The back roads are where it's at. On the rural roads is where you'll meet the old timers, and experience the land and people. Most of these roadways are well maintained, although some have coarse surface materials. The big cities and the big tourist attractions are where the crush is going to be. So when you pick your roads, try to avoid going from major city to major city, or connecting with major tourist attractions.
As a general rule the most pleasant bicycling conditions are north of Interstate 4 (Daytona Beach to Tampa). South of this line brings you to heavy population densities, the greatest number of tourists and the fewest roadways. There is also more variety and challenge (even hills) in the central and north portions of Florida. For a truly pristine beach and woodlands experience, complete with a historic 5-flags city, consider starting your trip in the Pensacola area.
Other enjoyable ride areas are centered in the Gainesville, Ocala, Mt. Dora, Deland, or Live Oak areas. The most pleasant beach riding begins way to the north and east at Fernandina Beach, taking you as far south as Melbourne. Further south, as you enter into the Palm Beach County area, heavy population densities make bicycling a challenge. Many riders also enjoy riding on Captiva and Sanibel Islands, near Fort Myers. Fort Myer's bridges have recently become accessible to bicyclists, but at their own risk. On the islands there are extensive bike paths. Shark Valley, in the Everglades National Park, has bike rentals and an excellent 15-mile loop.
While we're talking about bridges, it's good to know that while all new bridges have paved shoulders (6-12'), many older bridges are too narrow for cars and bikes. And we know who loses out on that equation . . .
The Florida Department of Transportations seems to be working harder than most to keep as many roadways as possible open to bicycles. All interstate highways, limited (controlled) access highways and expressways are closed to bicycle travel. Bicycles are not allowed on Limited Access tollways. Some coastal area bridges do not allow bicycles since they are on limited access facilities. These roads have bike restrictions:
Bennett Causeway (SR 528 becoming SR A-1-A) Closed to bikes.
Roosevelt Boulevard Connector (Part of U.S. 17, SR 15) Closed to bikes.
Pineda Causeway (CR 404) Closed to bikes.
Julia Tuttle Causeway (U.S. I-95) Closed to bikes.
MacArthur Causeway (also known as U.S. 41/SR A-1-A)
Although bicyclists are not prohibited from using this bridge, this bridge is dangerous.
Caloosahatchee Bridge (U.S. 41) Closed to bikes.
Sanibel Causeway (also known as CR 867)
This is open to bicyclists with three restrictions: 1) a bicyclist must be age 16 or older, 2) a bicyclist must pay a toll and 3) bicyclists must show their driver's license.
Cape Coral Bridge
This is open to bicyclists, with the same restrictions stated above.
We make no pretense that this is a complete list. If in your travels you find others, let us know, and we'll add them in.
Many thanks to the Florida Department of Transportation for information used in this piece.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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