I recently read a blog from a Naples realtor listing the top ten reasons to live in Naples. As you would expect, being the best beach town made the list, as did excellent dining, pristine environment, low crime, beautiful weather, gorgeous sunsets, and fantastic shopping, boating, fishing and golf.
What was missing from this list is bicycling in Naples! Some don’t know that the City of Naples has earned the Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community status. What began as a tiny fishing town in the 1900’s, with no forethought to the value of being able to bike or walk to destinations, Naples has been making an incredible transformation over the past ten to fifteen years.
More than a decade ago, a pedestrian and bicycle study was done and in 2007, the City of Naples adopted a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan. The goal of the project was to provide an opportunity for all entities with an interest in bicycle or pedestrian facilities to work together to form a vision to guide bicycle and pedestrian accessibility within the City of Naples.
Naples Pathway Coalition (NPC) was instrumental in the push for the study, and the plan that was adopted. NPC has continued to urge City staff, the Mayor and City Council to enact changes that make our city safer and more inviting to bike and walk.
Some of these changes include more bike lanes, some of which are painted for enhanced visibility helping motorists take note of cyclists. There are more miles of sidewalks and gaps in the grid continue to be filled in throughout the city. You may also notice “Share the Road” signs and roadway markings referred to as sharrows to help motorists understand that they are sharing the roadways with folks on bikes.
NPC works to educate the community about the rights and responsibilities of all road users – motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians – to help everyone better understand how to enjoyably share the roads. Did you know that motorists are required by law to give at least three feet of space when passing a cyclist? Did you know that when you are riding a bike, you are considered a vehicle and required to stop at stop signs and red lights? Did you know that distracted walking is a leading cause of injuries and fatalities, even prompting legislation out West to curb its prevalence?
Infrastructure improvements and informative signage have helped, but many people still do not find bicycling in Naples safe and inviting. NPC is embarking on an exciting project that will change that! Across the state and across the country, there are miles and miles of off-road, shared use youth pathways that attract cyclists, joggers and walkers because they don’t share the space with motorized vehicles.
A network of shared use pathways is one thing lacking in Southwest Florida, and Naples residents and visitors are missing out! Although limited in mileage, the Gordon River Greenway is an excellent example of what such an amenity can do for our community.
Recently partnered with Rails to Trails Conservancy, a national organization specializing in redeveloping abandoned rail lines and repurposing utility right of-way, NPC plans to bring a 100+ mile, off-road, shared use pathway system to Collier County. This will definitely put bicycling on the list of what is great about living in Naples. I look forward to sharing more in the coming months!
To learn more about biking and walking in Naples, please visit http://www.naplespathways.org/what-we-do, or http://www.naplespathways.org/helpful-links for the Bicycle and Tourism Map of Collier County