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Thursday, April 17, 2014

BikeWalkLee Column: Use your brain--wear a helmet!

Today's BWL column focuses on the good and bad news about biking and your brain.  Biking does wonderful things for your brain health...but to protect your brain, PLEASE wear a helmet while biking. The tragic death of local meteorologist Jim Reif was just the most recent example of the lack of a bike helmet perhaps being the difference between an injury and a fatality.

BikeWalkLee's Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" section,  April 17, 2014

 It Makes Sense to Wear Bike Helmet


Biking does wonderful things for your brain, sharpening your thinking and shutting down stress. But biking can be bad for your brain, too — as we found out all too tragically this month.

First, the good brain news: According to studies published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 30 minutes of spinning on a stationary bike helps people score higher on tests of memory, reasoning and planning than before they started pedaling.

This adds to a growing body of evidence that aerobic exercise (which includes bicycle time) is a boost for your body in many ways: easing anxiety and depression, improving memory (or slowing its loss), enhancing the ability to concentrate and much more.

Movement makes more blood vessels to feed your brain, giving those cells more of what they need to work. It also fires up the neurons, which intensifies the formation of proteins that promote new brain cells, and encourages the release of neurotransmitters, the messengers between brain cells. More brain cells that can communicate better and faster mean improved memory, concentration and problem-solving skills, according to the folks with letters after their names who study these things.

There's even a sweet spot for brain benefits: 30-60 minutes at roughly 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Less and you don't see much benefit from the processes it unleashes; more and the rest of your body is clamoring for so much attention from the cell-building resources that the brain doesn't get all it needs.

Now, if you're riding to beat the blues, a different study suggests three to five sessions of 45-60 minutes each per week, working hard enough to keep your heart between 50-85 percent of maximum. Can't find that kind of time? Even 20-30 minutes a day can help ward off depression, some say.

Set an example for your grandkids!
 Studies are great, but reality often has a very different face – and, as we've seen in a very high-profile way, the reality is that biking can also be very bad for your brain. Well, not biking per se – but falling from your bike – the No. 1 cause of bike crashes – and all too frequently when not wearing a helmet.

The tragic death of local meteorologist Jim Reif was just the most recent example of the lack of a bike helmet perhaps being the difference between an injury and a fatality. It also underscores the tenuous nature of biking, where one slip can have serious consequences.

That's not a reason to park your bike in the garage forever. But it should convince you to look at the steps you can take to keep yourself safe on your bike – and, frankly, wearing a helmet is at the top of the list.

It's not perfect — you can still be injured while wearing a helmet, although it reduces the chances of major head trauma or death by 85 percent (concussions are still a possibility). It's not foolproof. Wear it wrong and it's not much better than not wearing it at all. And it's not widespread: A recent survey on the Sanibel bike path system found fewer than four out of every 10 riders were wearing a helmet.

But it is smart, particularly if you're riding in traffic or on uneven or unrepaired surfaces (or if you're trying to set an example for your kids, who have to wear one). It's even prudent if you're riding on a protected and placid bike path, because one sudden stop gone wrong can put you over the handlebars all too easily. It's also mandatory if you participate in almost any organized ride or competition because the organizers are trying to limit their liability, which should tell you something.

There are myriad excuses not to ride with a helmet: It's too hot, it's too bulky, it looks funny, I'm not really riding that far, you name it. There's just one good reason to wear it: It can save your life.

Dan Moser outfits Commissioner Mann with a helmet
So put on that helmet. Protect your brain so it can benefit from all the good things biking and exercise can do for it. Protect yourself so you can have a ride you'll always remember … not one your loved ones wish they could forget.

— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets designed, built, operated and maintained for safe, convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. BikeWalkLee.org.

