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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column:Metro Parkway: Cross at your own risk

Today's (11/7/12) Moser Florida Weekly column focuses on the dangers for cyclists and pedestrians on the Metro Parkway extension, an example of the "old way" of overbuilding our roadways and making them speedways.  Stay tuned for the fight over the final phase of this extension--Fowler St. in City of Fort Myers.

It has happened again: our state Department of Transportation — with the blessings of local government — severed in half a long-established neighborhood by building a six-lane highway across its only access road. The road is designed as if it were on the interstate system! To add insult to injury, residents and visitors of Briarcliff are left to fend for themselves when it comes to getting in, out, or across Metro Parkway since FDOT doesn’t think a signal is warranted (even though one already exists at U.S.41, something that should give a clue as to need). Did I mention that pedestrians and cyclists coming from the east who want to access Metro’s pathway must cross all 10 lanes (including turn lanes) since the path only exists on the west side? Why there’s a sidepath on only one side of the road is another issue, and one that will no doubt need to be addressed.

As per FDOT’s policy, bike lanes are included on the whole new roadway segment, which runs from Six Mile Cypress Parkway to U.S.41 just south of Alico Road. But because it’s overdesigned to the point of feeling like a limited access highway that bans bicycles and pedestrians (i.e. I-75), using the on-road bike lane might be less than attractive to many cyclists, thus relegating them to the sidewalk. In this age of complete streets and their importance understood by even old-time eengineers, this one is a real step backward.

This section of Fowler Street might actually become more dangerous when it becomes a highway. This section of Fowler Street might actually become more dangerous when it becomes a highway. Freight hauling interests and those with a heavy foot and little concern for others, however, will love this new speedway.

In the final phases still left to be completed, which includes the section just north of Winkler Avenue to SR-82/MLK, the design is somewhat up in the air, at least on the section that is now known as Fowler Street. Heading northbound from Winkler, the road will curve west-northwest and fly over the rail yard and Ten Mile Canal, eventually connecting with the overbuilt, one-way Evans Ave. (AKA Metro highway) where it currently starts up at Hanson Street. Where the design is still in flux is the southbound segment from SR-82/MLK to Hanson since it’ll be turning two-way Fowler into a one-way segment. To the credit of local governments, especially the city of Fort Myers, the original design has been tossed out because of concerns that FDOT’s plan would kill any chance of that economically depressed corridor improving, and because FDOT was planning to skimp on features for pedestrians and bicyclists to instead construct a three-lane, one-way car-sewer to match Evans.
I recently heard a high-ranking FDOT official make the statement that they no longer live by the policy that they build highways “to and through cities and towns,” but rather take into account livability, non-motorists’ safety, and other local needs and wants. In this case, however, it looks like the old ways apply, at least on many segments of the multiple personality highway that is Metro Parkway. Be sure to check out www.bikewalklee. blogspot.com for much more on this matter.

Upcoming Events
Don’t forget to register for this Saturday’s (Nov. 10) Midpoint Madness 5K, a popular run that takes participants over the Midpoint Bridge. Then do your “preemptive overindulgence justification run” by taking part in Cape Coral Hospital’s Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning. Up the ante by doubling your distance at Lee Memorial Hospital’s City of Palms River Run 10K on Saturday, Dec. 1 – it’ll be a good way to gauge yourself for the even longer runs in 2013, which include River, Roots & Ruts and Naples Half- Marathons in January and Hooters-to- Hooters Half in March. All can be found at www.ftmyerstrackclub.com.

For those who don’t really want to get their workout on foot, the 16th annual Caloosahatchee River Ride takes place in Alva on Sunday, Nov. 11 (crca.caloosahatchee.org); Iron Joe Turkey Ride in Naples on Nov. 25 (www.naplespathways.org); Everyone Rides from Jet Blue Park on Dec. 9 (www.everyonerides.org); and Tour de Cape from Cape Harbor on Jan. 20, 2013 (www.tourdecape.net).

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director 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.

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