Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Still can’t get there from here: Lee County’s serious lack of access

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 10/19/2016 

For as much progress as our area has seen in terms of bicycle and pedestrian improvements, serious and major shortcomings remain. Most egregious is the complete lack of pedestrian access between Fort Myers and Cape Coral and between the mainland and Sanibel Island. As well, many of our urbanized and built-out areas and corresponding roads that are west of (and include) U.S. 41 are lacking in adequate bicycle accommodation. Colonial Boulevard, College Parkway, Cypress Lake Drive and Cleveland Avenue north of Daniels Parkway are chief among them, having nothing more than 5-foot or 6-foot sidewalks and no bike lanes. There’s little option but to use these major thoroughfares and when traversing them, as a pedestrian or cyclist, none offer adequate or safe accommodation.

Here’s one way to look at this inequity: For pedestrians to cross the Caloosahatchee River, only one of the four bridges spanning the river between downtown Fort Myers and College Parkway have a sidewalk, meaning anyone who wants to legally cross the river by foot must use the one span of the Edison Bridge that has a 5-foot sidewalk. So, to go from McGregor Boulevard at College Parkway on the Fort Myers side to Cape Coral Parkway on the west side, the difference in distance if the Cape Coral Bridge had a sidewalk is two miles versus the 20-mile trek required by using McGregor, Edison Bridge, Pondella/Hancock and Del Prado. For those wanting to do so from the Fort Myers side to Cape Coral from the base of the Midpoint Bridge, the difference is four miles versus 14 miles.

The Edison Bridge is the only bridge from Fort Myers to Cape Coral/ North Fort Myers that allows pedestrians. 
The Edison Bridge is the only bridge from Fort  Myers
to Cape Coral/North Fort Myers that allows pedestrians.
Cyclists fare little better crossing the river. Although some have motor vehicle breakdown lanes, none of the approaches to, or exits from bridges accommodate that use. Worse yet, to go from Fort Myers to Cape Coral there’s no shoulder on westbound Cape Coral Bridge so it’s not really an option, considering the traffic conditions most times of the day. The Caloosahatchee River Bridge (“New 41”) has no shoulders in either direction and FDOT indicates both bikes and pedestrians are prohibited, although I believe the bike prohibition is unenforceable since the bridge doesn’t meet the “limited access” standard required to keep bikes and low-speed vehicles off. However, regardless of legal issues, using that structure is an adventure very few cyclists would even consider.

Regular readers of this column may find this topic to be little more than me once again beating my head against the wall. Indeed, it’s pretty sad that I have to repeat this drumbeat over and over but I consider it necessary lest things remain the same indefinitely. Even with these transportation inequities being documented there’s absolutely nothing being considered to remedy any of the aforementioned problems. The reason given, of course, is cost, but to me it’s really a matter of priority — plenty of funds are spent on motor vehicle accommodation that are not even necessary (Alico Road improvement east of I-75 is one current glaring example). Other than the fact that all bridges eventually need to be replaced, the river will remain a barrier for the foreseeable future. Retro-fitting them with cantilever sidepaths or reallocating existing space to include accommodations are not options, according to those who dole out funds. The same goes for surface roads that have similar issues; right of way can be reconfigured to add bike lanes or at least widen sidewalks into multi-use paths, but that’s not something our car-centric funders are interested in spending money to do.

On any given day you’ll find many walkers and runners on the southbound span of the Edison Bridge — the only one where pedestrians are allowed. Most are there for exercise but some are using the sidewalk to get from one place to another. The exercise and recreation use is just as valid as the transportation function if you put in perspective that many motor vehicle trips are not for critical purposes but are taken for other reasons. The Sanibel Causeway is the most outrageous example of this disparity in access. A conscious and discriminatory decision to deny pedestrian use was made by Lee County when replacing the bridges less than a decade ago. If you think things need to change you’ll have to get involved in one way or another. One place to start is by going to BikeWalkLee’s blog to see how you can take action. Contacting Lee County commissioners is another first step to consider. Fixing these serious problems may not happen in many of our lifetimes but our area’s young people shouldn’t be denied the access we all deserve. ¦

- 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, October 17, 2016

October 17: Upcoming running/walking/biking/tri events

Monday morning, time for your weekly running/walking/bicycling/tri events update.

Upcoming events

  • 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. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 22: Gulf to Gulf 80-mile Relay. Race starts and ending at Cambier Park in downtown Naples, goes through Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, with a turnaround at the Sanibel Causeway. Up to 30 6-person teams can register. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 29: "Soup"-er Hero 5K Run/Walk, Gulf Coast Town Center, 7:30 a.m. Benefits Community Cooperative (
  • Saturday, Oct. 29: 5th annual LCEC Goblin Gallop 5K run/walk. 7:30 a.m., Jim Jeffers Park, Cape Coral (  
  • Saturday, Oct. 29: Monster Dash Halloween 5K. Includes costume contest. 7:30 a.m. at Fleischmann Park, 1600 Fleischmann Blvd., Naples (
  • Sunday, Oct. 30: Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay, North Collier Regional Park. Includes costume contest, plus rock and roll, plus Octoberfest (
  • Saturday, Nov. 5: Making Tracks for Missions 5K. 8 a.m., First Assembly of God, 4701 Summerlin Road, Fort Myers (
  • Friday, Nov. 11: Veterans Day 5K, begins at 7 p.m. over the Midpoint Bridge (
  • Saturday, Nov. 12: Olde Naples 10K. 7:30 a.m., Olde Naples (
  • Sunday, Nov. 20: Naples Fall Classic Half Marathon and 5K. 7 a.m., Sugden Regional Park, Naples (
  • Thursday, Nov. 24: 37th annual Turkey Trot 5K run, walk, plus one-mile fun run and tot trot. Starts at 7:30 a.m. at Wellness Center of Cape Coral.
  • Thursday, Nov. 24: Thanksgiving Day 5K run/walk. 7 a.m., Germain Arena, Estero (
  • Thursday, Nov. 24: Thanksgiving Day 5K and 1K kids race. 7:30 a.m., downtown Naples (
  • Saturday, Dec. 3: 38th annual City of Palms River Run, 10K or 2 mile fun run/walk, starts 8 a.m. from Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers (

