Thursday, August 17, 2017

Play by the rules when you use our roads


BWL Column
The News-Press, 8/17/2017
by Ken Gooderham

Picture: sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com
Recent reporting on the rise of cycling in New York City hold a cautionary tale for other areas (including our own) working to encourage more people to use their bicycles more often.

And the final moral is: When more people are trying to use the same space, rules matter even more.”

Through improved infrastructure, bike sharing services and similar effort to promote cycling, NYC has seen a boom in bike use. For an urban area with chronic traffic, mass transit and parking issues, that should be good news.

By and large, it is… except when it isn’t. That usually occurs when all the users trying to traverse the same street don’t agree to play by the same rules. This was reflected in a spate of news stories spotlighting people upset by the recklessness more riders had wrought on the city streets and sidewalks, along with a recounting of how cycling had gradually made inroads on NYC roads over the last decade.

In the news coverage, a lot of the blame was pointed at cyclists – particularly those who ride recklessly, flout traffic rules and endanger pedestrians. Likely some of that blame is deserved; not following the rules of the roads (or sidewalk) is dangerous, and the more cyclists who do it the more dangerous it becomes.

However, having been a cyclist, a pedestrian and a motorist (albeit not at the same time), I’m betting there plenty of blame to go around for all these groups.

For every cyclist who blows through a traffic light or rides the wrong way in traffic or dangerously cuts off a pedestrian, there is also a motorist who drives aggressively around bikers or blocks crosswalks to see oncoming traffic, or who drifts (or flat-out drives) into a bike lane while it’s being used by others. There also are the pedestrians too distracted by a cell phone to pay attention to their surroundings, who let their kids or pets roam into the path of oncoming cyclists, or who in general make their way forward oblivious to other traffic (bike, car or otherwise) around them.

That’s why, in circumstances such as all these, following the rules matters. For what are rules but guidelines (often codified as laws) to facilitate how one user of the roadway should interact with another user in that same approximate space.

If we all were the only motorist or cyclist or pedestrian on that road, path or sidewalk, we wouldn’t need rules. We could do whatever we what, governed only by the laws of physics and some common sense.

But add one other user, and rules start to matter. Add a hundred more, and rules really matter.

But they matter equally, because anyone who breaks the rules of the road is putting all the other users at risk. The more rule-breakers, the more risk that results.

So if, on a busy urban street, you have sidewalks full of pedestrians, bike lanes full of cyclists and roads full of motor vehicles, anyone of those users who ignores the rules puts the other users at risk – and that person deserves blame for whatever ensues. But to isolate blame on only one user group usually doesn’t tell the real story.

The upside of more users (particularly the more vulnerable ones) often is more safety. More users means more awareness of them by the other users. See a sidewalk full of people and you probably will pay more attention at crosswalks and intersections. See a bike lane full of cyclists and you’ll likely watch out for them when you turn in or step out. And, obviously, see a road full of vehicles and you’ll slow down and pay more attention overall.

But the issues that arise when more people use roadways, as documented in New York City, should be a reminder to other areas working to encourage biking and walking that they also ought to encourage (and, if necessary, enforce) more adherence to the rules by all users. They also should look at their infrastructure – bike, pedestrian and motor vehicle – to ensure there’s enough room (and that it is safe room) for all of them on the roadways.

Our area faces two somewhat unique issues: The seasonality of our traffic means more users of all types in winter, practically guaranteeing overload during peak season since our infrastructure is not built for the busiest weeks. In addition, a lot of our traffic (again, of all types) may be visiting our area and thus unfamiliar with both our roads and our rules. Both of these make a greater case for even greater caution on the part of every type of traffic – bike, ped or motor.

The bottom line: Play by the rules when you use our roads, no matter what mode of transportation you choose.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? It’s still the dog days of summer – when even a dog shouldn’t be out there running – but you have a few events to tide you over until the running season returns this fall: The Fort Myers Track Club 5K Membership Run 7:30 a.m. this Saturday at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com). On Aug 26, look for the North Collier Regional Rampage 5K kicking off at 7 a.m. at the North Collier Regional Park (eliteevents.org).

Ride? The regular Critical Mass rides are on the calendar: Friday is the Estero ride beginning at 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 25 is the Cape Coral ride also at 7:30 p.m.; and the following Saturday (Aug. 26) is the downtown slow roll in Fort Myers starting at 8 a.m. For night rides lights are required, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events.

Both? Nothing scheduled nearby until September, which will bring the Venice YMCA Sprint on Sept. 2 (trifind.com), followed by the Galloway Captiva Tri weekend Sept. 9-10 (kids are Saturday, sprint on Sunday, info at captivatri.org). At the end of the month there’s the Siesta Key Sprint (trifind.com).

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.

# # #

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 www.BikeWalkLee.org. 


 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Could parts of Lee County earn ‘runner friendly’ designations?

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 8/16/17
danMOSER
bikepedmoser@gmail.com

We’re not pedestrian friendly, but are we runner friendly?

Is it possible to be both the worst place in America to be a pedestrian and earn a Runner Friendly Community designation at the same time?

“Of course not” would be the obvious answer. But while Lee County has about as poor an environment for those on bikes as it does for pedestrians, we nonetheless have two League of American Bicyclists’ designated Bicycle Friendly Communities in our midst.

