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Friday, July 30, 2010

Come to 8/18 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sanibel Causeway toll plaza bicycle access improvements



The Lee County Board of County Commissioners, in partnership with LeeDOT, Parks & Rec, the MPO, and BikeWalkLee, is hosting this ceremony on Wednesday, August 18, at 11 a.m. The ceremony will be held under the bridge on the Fort Myers side. Enter the boat ramp parking lot off of Punta Rassa Road. For those of you planning to ride your bikes, you may want to join a bike club ride to the event:

From Sanibel, the Sanibel Bicycle Club will start from the Chamber of Commerce parking lot at 10:15 a.m. and ride over the bridges to the event.

From Fort Myers, the Caloosa Rider's Bicycle Club has organized a 40 mile ride that morning which will leave from the Publix parking lot 20321 Summerlin Rd, Fort Myers at 8 AM. This is the closest Publix to the causeway. They will stop at the ribbon cutting ceremony on the way back from Captiva.

This is a great opportunity for the cycling community to say THANKS to the many people who made this project possible, so plan to come if you're in town.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lee Comprehensive Plan Update (EAR)



Work on the update of the Lee Plan, which will refine the community's vision of what Lee County should look like through growth and land use planning, continues. A new report will be posted on the County's website next week. Click here to access the report.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Invite to LeeTran Transit Shelter Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners and
The Florida Department of Transportation
Cordially Invite You to Attend the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for
LeeTran Transit Shelter Expansion Project
on Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 11:00 A.M.
East Fort Myers Shopping Center
4191 Palm Beach Boulevard
Fort Myers, Florida

Let LeeTran Provide the Ride


In keeping with the spirit of the event, please consider riding one of LeeTran’s new hybrid buses from your downtown office to the event site. You may board the bus on Broadway between Main and Second streets between 10:30 and 10:45 AM. The bus will leave the event site 15 minutes after the conclusion of the ceremony.

BikeWalkLee Letter to Senator Nelson in support of Livable Communities Act

July 27, 2010
Senator Bill Nelson
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C.

Dear Senator Nelson:

BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County, FL. Our coalition is working in partnership with other organizations to enhance the ability of communities all across Southwest Florida to develop and implement cross-cutting strategies for livable, walkable & bikeable communities. We are writing to express strong support for The Livable Communities Act (S. 1619). We ask you, Senator Nelson, to support S. 1619 as well.

The Livable Communities Act provides new incentives and resources for local leaders to craft and implement comprehensive regional sustainable development strategies. The legislation is a major step forward in recognizing that pressing community issues such as economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, housing affordability and access, transportation mobility and quality of place require comprehensive regional solutions.

The planning and implementation resources outlined in The Livable Communities Act would empower communities with the tools to preserve their most valued assets and meet the challenges related to growth, mobility, and economic competitiveness. Throughout the country, many communities have begun to take up this challenge and have proactively established a variety of local sustainable development initiatives. The programs and technical assistance authorized by The Livable Communities Act would help many more communities in Florida and across the country carry out such initiatives.

BikeWalkLee is a strong supporter of the Complete Streets Act and applauds your co-sponsorship of this important legislation. The Livable Communities Act (S. 1619) is consistent with and complements the Complete Streets Act. We, therefore, urge you to extend your support to include S. 1619. Thank you for considering our views.

Sincerely,
Darla Letourneau
On behalf of the Steering Group
BikeWalkLee

Dan Moser Florida Weekly Column: moving toward becoming a fit-friendly community


July 28, 2010

Yes, it’s hot and humid outside. And yes, one can quickly become dehydrated and sunburned if unprepared for Southwest Florida’s summer weather. But it’s still a great time of year to exercise and recreate outdoors. That’s exactly what many cyclists, runners, and walkers do each day, venturing out even more regularly than during the cooler winter season. Simply use sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids and head out at the right times. That’s what those heading up a local health initiative would like to see many more residents do.