  • Sunday, Oct. 23: Tour for Epilepsy. 15-, 30- and 62-mile rides, rest stops and SAG. :30 a.m., starts/ends at Coastline Cyclery, 10676 Colonial Blvd, Unit 50, Fort Myers (
  • Sunday, Oct. 23: 7th annual Tour de North Port. 15-, 35- and 65-mile rides plus 25-mile “Gravel Grinders” off-road ride. Rest stops and SAG, 7 a.m. start  from Imagine High School, North Port (
  • Friday, Oct 28: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gathers at 7:30 p.m. at the Farmer's Market Parking Lot, 4706 SE 11th Place, Cape Coral. Come out and join this fun and growing group of bikers! This is an 11 mile ride that rolls as a group at a very relaxed speed of 8-10 mph with a 10 minute break half way through at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. Lights required, helmets recommended. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 29: SWFL Critical Mass monthly Saturday Morning Slow Roll & training.  Join us for a casual 8-10 mph roll on the last Saturday of every month. This is a perfect way to learn how to group ride, have a good time and to make new friends. A very family friendly ride. The ride is 6 miles long in total. Grab your bike and helmet, come and ride! Meet up 9 a.m., roll 9:15. Side lot next to the downtown Publix, 2160 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers (
  • Friday, Nov. 4: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. A family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers starting at 7:15 p.m. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. ( or
  • Friday, Nov. 11: NE-Lee Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7:30 p.m. at the Winn-Dixie, 14600 Palm Beach Blvd. Lights required, helmets recommended. (
  • Saturday, Nov. 12: Sanibel Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7:15 p.m. at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel. Lights required, helmets recommended. (
  • 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


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Love your brain? Wear a helmet!

BWL News-Press article, 10/13/2016
by Ken Gooderham

Love to bike? Love your brain? Then grab a helmet every time you head out for a ride.

Simply put, it’s the best thing you can do to help make your biking safe. Even the venerable “Consumer Reports” says so… right along with where they say when it comes to sports-related head injuries seen in emergency rooms, there are more caused by bicycling than even from football.

The magazine also cites studies that found you can cut your risk of severe injury by 58% if you wear a helmet while biking, or that 60% of those who died in 2014 from bike accidents were not wearing a helmet.

And it’s not just wearing a helmet, but wearing it properly (which is also covered in this article). That means having forward on your head, tight enough to stay in place and strapped right to stay balanced. (Most bike shops are happy to both sell you a helmet and fit it for you as well, since repeat business is improved if you can keep your customers alive and healthy.)

This being ‘Consumer Reports’, they also rate the safest choices or best buys – but money doesn’t necessarily buy you better protection. Almost any helmet will improve your safety, although you may want to check the date inside the helmet; one rule of thumb has been that a helmet more than five years old loses some of its protective capacity. (And if you can’t read the date on the label, that’s probably a good sign the helmet has a number of years and miles on it.)

You don’t have to wear a bike helmet in Florida… unless you’re under age 16, when it is required by state law. A helmet may also be required to participate in organized rides or races, where the organizers want to protect you (and themselves) from potential injuries or are required to mandate helmets as part of their sanctioning or insurance.

Otherwise, it’s your choice to wear a helmet while biking. Many people don’t, for a variety of reasons (most of them not very good ones). Helmets are lighter and better ventilated than any hat, and come in enough styles and shades to suit any taste. Don’t think they’re cool? Neither is a traumatic brain injury.

If you want to ignore the studies and statistics – and the fact that most serious cyclists and all pro riders wear them – fine. But if you love your bike and you love your brain, why wouldn’t you grab a helmet when you grab your bike?

Breakdown service for your bike

All you AAA members out there who also like to cycle, good news: The Florida branch of the auto club has expanded its roadside assistance service to include bicycle breakdowns. Just call them and a technician will pick you up and take you and your bike wherever you want to go… your car, your bike shop or your home. It’s included on all levels of AAA membership, but you do need to be accessible from a road or parking lot – so you off-roaders may be in for a walk. Find out more at

If you want bike and auto or just bike-only assistance, that’s also available from Better World Club, which promotes its eco-friendly stance as well as its AAA-comparable services. They offer a lot of bike information as well as insurance, and coverage includes the U.S. and Canada (in case you’re planning a longer bike ride in the future). Details at

Ready to ride or run?
Run? Longer races rule this weekend, with the 10K Race 4 FISH on Sanibel Oct. 15 ( and the Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay at North Collier Regional Park ( If you want even more distance, on Oct. 22 there’s the Race The Roof 15K run, 5K run/walk and tot trot at the Verandah Community east of Fort Myers (, and the Gulf to Gulf 80-mile Relay that starts and ends at Cambier Park in downtown Naples, goes through Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, with a turnaround at the Sanibel Causeway (

Ride? A temporary gap in the popular Critical Mass rides is being filled on Oct. 23 by the Tour for Epilepsy (15-, 30- and 62-mile rides, starts/ends at Coastline Cyclery, 10676 Colonial Blvd, Unit 50, Fort Myers -- and the Tour de North Port (15-, 35- and 65-mile rides plus 25-mile “Gravel Grinders” off-road ride) Info on both at . The Critical Mass rides return Oct. 28-29, so don’t despair.

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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


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.