The bicycle path that runs along a 25 mile stretch of Sanibel Island started with four mothers who were concerned for the safety of their children. In 1972, there were no bike lanes or sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists to travel on. When the Sanibel Causeway opened the following year, the traffic increased heavily, further escalating the danger for bicycle riders, pedestrians and other non-motorists.
These four mothers had had enough. They started the Sanibel Bike Path Committee to develop “hike and bike” trails for the city. With no help from County officials, they raised money through donation jars in local businesses, selling phone directories, tee-shirts, sand dollar necklaces, and throwing dinners.
In combination with the fundraising, they also planned a protest to increase awareness of the need for a bike path. In February 1974, 15 cyclists rode down Periwinkle Way in the middle of the lane during rush hour traffic. This stunt finally got them the attention they deserved!
After the protest, the Committee invited the Lee County Commissioners to a pot luck lunch which culminated in a drive through Sanibel to highlight the dangerous road conditions.
The persistence paid off. In 1976, the first 2.5 miles of the path were built. The present path system now spans 25 miles and is maintained with city tax revenues.
Although the Sanibel Bike Path Committee is no longer active, their legacy lives on in the Sanibel Bicycle Club, the modern advocate for Sanibel cyclists. If you are interested in improving the bicycle trails in your community, the grassroots methods used in Sanibel are a great model. Persistent fundraising, improved awareness and communication with your local government is the path to increased safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
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