My last column focused on reasons why, decades ago, I decided to live an active lifestyle. Now I’d like to tell you about what’s being done here to get as many people as possible to do the same, at least to the degree that it positively impacts health and well-being. Having worked on a number of campaigns dealing with similar heath and social issues over the years, I understand this one won’t be easy. But it can be successful.

In late June, a call-to-action was made to those who had been involved in one way or another with a recent obesity focused grant application the Lee County Health Department prepared and submitted. As I mentioned in my last column, at that meeting a physician in attendance noted that up to 80 percent of all of America’s health-care costs could be attributed to obesity-related disorders. Yikes! If that’s not enough of an incentive to take both individual and collective action I don’t know what would light a fire under our butts.

Among those working toward this lofty goal are the health department, Lee Memorial Health System, Harry Chapin Food Bank, United Way, YMCA, Bike- WalkLee, the Lee School District, local governments, transportation planners, as well as a variety of community service organizations, disease-prevention associations, and other agencies, groups and individuals. The challenge is how to affect behavior and convince the general populace to become more active and eat healthier as part of its lifestyle.

Although the health department’s grant application was approved, funding ran out before our place in the allocation line was reached. But because of the enthusiasm and interest among the many who were part of the planned activities it seemed possible that the overall community effort to fight obesity could still take place even without the grant money. That contention was confirmed at a gathering of the partners. And it was agreed that a program Lee Memorial Health System and American Heart Association have in place, (the “Start! Campaign”), will be expanded to become the base of this larger effort. There was no need to reinvent the wheel, it was unanimously decided. As this effort moves forward, I’ll provide updates, but I’m sure everyone will become aware of what’s happening form a variety of sources.

In the meantime, please visit the website for helpful tips, information and to see it come together for yourself. Better yet, get outside and walk, run, cycle, skate, hoola-hoop or engage in anything else that burns calories and helps fight the obesity battle that many of us need to fight.

Advocacy update

Last week a gathering took place that allowed the public to offer input toward two very important planning documents that will dictate how we spend our tax dollars and build our community: the Long Range Transportation Plan and Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan. The fact that these roadmaps are being updated just as the above-mentioned campaign is taking off is yet another example of the stars aligning for what I believe is a major shift in America’s thinking about how we build our communities. You can add your comments and suggestions by visiting the websites for each.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. �

— Dan Moser is a league cycling instructor/trainer and program manager for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation,
recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334-6417.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Please complete survey for bike/ped master plan



Thanks to those of you who participated in the MPO's public workshop on the bike/ped master plan on July 19th. For those of you who were unable to make the event,
the MPO's consultant team has created a survey to collect public information and input related to the Lee County Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan. Please take a few minutes to submit your responses.

Click here for the survey.


Thanks!
To learn more about the master plan, visit their website.

Take MPO Survey: How would you spend $100 of transportation money?


If you missed the MPO's public workshop July 19th on the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, you can still participate by filling out the quick survey of how you would spend $100 of transportation funds. How much of that would you spend on roadways, transit, bike/ped, intersection improvement, and rail? Currently, about 89% of transportation dollars in Lee County are spent on roadways, about 1% on bike/ped, and 10% on transit. Is this how you would allocate the funds? This is your chance to have your voices heard! Click here to fill out the short survey.

For more information on the development of the LRTP, click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

News-Press: Finding no Sidewalk, he found the answer


The News-Press Sunday edition, 7/25/10, featured stories about the 20th Anniversary of the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA). Included in this series of articles were several that remind us of the importance of complete streets for people with disabilities.

Sidewalks:
Dave Lane wanted to ride his wheelchair from his
doctor’s office to Cape Coral Hospital. But after
wheeling himself through a crosswalk on Del Prado
Boulevard he found himself stuck.

There was no more sidewalk. The only way for Lane
to reach the hospital was to ride his wheelchair
along the busy highway.