[last two photos added by BWL--not published in News-Press]

Upcoming events
Running/walking
Saturday: Ears & Eggs 5K, Gateway (endurancesportstiming.com)
May 3: Run for Kayla 5K, 7:30 a.m., Patriot Elementary School, Cape Coral (3dracinginc.com)
May 10: Turtle Trot 5K, Lovers Key State Park, 8 a.m. (fortmyerstraclub.com)
May 17: Cape Cops 5K, , Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, 7:30 a.m. (www.fortmyerstraclub.com)

Cycling & other events
April 26: Fight for Air Stair Climb, 26, High Point Place, downtown Fort Myers (fightforairclimb.org)
May 10: Cape Coral Yacht Club Sprint Triathlon, Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, 7 a.m. (active.com)

May 21: Ride of Silence, 7 p.m. Centennial Park, 2000 West First Street, Fort Myers (under the Bridge at Heitman and Bay streets). Cyclists will ride in a silent funeral-style procession at 10-12 mph for 8 miles to honor those who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Riders are requested to wear black armbands or red if they have been injured in a cycling versus motor vehicle accident. More details www.caloosariders.org/rosfm. Everyone welcome. Free of charge. No registration necessary

Tell Us About Your Ride
Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you'd like to share with others? Tell us about it at info@bikewalklee.org, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Facts about Bicycling and Walking in the United States--2014 Benchmarking Report

On April 16th, the Alliance for Biking and Walking (one of BikeWalkLee's national partners) issued its 2014 "benchmarking" report on bicycling and walking in the US.  It's filled with tons of data and research on all 50 states, along with 52 of the most populous cities.  Here's a chance to learn what's happening around the country and see how Florida is stacking up against other states.



Cover preview.png

 The Alliance produces the Benchmarking Report every two years in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Community Design Initiative. The goal: to comprehensively examine bicycling and walking transportation across the U.S. and how these trends relate to public health, safety, and social and economic well being. Benchmarking is a particularly helpful approach to active transportation issues because it allows comparison among states and cities while also measuring national trends. The report looks not only at bicycling and walking levels, but a suite of related trends, like crash fatalities, weekly physical activity, transportation costs, air quality, and economic growth. 

Biking and walking are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. But how does Florida stack up against the rest of the country? Where is the most growth happening, and why? 

A new report from the Alliance for Biking and Walking examines the hard data behind the growing movement for more bicycling and walking – and finds that Florida ranks:
  •  in the bottom 20% (42 out of 50) in terms of our commuter bicycling and walking levels; 
  • in the top 40% (19 out of 50) in terms of per capita spending on bike/ped projects;
  • DEAD LAST (50 out of 50) in terms of bike/ped fatality rates
  • in the top 40% (19 out of 50) in terms of getting recommended physical activity  
The report also evaluates states in terms of whether they have published goals on four measures:
  • to increase walking
  • to increase biking
  • decrease ped fatalities
  • decrease bike fatalities
It was surprising to learn that Florida has goals for all these categories EXCEPT a goal to increase biking!

Only two Florida cities--Miami and Jacksonville--are included in the city reports.  Miami is doing a better job on all the indicators than Jacksonville (see above Florida rankings) except for percent getting recommended physical activity (Jacksonville is 17th and Miami is 29th); and Miami is doing better than the overall Florida rankings (except for the latter category).  In the ranking of the 52 cities on bike/ped fatality rates--Jacksonville ranks dead last (while Miami is 40th)...consistent with the overall dismal Florida ranking.

Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report collects and analyzes data from all 50 states, 52 of the most populous cities, and – new to the 2014 edition – 17 small and midsized cities. The report traces the rise of walking and biking and explores its connection to health issues like obesity and diabetes.


Using hard data from public agencies and original research, the Benchmarking Report answers important questions such as:

·         In which states and cities do the most – and fewest – people bike and walk to work?
·         What is the single biggest predictor of how many people bike and walk to work in a city or state?
·         Where is the gender split of bicycle commuters most – and least – pronounced?
·         How do levels of biking and walking relate to public health indicators, like high blood pressure and diabetes?
·         What are states and cities doing to encourage more biking and walking?
·         Where are pedestrian and bicyclist fatality rates highest – and lowest?
·         Where are bike share systems and innovative bike facilities growing most rapidly?

