Bike Florida to bring 500 cyclists to Boca Grande on April 14

April 8, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN     Bike Florida web
Approximately 500 cyclists will be spinning down Gasparilla Road on Thursday, April 14. But don’t be alarmed – precautions have been well planned out, and the event shouldn’t have much effect on the island.
Bike Florida is organizing its first tour of Florida’s Gulf Coast Region, and for the first time it will include Boca Grande.
Surf & Turf 2016 Bike Florida Spring Tour Director Joy Hancock said the leisurely ride will include small, manageable groups traveling the island at their own pace.
“This is in no way a bike race. The average age of our riders is 64. Their mission is to explore and experience Florida at their own comfortable pace,” Hancock said.
Organizers have worked with island officials, and there will be additional law enforcement available. The Boca Grande Fire Department is bringing in an extra ambulance and paramedics on the island to ensure the safety of the cyclists as well as the residents.
The cyclists will be coming to the island beginning around 9 a.m. on April 14 in a steady stream.
They understand there is a bike path, and many will choose to remain on it. They are aware they will be sharing the path with pedestrians and golf carts.
“We gave each registered rider literature about the island and asked that they be respectful of the residents and their privacy. We requested that the riders stay on the bike path, which many of them prefer. We know that it’s a small bike path, and they know they will be sharing it with golf carts and pedestrians – so some of them will choose to share the road with vehicles,” Hancock said.
A rest stop will be set up at Gasparilla Island State Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Food and drinks will be available for the cyclists as well as pop-up tents for those who would like to stop and take a rest and relax.
“I am sure many of them will want to explore the state park and spend some time on the beaches or go for a swim. They are here to experience Florida from a tourist perspective. Many people are coming from all around the country, and many have never seen this side of the coast before. We are encouraging everyone to complete the ride on their own individual schedules,” Hancock said.
Most of the riders will have left the island by 4 p.m. to complete their 59.4-mile route that day.
Hancock stressed that there would not be any additional vehicular traffic on the island that day, as all cyclists intend to complete the ride without the assistance of vehicular transport.
Hancock said she is encouraging people to come out to the park on April 14 and meet the bicyclists, ask questions and learn more about the Bike Florida organization.
“Will be more than happy to share information about future events that we’re planning, if anyone is interested,” Hancock said.
All support for the cyclists on the island will end at 4 p.m. The temporary rest area at the park will be removed, and extra police presence will cease after that time.
The Surf & Turf 2016 Bike Florida Spring Tour is a seven-day, six-night event planned to take place from April 9 through April 15, 2016.
Cyclists will begin their venture in Arcadia on April 9, 10 and 11. They will travel to Sarasota on April 11, 12, and 13, setting up campsites for overnight stays along the way. And then they’ll continue on through Englewood before making their way to Boca Grande.
“Our route on April 14 is open from 7:15 a.m. (leaving Englewood Sports Complex), and riders will return to Englewood around 5 p.m.,” Hancock said.
The cyclists will complete the excursion on April 15 by traveling back to Arcadia from Englewood.
Bike Florida is a nonprofit formed in 1994 as a fundraising organization to help supplement the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program (FTBSEP). The mission is to promote safe and responsible bicycling through the support of the Share the Road campaign, education, public awareness and bicycle touring.
The Surf & Turf 2016 Bike Florida Spring Tour, the first event of its kind, is the result of an effort between Visit Florida and Bike Florida.
Hancock said Visit Sarasota reached out to Bike Florida several years ago, indicating they had a group of people interested in planning a ride along the Gulf Coast.
She hopes it will become an annual event that continues to grow each year.
For more information on upcoming tours, visit bikeflorida.org.