Thursday, January 18, 2018

The danger of distraction

BWL Column
The News-Press, 1/18/2018
by Ken Gooderham

What are you doing right now – besides reading this?

Are you walking down the sidewalk? Riding your bike around the neighborhood? Driving your vehicle on our area’s overwrought roadways (please say no!)?

None of the above? Good… not that this article should demand your undivided attention, but that doing any other thing – particularly reading – while propelling yourself forward is rarely a great idea.

Most of us would agree that reading the newspaper while driving – or biking or walking – is not smart. So why do so many of us think that texting while driving is OK?

It’s not. It’s dangerous, to you and everyone around you.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s also dangerous to text while biking or even while walking. It’s just particularly hazardous to be looking at a smartphone screen rather than where you are going when operating a moving two-ton (or more) vehicle.

Let’s face it: Multi-tasking is a myth. Most people cannot (and should not) do more than one thing at a time if they hope to do it well. That’s particularly true for driving, a skill (if you think back to your driver’s ed days) that takes multiple nearly instantaneous decisions to do even moderately well.

However, that’s also true to some degree for cycling and even walking. Riding a bike and using your phone means you’re not paying attention to where you are going nor to what’s going on around you – and you don’t have both hands on the handlebars either. Even walking while texting puts you at risk; looking at the phone instead of looking where you are going is how people walk into telephone poles, walk off piers, walk into other people, walk into traffic or whatever other YouTube-style moment you can think of. (It’s not always funny. Just a few weeks ago, an 11-year-old was hit and killed by a train in Haines City because her headphones blocked out the warning whistles and she was too engrossed in her phone to look up and see the approaching train.)

Doing anything while distracted is risky. Driving (or biking or walking) while distracted is dangerous.

Texting is singled out because it offers the hat trick of distraction, combining visual (looking where you are going), manual (not having your hands on the wheel) and cognitive (not thinking about what you are doing only) distractions.

Traffic experts say that sending or reading a text (which they say takes five seconds) while driving 55 mph means you will travel the length of a football field blind. That’s a lot of yards for something to go wrong… and there are plenty of statistics to show just how wrong it can and does go every year.

Many of you get that. Looking over the Facebook comments received by the News-Press after a BikeWalkLee op-ed was published in support of a proposed law to make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida, and the feeling was strong that such a law is needed – mixed with incredulity that it wasn’t already on the books. (There was also a significant tangent offered on the driving skill-sets of our snowbird drivers, another familiar theme.)

Does knowing that texting behind the wheel is bad stop them from doing it themselves? AAA says no, that 84% of drivers say texting while driving is dangerous but 36% of them do it anyway.

Distractions comes in more modes than just texting. Adjusting the radio (or whatever entertainment mode your vehicle has), disciplining your kids, eating or drinking, taking care of some personal hygiene issues – all this and more can take your attention away from driving your vehicle. If you’re on a bike or on foot, being distracted from your surroundings and your propulsion is also risky – even more so in the vicinity of a distracted driver, an all too common event.

Want to stay safe? Don’t drive (or bike or walk) while distracted. If someone around you is dangerously distracted, either ask them to pay attention to the task at hand or get far, far away from them.

Even though it should take only common sense to stop this instead of a law, laws have to step in when common sense is not so common. So support the effort to make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning someone can be stopped and ticketed if someone in law enforcement sees a driver texting in motion. Right now, it’s a secondary law, meaning a ticket can only be issued when an officer has another reason to pull someone over… say, because they just hit a cyclist or walker while texting.

A boost for Bonita and Estero

Thanks to a strong showing of community support and some local officials taking their case to Tallahassee, the Bonita-Estero Trail segment has been restored to the state’s Greenways and Trails map. That’s the first step to make the trail – which runs along U.S. 41 and Business 41 – a reality somewhere down the road.

The move not only puts this trail back on the map (and eligible for state funding), it helps boost some badly needed bike/ped infrastructure in the southern part of the county while connecting it to the Collier segment of the trail.

Thanks to Bonita Deputy Mayor Peter O’Flinn, Estero Councilmember Nick Batos and Lee MPO director Don Scott for making the case in Tallahassee, and to all the residents who wrote 880 letters in support of this effort.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? This Saturday, try a 5K run/walk as part of the weekend Tour de Cape at Cape Harbour ( There’s a full schedule on Jan. 27, with 5Ks at the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers, the Civil Air Patrol in Naples and Hancock Elementary School in Cape Coral – plus a half-marathon and 5K at the Hands Across the Harbor in Punta Gorda. Details at,, and, respectively.

Ride? Choices abound, starting with the venerable Tour de Cape on Sunday with rides of 15, 30, 60 and 100 miles ( Critical Mass rides upcoming include the Cape night ride on Jan. 26 and the Saturday Slow Roll in Fort Myers Jan. 27 ( Jan. 27 also brings Hands Across The Harbor in Punta Gorda, with rides of 13.1, 20 or 30 miles (

Both? Nothing nearby in the near term, check out or for events in the state.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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 

Dry, cool weather perfect time to take in a hike, bike race or 5K run

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 1/17/18

Compared with many other parts of our state, Lee County has a very limited number of unpaved trails that most runners would consider to be long enough to get in a good run. As one would expect, summer rains reduce options even further, so between now and May is the time to get out and enjoy those we do have. While not comprehensive, following is a list of some places you can get in a run, walk or hike among nature as well as a few organized events.

