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Bicycling in Florida

Published on: March 5, 2020

The balance: good healthy vs. safety

By JIM WHEELER

jimwheeler@ij.net

Are you interested in maintaining your health and keeping fit?
Many doctors recommend regular bicycle riding as a very healthy and enjoyable way of doing that, because cycling is a good way to burn calories while maintaining your muscle tone, and it keeps your heart strong and your mind alert. Also, bicycle riding is good for your knees, because it strengthens your muscles while providing a much lower impact than walking, jogging or playing other sports. And the fact is Florida is one of the best places in the country to do cycling because we can do it fifty-two weeks a year.

Would you like to lose some weight?
Bicycling is a good way to do that if you do it regularly, and if you’ll cut your calorie intake at the same time. When I came here I was twenty-percent heavier than I am today. In fact, most of my cycling buddies will tell the same story. Yet, as my doctor told me, you will never see a significant weight loss unless you also change your eating habits. And when you do both, you can trust that the weight will come off… but you have to stay with it!

However, what about the heat and humidity in the summertime?

Snowbirds that ride with me always ask that question because they can hardly imagine being outside of an air-conditioned home here in warm weather. Nevertheless, the secret is to get most of your riding done early in the morning. And the one thing that I’ve come to trust after leading group rides here for the past fifteen years or so is that no matter what the weather forecast, it seldom rains in the mornings.

But then, statistics show that Florida is also the most dangerous state in the country when it comes to bicycle riding and even walking as a pedestrian. For last year, as an example, 160 people were killed in this state riding their bicycles. The primary reasons for this high number include

1. The longer riding season means there are more cyclists out on the road every day;

2. We have more retired seniors than in other states, who have problems seeing, hearing and maintaining control; and

3. We have a very high number of uninsured motorists.

And with all of the above in mind, we must realize that where we ride, how we ride and how visible we are when we ride are very important considerations when deciding to become a regular bicyclist.

So, should you just ride on the sidewalks?
Actually, the statistics show that riding on the sidewalks is more dangerous than riding in a bicycle lane on the street because motorists don’t notice you at intersections or when backing out of driveways. Also, sidewalks aren’t usually as well maintained as are the roads, so falls are more likely.

But then, notice that from where I live (in Sun City Center), there are six long paved trails (Rails to Trails) within about an hour’s drive, there is also a nice paved circular trail on the northeast side of Tampa and there are several hard-packed gravel trails and even some “mountain biking” trails in the area (but no mountains). I will discuss these in future articles.

You can contact me at jimwheeler@ij.net.

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