Wednesday, September 2, 2015

BikeWalkLee Column: Three keys to cycling with traffic

BikeWalkLee's Column in "Go Coastal" section of News-Press: Sept. 3, 2015 (http://www.news-press.com/story/life/outdoors/2015/08/31/three-keys-cycling-traffic/71468842/)

This week's BWL column provides tips for cycling with traffic.


Some cyclists wouldn’t ride in regular traffic if you paid them money. Others wouldn’t ride anywhere else. Why such a disparity of disposition?

As you may expect, it comes down to what you as a rider are comfortable with. Those who have mastered the mechanics of sharing the road feel safer acting like a vehicle, while those who find on-road cycling too nerve-wracking avoid the traffic lanes whenever possible.

That’s not at all inappropriate – in fact, it’s downright prudent. Because if you don’t feel confident on the road, you won’t ride confidently – and that’s when things can go wrong, either because you don’t know what to do when things go wrong or  motorists don’t know what to do with you when you don’t act like another vehicle.

How do you build that confidence? Practice, practice, practice – in a venue that you find challenging without being terrifying, such as a road with light traffic and wide lanes. You also build confidence by being comfortable on your bicycle under a variety of circumstances and conditions, either by doing lots of riding or taking a skills class to show you the tricks and limits of your riding skills.

As expected, there are some simple steps you can take to help you stay safe. They range from being visible and predictable to signaling your intentions and being aware of your surroundings (and the tendencies of drivers to engage in behaviors that could put you at risk). But the big three things to remember when operating on the road are:
  • Your bike is a legal vehicle – operate it that way: Stay to the right (but not in the gutter), pass on the left, go with traffic, hold your position in the lane (or take it altogether if you see the need to control the situation) and generally “drive” your bike.
  • Obey the law: Yield and stop as required by law (and common sense); don’t ride erratically or dart into traffic; know how to signal to other vehicles correctly; and know how to ride with other cyclists (and in the vicinity of pedestrians and others).
  • Always ride defensively: See (mirrors) and be seen (bright colors and lights). Pick your routes wisely (wider streets with moderate traffic). Stay aware of your surroundings with no distractions like music or cell phones.
And if you don’t feel comfortable riding in traffic – don’t! It may limit your route choices since not all roads have sidepath, and those that do are frequently not intended for bicycles so they have plenty of their own risk factors. Just remember there are rules of the road off the road, too. Shared-use paths, bike paths and sidewalks still require some interaction with other cyclists and pedestrians (who always have the right of way) – and even with traffic, typically at intersections.

If you plan to ride a lot, plan on dealing with traffic – and remember, if you play by the rules and feel comfortable with the conditions, everyone can share the road in safety.

Ready to ride or run?
Run: How about an evening run for a change? Still can be a challenge this time of year, between heat and thunderstorms. Nonetheless, there’s a new 5K Glow Run set for Cape Coral on Saturday, Sept. 12 – details at 3dracinginc.com.
Ride: Sept. 4 is the first Friday of the month, which means SW Florida Critical mass will be massing at the field next to the downtown Publix at 7:30 p.m. for its monthly ride. Bring your lights and helmet and join the fun.
Both: While the Sept. 12-13 Galloway Captiva Tri is sold out, if you’re willing to drive north a little there are two choices: The Venice YMCA Triathlon (sprint) is a traditional tri on Sunday, Sept. 5 (www.swflymca.org/programs/venice-triathlon), while the Life’s A Beach Triathlon on Lido Key is a more easy-going tri on Saturday, Sept. 12 (www.lifesabeachtriathlon.com). Check them out online to make sure you can still register.

Help improve safety
  • Want to support the "6ft Flag" Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign, a grassroots movement to help improve the safety of cyclists in Southwest Florida? Go to http://www.gofundme.com/SWFL6ftflag_lights for details and to donate.
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.

Dan Moser's column: Mayors challenged to complete our streets

This week's column provides an update on activities in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers--the three local cities that signed on to USDOT Secretary Foxx's Mayors' Challenge (an initiative to promote bike/ped safety and complete streets).

