Destin's bike lanes: unsafe at any speed
Just recovering from a minor bicycle accident in Destin, where my bike slipped on what appeared to be gravel in the bike lane.
Turns out it was gravel and broken glass likely swept there by the city. It seems bike lanes here are for trash storage, overgrown plants, debris from cleaning the roads, trash containers and thousands of pieces of junk.
There is lots of evidence of the city pushing stuff into them, and absolutely no evidence of anyone ever removing anything.
For those that don't ride bicycles, there are lots of different types, but in general, they fall into three groups:
1. Mountain bikes: These heavy, shock-absorbed, large-tired bicycles are designed for off-road riding, and while not designed for road use, lots of people use them for that. The tires on these bicycles can safely ride over most of the Destin debris without any issue, and because they are slower, the few items that would affect them would be easy to see.
2. Hybrid or city bikes: These are right between mountain bicycles and road bicycles. They are lighter than mountain bikes, have smaller diameter tires, are a bit faster and could be seriously affected by less than 100 of the chunks of stuff in Destin. But it would only be the largest stuff.
3. Road bikes: These are the ones you would see used in bicycle racing, and it’s the most common type of bike sold. They are fast, lightweight with very small diameter, high-pressure tires. There are thousands of pieces of debris that could cause someone to lose control of their bike, and much of it would not be visible to the rider. This combination could result in serious injury or death, and without the rider to explain, it will most likely go down as rider error.
While I own a road bike, this is the only city I have ever been in, where I consider using one a death wish. Instead I use a hybrid bicycle, where I have installed slightly larger tires than normal.
One should also note that lots of hazards can be avoided, if you are looking for them, but in some cases, the amount of debris would make that impossible. Some debris just blends into the roadway.
This is not a question of skill. Hit the wrong piece with the wrong tire and no human will be able to control their bicycle.
This opinion piece reveals the state of bike lanes in the city of Destin, but no small article could ever demonstrate just how terrible they actually are. All of the lanes I could find have debris, trash, gravel, broken glass, and chunks of wood covering areas — much of it likely moved there by street sweepers.
Even the newest bike lane on Mountain Drive is covered in junk and mostly overgrown with plants put there to beautify the city, but which are not being maintained.
Sadly, this forces adults and children to either ride over very dangerous material, or ride out in the traffic.
I have a great love of this town. This is a little piece of heaven on this planet and we should all work to keep it that way.
Jim Garin is a regular visitor from Knoxville, Tenn.