ARCADIA — DeSoto Cares Homeless Services is holding a fundraising event on Feb. 6, a Saturday. The third annual Ride for Tiny Town cycling event is expected to draw about 200 cyclists. Riders will gather at the Mosaic Arena and leave on routes that vary from 10 to 60 miles.
The event was started in 2019 by co-director Patty Walker.
"I wanted to plan a cycling event," she said, "and the Tiny Town Project was a perfect fit for an organization to support. A bicycle is often the only possession a homeless person may have, but it elevates them so much because of the mobility it offers. The cycling community is very generous and I knew they would support the ride."
The Tiny Town Project is conceived as a village of small homes that will be used to transition people off the streets and then into more traditional housing.
Currently the organization is seeking approval from the city of Arcadia for the planned unit development on a parcel of land it owns south of Magnolia Street on the west side of town. The close proximity to services and public transportation is crucial to integrating program participants into the community.
Each participant in the Tiny Town Program will have a case manager and agree to participate in developing and following a personalized plan that includes active steps toward housing after Tiny Town, such as referrals to children and family services, substance abuse counseling, life-skills classes, and more.
Cycling has experienced a huge boom in the past year. When gyms were shut down by COVID-19 precautions, people took to the streets on bicycles for healthy outdoor exercise. Large cities closed whole streets to allow places for recreation. Trails across the country reported huge increases in use. Bicycle shops were swamped with repair work and new cycles rolled out their doors as fast as they could be assembled.
Part of the boom is also attributed to new affordable electric bikes or ebikes that allow the rider to get a boost in speed while still benefiting from the exercise.
Bicycling lends itself naturally to social-distancing. While skilled riders may ride in pacelines or Pelotons, more casual riders will find natural spacing helps avoid collisions with other riders.
All riders must wear an approved cycling helmet, and masks are encouraged when in close proximity to others. Food at the venue and rest-stops will be offered in single-serve portions.
Riders may pre-register online (www.ridefortinytown.com), or register in person Friday from noon to 6 p.m., or Saturday morning starting at 6:45 a.m. at the Mosaic Arena (cash or local check only).
Riders may wish to do additional fundraising on their own or by joining a team, and are encouraged to ask friends and family to make donations through the registration platform. Or anyone may donate at: www.desotocareshomeless.com.
All cyclists will be entered in a random drawing for some great door prizes, including two Bicycle Center gift certificates for deluxe tune-ups, PlayTri Sarasota gift certificates for a complete premium overhaul and a Guru Bike Fit, six Peace River Canoe Outpost day-trips for two people, with more prizes to come.
This year we are emphasizing the Slow Roll 10-mile route for casual riders or those new to cycling. Typically, cycling events are for distance riders who ride lightweight road bikes and wear sleek spandex clothing.
"We want to draw all levels of cyclists," said Karen Smoke, event director. "A big part of the Slow Roll will be the safety briefing riders receive before rolling out, Florida Bicycle Association executive director Becky Afonso will help teach riders how to do the ABC Quick Check and go over some basic rules of the road, using hand signals and call outs, group riding skills and more. Riders will also receive safety publications and information on where they can find more safety instruction online."
Smoke added that "safety for the riders is our number one priority. In developing the routes we search out roads with low traffic. Where we have to cross or use busy roads, we offer suggestions how to do so safely."
Riders may use the Ride with GPS app which gives audio cues, or follow preprinted map and cue sheets. The routes will also be marked with Dan Henry markings.
Bicycles are considered vehicles under Florida law, and cyclists have all the responsibilities of other drivers and every right to use the roads with a few exceptions such as on limited access roads. Bicycles may also be ridden on sidewalks, but a different set of rules apply, such as cyclists must yield to pedestrians.
Ride-in-progress signs along the routes will alert drivers to expect groups of cyclists. Motor-vehicle drivers are required by law to pass cyclists with a minimum of three-feet clearance.
Where there is no marked bike lane, cyclists may use the full lane if safety requires it. Cyclists who ride away from the edge of the road are more visible and relevant to traffic. Drivers should pass with the same care and caution they would pass any other slower moving vehicle.
We have some terrific cycling amenities in DeSoto County. The newly restored 1924 Peace River Bridge is the crown jewel that connects Morgan Park and DeSoto Veterans Park with trails and access to the Peace River, another great amenity for outdoor exercise. Our low-traffic roads and open spaces are a natural draw for riders from more crowded areas. Bicycle lanes on US-17 and SR-70 and a shared path on SR-70 East contribute to rider safety.
DeSoto Cares Homeless Services thanks the many individuals and businesses that are supporting the event, including the Arcadia Rodeo Association, The Mosaic Co., Acme Bicycle Shop, Bicycle Center, Triplay Sarasota, Thrivent Financial, Arcadia Printing, Peace River Canoe Outpost, Jim Dodson Law, Joshua Citrus, MyShelly's Kitchen, and United Country Gulfland Real Estate.
Got a bike? Come out and ride!
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