Florida Weekly, Outdoors section, Sept. 2, 2015

Three of Lee County’s municipalities have signed-on to the Mayors’ Challenge, an initiative of USDOT that’s intended to jump start the implementation of the Complete Streets plan. The cities of Bonita Springs, Cape Coral and Fort Myers have agreed to address each of the elements of the challenge and provide self-assessments to gauge progress, along with taking a Complete Streets approach to transportation planning. The elements of the challenge include:

¦ Identify and address barriers to make streets safe and convenient for all road users, including people of all ages and abilities and those using assistive mobility devices.

¦ Gather and track biking and walking data.

¦ Use designs appropriate to the context of the street and its uses.

¦ Take advantage of opportunities to create and complete ped-bike networks through maintenance.

¦ Improve walking and biking safety laws and regulations.

At a recent Metropolitan Planning Organization Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinating Committee meeting each municipality provided an update, including how they are approaching the challenge. The reports were both informative and generally encouraging.

Bonita Springs is about to embark on a total re-do of its Main Street, Old 41, so the timing for the Mayors’ Challenge couldn’t be better. There seems to be an awareness among both elected officials and key staff that the Complete Streets approach is the way to go and their self assessment reflected this commitment, although they realize they have work to do to meet all of the Challenge’s goals, not to mention creating Complete Streets.

Cape Coral, which is on a roll in terms of becoming a truly bike-friendly community, has the support of many of its elected officials and senior staff but also boasts a public-private partnership approach as one of their best assets. Cape Coral Bike- Ped, the organization that was formed to develop and put in place the initial bicycle route network by engaging the business community to help fund it, continues to be a driving force. The city just submitted its application to League of American Bicyclists for a Bike Friendly Community designation. It’s not all about cycling, either. The city’s self-assessment made clear it’s taking a Complete Streets approach, something that’s quite an undertaking in a city that has a grid system of roads that cover the entirety of its 110 square miles.

Fort Myers, which includes some of Southwest Florida’s oldest neighborhoods as well as the more sprawling suburban areas to the south and east — including reaching into Lehigh Acres — is taking a much different approach. Although the city approved a Complete Streets policy a number of years ago, moving to the implementation phase, which requires amending a number of guiding documents and changing the way staff reviews and approves developments and their own projects, has been stifled up to this point. But a citizens led working group was put in place to tackle both the next steps of implementing the Complete Streets policy and leading the Mayors’ Challenge. The self-assessment report, which was prepared by staff and not the citizens group, reflected the disconnect within the city as compared to the other two municipalities. As has been the case for many years, there’s a perception among some within that there’s no need to formalize a Complete Streets policy because it’s already being done so, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, other than having a stellar walking environment in the downtown River District, there’s a lot to be desired in many other parts of the city. As for being considered a bicycle-friendly community, there’s much work to be done before they could even consider applying for such a designation. All that being said, if city staff who are working with the citizens group are allowed to implement the recommendations that result, Fort Myers will be both a Complete Streets model and Bicycle Friendly Community.

For more information on the Mayors’ Challenge, visit transportation.gov/mayorschallenge. As usual, you’ll find much more about the Mayors’ Challenge and other community matters at BikeWalkLee’s blog at bikewalklee.blogspot.com.

Hit the roads

The monthly Fort Myers Critical Mass ride happens this Friday, Sept. 4. As usual, this evening fun ride stages from the old Boulevard Plaza lot next to Publix between McGregor and West First Street. Details can be found at meetup.com/ Biking-SWFL.

We’re about a week away from the annual Galloway Captiva Triathlon, a very popular event that’s perfect for the whole family. As in past years, it’s sold out and registration is closed. But there’s always a need for volunteers over the course of the weekend of Sept. 11-13. If you’d like to lend a hand and have some fun doing so, go to captivatri.org/volunteers.

