didn’t stop about 525 bicyclists from riding all around town Sunday morning.
Despite strong winds and the League of American Bicyclists’ recent decision to deny Naples a bicycle-friendly community designation, more bicyclists than ever rolled out to the Naples Pathways Coalition’s fourth annual Pedaling for Pathways bike ride and brunch at Lowdermilk Park on Sunday.
“There’s a lot of people who seem to think that bikers are in the way still and that they’re a nuisance,” said Dick Rivard, who participated in the 20-mile ride. “But there’s more and more people biking, so it’s not going away. It’s only getting bigger.”
Bicycling enthusiasts of all endurance levels participated in 10-, 20-, 30-, 62- and 100-mile long bike rides — all of which started and ended in Lowdermilk Park — to have fun and show their support for the Naples Pathways Coalition.
The coalition is a nonprofit group that advocates and lobbies for a fully integrated transportation network of sidewalks, bike lanes and multi-use pathways in Collier County for all non-motorized transportation users.
“What Naples Pathways Coalition is trying to do is get a safe system of interconnected pathways so that people can get from one point to another without having to be in a car,” said Michelle Avola, NPC’s executive director. “Naples is just infamous for our sidewalks that end at nothing, bike lanes that end at a guard rail or just don’t continue on the other side of an intersection.”
Avola was not surprised when she found out that Naples was deemed unfriendly to bicycles.
“I was very disappointed that (Naples) City Council didn’t want to do anything to consider the recommendations,” she said. “I can’t just totally take that budget constraints are a good enough reason not to look at the recommendations put out by the League of American Bicyclists.”
To receive a bicycle-friendly community designation in the future, the League of American Bicyclists suggested that the city implement a safe route to school program, expand the bicycle network and collect data on bicycle usage and crashes.
Many of the event’s participants agreed with the league’s suggestion that the more bike paths the better.
“I think they should have a bike lane on every street because I don’t ride on the road normally unless there is a bike lane on the major roads,” said Donna Manchen, who participated in the 30-mile ride. “I wish it was a bike-friendly city.”
All the different routes were marked with color-coded chalk on the pavement, and several rest stops were set up along the routes.
Paul Schuler — president of Naples Velo, a local bicycling club — rode only 30 miles today because he rode for a total of four hours and about 95 miles the day before. He feels that Naples is not dangerous for experienced cyclists who are familiar with the area and good bike paths. However, Schuler believes that Naples is not safe for less experienced cyclists, who are not familiar with the city and its bike friendly routes.
Implementing more bike “lanes benefits the community because it makes it more fun to ride, more safe to ride and more people of all kinds of ages can ride,” said Schuler, who supports NPC’s mission.
For safety reasons, “ride guides” and “ride sweeps,” who wore neon yellow vests, led and brought up the rear of each pack of cyclists.
After their rides, all the cyclists were rewarded with a brunch catered by Moe’s Southwest Grill.
The money raised from the event’s entry fees of $30 for NPC members and $35 for non-members will support the NPC’s efforts.