Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Riding a bike or walking to school leads youth to lifetime of health

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 8/24/2016

Walking and biking to school instills independence, responsibility and lifelong health.

School is open again so that means it’s also time for me to remind readers about the loss of independence and learned responsibility among students who don’t walk or bike to school or bus stops but are instead chauffeured by parents.

The chaos created around almost every school in our community for those who must or choose to walk or bike to get there is another aspect to consider. And let’s not forget the negative impact the daily invasion all those vehicles has on those who live and work in neighborhoods around schools, whether they are on foot, riding their bikes or driving their cars. But most important is the matter of kids’ health.

A prior column focused on the work being done in our community by Healthy Lee and others to reduce obesity and its associated health problems. It’s pretty obvious that using human power to get to and from school and other destinations and activities would go a long way in that endeavor.

Physical education teachers and school resource officers receive training in bicycle safety education using the school district’s bike trailer.
Physical education teachers and school resource
officers receive training in bicycle safety education
using the school district’s bike trailer.
The relationship over the past four to five decades between the decline in physical activity and increase in overweight and obese young people is hard to dismiss.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and a number of other sources, the obesity rate went from approximately 5 percent in 1980 to almost 30 percent currently. Kids walking or biking to school has a similar but inverse association: a University of North Carolina study found a decline in active transportation to school (i.e. walking or biking) on a national level from 41 percent in 1969 to less than 13 percent in 2006 (Lee County is likely much lower). Of course, the onslaught of fast food and junk food in kids’ diets, as well as an overall reduction in physical activity, are undoubtedly part of the cause. But just as is the case with adults who use active transportation on a regular basis (including walking to transit stops), those who incorporate walking and biking into the way they get around see a major effect on weight and wellness. For kids it’s something that lasts a lifetime: many will struggle with weight their whole lives as well as all the associated chronic health problems, from diabetes to hypertension to heart disease.

If you’re a parent or grandparent with some influence, here are a few things to consider. October 5 is National Walk to School Day so perhaps that’s a day to at least give it a try. But don’t expect that day’s activities to represent reality. It may include police escorts and other assistance that’s not normally the case. But at least it’s an attempt to get kids on their feet. Similarly, National Bike to School Day occurs in May, during National Bike Month. Ask your child’s school administrator if they teach bicycle/ pedestrian safety as part of their physical education curriculum. The Lee County School District has a trailer full of bikes and two Safe Routes to School instructors who work with physical education teachers on a rotating basis.

Another option is to initiate a walking (or biking) school bus on a year-round basis. A walking school bus is simple and fun. One or more parents take responsibility for leading kids to and from school or a bus stop, picking up others along the way. Check to see if your child’s school is willing to assist to get it off the ground, perhaps with the help of the school district’s school resource personnel.

At a recent focus group discussing ways to make our communities more walkable and bikeable, an FGCU student who was born and raised in Lee County provided very telling insight. She said that driving for every trip is so ingrained in those that have lived their whole lives in our suburban sprawl environment that it has come to be the norm. So even when other options exist they are not really considered. Indeed, some FGCU students actually drive from their on-campus dorms to their classes. The only way to avoid this outcome is to make walking and biking a routine part of childhood.

Parents and grandparents can make that happen by being role models, teaching them how to be safe in traffic (remembering that sidewalks are just as much a part of traffic as the travel lanes), and eventually letting them venture out themselves so they learn to be responsible for their own safety and gain independence. Rather than chronic health problems, those are the kind of long-term impacts I’m sure every parent wants for his or her child.¦

- 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.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cape Coral BikeWalkSafely2Live PSA Video contest launched today

As a result of the tireless work of Cape Coral Bike Ped in partnership with the City of Cape Coral, a safety video (PSA) contest for all Lee County schools was launched today at Cape Coral City Council Meeting.

From the press release:
'Calling all middle and high school students in media and audio-visual classes and your teachers, join this effort to create videos that encourage students to learn about bicycle and pedestrian safety issues.

The City of Cape Coral could send your Lee County school up to $1,000 to purchase media equipment or for bicycle and pedestrian initiatives. The best middle and high school students’ Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos will be aired on TV ads in Lee County.

This contest through media or audio-visual teachers is open to all Lee County Public, Charter, Private and Parochial schools.

As part of the City of Cape Coral’s bicycle and pedestrian safety initiative, Cape Coral Bike Ped volunteers and the City are asking for your help to increase the number of students who ride their bicycle and walk to school safely.

As Carolyn Conant, of Cape Coral Bike Ped, states: “With the help of middle and high school students’ in Lee County and their effort to create positive bike/ped safety messages in PSA videos that appeal to their peers, we can make this region safer for bicyclist and pedestrians. We believe that peer-to-peer safety and education videos will be a very effective method to get the message out on the rules of the road, the need to wear a helmet and other safety initiatives.”

So get your teachers to commit to be part of this contest, have your teacher go to and click on the big blue BikeWalkSafely2Live PSA Contest button to get started. Read the Contest Rules, get your parents or guardians to sign a Parental Release Form and have your teacher submit the best 15 video submissions on the online Entry Form. You can do it, get started today!

We are looking for creative approaches to encourage more students to ride and walk to schools and throughout the region in a safe manner. Participants need to create 10, 15 or 30 second videos that highlights bicycle and pedestrian safety and rules of the road and can be shown on TV ads if winners.

The Lee County School District will be sending out information on this contest to their principals today. Notice will also be going out to private and parochial schools.