Available in full color, Bicycling and Walking in the United States is an invaluable resource for policymakers, planners, and advocates working to establish, test, and defend initiatives that promote biking and walking.

Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Community Design Initiative, AARP, and the American Public Transportation Association. Print copies will be available from Island Press on May 15, 2014.



Moser Column: Punta Gorda teaches lesssons Fort Myers can learn from

This week's Moser column highlights biking and walking improvements in Punta Gorda, lessons from last week's BWL "show and tell" ride in downtown Fort Myers, and an advocacy update.
 
Dan Moser
TEAM Punta Gorda conducted its annual Pedal and Play in Paradise rides earlier this month, an event that gives participants a taste of the cycling and pedestrian environment in and around the city. And as has been the case for about eight years, City Manager Howard Kunik led a ride afterward to give those in tow an update of progress made in the last year and a preview of things to come.

For a variety of safety-related reasons, I’m not a big fan of sidepath cycling. But for those who enjoy cycling on pathways, Punta Gorda offers a very nice environment, especially in its historic area. Since rebuilding began after Hurricane Charley devastated the area in 2004 there has been a focus on ensuring open spaces with greenbelts that include multi-use pathways (not just narrow sidewalks) as one of the key aspects of that initiative.

TEAM Punta Gorda (www.teampuntagorda.org), a grassroots, public-private partnership that has taken the lead on the post-hurricane effort, put forth a plan for a linear pathway “ring around the city” that includes the city’s waterfront Harborwalk along the Peace River from Fishermen’s Village to Charlotte Regional Medical Center. To date, a significant amount of the waterfront pathway is in place as well as other segments of the ring to the west and south of city center. It’s not yet done but there appears to be plenty of public support and political will to lead one to expect that a complete ring around the city will come to be.


“Show & Tell” riders discuss options to improve access to the Fort Myers River District. 
COURTESY PHOTO
“Show and Tell” riders discuss options to improve access to the Fort Myers River District.
  Besides the relatively central bike/ped improvements, there’s also a plan to eventually link Punta Gorda to Arcadia and Fort Myers with a linear trail along the railroad corridor and also to meet up with the southern end of Sarasota’s pathway system. These connections are key elements, because all too often those who would otherwise choose to use their bicycle to get to and from a town center can’t do so because access is difficult, perceived as unsafe, or at least deemed an unattractive option for all but the hardiest of souls (or those with little choice).

Fort Myers River District access
In many ways, Punta Gorda is a lot like Fort Myers, with a very walkable and historic waterfront district. Except for within Centennial Park, Fort Myers has standard sidewalks and not multi-use pathways designed for bicycle users as much as pedestrians, as is the case in Punta Gorda, both along its waterfront and beyond. Both cities have issues with safe and comfortable access from outside the downtown area, something that was made apparent to representatives of the city of Fort Myers on a recent “Show and Tell Ride.”

On the Fort Myers ride, a group of around 20 left the city hall parking lot just after the evening rush hour, heading first to the south along the Broadway/Jackson corridor. It then moved toward the Dunbar neighborhood, followed by routes leading to Palm Beach Boulevard neighborhoods as well as access to the Edison Bridge leading to North Fort Myers. Finally, the group experienced West First Street, which is the primary access that leads to local streets serving as alternatives to McGregor Boulevard, which I’ve featured in the past as one of our area’s not so bike-friendly roadways. A number of excellent suggestions were gleaned from the group, many of which could be quickly implemented at reasonable costs. These recommendations that will improve safety and access by bicycle to the city center will be put forth formally to city leaders. BikeWalkLee member Ann Pierce and Mayor Randy Henderson are to be commended for making this very informative and potentially productive outing happen.