Lane, who has multiple sclerosis that limits his
ability to walk, filed a complaint with the ADA
Advisory Board of Southwest Florida. After
discussing the issue with the hospital, the board’s
director, Kevin Berry, said the hospital has plans to
build a connecting sidewalk to its entrance.

Construction could begin as early as Oct. 1, Berry
said.

“When they were developing the sidewalk system
there, somebody dropped the ball,” Lane said. “You
can’t run your access and then dump it into a street.
If you have a disability, what are you going to do?
You can’t go into the street with your wheelchair.”

The aborted sidewalk is just one reason Lane, 63, is
thankful for the American with Disabilities Act. Lane,
a quadriplegic, believes Lee County’s accessibility is
better than many Northern cities.

“I used to live in Ohio and let’s just say I’m very
happy to live in Florida,” Lane said. “Because of ADA
legislation 20 years ago, all of our newer
construction in Florida has been developed to
create more access. There are a few places that need
work and need (wheelchair) ramps and at that point
we need to attack and improve the situation.”

— Chris Umpierre

Public transportation
LeeTran offers a special van service for people with disabilities, but some residents say more routes should be available to the disabled community.
LeeTran’s van service, called Passport, is a reservation-based system in which anyone with a documented disability can be driven to any location in the county.
People who live three-quarters of a mile from a fixed LeeTran route are eligible. A one-way trip costs $2.50.

Passport makes about 106,000 trips a year, or 400 a day, said Peter Gajdjis of LeeTran. Bonita Springs’ Kathleen Saunders, who is visually impaired, is one of 2,000 people registered for the service.
“I love it. It’s a very nice system. It takes me everywhere,” Saunders said.
The system is one of the reasons why Pierce, who is blind, moved to Lee from Sarasota, which doesn’t have a van system for people with disabilities. Collier County doesn’t have such a system, either.
“I used to get taxi rides in Sarasota. Here, I can have a van pick me up,” he said.
Pierce said Passport is one example of how much conditions have changed for people with disabilities in the past two decades.
“ADA is helping to make life a level playing field for people with disabilities and that’s all we want,” Pierce said. “We just want equal access.”


Lehigh woman is part of D.C. conference

After seeing some people with disabilities left
unaccounted for after Hurricane Charley's rampage
through Southwest Florida in 2004, Linda Carter
decided to do something about it.

The Lehigh Acres resident, who has spinal injuries
and uses a wheelchair, formed an organization that
educates people with disabilities how to prepare for
a disaster, making five presentations a month.

Carter's work helped in her selection to participate
in this week's National Summit on Disability Policy
in Washington to commemorate the 20th
anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Carter is one of 500 participants, nine from Florida,
who will brainstorm future ADA legislation, Summit
spokesman Mark Quigley said. To continue reading the article, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

BikeWalkLee sends Questionnaire to County Commission Candidates

On July 18th, BikeWalkLee Steering Group sent the following letter with our questionnaire attached. Click on the highlighted places below to access the questionnaire. We'll post the responses we get as they come in.

Dear Candidate for Lee County Commission:

BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County. We define complete streets as those 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. We have partnered with 30 stakeholder organizations in the community that want to improve the quality of life and mobility in Lee County. Our partners include Florida Gulf Coast University, health care organizations, safety prevention groups, AARP of Florida, citizen and community groups, environmental organizations, planners, smart growth committees and coalitions, bike clubs and bike shops.

Over the past two years, both the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) have demonstrated leadership and taken the initial policy steps needed to make our streets safer and more accessible to all users. The next few years will determine whether these initial steps will result in changes on the ground for Lee County residents.

It is important to BikeWalkLee to elect county commissioners who support our values and vision; therefore, we are asking all candidates for Lee County Commission to respond to the attached questionnaire. We plan to post your responses on our website and blog and share with our network of 1,000 advocates and supporters. Please submit your responses electronically to: dletourneau@bikewalklee.org.

