25 February 2019

They Extended The Road Ahead Of Him

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I take, on average, a trip to Florida every year.  Really, I go to visit my parents!  But you know that I enjoy the cycling and, if I'm lucky, good weather.

If you've read any of my posts about my time in Florida, or have spent any time in the Sunshine State, you also know that it's car-centric.  People travel greater distances to shop or do just about anything than we do in New York, mainly because development is more sprawled (at least in the parts of Florida I visit).  I don't even need to ride my bike to buy groceries when I'm home.  I know that no one in my parents' part of Florida enjoys that level of convenience; I doubt that very many people anywhere in the state have it.

Still, I see a fair number of people on bikes whenever I visit Florida, even when the weather is unusually cold, as it was last year.  (The temperature actually dropped to 23F one night!)  Some, like me, are visiting; others are "snowbirds" who spend part of the year in the state and the rest in some point north or west.  

There are, however, cyclists for whom their two wheels and pedals are their sole means of transportation.  These day-to-day riders include a whole range of people, from homeless veterans to latter-day hippies and those who can't drive because they're too poor or for other reasons.

Among those reasons is age.  While Florida's regulations on senior-citizen drivers are, not surprisingly, less restrictive than those of most other states, they still mandate shorter license renewals and vision tests for older drivers.  Moreover, the state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which issues licenses, also conducts unsafe driver investigations upon requests from family members and others.  As a result of such investigations, as well as vision and driving tests, the state can also impose restrictions on elderly drivers, such as a ban on nighttime driving or a requirement that the driver has to wear a hearing aid or glasses.  In a few cases, senior citizens are banned from driving if they are believed to pose a safety hazard to themselves or others.

So, I suspect that at least a few of the seniors I've seen on bikes--and a fair number of those I've seen on three-wheelers--are pedaling because they can't drive anymore.  And, I suspect, at least a few are riding their bikes because they can't afford to drive anymore, or just enjoy cycling.

Whatever his reasons, Bob Wingate's bicycle was his only means of transportation.  The Cape Coral resident parked it at the Winn Dixie supermarket in his town.  A thief cut the cable he'd used to secure his bike.  Field Training Officer Ken Cody and Officer Trainee Guang Song of the Cape Coral Police Department were called to the scene.  

After taking the report, Cody and Song decided they couldn't let Wingate be without a bicycle.  So they went to a nearby Walmart and bought a new one, which they brought to Wingate's house.  Before they left, they even adjusted the seat and handlebars for him.

Those officers not only gave him back his means of transportation and his independence; they may have ensured that he'll live well beyond his current 80 years.  I suspect that other senior citizens I've seen on bikes in Florida, and elsewhere, realize that when they are on the road (or trail), there is more road ahead of them.

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