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Thursday, May 31, 2012

BWL News-Press commentary: Cyclist Tracey Kleinpell’s death demands action

Guest opinion by Dan Moser

First, there’s shock, which turns to sadness. Now, there’s outrage and the need to act.

The facts are simple: On May7, 2011, while driving across the Sanibel Causeway, Theresa Shirley veered across oncoming traffic and struck Tracey Kleinpell, who was riding her bicycle along the shoulder. Kleinpell died at the scene. Shirley walked away – and apparently will now walk away again without taking any responsibility for her actions.

So we ask:
·         What happened to the investigation into this homicide? Why wasn't all the evidence gathered and appropriately analyzed?
       Why did it take the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) more than a year to bring this investigation to a close?
·         Is FHP capable of properly investigating any fatality involving a bicyclist or a pedestrian? The local pattern indicates cyclists and pedestrians are second-class citizens when it comes to roadway safety.
         How was so little evidence collected by FHP that the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) felt it was left with few legal options to seek punishment for Shirley?
        Was “failure to drive within a single lane” the best legal option left? Really? Even if the FHP botched the investigation, prosecutorial discretion allows the SAO to aggressively pursue criminal acts if the situation warrants – and we think it does.
         Look at the cocktail of prescription drugs (muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety meds and narcotic pain pills) found in Shirley’s bloodstream, any one of which carries a clear warning to “use caution when operating a car." Didn’t authorities deem that to be “reckless” behavior or “driving under the influence”?
          Finally, where’s the justice? How can one person take the life of another, in a case where the fault is crystal clear, and the killer walks away with minimal consequences?

We don’t have answers, but we do have suggestions on what needs to happen next:

First, we call on Gov. Scott to launch an investigation into the FHP’s handling of this case and a broader look into FHP’s investigative practices into bicycle/pedestrian fatalities. The troubling pattern of disregard for the rights of the most vulnerable road users warrants a closer look.

Second, we call on the FHP to recuse itself from any investigation into bicycle and pedestrian traffic homicides until this inquiry is complete and any recommended changes can be implemented, allowing local law enforcement agencies to handle these cases in the interim.

Third, we recommend Gov. Scott and the Legislature undertake a comprehensive study into the safety of the state’s transportation system for vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists).

Fourth, the SAO needs to charge Shirley commensurate with the seriousness of the crime, not let her off for killing another person.

Fifth, if there’s a legal gap here that allowed Shirley to fall through the cracks, we need to hear about it from the SAO and FHP. While we think there are laws in place that could have been applied here, if a new law is needed to ensure justice, tell us.

Finally, we encourage bicyclists and pedestrians to keep the faith. Cycling and walking are still safe pursuits and a vast majority of motorists do drive responsibly and are willing to share the road.

What can you do? Tell Gov. Scott to investigate FHP’s handling of this case and support a safety study of Florida's roads. Tell FHP (fhp@flhsmv.gov) to recuse itself from bicycle and pedestrian traffic homicide investigations. Tell the SAO to bring criminal charges in this case (stateattorney@sao.cjis20.org ).

We can’t stress enough the importance of fair and thorough enforcement of traffic laws to keep our roadways safe. When laws are enforced, they are obeyed; conversely, when enforcement is lax or inconsistent, more road users cut corners, engage in dangerous behavior and put themselves and fellow users at risk.

Dan Moser is on the steering committee for BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County. A more detailed BikeWalkLee statement on this issue is available online at www.bikewalklee.com.

BikeWalkLee call to action: protest official response to cyclist Tracey Kleinpell's death

The tragic death of Tracey Kleinpell (a cyclist who was killed on the Sanibel Causeway in May 2011 by a driver who veered across oncoming traffic and struck her) has been under investigation for over a year.  We were frustrated that the investigation took so long and were outraged by the news on May 17 that the State Attorney's Office is not bringing criminal charges against the driver.  BikeWalkLee is working to turn the community's outrage into action.  
Below are links to the components of our call for action, starting with:

Here's what YOU can do:
•   Tell Gov. Scott to investigate FHP’s handling of this case and support a safety study of  FL roads.
•   Tell FHP to recuse itself from bicycle and pedestrian traffic homicide investigations.
•   Tell the SAO to bring criminal charges in this case.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BikeWalkLee comments on Capital Improvement Element of Comp Plan at May 31st LPA meeting

 As explained in numerousblog posts over the past year, BikeWalkLee is participating in this year-longprocess to ensure that the complete streets/sustainability focus in the EAR iscarried through in the actual Comp Plan amendments.  This month's Lee Plan draft elements forreview include the Capital Improvement Element, which touches on two transportationelements of interest--Level of Service (LOS) and funding.