For more information about our coalition, please visit our website: www.bikewalklee.org, and our blog: http://bikewalklee.blogspot.com/. If you have any questions about the organization or the questionnaire, please feel free to contact me at the above email address.

Sincerely,



Darla Letourneau
On behalf of the Steering Group
BikeWalkLee

Attachment: BikeWalkLee Questionnaire for BoCC Candidates

Click below to link to the responses received from candidates:

District 1


District 2

District 3

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Test Your Awareness: Do The Test

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly column: Fit or Fat? It costs to choose “Fat”


July 14, 2010

At a meeting of community partners working to reduce our area’s collective girth, a local physician reported that up to 80 percent of America’s health care expenditures can be attributed to obesity related conditions. I thought noting this statistic at the beginning of my column might help put things in perspective as I relate my story.

One of the primary reasons I began running and renewed cycling when I was in my early 20s was a realization that my fitness level — and thus my physique — was heading in the wrong direction. As a kid who was always skinny and active, I never thought I’d have to worry about being fat and out of shape. But it was beginning to look like it would happen.

I was taking a nutrition class at Edison Community College as I entered the local running scene and was assigned a book to read and a popular weight-loss diet to report upon. The book was “Fit or Fat” by Covert Bailey. The diet I chose was based on a concept that appeared to be a dream come true for any young person: a fast-food diet. Both of these assignments had a lasting effect on me.

“Fit or Fat,” now a classic that has spawned many follow-up publications, made it very clear that unless one burns more calories than ingested, weight gain is inevitable. Food choices and exercise are vital aspects of overall health. Nothing earth-shattering, to say the least. The fast-food diet was no more surprising either.

As the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” According to the diet’s author, the trick to a fast-food diet is limiting yourself to only a very few items on any menu and limiting the portions. Almost none of the recommendations were what a true fast-food lover would consider adequate. When I presented my oral report in front of the class, my fellow students were expecting to hear about a diet they might actually consider. Instead, my classmates were just as disappointed as I was reading the book. One might as well join Weight- Watchers, or worse yet,make a lifestyle change that included exercise and better food and portion choices. Both are options, but neither was appealing to any of us.

I admit to frequently straying from Bailey’s “Fit or Fat” principles, especially in the food portion aspect, but the overall lessons still stick with me. As for my diet book report, I eventually quit eating at any fast-food establishments more than a decade ago, due in part to what I read back then and what I’ve since learned about the quality and source of food from these places. Like so many others, I’m in a constant battle to maintain my ideal weight, but being addicted to exercise and shunning “burger world” makes it easier than it otherwise would be to at least stay within striking distance of my weight goal. It helps immensely that Maria, my wife, exercises even more than I do. She also eats right, a habit that benefits us both.

I’m not telling my story merely to go on about my personal experience but rather to point out that we all have our reasons and motivations for anything we do. Over the next few columns I’ll be focusing on the initiative being undertaken locally to get us back to being a healthy community (it wasn’t until around 1990 that we really began a precipitous downhill decline). I’ll be seeking feedback about what you think might work for a community effort like this and what works for you.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.

— Dan Moser is a league cycling instructor/trainer and program manager for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334-6417.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mark your calendars for 8/18 ribbon-cutting ceremony for completion of Sanibel bridge biking facilities



The Lee County Board of County Commissioners,in partnership with LeeDOT, Parks & Rec, the MPO, and BikeWalkLee, is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, August 18, at 11 a.m. in the tollbooth area (details on logistics to follow), to celebrate the completion of the bicycle facilities at the Sanibel bridge tollbooth (funded with federal stimulus dollars) and the improvements to the shoulders from Old McGregor leading up to the bridge. With these gaps filled, cyclists can now safely ride between the mainland and Sanibel.

