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Friday, June 15, 2012

BikeWalkLee supports a roundabout as part of Estero Blvd. improvement project in Fort Myers Beach

 This is Part III of our conversation about Fort Myers Beach and the Estero Blvd. improvement project.  In this post we discuss the need for a roundabout to improve pedestrian safety.  Also below is a letter to the editor in today's News-Press, also supporting a roundabout.

June 14, 2012
Mayor & Vice-Mayor,
I wanted to expand on one issue that wasn't covered in our report.  In our report (http://www.bikewalklee.org/BWL_PDFs/BWL_facts/061212fmbBWLreport.pdf), we mentioned the serious safety problem for pedestrians dashing across the street right as you come off the bridge into FMB and we suggested that it might be helpful to have a low fence or railing installed in front of the parking lot by the bridge.  While this might improve pedestrian safety on a temporary basis, it is not the best permanent solution.  The long term solution needed is a well designed roundabout as you come onto the island, which could greatly enhance pedestrian safety among many other benefits.  Dan Moser mentioned this in his interview last night that was aired on NBC-2 News.

A roundabout at this location would also benefit motorists, who are now forbidden from making left turns at this intersection from three different directions. A roundabout would allow many motorists to more easily reach their destinations without delaying other drivers or “driving around the block” as they do now.

As the Institute of Transportation Engineers "Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach" guidance states, "The benefits [of roundabouts] include improved safety, speed reduction, reduction in certain types of vehicle crashes, opportunities for aesthetics and urban design, and operational functionality and capacity."  Studies conducted by FHWA indicate that "modern single-lane roundabouts in urban areas can result in up to a 61 percent reduction in all crashes and a 77 percent reduction in jury crashes when compared with stop-controlled intersections."  (see p. 190 of ITE guidance.)  The report also points out that in high pedestrian volume areas (such as FMB), it is important to provide adequate crosswalk widths and island dimensions to serve the volume of pedestrians moving around the roundabout.

We know that roundabouts have been considered at this location in the past and we hope that everyone involved in the project--the town, the county, FDOT, project team, and the citizens--will continue to give this serious consideration. Extensive documentation is available in town records about the roundabout and related street improvements near this critical location.  Both Clearwater and Sarasota are leaders in successful use of roundabouts and we believe that it would be beneficial for a team of officials, staff, and other stakeholders to do a field trip to experience those projects on the ground and to talk to the officials up there.  FDOT District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway, is a strong proponent of roundabouts and recently took his FDOT engineers on a site visit up there.  Billy can also an excellent resource for everyone involved in planning this project.

Thanks again for giving us an opportunity to provide input on this important effort.
Darla

News-Press Letters to Editor, June 15, 2012

Easy solution

Fort Myers Beach parking garage! Are they crazy? The county plans to put a multi-level parking garage in Times Square. So when you come over the bridge, you can see a big, ugly parking garage instead of the beautiful water ahead.

If they want to build a garage, build it over the current Lynn Hall parking lot instead. As I’ve said for years now, make that area of Times Square a pedestrian mall and divert all traffic coming over the bridge via a round-about.
A driver could only have two choices: turn right over the bridge to Lynn Hall or Bowditch Beach, or turn left to go south on the beach. No stop light in Times Square to back up traffic, just a pedestrian plaza there.
This is not rocket science, just common sense. A speed limit of 15 mph through the area would keep traffic moving at a steady pace without any stop lights.

Ed Kennedy, Fort Myers

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