Darla Letourneau, representing BikeWalkLee, spoke atthe May 31st LPA meeting to highlight our comments on the Capital ImprovementElement, which are summarized below:

BikeWalkLee made comments at the  Jan. 23rd LPA meeting on the TransportationWhite Paper.  At that meeting, wehighlighted the three issues that must be addressed if we are to achieve a balanced transportationsystem that increases walkability, multi-modal transportation choice, andcompact mixed use communities. 
 Those issues are transportation LOS, sustainableperformance criteria and measures, and funding. The draft Capital Improvement element you have before you today toucheson two of those issues--LOS and funding. While the bulk of these issues will be addressed in the TransportationElement that will be presented in July, the CI element is a glimpse at what isto come.  We are encouraged by what wesee.
First, we are pleased to see the staffrecommendation to end concurrency for transportation, schools and parks, asallowed under the 2011 state law changes. As we stated in January, it's important that Lee County use thisopportunity to take back local control and support our local vision and ourcommunity plans, as reflected in extensive public input as part of the EARprocess.
 However, eliminatingtransportation concurrency is just a first step in the needed changes torealize the vision in the EAR, as adopted unanimously by BoCC in February 2011.
 We're pleased to see proposalsdealing with LOS that begin to move us towards the county's goal of a balancedtransportation system. First, we applaud the statement in Policy 1.1.3: "The LOS for transportation facilities will beestablished through an assessment of alltransportation modes including roadway, bike, pedestrian, and transitcapacity and service volumes consistent with the standards established in theTransportation Element."
Since the Comp Plan was last amended, the Floridaguidelines for determining LOS have been updated.  Beginning in 2009, the Florida LOS QualityHandbook provides LOS standards not just for vehicles, but also for transit,pedestrians, and bicycles.  Using thisupdated guideline, staff is proposing to establish LOS standards for these othermodes and to use them in determining whether a road meets LOS standards forfurther development to move forward.
This means that the county can establish the LOSstandard for a given road to be a transit standard, a bike/ped standard, or avehicle standard or some combination of these. What this broader approach to LOS says is that the solution to a roadway"problem" needs to address the full spectrum of deficiencies that thelack of safe choices in modes of transportation can be addressed by enhancingtransit services, sidewalks, paths, and bike lanes.
 It could allowfor solutions that foster complete streets rather than assuming that anyincreased traffic requires roads to be widened. With a multi-modal LOS approach, the logical next step is a change inthe way solutions are financed from the vehicle-only impact fee approach to amulti-modal mobility fee approach. 
This shift to newer alternative funding mechanismswas envisioned in the December 2011 FDOT report on "ProportionateShare" and two Florida counties--Pasco and Alachua--have each modernizedtheir funding mechanisms to reflect the transportation demand changes.  In addition, Collier County is developing amobility fee approach, the cities of Destin and Jacksonville have implementedit and Orlando and Kissimmee also have it under development.
We look forward to reviewing the Transportationelement to see how the county plans to define and apply this new LOS approachin supporting a balanced multi-modal transportation system.  While this new LOS approach is a step in theright direction, we encourage staff to go further. 
In addition to changes in the LOS, we would like tosee the staff and the various committees take a step back and look at theintersection of transportation and land use and ask the big picture visionquestions--where in the county do we want to invest in transportationinfrastructure and where do we not want to invest?  Then let's make sure that our LOS standardsassist us in realizing this vision.

Action Alert: Tell our congressional delegation to preserve Senate provisions on bike/ped funding

 The ongoing saga of the federal transportation bill continues in Congress, with the House and Senate conference committee meeting to try to come up with a reauthorization bill before the current extension expires June 30th.  Once again, the provisions that provide funding for local bike/ped facilities are under attack and we need you to take 60 seconds to tell Senators Nelson, Rubio, and Rep. Mack that these provisions are important to us in Lee County.  Thanks!

As the House and Senate negotiations continue, we need you to help defend a crucial provision in the Senate bill that is under attack. 

Known as the Cardin-Cochran amendment, it would help our cities and towns revitalize Main streets, improve public health, and make streets safer for everyone who uses them. It does that by giving them the ability to make choices about how transportation dollars are spent in their communities. 

Can you take just a minute to tell your senators and representative to preserve and defend the Cardin-Cochran amendment?

Many of you wrote your senators about this amendment back in February, resulting in a huge victory when it won bipartisan support and was included in the Senate bill. But it’s under attack right now and could be scrapped as the House and Senate negotiate a final transportation bill if we don’t fight for it. Today.

If this important provision isn’t included in the final transportation bill, Congress would take transportation choices away from local governments and give the state sole power over them.

Senators already recognized that they should give control and choice back to local governments to invest in the smaller projects in their communities that revitalize their communities while building out a full transportation network that is safe for everyone. 

These issues are being decided this week in the conference negotiations. So please tell your Senator and representative to preserve the Cardin-Cochran provision.

BikeWalkLee comments to BoCC on Daniels Parkway tree removal proposal

At the 5/29 BoCC meeting, County staff presented a response to a commissioner request to consider a proposal by a business owner to remove 20 trees on Daniels Parkway.   BikeWalkLee submitted a letter on 5/28 in support of staff recommendations to maintain current policies which support adding trees to rights-of-way.  Below are excerpts from our letter.  On 5/29, the Board indicated their support for current policy but asked that the issue be referred to both the sustainability and landscaping committees to make recommendations to the Board.