The annual City of Fort Myers / Healthy Harvest 5K is being staged at the location of our community food gardens at the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center, just west of FleaMasters Fleamarket on Martin Luther King Blvd. In conjunction with it will be audits of the surrounding area’s infrastructure and environment to gauge the walkability and conditions for those using bicycles to get around. For 5K info, you can go to healthyharvestfarms.org and to inquire about the walking and biking audits, contact Ann Pierce, who’s leading the Fort Myers Mayors’ Challenge committee, at apiercegardner@gmail.com.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.

— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at bikepedmoser@gmail.com and 334- 6417.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aug. 31st: Upcoming running/walking/biking/tri events



Upcoming events 


Running/walking:
·         Saturday, Sept. 12: Inaugural Ida Baker Family Fun Glow Run 5K. An evening run for family fun in Cape Coral, starts at 7:30 p.m. (3dracinginc.com/events)
·         Saturday, Oct. 3: Lexington Cares 5K Run/Walk, to benefit the Regional Cancer Center’s Breast Health Center. Starts at 7:30 a.m. at Lexington Country Club, 16257 Willowcrest Way, Fort Myers. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
·         Saturday, Oct. 10: Cops & Joggers 2015 5K, Starts from Centennial Park, downtown Fort Myers, at 7:45 p.m. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
·         Saturday, Oct. 10: 2015 Busey Bank Run For Prevention 5K, 7:45 a.m. at Florida Gulf Coast University. (www.3dracinginc.com)
·         Saturday, Oct. 17: 7th annual 10K 4 FISH (Friends In Service Here). Starts at  Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, at 7:30 a.m. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
·         Sunday, Oct. 18: Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay, North Collier Regional Park. Rock n' Roll joins with Octoberfest in the only 10-mile race in Southwest Florida. (www.eliteevents.org)
·         Saturday, Oct. 24: 8th annual Race the Roof. 15K and 5K runs, 5K walk, Tot Trot. Benefits Habitat for Humanity, at the Verandah Community. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)

Cycling:
·         Friday, Sept. 4: SWFL Critical Mass ride. Join a family fun slow ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix (at 7:30 p.m.) at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. (twitter.com/swflcm)
       Saturday, Sept. 5: 33rd annual Tour of Sebring. Enjoy one to three days of cycling in the gently rolling hills of Highlands County. Fully supported routes, on-road route marks, rest stops, and dispatched SAG service vehicles. Daily rides ranging from 11 to 62 miles plus a Sunday Bok Tour Century (100 miles). (www.caloosariders.org)
·         Sunday, Sept. 13: Second annual Tour de Cure, 10- 25.6- and 51.2-mile rides. SAG stops. Kicks off at 8 a.m. in Punta Gorda. (www.caloosariders.org)
·         Sunday, Oct. 25: Tour de North Port. 15-, 35- and 65-mile rides, full SAG, breakfast and lunch. (http://peoplefortrees.com/tourevent1_15.php)

Triathlons:
·         Sunday, Sept. 5: Venice YMCA Triathlon. Sprint distance, based at Sharky's on the Pier, 1600 Harbor Drive, Venice. (www.swflymca.org/programs/venice-triathlon)
·         Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 12-13: Galloway Captiva Triathlon. Kid’s events Saturday, three age groups with different distances. Adult sprint tri Sunday, all based at South Seas Island Resort, Captiva. (www.captivatri.org)
·         Saturday, Sept. 12: Life’s A Beach Triathlon, Lido Key. Not your normal tri -- shorter distances, fewer rules, a few challenges thrown in for good measure. (www.lifesabeachtriathlon.com)
·         Saturday, Oct. 3: Siesta Key triathlon (sprint). Benefits the YMCA Sharks swim team. (www.siestakeytriathlon.org)
·         Sunday, Oct. 4: Marco Island Triathlon (sprint). Starts at 8 a.m. from Marco Mariott Beach Resort. (www.thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)
·         Sunday, Oct. 18: Longboat Key International/Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon. Starts at 7:30 a.m. from Longboat Key Club & Resort. (www.lbktriathlon.com)
·         Sunday, Nov. 8: Challenge Venice, Olympic and half Ironman, based at Sharky's on the Pier, 1600 Harbor Drive, Venice. Kid’s tri offered the day before (www.challenge-fl.com)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Garvin Law Firm joins BikeWalkLee coalition



Join BikeWalkLee in welcoming the Garvin Law Firm to our network of supporter organizations, for a total of 68.