BikeWalkLee is on the organizing committee for this event and we're looking for a great turnout. The Caloosa Riders will be organizing a bike ride from the mainland to the event, and hopefully, the Sanibel Bicycle Club will organize a ride from Sanibel over the bridges to the event. Billy's Bikes has graciously agreed to donate water so the participants can stay cool. Invites to the event will go to Lee County Commissioners, MPO members and staff, LeeDOT officials, Parks & Rec staff,FDOT officials, our federal and state elected officials and their local staff, and many more.

This is a great opportunity for the cycling community to say THANKS to the many people who made this project possible, so plan to come and spread the word. Watch the BikeWalkLee blog for further details.

BikeWalkLee participates in Pine Island's Mango Fest



This year's Mango Fest on Pine Island, held July 10-11, had a "green theme" and BikeWalkLee was invited to have a booth to share information about the benefits of biking and walking and BikeWalkLee's efforts in support of completing the streets in Lee County. Thanks to Dan Moser & Margaret Banyan for being our ambassadors at this fun community event.

Note that Carie Call, a member of Lee County's Smart Growth Committee, is this year's Mango Queen. Congrats, Carie!

Openings on Lee County's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee


Back in May, the County Commissioners approved a revised charter for the County's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which expanded the committee to 11 members and restructured the membership so that the following groups are represented on the committee:

1. one biking industry representative (local bike shop owner, active bicyclist or bike club member, etc.)
2. one affordable housing representative (citizen advocate, realtor or private sector provider of affordable housing);
3. one walkable community representative/advocate (urban planner, member of walking group, active walker, etc.)

In addition to these three At-Large members which can be appointed by any Commissioner, each of the five Commissioner appoints a representative for their district.

To see the Resolution outlining the duties of the committee, click here.

We encourage you to consider applying to serve on this important committee. Please contact Mike Tisch, the BPAC staff liaison if you're interested: 533-8110 or MTisch@leegov.com.

Fit Friendly Lee Strategy kick-off


The national obesity epidemic is receiving lots of attention. The forces that create this epidemic are many and varied and include personal lifestyle choices, community planning, and societal expectations. The fight against obesity will require a strong community effort.

Last year, Lee County Health Department applied for a federal grant to fund a comprehensive, community based effort to promote physical activity and good nutrition, in the effort to create a community action plan. Unfortunately, Lee County's grant application was not funded. Rather than be discouraged by the lack of funding, our community leaders are organizing to move forward on a community effort.

On July 7th, Jim Nathan, President of Lee Memorial Health System and Dr. Judith Hartner, Lee County Health Department, hosted a meeting with community leaders about a community action plan to reduce the prevalence of obesity and overweight in Lee County. The community coalition includes, in addition to the Health Department and LMHS, the American Heart Association, United Way, the Lee County School District, Healthy Start, and BikeWalkLee, as well as others. This focus on promoting increased physical activity through active transportation and use of public transit compliments the mission of BikeWalkLee. Several committees are being set up to develop strategies for implementing the community action plan.

We are looking for people interested in representing BikeWalkLee and being part of two committees. If you'd like to get involved, please contact Dan Moser: dmoser@bikewalklee.org.
Thanks!

Today's Home Buyers Looking for Walkability


-> According to a July 2nd Wall Street Journal article, "Today's home buyers aren't just looking for good schools and low crime rates when they evaluate a neighborhood, many brokers say. They're paying much more attention to what they can walk to. Today's home buyers aren't just looking for good schools and low crime rates when they evaluate a neighborhood, many brokers say. They're paying much more attention to what they can walk to."
"'For a lot of Americans, the whole problem of traffic congestion and having to drive everywhere to do almost anything has made other choices more attractive,' says Kaid Benfield, director of the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council's Smart Growth Program. Urban planners say it's also a matter of demographics: Baby boomers are coming of empty-nest retirement age, and at the same time their children are buying their first homes, and neither group wants large lots in remote places where little is going on. Fear about future oil prices is also increasing the attractiveness of walkable neighborhoods..."

Click the link above to read the whole article.