Advocacy matters
The recent tragic death of popular local weatherman Jim Reif as a result of a bicycle crash will hopefully lead to some good by raising awareness of the value of helmet use as well as some of the risks related to sidepath use as compared to roadway riding. Already I’ve heard stories of those who have now decided to wear a helmet whenever they ride and who have begun encouraging their family and friends to do as well. And those on our “Show and Tell Ride” had a chance to take a critical look at the obstacles and hazards one must deal with when using the sidewalks that are clearly intended for pedestrian traffic. You’ll find more about this and other matters at BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com).

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

— Dan Moser is CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and program director for Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334- 6417.

Upcoming events
Running/Walking:
Ears & Eggs 5K, Saturday, April 19, Gateway
(endurancesportstiming.com)

 Run for Kayla 5K, Saturday, May 5, Patriot
ES, Cape Coral (www.3dracinginc.com)

Cycling and other events:
Fight For Air Stair Climb, Satuday, April 26, High Point Place, downtown Fort Myers (fightforairclimb.org)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BoCC approves Palomino Lane Shared Use Path CIP Project Proposal

BikeWalkLee, along with several residents in the Palomino Lane community, weighed in with County Commissioners (both in 4/10 letter and during public comments at 4/15 meeting) in support of the Palomino Lane shared use path CIP project and funding proposal, which BoCC approved at their April 15th meeting.
Lee County Commissioners

Background
Palomino Lane was one of the first roads the complete streets working group (which BikeWalkLee serves on) reviewed in 2010.  It was clear that this street met the criteria for improvement.  It had major safety problems, a dense population (approximately 5,000), school children trying to get to and from bus stops, lack of access to the many shops and amenities on Daniels, and several LeeTran bus stops.  However, due to the staff's projected costs and the drainage and right-of-way issues, no improvements were programmed. 

Over the past six months, the residents organized to work with the county on trying to find a way to address the serious safety concerns for all road users due to the lack of any bike/ped facilities along Palomino Lane.  Under the effective leadership of residents John Harney (now member of BPAC) and Craig Deardon (member of Cape Coral Bike-Ped), a proposal for an 8 foot pathway was developed, along with an innovative funding approach that sets aside road impact fees that the City of Fort Myers has collected from residents of communities off Palomino that are located in the City.  The funds collected will be set aside for this project until it is fully funded.
Palomino Lane


BikeWalkLee representative Darla Letourneau spoke in support of the proposal and commended the community, Commissioner Pendergrass, Lee DOT staff, the City of Fort Myers, and the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), for working together on this proposal.

According to Letourneau, with both the current impact fee dollars and the projected funds coming in when the 80% reduction in impact fees ordinance expires in March 2015, approximately $500,000 of the $1.9 M total cost--26%-- can be funded through the account set up by today's action. Additional funds will be needed to move this project forward. 

As Letourneau pointed out, there are lessons to be learned from both the Palomino and Fiddlesticks communities' recent efforts to get bike/ped facilities that connect them to Daniels Parkway.  Part of the philosophy of complete streets is "doing it right the first time" and addressing the needs of ALL users at the beginning of the process rather than expensive retrofits later.  Both these cases are reminders that biking and walking facilities up to Daniels Parkway should have been included in the development of these communities--each with about 6,000 residents.  Since these developments were constructed (some as early as the 1980s and others in the 2000's) these residents have had to struggle with no safe biking and walking facilities to access all the destinations on Daniels.  
BWL's Darla Letourneau

Next month (May 6th), BoCC will be asked award the first contract for phase one of the 2-year effort to construct the Fiddlesticks path they approved in 2012.  After 10 years of effort, the Fiddlesticks community will see their much-needed shared use path completed by 2016, just in time to take advantage of the improvements to the Daniels Parkway path system being constructed with the TIGER grant funds.  Unfortunately, the Palomino community could be waiting much longer.   Letourneau urged commissioners and staff to continue to work with the community to find ways to move this needed safety project forward expeditiously.  

