The Collier County Sheriff’s Office helped Jaxson Perez celebrate his birthday after social distancing forced his family to cancel the party.
Naples Daily News
The coronavirus pandemic may have put the kibosh on many popular and cherished activities. But one pursuit the dreaded disease has inadvertently given a huge boost in Naples is bicycle riding.
All over town — along Gulf Shore Boulevard, in gated communities and residential neighborhoods, in Old Naples and North Naples — people are riding their bicycles. Old couples. Teenagers. Families. Single riders. Groups of friends. Zooming along or creeping slowly by.
Some streets, in fact, see more bikes these days than cars, particularly on mornings and evenings. (Walking, of course, also has become even more popular than usual during the past few weeks.)
Molly Maxson, left, Julie Verry and Dean Davidson ride down Gulf Shore Boulevard North in Naples on Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA)
Sherry Burns, of Naples, and two friends were biking in North Naples last week. “We can’t play tennis, we can’t go to the beach, we can’t swim, we can’t go to our club,” she said. “It’s a beautiful day to be out biking in this wonderful weather.”
One of Burns’ friends, who identified herself only as Maria, said, “Many people have begun biking in our community who haven’t biked in years.”
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Biking, said Peter Marsh, an owner of Naples Cyclery, “is definitely something that has surged in popularity” because of the change in lifestyles dictated by COVID-19. “A silver lining to this horrendous situation is that it’s pushing more people outdoors.”
Bike shops in town are experiencing a boom in sales, although some say rentals fell off when snowbirds and tourists cancelled their trips to Florida because of the virus.
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A bike rider and pedestrians exercise along Gulf Shore Boulevard North, Friday, April 10, 2020, in Naples. (Photo: Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA)
“It has been extremely busy,” reported Greg Pelican, marketing manager for Trek’s nine bike shops in South Florida. “We had a week last month that we had double the bike sales we normally do,” he said from the Naples store. “We’ve been doing everything we can to keep up with the demand. Our Naples store has been super busy.”
Last week, customers had to wait outside both Naples Cyclery and Trek’s Naples store to get in. And it’s not just because of the boom in sales and need for service. Both businesses are practicing social distancing by limiting the number of customers who can enter their shops at any one time.
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Two customers who got inside Naples Cyclery were Deborah Magro and her husband, Roger, from Bonita Springs, who haven’t ridden bicycles for four or five years. “We wanted to get out and get exercise,” she said, while test-riding a bike. “We’re both putting on weight.”
While many activities in Naples — working out in a gym, going to the beach, even attending school — have been prohibited, bike riding has been encouraged as a form of exercise that entails social distancing.
In his April 1 “Safer-at-Home” executive order, which discouraged people from leaving their homes, Gov. Ron DeSantis specifically listed biking as a permissible “essential activity” for Floridians. The federal government has issued orders deeming bicycle stores and services to be essential businesses, according to Pelican.
A group of bike riders ride their bikes along Airport-Pulling Road in North Naples on Friday, April 10, 2020. (Photo: Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA)
“We’re getting people who haven’t biked seriously for a long time, or just have done it casually,” said Marsh. One recent customer at Naples Cyclery said he hadn’t biked in 20 years, according to the shop owner.
Families and young people are riding much more than they typically do in Naples at this time of the year. “The schools are closed and the beaches are closed, and people are looking for things to do,” said Pelican.
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And because of the coronavirus, some snowbirds have decided to extend their stays in Naples rather than return to more highly infected cities up north. Many of them are buying or renting bikes.
“It’s good that people are turning to a healthy physical and mental outlet like cycling at this time,” said Pelican. “That’s a good aspect of this in a very difficult period.”
With so many people taking their bikes to the city’s streets, several groups are cautioning riders to be careful — both because of the usual obstacles to safe riding and because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that helps turn old railbeds into biking and hiking trails, has issued an advisory for practicing “safe social distancing on the trail.”
It includes such admonishments as “do not gather in groups,” “keep six feet between you and others at all times,” and “carry water, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to further protect yourself.”
While not all cyclists are following these suggestions, they still see biking in the age of coronavirus as a good way to escape the walls of their homes, to get exercise, and to make up for the loss of other pursuits.
Mort Fetterolf, of North Naples, who has had three knee surgeries and can no longer go to a gym since the spread of coronavirus has shut it down, now goes biking several times a week with his wife, Melissa.
As he was returning home after one cycling jaunt, he was asked why he and his wife have chosen to take to biking these days. “What else is there?” he said.
Bob Irzyk, director of marketing at St. Matthew’s House, talks about his organization’s efforts to distribute free groceries to community members in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Naples Daily News
Tips for cycling and sharing bicycle trails in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Do not gather in groups
- Keep 6 feet between you and others at all times
- Leave any area where you cannot maintain a 6-foot distance
- Carry water, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to further protect yourself
- Wash or sanitize your hands frequently
- Do not touch your face
- Avoid playgrounds or other areas where groups may form
- Warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass
- Be prepared for limited access to public restrooms and water fountains
- Stay home if you exhibit any symptoms of illness
Sources: Rails-to-Trails and National Recreation and Parks Association
Airboat Captain Johnny Markley talks about his struggles after losing his job due to the coronavirus shutdown at his home in Golden Gate Estates on Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Naples Daily News
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