Bicycling seems to be the talk of the town – literally in every “town” in Sarasota County, from Longboat Key and Sarasota to Venice, Englewood, and North Port. Of course, this should be no surprise to any of us living in beautiful Southwest Florida. With Florida’s year-long sunshine, Sarasota County’s captivating scenic roadways, and a growing infrastructure that our local governments and community organizations have been working hard to put place, Sarasota County is becoming a mecca for the outdoor sport. As a cyclist myself, I love riding the streets of North Port, hearing the children’s laughter from their backyard, catching a whiff of someone grilling BBQ, and gliding past some of Southwest Florida’s native wildlife like our resident bobcats and families of sandhill cranes.
I read with enthusiasm the mention in SCOPE’s monthly e-newsletter that New York City has an interactive map for cycling. It uses crowdsourcing to help cyclists share their experiences using GIS technology.
Since 2009, the City of North Port has featured on its home page (at CityofNorthPort.com under the “playing” menu), a link to MapMyRide.com. The site, much like New York City’s example, allows local cyclists to map their routes, track their mileage, and share with each other. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for a new adventure to take on two wheels. Highly interactive with social media links and smart phone apps, MapMyRide.com is used by many local North Port residents.
North Port has a long history of road cycling. With its more than 800 miles of local roads, the community is ripe with serious bike enthusiasts (in addition, of course, to those among the more than 10,000 school children who enjoy riding their bike to the nearest friends’ house down the street). The City of North Port was incorporated in 1959. Back then, General Development Company had paved the nearly 800 miles of local roads and platted about 75,000 quarter-acre or more lots. For decades, many of those roads sat vacant – and attracted cyclists from everywhere. These empty roadways, bordered on both sides by a thick oak and pine canopy, were ideal for the roadie who wanted nothing more than to hit top speeds using two wheels.
Now, as a bustling community of more than 58,000 residents, North Port is home to the largest cycling club in the region. The Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club boasts more than 500 members. They emphasize safety and are a strong part of the local community in South County. For decades, this cycling club has met every Thursday morning at Dallas White Park for a ride in North Port. A long line of yellow jerseys can be seen on many of North Port’s main roadways and in some of the neighborhoods each Thursday.
With North Port’s growth, we also have seen the growth of what is now a signature event – Tour de North Port. Hosted in October each year by dedicated volunteers with People for Trees, Tour de North Port pulls cyclists from across the State of Florida. The event was designed to give local residents and visitors an opportunity to experience the different outdoor landscapes inside this robust 105-square-mile city. The route weaves through different neighborhoods with different Florida flora. The event truly is a great way to experience North Port’s outdoors.
Of course, all of Sarasota County has wonderful cycling opportunities. The Legacy Trail is becoming a legend in itself and drawing people worldwide to Venice’s streets, and Venice has its own Tour de Venice that gives cyclists an opportunity to experience the island and all it has to offer. Our beautiful community (Sarasota County as a whole, including all of its cities) is why we proudly chose to call this place our home.
Thank you, SCOPE, for pointing out New York City’s mapping tool for bicycling. But I think we’ve got them beat when it comes to routes to cycle.
Guest blog provided by Erin Bryce, a native of Southwest Florida and resident of the City of North Port. Erin works for the City of North Port as the Community Outreach Manager. For more information about bicycling in North Port, contact Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.