A strong coalition is the strength of BikeWalkLee and the reason behind our numerous accomplishments.  We have partnered across sectors with a growing number of community stakeholders that want to improve the quality of life and mobility in Lee County.  Partners include education and health care organizations, safety and injury prevention groups, AARP of Florida, citizen and community groups, environmental organizations, planners, lawyers,  bike clubs, bike shops, and others.

Every year BikeWalkLee's coalition of supporter organizations has grown, starting with 30 organizations in 2009, which has now grown to 68.  Click here for the updated list of our supporter organizations.


Today, BikeWalkLee welcomes the Garvin Law Firm to our coalition. The Garvin Law Firm is a father and son team of personal injury attorneys, with an active practice handling serious injury bicycle claims.  They  have practiced in Fort Myers for over 35 years, with offices also in Naples and Key West.  Jeff Garvin has twice been named "Lawyer of the Year " in the practice of Personal Injury Litigation--Plaintiffs for the Fort Myers/Naples area. 

If you're injured while biking in SWFL and are looking for a local attorney, check out the Garvin Law Firm, and visit their page, "Help from an experienced Florida Bicycle Accident Lawyer".

Fort Myers Location
4280 Cleveland Avenue
FORT MYERS, FL 33901
Phone: 239.277.0005
Fax: 239.277.0004
map & directions

Report by Darla Letourneau

BikeWalkLee's letter to Lee BoCC on county's proposed 2015-16 budget

It's budget time again, and BikeWalkLee has communicated its comments on the County's proposed 2015-16 budget to the Lee BoCC in advance of the September public hearings (see below).  For information on the schedule of upcoming public budget hearings, click here.  Take the time to communicate with your elected officials about what public investments are most important to you.


August 28,  2015


BikeWalkLee, a coalition working to complete Lee County's streets, works for a balanced multi-modal transportation system that values transportation choice, connectivity, economic opportunity, livable communities, community character, safety, and quality growth.   As the Board prepares to take public input in September about its proposed 2015-16 budget, BikeWalkLee would like to share its comments for your consideration. 

Here are the highlights of our recommendations:
1.  Transit--Adopt the proposed modest increases to the LeeTran budget, and commit to addressing the larger need for a more robust transit system in the coming year.
2.  Bike/Ped Facilities--Fully fund the BPAC request for $2 million a year for retrofit projects by adding another $3.9 million to the 5-year  CIP for this line item.
3. Transportation CIP--Delay the Alico Rd. widening project and shift those funds into the Board's #1 priority project-- Estero Blvd. Improvement project--so that it can be constructed in a shorter timeframe (currently planned to take 10 years).
4.  "Growth Increment Funding"--Announce your plans for the use of these funds and the process by which those decisions will be made prior to the September public budget hearings.
5.  Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Settlement Funds--Announce your plans for the process and timeframe for deciding how to allocate the $5.24 million, and consider allocating these funds for bike/ped projects.

Transit
BikeWalkLee has long advocated for a robust transit system as part of a balanced multi-modal transportation system. We are pleased to see that the proposed budget continues the restoration of services that had been cut in the FY 2014 budget, maintains the three bus route improvements that began in January (with revenues from the increased fares), and provides an additional $600 K for improved ADA transit and transportation disadvantaged service.  We were also pleased to see the improvements to Route 60, serving FGCU and San Carlos Park, implemented beginning last month.  We also urge you to ensure that the Fort Myers Beach "Park and Ride" service continues without disruption while the county develops a new parking facility. BikeWalkLee’s concern has been that the 2014 cuts to transit services resulted in ridership losses that are difficult to rebuild. The dependability and convenience of transit must be addressed. The County can do this by further improving headways throughout the system, enhancing the rider experience, and aggressively marketing the benefits of transit. 

