To the editor:
This is a true story. A few months ago, I almost died while biking the shared use path on Sanibel. Some readers will think I am exaggerating because there was no accident. But I know that only my defensive biking saved my life.
I was coming down West Gulf toward the intersection with Rabbit Road. It was the off-season and traffic was light. I knew I had the legal right-of-way. But, I also knew that was foolish. No amount of laws and rights can protect you from a two-ton vehicle with a distracted driver. So, I did the right thing. I slowed to a stop and looked carefully for oncoming traffic. Just then a car came flying down Rabbit Road. The driver slammed on his brakes and slid through the entire crosswalk, almost out into Gulf Road. Had I not stopped my bike, I would have been t-boned by a speeding vehicle, thrown either onto the hood of his car, or out into traffic on West Gulf.
At no point did the driver look at the shared use path for bikers, walkers, skateboarders, people with strollers, people in wheelchairs, etc. Because he was turning right from Rabbit onto Gulf, he only looked left at his oncoming traffic. Although I rang my little bike bell at him, I doubt he realized we had narrowly avoided an accident. He certainly didn't stop to apologize for almost hitting me (important) or for taking my right-of-way (rude, but not nearly as important).
I drive here too. I know how it is to be in a hurry, on a deadline, trying to get home, to the grocery or the doctor's office, or to the airport, to have others waiting on you. I also know that someone's life is worth far more than the two to five seconds I lose by driving safely and respectfully.
The moral of my story follows:
Bikers et al.: Never assume you have the right-of-way. Always stop and look. You may have the right to cross, but you have the responsibility to do so with caution.
Drivers: Never assume no one is on the shared use path. Always stop before the crosswalk and look both ways - preferably twice - for bikers, walkers, motorcycles in the roadway, etc. Your minor inconvenience can save us a world of hurt, if not our lives.