¦ Estero Bay Preserve State Park ( has two locations from which to access miles of trails, one off West Broadway in Estero and the other at the end of Winkler Road in south Fort Myers. It’s quite a unique environment with 16 miles of trails that meander through pine flatwoods, mangroves and tidal salt flats leading to the Estero River. Some trails are completely submerged parts of the year so the best times to visit are typically now through May.
Estero Bay Preserve, Hiking Trail Along Salt Flats (

¦ Lovers Key State Park ( offers the best of all worlds, with a top-notch beach and a seven-mile long network of outstanding trails. It’s located on the causeway between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach.

Billy Creek Preserve (
¦ Lee County’s 2020 Program includes a number of preserves and conservation properties that offer miles of trails. Some of them are Prairie Pines Preserve and Pop Ash Creek Preserve in North Fort Myers, Hickey Creek Mitigation Park in Alva, Matanzas Pass Preserve on Fort Myers Beach, and many others. You’ll find a complete list with details of each at

¦ Lee County Parks & Rec ( also manages more traditional parks that include those with running and hiking opportunities. One of the best is Alva’s Caloosahatchee Regional Park which is home to over five miles of beautiful trails on the riverside of the park that are open to foot traffic only and over 15 miles of bike and horse trails across North River Road that are also open to runners and hikers. When running or hiking on the latter, always keep in mind their primary uses.

Here are some organized trail running events (walkers welcome in most).

¦ Saturday, Jan. 20, is a first-time event that trail running enthusiasts will enjoy while also learning about a hidden gem of a place and a proposed project to make that place more accessible. The Wings over Water Festival 5K ( is intended to provide the public with an opportunity to see what Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres has to offer.

Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park (Lee County Parks & Rec)
The 5K run and walk is also being touted as the reincarnation of one of our area’s oldest races that had been part of the Lehigh Spring Fest for over 40 years. The corresponding project mentioned is a trail proposed by FDOT that will connect Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park to Lehigh Acres Community Park and Harns Marsh, allowing residents and visitors to bike or walk between these popular destinations. This 5.5 mile paved shared-use pathway would be a natural extension of what’s been envisioned since Lee County Parks and Recreation Department purchased an abandoned golf course and turned it into Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park, which opened almost five years ago.

Trailhead Park currently includes a halfmile paved shared-use pathway that encircles a three-acre replicated prairie which will function as the literal trailhead for a greenway corridor along Able Canal, with the first section of the greenway to connect Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park to Lehigh Acres Community Park and Harns Marsh.

¦ Saturday, Jan. 27, the annual Calusa Bug Chase 5K ( takes place at the Calusa Nature Center. While not completely on unpaved surfaces, it’s still a good opportunity to experience what the Nature Center has to offer.

¦ Rescheduled to March 4 from its usual January date due to Hurricane Irma, the best trail run anywhere in Florida (at least in my opinion) takes place within Caloosahatchee Regional Park. River, Roots and Ruts Half Marathon includes the very challenging mountain bike trails while the 5K stays on the more friendly paths on the river side of the park (

¦ On May 12, Lovers Key State Park (previously mentioned) is the venue for Turtle Trot 5K. Info can be found at and

¦ Summer brings the annual 3D Cross Country 5K. This Estero race has become a popular tradition that usually occurs on the first Saturday of September (

¦ Finally, a reminder to both runners and cyclists that the Tour de Cape ( takes place with a 5K run on Saturday, Jan. 20, and supported bike rides of distances from 15 to 100 miles happening on Sunday, Jan. 21.

For more about these places, events, and other matters that affect all of us who venture outdoors for transportation, fitness and fun be sure to check out BikeWalkLee at

- 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 and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bonita-Estero Trail segment restored to FL Greenways and Trails Map

All the hard work to get the Bonita-Estero Trail segment restored to the Florida Greenways and Trails Map paid off.  On Jan. 11th the Florida Greenways and Trails Board, part of Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and its Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT), met to make final decisions on what to include in the FL Greenways and Trails Plan Maps, and voted to restore the Bonita-Estero Trail, based on the strong community support.  Why is this important? Because being a "Priority Trail" gives you priority for SUN Trail funds. Below is the Estero Council of Community Leaders News (1/15/18), with thank you's posted from ECCL, the Lee MPO, and BikeWalkLee.  A special thanks to Bonita Deputy Mayor, Peter O'Flinn, Estero Village Council member, Nick Batos, and Don Scott, Lee MPO Executive Director, for their leadership, AND thanks to all the residents and advocates who sent letters in support. YOU made a difference!

Since BikeWalkLee's inception in 2009, it has been a strong supporter of the vision of a connected and integrated statewide trail system throughout Florida. [BWL 2016 Letter ] While a statewide trail map was developed in 1998, the initiative gained momentum beginning in 2014 when the State Legislature provided annual funding ($25 M/year) for the SUN Trail program that uses the Florida Greenways and Trails Plan and maps to prioritize funding for the system. This Plan and maps (last updated in 2015) will guide implementation of the connected statewide trail system from 2018 through 2022. Since 2015, the Lee MPO has proposed several new segments for the trail, which need to be incorporated into the updated maps.

The revised statewide trail maps contained in the draft FGTS update, released in September 2017, deleted the Seminole Gulf Railroad right of way corridor between Bonita Springs and Estero that has been on the FGTS map since the beginning as the primary spine for the Southwest Coast Connector (aka Gulf Coast Trail) in Lee County.