Friday, July 2, 2010

US Bicycle Route System begins connecting America


U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, "FastLane" Blog Features the US Bicycle Route System
July 2, 2010

It was exciting to see Secretary LaHood's focus on the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS). Here are a few excerpts:

"This system will connect urban, suburban, and rural areas. And it will lead to stronger regional connections as neighboring states coordinate their trails into routes. I'm also pleased to see how the FHWA and state and local transportation agencies are working with bicycle advocates and volunteers. That's the kind of partnership that gets things done.

The USBRS is not just a bunch of bike paths; we're talking about a transportation system. It will facilitate travel between communities and to historic and cultural landmarks. It will give people living in more rural areas a way to travel into a nearby urban area by bicycle. Urban and suburban residents will have better access to rural recreation areas. And--like our interstate highway system--it will facilitate long-distance travel by bicycle, whether across one’s state or across the country.

The USBRS will generate economic activity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote a healthier America. And because bicycle infrastructure is relatively inexpensive, the USBRS can achieve these benefits cost-effectively. It's a win for states, a win for local communities, and a win for America."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: True Transportation Reform Requires Political Courage


June 30, 2010

For readers of this column who are tired of my writing about how things could and should be, I apologize in advance. But an article making the rounds recently in the bike/ped world reminded me of just how stuck we are in our car-oriented, suburban development mindset here in Southwest Florida.

Even with what can be considered significant progress being made in terms of ensuring pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users aren’t entirely overlooked when building or “improving” our roads, when put in a national, global and general livability perspective, it’s quite clear we’re woefully behind where we need to be. The fact is, our road builders are doing only the absolute minimum for those of us traveling on our transportation network in anything other than a car. All one has to do is experience it to confirm this contention.

In the aforementioned article (to read it, go to Planning Commissioners Journal at http://pcj.typepad.com , then search for “Breaking Our Addiction to Highway Level of Service Standards”), a former high-ranking transportation planning official from a major northeastern state known for its brutal traffic makes the case for doing just the opposite of what he saw done during most of his career. This professional engineer who’s seen the light says that both elected and appointed officials are hung up on technical levelof service data that’s often inaccurate and fleeting. By focusing on LOS, he maintains, quality of life is actually being degraded for those being served while spending inordinate amounts of tax dollars chasing an unwinnable goal.

Interestingly, that’s exactly what many of us who have been trying to beat back the “wider is better” philosophy here in Southwest Florida have been saying for decades.

What’s most frustrating is that even though many of our elected officials and some senior staffers of our various governments appear to understand the folly of trying to widen our way out of traffic congestion, when it comes to making decisions that would change the status quo, none are willing to take that necessary step. Granted, there are always those who challenge horrendous projects such as the current plan for Colonial Boulevard, but the objections aren’t about the overall concept, but rather specific issues or aspects that trouble them. In most cases there’s general agreement among all decision makers that “something’s got to be done to handle all that traffic,” as based on engineering and planning projections.

For a politician or high-level staff person to suggest that we must live with delay when we choose to drive for each and every trip we make it’s akin to admitting one doesn’t believe in “The American Way.” After all, how can anyone be expected to wait through more than one traffic signal cycle when we could simply add lanes? Considering other options to get around just isn’t part of the serious discussion here in Southwest Florida.

My challenge to any elected official or candidate, as well as to those who run our transportation and community development departments, is to do just that: admit we can’t continue even considering projects like that being proposed for Colonial Boulevard — or any more “improvement projects” that include widening or building new roads — and do so based on the principle that the premise we’re using is based on dealing with symptoms (too many cars and trucks) rather than cause (the need for people and goods to get around). Who will stake their position or perhaps career on being the champion for moving us in the direction we need to go?You won’t be popular, at least in the beginning, but you’ll be doing what’s best for our community and planet.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.

— Dan Moser is a league cycling instructor/ trainer and program manager for Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at dan@floridabicycle.org or 334-6417.