The details:
  • Open to all Lee County middle & high school students in media or audio-visual classes.
  • Entries must be completed and sent in using the online Entry Form by the Lee County teacher (or designee) along with your uploaded video.
  • Videos must be uploaded at, click on BikeWalkSafely2Live PSA Contest button then click on the Entry Form to upload the videos.
  • Media production or audio-visual teachers, at the middle or high school level, will submit their students’ up to 15 best PSA video on the online Entry Form after reading the Contest Rules.
  • Every student involved in the video must return a signed Parental Release Form to your teacher for uploading onto the Entry Form for that project submission.
  • A project submission is as follows: one 30 second video, up to two 15 second videos or up to three 10 second videos.
  • Submissions will be accepted from September 5, 2016 through November 18, 2017. 
Winners will be chosen on originality, creativity, and how well the students use their artistic vision to portray the theme and how successfully the bicycle and pedestrian safety concept is conveyed. Be sure that what is being conveyed meets with bicycle and pedestrian safety laws in the State of Florida. Check out or websites for bicycle and pedestrian safety laws in Florida. The decision of the judges is final.

For more information contact: Carolyn Conant, Cape Coral Bike Ped, at 239-851-9737 or Jodi Walborn, Safe Routes to School coordinator and Bike Ped member, at 239-738-3155.'

BikeWalkLee comments on USDOT proposed performance measures

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released draft performance measures that sets the requirements for how states and metropolitan areas measure traffic congestion. These measures are important for transparency and accountability in transportation funding.

However, BikeWalkLee is concerned, along with our national partners, that the measures are outdated and prioritize moving cars quickly, rather than measuring economic growth, safety, equity, and opportunity.

See the BikeWalkLee comments submitted to USDOT below:

August 16, 2016
U.S. Department of Transportation
Docket Operations
M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE. Washington, DC 20590

Docket Name: National Performance Management Measures; Assessing Performance of the National Highway System, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and Freight Movement on the Interstate System
Docket Number: FHWA-2013-0054
RIN: 2125-AF54

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Federal Highway Administration’s proposed performance management measures.

BikeWalkLee is a citizen based community coalition, with 70 stakeholder organization supporters, who work to raise public awareness and advocate for complete streets. BikeWalkLee is dedicated to improving the quality of life and mobility in Lee County. Lee County was recently awarded a TIGER V grant for its complete streets initiative project, where improving safety is a key goal. Lee County's traffic safety record for bicyclists and pedestrians is in the top 10 worst in the state; and Florida is the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians and cyclists. Twenty-three percent of recent roadway crashes in Lee County involved injuries or fatalities to bicyclists or pedestrians--nearly double the national average.

For some time, BikeWalkLee has advocated for performance measures and targets for each transportation mode. As a result, we are concerned about the proposed rule for its inattention to modes other than the vehicle. The outcomes of these performance measures will be to reinforce an already failing transportation system that is focused on moving cars quickly. Instead, these proposed measures should support the USDOT’s commitment to transportation accessibility and complete streets that serve all users of our system. In essence, the focus for these measures should be based on the very human need for accessibility.

These comments are focused on the measures outlined in the proposed rule document, including those related to traffic congestion; on-road mobile source emissions; freight movement on the Interstate System; performance of the Interstate System; and performance of the non-Interstate NHS.

Congestion Measures. BikeWalkLee supports the inclusion of performance measures to account for congestion that include all modes. The measures should focus on the different kinds of congestion that the traveler experiences when using different modes. For example, a transit user will experience delays if the vehicle (e.g., bus or rail) is at or over capacity regardless of if the road it travels on is experiencing delay. Conversely, if the roadway is experiencing delays, a transit vehicle may or may not be “congested”. This requires that performance measures be sensitive to the difference and relative advantage of each mode within its unique context.

Air Quality. BikeWalkLee is also concerned about the measures associated with on-road mobile source emissions. The proposed rule limits that applicability of this measure to only the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) - funded projects. This is problematic, as the opportunity to reduce emissions comes from operations and capital projects. The rule, then, should recognize this and measure emissions reductions from all CMAQ recipients, rather than simply focus on CMAQ projects. In addition, this rule ignores the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that can come from increasing other non-vehicular modes of travel (such as walking and biking).

Accessibility. BikeWalkLee is further concerned that the proposed rules miss out on the important opportunity to measure accessibility. Accessibility is often defined as the individual’s ability to reach their desired destination, regardless of mode (foot, bike, or automobile). The importance of this measure cannot be overstated. As changes are made to the transportation network, accessibility is affected. For example, increases in automobile mobility may decrease transportation accessibility. This is especially true when major roadways are constructed through urban areas.

To improve the proposed rule, BikeWalkLee supports the revisions as proposed by Transportation for America in their public comments on Docket No. FHWA-2013-0054. In addition, as a member of the League of American Bicyclists, our organization endorses the content of the Leagues response to Docket No. FHWA 2013-0054.

While these two organizations are able to voice the national perspective on these issues, BikeWalkLee understands what's at stake on the local level. Our local officials will use these measures to prioritize projects and funding on the ground. The consequences for the content of these measures are significant at the local level, affecting our ability to implement complete streets programs, as well as reduce safety risks to pedestrians and cyclists. We need our federal partners to provide leadership by establishing the incentives and measures that will provide accountability for all levels of government to reach these goals.


Margaret Banyan

Margaret Banyan
Steering Group Member,
BikeWalkLee a coalition working to complete the streets in Lee County