While we support the County's transit budget proposals, they only tinker at the edges of what is needed to meet the long term needs of our community. The county should be proactively preparing to meet the future demand of a population projected to grow to over 1 million by 2040. As the Bonita Springs' Chamber of Commerce President Christine Ross' recent article, Our Region's Transportation Conundrum, Let's Tackle Transit, stated, it's past time for the county to provide public transportation options for the growing workforce.  Having a robust transit system--one that has frequent and reliable service--that attracts "choice" riders, not just a transit system viewed as a "social service"--is critical to Lee County's economic competitiveness.  In the coming year, we urge the Board to partner with the Lee MPO and other communities and businesses throughout SWFL to seriously commit to a reliable and convenient transit system.

Bike/Ped Facilities
As we stated in our March 9, 2015 letter to you, we wholeheartedly support the BPAC request for $2 million a year for stand-alone bike/ped retrofit projects to attack the extensive backlog of 85 approved and prioritized projects (totaling $68 million). While your proposed budget for this line item represents an increase over last year's plan, it still falls $3.9 million short of what is needed to fully fund BPAC's request, and only funds 5% of the needed projects (4 of 81 projects funded).  The next project on the BPAC prioritized list is for a shared use path on Estero Parkway, which is urgently needed for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists with the growth and development that is occurring along this county road.

We were pleased to see the Palomino Lane Shared Use Path project, which was approved by the Board in 2014, be fully funded in this year's budget.  Another important bike/ped facilities project off Daniels Parkway--the Fiddlesticks Rd. Shared Use Path--was approved in 2012 and was to start construction in 2014.  We hope that construction on this project, which has been delayed by permitting issues, will begin shortly.  With the new shared use path soon to be constructed on the Fiddlesticks side of Daniels Parkway as part of the MPO's $10 million TIGER Complete Streets Initiative grant, it will be important for both of these two side road shared use path projects to be completed and connect up with the Daniels pathway system. This will allow many local residents to walk and bike to shops, schools, parks, and other destinations in the area without having to drive their cars on this increasingly congested roadway.

As BikeWalkLee stated in its January 29, 2015 letter to you, we are pleased that the impact fee ordinance (adopted March 3, 2015) includes language broadening the definition of what road impact fee funds can be used for, making it a more multi-modal transportation approach.  We encourage you to use this new tool to ensure that bike/ped/transit facilities are incorporated into transportation projects designed to meet the infrastructure needs created by growth.  This will provide our citizens with more transportation choices and save the taxpayers money by building these needed facilities from the start vs. later expensive retrofit projects.

Transportation CIP

It is also important that all road projects in the CIP be designed with a complete streets approach in an effort to improve the safety of all road users.  We also encourage the County to give a higher priority to maintaining and improving the current roadway network vs. expanding road capacity, taking a "fix it first" approach to prioritizing the scarce resources.

Over the past three years, the Board has given priority to four road projects: Alico/Ben Hill widening; Estero Blvd. Improvement project; Burnt Store Rd. widening; and Homestead Rd. widening.  BikeWalkLee has consistently stated that funding for the Alico Rd. widening project is not justified at this time, especially in light of other much higher priority needs in terms of traffic demand.  The Estero Blvd. Improvement project is a much higher priority and should proceed at a much faster pace in order to minimize the economic disruptions that the planned 10-year construction timeframe will cause.  With Estero Blvd. being the only road through Fort Myers Beach--one of the county's tourist hot spots--the economic costs of delay in terms of lost tourism dollars, not to mention the disruption to Fort Myers Beach residents, from such a long time horizon for this project merits delaying other projects so that this one can be completed as quickly as possible.

