Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More facilities, not more controversy

BWL News-Press 'Outdoors' article, 9/29/2016
by Ken Gooderham

Photo: BikeWalkLee archive
Casual observers who watched (or read about) the recent dust-up over bike lanes and paths on the soon-to-be-remodeled State Road 82 in eastern Lee County may have wondered what all the to-do was about.

Short answer: It was about two different cycling publics and the facilities they prefer. Long answer: It was also about state law, last-minute changes to capital construction projects and the struggle to accommodate every non-motorized road user.

SR 82, long one of the county’s most dangerous roadways, is on the fast track for expansion, eventually turning this two-lane moving parking lot into a six-lane highway. With this upgrade, Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) was proposing buffered bike lanes on both sides of the expanded road PLUS a 5-foot sidewalk on one side PLUS a 10-foot shared use path on the other…making this probably the best bike/ped designed roadway in the county when it’s done.

What’s not to like? Well, one group found something – proposing removal of the bike lanes altogether and widening the path to 12 feet to accommodate cyclists riding in both directions. They offered this up at a September hearing, where it was thankfully shot down.

First, some definitions to put everyone on the same footing:

  • Bike lane: Adjacent to the driving lanes of a roadway, usually 5 feet wide (but can be 4 feet for repaved roads). It’s typically marked for bicycle use, and allows cyclists their own place on the road (which, by state law, they have a right to use).
  • Buffered bike lane: As above, but with an additional buffer between cyclists and motor traffic. This was proposed for the SR 82 expansion as part of Florida DOT’s new commitment to Complete Streets implementation
  • Paved shoulder: If it’s designated for cyclists, it must conform to a bike lane. If it’s just there for whomever to use (including cyclists), it can be less than 4 feet wide… which we see a lot in this area, and which beats nothing at all (even if it doesn’t meet state criteria).
  • Shared-use path: Separated from the adjacent roadway, intended for two-way use by both cyclists and pedestrians, et al. The standard width is 10 feet (12-14 feet if heavy traffic is expected). However, a minimum width of 8 feet is allowed in certain circumstances (and you'll see a number of those in Lee County due to space limitations).
  • Sidewalks: Intended for pedestrians, used by all manner of transport. In Florida, minimum width should be 5 feet if separated from the roadways, 6 feet if not. Due to eras and rules, what we have is all over the map width-wise.

Obviously, the separated paths are usually preferred by less experienced and/or slower cyclists, who are all too happy to be further away from high-speed motor traffic. The down side is that these paths draw very different users traveling at very different speeds – which can bring very different dangers.

If you ride very fast (in bike terms) and are trying to navigate around people who aren’t doing the same, it’s both frustrating and hazardous. That’s why seasoned road cyclists prefer to use bike lanes, so they can maintain their preferred speed and be part of the traffic flow (which ultimately is safer for everyone) without having to be in the same road lane as motorized traffic.

Thus, the original (and still intact) plan for SR 82 was the best of all worlds. The bike lanes fulfill state law (giving cyclists equal and safer access to roadways) and please the serious road cyclists – and even offered a buffer from traffic, a rare occurrence around here. The sidewalk gave pedestrians their place in this complete street, and the shared-use paths offered safe haven to slower cyclists, skaters, runners and anyone else who wanted to be part of the parade. All in all, a commendable accommodation.

That made the last-minute effort to redesign the roadway all the more perplexing. If all the users had their own place, what’s the impetus for change – particularly at the stage when any change could delay road construction and funding?

If you don’t like riding close to traffic (even on a buffered lane), then don’t – but don’t deny others that option if that’s where they want (and have the right) to be. If you want to fight for more separated paths throughout the county, great – but don’t take away facilities from road cyclists in the process, particularly when there’s enough room for everyone to get what they want.

In reality, our roadways need both kinds of cycling facilities – lanes for the fast riders, separated paths for more leisurely pedalers and other self-propelled travelers. But making it appear to be an either-or situation -- where you get lanes OR paths, but not both -- is both wrong and short-sighted.

We need bike lanes both to give cyclists a better place to exercise their right to be on the road and to make them more visible by attracting more good riders to join the traffic flow. When vehicle drivers see cyclists in their own lane on the same road, they’re likely to remember them when they make other driving decisions – which enhances road safety overall. (So does being out where drivers are more likely to see them.)

And we need shared use paths to encourage more people to try cycling in a safe environment, to create a function network of bike/ped transportation that allows those who wish to try the ability not to depend on their vehicles for all travel choices. We also need bike paths to accommodate cyclists of all ages and abilities – particularly to make this a bike tourism destination. (Bike tourists want both facilities, usually… lanes for long road rides, paths for getting around town.)

