Cyclists in The Villages give back to their community

Dave Lawrence

There are 3 bicycle clubs housed in The Villages:  The oldest is The Village Bicycle Club with about 225 members, the PANTHERS Tandem Bicycle Club with about 200 members and the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club with just short of 1,000 members.  Whenever a discussion or article appears in this newspaper regarding bicyclists (especially a crash), the same few respondents take the opportunity to point out the dangers of cycling and drone on about all cyclists being scofflaws and a nuisance.

Let’s talk about the cycling community:

• We are involved in our community and the well being of others.  Tens of thousands of dollars per year have been raised through the annual Hearts for Our Hospital ride for The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation. The Sumter Landing Bicycle Club has pledged $325,000 to be used for medical equipment and tuition assistance for medical personnel.

• The Villages bicycle community now has 18 nationally certified bicycle instructors (LCIs) who teach at the following venues:  The Villages Charter School summer program, elementary schools in Sumter, Lake and Marion County, The Enrichment Academy, Camp Villages and the monthly Villages Newcomers meeting.

• Each year the 3 clubs support the Sumter County Sheriffs Bicycle Collection by collecting, cleaning and repairing safe bicycles for disadvantaged children and adults at Christmas. The annual number of safe, clean bicycles gifted is between 250 and 300.

• Bicycle training for ride leaders and sweeps (last rider) is offered twice per year where rules of the road and Villages specific issues are reviewed and advice is given.

• The Sumter Landing Bicycle club is developing a new website available to all Villagers that will contain cycling related information and will soon include all Florida Laws through the 2019 legislative session related to bicycling as well as links to: the Florida Department of Transportation “Alert today, Alive Tomorrow” program, the League of American Bicyclists and the Florida Bicycle Association websites.

• Members of all three clubs have come together to form the Bicycle Friendly Advocacy Council resulting in The Villages being awarded national status as a Bicycle Friendly Community (Gold Award).  One of only three in the Southeast U.S.  In about two years, we are submitting an updated application for The Villages to achieve Platinum Status; the League of American Bicyclist Association’s highest honor.

As you drive your car or golf cart around The Villages, you may spend a few moments passing bicyclists on any given day.  Instead of becoming annoyed or angry, please try a friendly wave and help to keep us safe by leaving at least three feet of clearance.  As Villagers, we all share a common goal of trying to stay healthy and happy.  After all, we moved to the Villages to enjoy and extend our lives.

Dave Lawrence is a Villager and an active bicyclist.