Road Runners Club of America has a program similar to LAB’s that requires a detailed application be submitted making the case for the positive label. Per RRCA’s website, “The goal of this program is to shine a spotlight on communities that standout as runner friendly and to provide incentive for communities to work towards this designation. Runner-friendly communities can increase the quality of life, can improve physical activity for residents, and can provide for increased economic impact for the community.”

Considering the popularity of running in our area, there are some good candidates within Lee County, even though overall we have a less than stellar pedestrian environment. That’s the same scenario as for Bike Friendly Community status.


Over a decade ago, at the urging of Lee County’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Lee County government submitted a Bike Friendly Community application to LAB. County Department of Transportation staff did much of the work in pulling together the necessary data and preparing the application, an application which many of us assumed was going to be denied.

As expected, it was, but it provided a roadmap as to what needed to be done to reach even the honorable mention level. It’s difficult for an entire county the size of Lee — including all the municipalities (there were only three at the time) — to be awarded Bike Friendly Community status since there are so many different sub-communities and their specific environments and shortcomings to be judged as part of the whole.

That’s why when years later Sanibel and Cape Coral submitted their own applications they fared much better and have become Bicycle Friendly Communities.

According to RRCA’s website, the organization will rate each applicant on the physical infrastructure, the amount of community support and degree of local government support. Each element includes criteria that must be addressed. The goal is to prove that the applicant community works together to promote running as a healthy activity for residents and visitors while ensuring runners safety.

With those elements as the gauges, the municipalities I’d consider very runner friendly include Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs. Estero will have a chance in the future but is still too soon into its life as an incorporated entity to know if the government is supportive enough.

Cape Coral, for all it’s done to earn Bicycle Friendly status, is still short on having a fully connected, safe and enjoyable pedestrian network. With the same commitment to creating that infrastructure as the city has shown towards improving the bicycling environment Cape Coral could earn the designation.

The city of Fort Myers, even with McGregor Boulevard and its adjacent neighborhoods providing some of the best places for running in Lee County, has too many problems in other parts of the city and its governmental commitment is questionable at best.

Ironically, at least in name, much of the credit for the robust running culture in our area goes to Fort Myers Track Club, our area’s first running club and still the preeminent race organizer/facilitator.

FMTC has been promoting running and putting on races since 1978. Because of FMTC and now many others, the community support element of the application will fare well for any applicant; physical infrastructure and government support will be the difference whether RRCA deems any worthy of being considered runner friendly.

The application process begins with a nomination from an RRCA member organization or business. It includes taking on the task of completing the online application. While not as exhaustive as LAB’s process it does include chasing down some of the information government will need to provide (their cooperation will be a clue as to how that element will fare).

The payoff to this effort includes further expanding the running community; improving individual health; and economic benefits for tourism, home builders, the healthcare industry, and business of all types, whether they cater to runners. As well, having one or more Runner Friendly Communities in Lee County should be an indicator of movement away from being the most dangerous place in America to be a pedestrian, whether one is walking or running.

My hope is that someone will nominate one or more of our communities, the first step toward becoming a Runner Friendly Community. ¦

- 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. 





Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14: Upcoming running/walking/bicycling/tri events

Upcoming events

Running/walking:
  • Saturday, Aug. 26: North Collier Regional Rampage 5K. The third and final event in the Elite Events Summer 5k Series will take place at North Collier Regional Park.   Runners will race through the park on closed pathways and have plenty of views of vegetation, fountains, and water.  This flat and shady course will give runners a great chance to run a fast time. 7 a.m., North Collier Regional Park. (eliteevents.org)
  • Monday, Sept. 4: Labor Day 5K, Lowdermilk Park, Naples (gcrunners.org)
  • Saturday, Sept. 16: Lee County Medical Society Foundation Fun Run 5K, Lakes Regional Park, Fort Myers (3dracinginc.com
  • Saturday, Sept. 30: Walk Like MADD & 5K Dash, JetBlue Park, Fort Myers (active.com)
  • For more running events visit gcrunner.org/calendar.html; ftmyerstrackclub.com/race-calendar; and 3dracinginc.com/.

Cycling:
  • Friday, Aug. 18: Roll Estero Critical Mass ride. 7:30 p.m. 10021 Estero Town Commons Place #108, Estero. Lights required, helmets highly recommended. (meetup.com)
  • Friday, Aug. 25: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at 7:30 p.m. at 4706 SE 11th Place for a family-friendly ride through the Cape. Lights required, helmets recommended. (meetup.com)
  • Saturday, Aug. 26: Saturday Slow Roll 9 a.m. meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction. (meetup.com
  • Sept. 2-4: Tour of Sebring. Take your ride on the road for one, two or three days in the center of the state. Cyclists will especially appreciate our lightly traveled back roads, friendly motorists, citrus groves, cattle ranches, and small towns typical of rural Central Florida.  (tourofsebring.com).
  • 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.
  • For more Lee County cycling and tri events, visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). 
  •  
Triathlons:
  • Saturday, Sept. 2: Venice YMCA Tri, sprint distance, Sharkey’s on the Pier, Venice (trifind.com).
  • Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 9-10: Galloway Captiva Tri. Kids’ events Saturday, three age groups and varying distances. Adult sprint Sunday (www.captivatri.org).
  • Saturday, Sept. 30: Siesta Key Triathlon, sprint distance, Siesta Key Public Beach (trifind.com)
  • Check trifind.com to find more regional and state tris.