People On Foot

BWL Column: Don’t let heat, rain put a damper on biking, walking

Florida weather can be a bit intense sometimes. BikeWalkLee has some good tips on how to survive the summer heat. Check out more great columns from BikeWalkLee on their blog, here.

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(Photo: The News-Press file photo)

Now that we’ve settled in to the summertime weather patterns — sunny mornings, stormy afternoons, hot just about all the time — be sure to adjust your outdoor plans accordingly. Heat doesn’t have to drive you off the bike lanes or walking paths, but you need to have a plan to keep your cool… which means:

•Watch the schedule: You can (hopefully) avoid heat and rain by avoiding afternoon outings for the next few months. Early mornings and early evenings can offer you some relief… some days. (Then there are those days where it’s 80 degrees at 7 a.m. and there’s nowhere to go but up.)
•Watch your route: Shade is your friend this time of year, so look for biking or walking routes that include some trees or tall buildings to give you a break from the heat. Breezes (if there are any) can help as well, so check the wind before you go to see if you can use it to help you cool down along the way.
•Watch the weather: Before you head out check the conditions (there’s an app for that!) for the next few hours. It can keep you from getting caught in any unpleasantness… and if that’s unavoidable, remember all the usual cautions about lightning, taking shelter, etc. Better safe than (very) sorry.
This doesn’t need to be work or interfere in any way with your outdoor activities. Just think of it as accommodating the climate — except, instead of arming yourself to deal with the winter cold up north (assuming that’s an experience you remember), you’re adjusting to the summer heat down south. Frankly, it’s easier to stay cool than get warm, so you’re already ahead of the game!
In this game, the rules are the same as dealing with the cold… you just don’t have to wear as much!
This means:
•Be prepared: Dress right, stay hydrated and throw in the sunscreen (if it’s bright) or some rain gear (if it’s not). For attire, think breathable fabrics and light colors — and a hat wouldn’t hurt (unless you’re wearing your bike helmet like you should). As to hydration, have a drink before you start and keep it up while out for your walk, run or ride. If you can’t carry it with you, pick a route that has water or some other cold liquid along the way. Gear up as needed… apply sunscreen before you go, add it if you’re out long enough to warrant it (or burn easily), remember your sunglasses, and have portable rain gear handy if you think it might pour.
•Be flexible: If weather conditions force you to re-schedule your ride or walk, require you to cut it short or force you to take shelter during… well, think of it as a small price to pay for warm winters (and for staying safe). As we mentioned, shade is your friend… and, if you have a choice, consider the surface on which you’ll be traveling (like clothing, lighter can be better). Take breaks to get out of the sun or cool off a little, and don’t expect to maintain your cool-weather pace during the summer.
•Consider your options: Going out early or late helps, as does letting exertion be your guide (rather than the clock). If the heat and humidity are getting to be too much, it may be time to head indoors for your biking or walking (or other exercise efforts) or head to the pool (swimming is good exercise, as is pool running) — at least until the temperature eases.
BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County—streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.

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