More glaringly, we continue to be concerned that the County has an approved transportation CIP that has set in motion the expenditure of funds on a long list of projects for which there is a MAJOR shortfall in revenues projected to be available.  The County should be scaling back its plans to meet the available future revenues. By moving forward with grossly unrealistic funding assumptions in the form of the proposed CIP, the County is pushing off the hard choice of prioritizing projects.  This "head in the sand" approach will cost taxpayers a great deal of money for purchase of right-of-way and design studies for projects for which there are no funds to construct.  As has been made clear at all levels of government over the past 4 years, transportation revenues will continue to decline from all sources at all levels of government for the foreseeable future.   You, as our elected leaders, should be facing the fiscal reality and making tough choices, rather than hoping for a future solution.

As we have communicated with you on numerous occasions over the past 4 years, we believe that the county should be collecting 100% of the impact fees due so that the full cost of the infrastructure necessitated by development is paid for by those creating the growth rather than current residents.  Even with full impact fee collections, the county would be short revenues needed to meet the transportation infrastructure needs of the county, but it would significantly reduce the "hole" that is growing increasingly deeper.

"Growth Increment Funding (GIF)"
In our May 29, 2015 letter, we outlined our comments on the County's policy decision to earmark an estimated $7.9 million of general funds (already collected from property taxes) for infrastructure projects.  This proposal simply fills the hole created by the loss of impact fee revenues due to the Board's decision to continue significant reductions in impact fee collection rates (now a 55% reduction).  Since that policy was adopted, County Administration has notified the Board that construction costs are up 20%, meaning that the gap has widened even further.

To date, the County has not indicated how they plan to spend the GIF fund and what process it will use to make those decisions.  Will the funds be used for transportation projects, parks, county buildings, utility projects and/or jails?  Will the funds be added to the CIP budget and made part of the annual CIP review and decision-making process? Or, does the County intend to create a separate/new process for projects to be considered? If so, when and how will this be determined? Will the public have an opportunity to comment in advance on this approach?  Given that infrastructure projects are usually multi-year investments, how will these funds be committed for the outyears, if not through the normal CIP process?  We urge the Board to announce the plans for the use of these funds and the process by which those decisions will be made before the beginning of the September public budget hearings.

As we stated in our May 29, 2015 letter, we urge you to dedicate a significant portion of these GIF funds to bike/ped retrofit projects and transit funding.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Settlement Funds
In mid-July, the Board accepted $5.24 million as part of the national $18.5 billion BP settlement for the 2010 disaster.  These funds, which are due to be distributed by the end of this year, can be spent on anything, according to the County's spokesperson.  Although the Board is not including these funds in its decisions on the 2015-16 budget, the allocation of these funds is clearly a budget decision that should be subject to public input.  We hope that you will announce shortly the plan, process, and timeframe for deciding how to allocate these funds.

In the meantime, BikeWalkLee would like to offer its suggestion that these funds be allocated for bike/ped projects.  As mentioned before, the backlog of retrofit projects  is extensive.  Use of these funds for small one-time capital expenditures is a good fit for a one-time revenue "windfall", since it won't require ongoing expenditures in the outyears.  If the County wishes to take a tourism approach to the use of these funds, there are two quick projects with great tourism benefits to consider--creating the long discussed trailhead for the 10 Mile Linear Trail, so that visitors and residents have a place to park and then bike the trail; and investing in wayfinding signs along the network of share use paths and bike lanes throughout the county, i.e., expanding the County's Tour de Parks and University Loop successful wayfinding signs to the whole system, thereby encouraging more people to bike for transportation and recreation.  We look forward to discussing these ideas with you further once you have announced your process for deciding how to spend the $5.24 million.

Thank you for considering our views.

Darla Letourneau
on behalf of BikeWalkLee

Related BWL letters to BoCC on various budget topics:
Transit:
April 10, 2014 BWL Letter (comments on 4/15 BoCC Agenda Items 4 and 10): LeeTran Park and Ride Facility for Fort Myers Beach Trolley
Bike/Ped Facilities:
April 15, 2014 BWL letter (comments on 4/15 BoCC Agenda items 4 and 10): Palomino Lane Shared Use Path CIP Project Proposal

CIP/Impact Fees
Aug. 18, 2014 Letter (Margaret Banyan): Comments on 2015 budget items (CIP, impact fees, transit, Conservation 20/20)