Three members of the Palomino Lane community (including John Harney and Craig Deardon) spoke in support of the project and talked about their personal experiences with unsafe conditions on Palomino Lane for cyclists and pedestrians.  Residents had researched where their impact fees had gone and found that they were used in other locations, not to provide needed transportation facilities on Palomino, which gave rise to their proposal to set-aside the City of Fort Myers impact fees being collected from those communities and transferred to the county.  The speakers thanked both Commissioner Pendergrass and LeeDOT Director Dave Loveland for their efforts.

Take-Away
Both the Fiddlesticks and Palomino projects are good examples of the importance of communities coming together to ask for bike/ped facilities and working with their elected officials and county staff to address their safety and accessibility needs. BikeWalkLee has supported both these projects, but it was the citizens in each of the communities that made them happen.  Kudos to all the citizens in communities off of Fiddlesticks and Palomino who worked to make this happen.  Yes, citizen involvement can really result in improving your community!  Be inspired!

Report by Darla Letourneau

BoCC approves LeeTran Park and Ride Facility for the Fort Myers Beach Trolley



BikeWalkLee weighed in with County Commissioners (both in 4/10 letter and during public comments at 4/15 meeting) in support of a permanent Park and Ride facility for the Fort Myers Beach trolley, which BoCC approved at their April 15th meeting.

Background
Since 1987, LeeTran has had a free park and ride facility at Summerlin Square for people taking the trolley over to Fort Myers Beach.  With a new Walmart coming into this plaza, LeeTran needed to find a permanent home for their park and ride facility.  The county staff have worked collaboratively with FDOT, County Lands, and LeeTran and identified a property for purchase.



At the April 15th BoCC meeting, BWL representative Darla Letourneau spoke in support of the proposal.  She commented that LeeTran's trolley service is vital to the tourist economy, which brings 5 million people a year to Lee County and contributes over $3 billion to the local economy.  The Park and Ride facility and the trolley service it supports, is a critical component of relieving congestion on Fort Myers Beach, and probably takes 100,000 cars off the beach each year. Clearly, the park and ride facility has demonstrated its economic value and merits continuation.  

Letourneau also stated that Lee County is becoming a major international destination and, as such, must step up the provision of transit services offered to increase and maintain this appeal.  

Letourneau commended the staff for working collaboratively to come up with a solution that benefits the county, its citizens, and its visitors. 

Report by Darla Letourneau

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 14th: Upcoming running/walking/biking events

Today's blog highlights the running/walking/biking events in Lee County in the next couple of months.


Upcoming events

Running/walking:
·         Saturday, April 19: Ears and Eggs 5K, Gateway (endurancesportstiming.com)
·         Saturday, May 3: Run for Kayla 5K, 7:30 a.m., Patriot Elementary School, Cape Coral (www.3dracinginc.com)
·     
         Saturday, May 10: Turtle Trot 5K, Lovers Key State Park, 8 a.m. (www.fortmyerstraclub.com)
·       
          Saturday, May 17: Cape Cops 5K, ,Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, 7:30 a.m. (www.fortmyerstraclub.com)

Cycling and other events:

·         Saturday, April 26: Fight For Air Stair Climb, 26, High Point Place, downtown Fort Myers(fightforairclimb.org)
·     
  
Saturday, May 10: Cape Coral Yacht Club Sprint Triathlon,Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, 7 a.m. (http://www.active.com/)
·         Wednesday, May 21: Ride of  Silence, 7 p.m. Centennial Park, 2000 West First Street, Fort Myers(under the Bridge at Heitman and Bay Streets). Cyclists will ride in a silent funeral-style procession at 10-12 mph for 8 miles to honor those who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Riders are requested to wear black arm bands or red if they have been injured in a cycling versus motor vehicle accident. More details www.caloosariders.org/rosfm. Everyone welcome. Free of charge. No registration necessary