How do we get these improvements? By planning for them from the beginning, not by making last-minute changes that could threaten construction deadlines and dollars in an area that’s already too far behind in bike/ped infrastructure investment.

The SR 82 plans are a win for all road users. Let’s celebrate that success, not pick fights you likely won’t win.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Transportation Summit Friday Sept. 30 in Cape Coral

Photo: the news-press
Streets Alive SWFL and Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association are partnering to host a Transportation Summit, featuring renowned national and international experts interacting with planners, engineers and government and business leaders and all members of the public to encourage best practices in creating walkable, bikeable, and transit supported, livable communities – communities offering vibrant, healthy lifestyles for all ages.

“This summit is bringing together for the first time the brain-power of the leading experts on integrating transportation and community design to help us create the best here in SWFL” said Ann Pierce, Education Chair for Streets Alive SWFL.  “The public and our local authorities will have this opportunity to learn from the best, get questions answered and concerns addressed,” she added.

Keynote speakers for the Transportation Summit include:
  • Florida Department of Transportation Division 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway P.E.
  • Livable Transportation Engineer for the Toole Design Group, Ian Lockwood P.E.
  • Director of Innovation & Inspiration for Blue Zones, Dan Burden
  • International President of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Paula Benway P.E.

The Summit’s Conference on Friday morning, September 30, from 8:00 – noon at the Cape Coral Yacht Club is open to the public and will offer an informative program by this team of national experts who will be joined by local region speakers to give unique presentations on the new patterns in community design, transportation and economic planning which result in highly desirable communities where one can thrive at any age.

They will also address funding and regulatory changes on the horizon which will impact our region.

Registration is $42, which includes breakfast and accessed through http://www.rpcra.org/transportation-summit          
    
Local elected and appointed officials, business leaders, realtors, engineering, planning and landscape architect professionals, health community professionals, developers and the public are all invited to attend this innovative Transportation Summit.


Go to www.rpcra.org/transportation-summit to register.

September 26: Upcoming running/walking/biking/tri events

Monday morning: here is our weekly overview of upcoming running, walking, cycling, and tri event.

Upcoming events

Running/walking:
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: Lexington Country Club 5K Run/Walk & Breakfast, 7:30 a.m. To benefit the Regional Cancer Center's Breast Health Center (Lee Memorial Health System). (ftmyerstrackclub.com
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 2016 Busey Bank Run for Prevention, downtown Fort Myers, 6 p.m. (active.com)
  • Saturday, Oct. 8: Cops & Joggers 5K, Centennial Park, Downtown Fort Myers, 7:45 a.m. Proceeds benefit the Fort Myers Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial Fund and the Brotherhood Ride. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
  • Saturday, Oct. 15: 8th annual 10K race 4 FISH (Friends In Service Here). Sanibel Community Park, 2231 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel; starts at 7:30 a.m. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
  • Sunday, Oct. 16: 6th annual Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay, North Collier Regional Park, 7 a.m. (eliteevents.org)
  • Saturday, Oct. 22: 8th annual Race The Roof 15K run, 5K run/walk, tot trot. Verandah Community. Proceeds to benefit the Habitat for Humanity, Lee and Hendry Counties. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
  • Saturday, Oct. 29: "Soup"-er Hero 5K Run/Walk, Gulf Coast Town Center, 7:30 a.m. Benefits Community Cooperative (www.communitycooperative.com)
  • Sunday, Oct. 30: Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay, North Collier Regional Park. Includes costume contest, plus rock and roll, plus Octoberfest (eliteevents.org)

Cycling:
  • Friday, Sept. 30: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at 7:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out at 4706 SE 11th Place for a family-friendly ride through the Cape. Lights required, helmets recommended. (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/)
  • Friday, Oct. 7: SWFL Critical Mass ride, Tailgate starts at 7:15 (though many arrive earlier). We roll at 8:00. Side lot next to the downtown Publix, 2160 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, Lights required, helmets recommended. (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/)
  • Saturday, Oct. 8: Sanibel Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7:15 p.m. for a 7:45 p.m. roll out at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel. Lights required, helmets recommended. (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events//)
  • Ongoing: Join the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club on one of their many weekly rides for members and potential members, with an array of paces and routes to choose from. Check them out online at www.caloosariders.org.

Triathlons:
Plan ahead. Other upcoming area tris include: