By WENDY VICTORA
Northwest Florida Daily News
April 10, 2011
The wide, paved path stretches over 19 miles, through coastal communities, across bridges, past flowering bushes, wetland plants, colorful shops and state parks.
The Timpoochee Trail, as it is formally named, runs along Walton County’s Scenic Highway 30A from beginning to end.
It’s considered a multi-use path, but about 75 percent of its traffic consists of visitors riding beach cruisers or comfort bikes.
“They park their cars and unless they have to go to the grocery store, they ride their bikes,” said Michele Foreman, who owns 30A Bike Rentals, one of a dozen rental businesses along that stretch.
The bikes, which can be rented for anywhere from a few hours to a week, have one speed and one way to brake, by pedaling backward.
Cyclists sit upright on padded seats, unlike road bikes used by more serious cyclists.
Also popular on paths like Timpoochee Trail are “comfort bikes,” which are similarly styled in that you sit upright, but are equipped with gears and hand brakes.
The bikes are used for recreation, to carry folks along scenic stretches of the partially shaded path. They are also transportation for vacationers who travel back and forth between coastal communities.
“We usually stay in the Seagrove area,” says Jim Rice, an Ohio man who vacations regularly in the area. “So that means we can ride our bikes for breakfast in the morning and Rosemary Beach for lunch.
“We love touring through the little neighborhoods,” he adds. “That’s part of the attraction here — not just the beaches, but the bike path.”
Rental agencies deliver the bikes to visitors and pick them up, which makes it easy for folks just coming into town. They provide combination locks, baskets and helmets. Prices start at $10 for a half-day rental and range from $45 to $75 for a full week.
When the path is crowded, riders have to weave and brake frequently, as well as watch for cars turning in and pulling out of driveways and side streets. That makes it less desirable for serious cyclists.
“It would be better if it were a little safer,” said Bruce Braseth, who owns Dragon Sports in Fort Walton Beach. “But cyclists are just happy to have a bike trail anywhere.”
The trail crosses over or near water a dozen times in the 19-mile stretch. In the open spaces between communities, the path is so quiet you can hear birds singing and the wind rustling through the foliage.
“From spring to summer, it’s always full,” said Jeremy Keeney, who owns Bob’s Bicycles in Mary Esther, adding that he wishes the area had more options for cyclists.
“I think more people would be inclined to get on a bicycle and ride if there were more areas like that.”