Dear Commissioners:

BikeWalkLee, a coalition to complete the streets in Lee County, works for a balanced multi-modal transportation system and sustainable community.  We understand that there will be a discussion at the May 29th Board meeting related to a business owner's desire to remove  about 20 trees from Daniels Parkway near the intersection of Apaloosa Lane.  As we understand it, the removal of the trees is to create a  ‘clear view’ of the building front that is over 250’ from the road edge.  Approval of such a request would be directly counter to multiple Lee County policies and guidelines.  These policies specifically promote adding trees to rights-of-way as part of the county's  Comprehensive Plan dealing with open space, roadway landscaping, and shade for walkers and cyclists.  All of these policy directions were recently re-affirmed in the EAR which strengthened the county's commitment to livability, complete streets, community character and sustainability.

We believe that the Board should follow the existing policies and not consider the request for tree removal.   Such a decision would set an undesirable  precedent with trees being removed as a quick ‘first’ option rather than working towards better solutions..... 
 Our interest in this issue is based on our concern for promoting alternative forms of transportation.  Trees along pathways, bicycle lanes, and roadways increase pedestrian and bicycle safety and provide a shade respite in the Florida summers.....

Progress on bicycle detection (at intersection turn lanes) issues

Thanks to LeeDOT staff for efforts to improve bicycle detection at intersection turn lanes.  We also appreciate the efforts by BPAC and BPCC to focus attention on these safety issues.
Over the past year, both the MPO's Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinating Committee (BPCC) and the County's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) have asked the county to address the problem of inconsistency in pedestrian signals through the county, and the problem of detecting cyclists trying to turn at various intersections. 

In February, we reported on BPAC's efforts (click here to read the 2/17 blog post).  At the May 29th BPCC meeting, Awaldo Gonzalez of Lee County Traffic Division gave an update.  LeeDOT staff, along with a BPAC team, have been testing a list of seven roads and intersections. 

LCDOT has recently installed ALDIS cameras at some signalized intersections in the County which provide a 360ยบ view of the area around a traffic light, and allows vehicle video detection including bicyclists for traffic signal control and data. They have a plan to install more ALDIS traffic camera and plan to replace existing loop detectors with the cameras during road resurfacing/reconstruction as well as installing them during the ongoing ATMS project.

The committee thanked LeeDOT for there progress is addressing this long-standing safety concern of cyclists.  If you are out there cycling and find detection problems at a certain intersection, please contact Awaldo Gonzalez  or call 239-271-6698.

The committee also requested that LeeDOT develop a policy related to determining when pedestrian signals require being “called” vs going to “walk” cycle by default.

Florida Weekly: Don't call them "golf carts"

Florida Weekly May 30, 2012  
Article quotes from BikeWalkLee's policy statement on "golf carts". Note the article only discusses the use of these vehicles on roads, not on sidewalks for pathways.

Don’t call them ‘golf carts,’ LSVs provide street-legal transportation

A+ Carts on Summerlin. These are LSVs. 
COURTESY PHOTOS It may look like a golf cart, but it’s not a golf cart, according to Florida rules. Nor does it have anything to do with golfing, necessarily.
Instead, electric-powered Low Speed Vehicles or “street legal golf carts” offer an alternative transportation on low speed roads. LSV dealers say using them became more popular when environmental concerns grew and gas prices rose. Using one requires a driver’s license, insurance and registration.

They often look the same as a golf cart except for required features such as seatbelts, turn signals and taillights, and can go between 20 and 25 miles per hour instead of less than 20. They can only travel on roads where the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less.  LSV dealer Jay Stewart suggests they’re not too different from a small, electric powered car. His LSVs cost between $7,000 and $10,000 — in general a few thousand more than a golf cart.

“It’s not a golf cart. It is a car,” insists Mr. Stewart, owner of A+ Carts on Summerlin Road near Fort Myers Beach. “It just looks doesn’t look like your car or your mom’s car. It’s the car of the future.”
But just because the state makes the distinction between golf carts and LSVs doesn’t mean private communities in Southwest Florida will as well. They’re considered one and the same at Sandoval, a 524-acre deed restricted community in Cape Coral that has never allowed golf carts. The policy is common in similar neighborhoods throughout Southwest Florida.

Resident Mike Anderson bought an electric-powered LSV to pick up his kids from the bus stop or make short trips there. Later he received a letter from the community’s attorney telling him to stop using it.
General manager Patrick Cattanach said Sandoval’s owners haven’t decided to change their position and that this is the first issue he knows of in the community regarding what they consider a golf cart.

Some LSV dealers are also not confident people know or always observe the difference and the rules for an LSV or golf carts, and sometimes treat them as nearly the same, using either one of them on roads, sidewalks or elsewhere.

Mr. Anderson wants to use his LSV to save on gas money, and had assumed that since the cost and procedure was nearly the same as owning many cars, and it’s legal by state standards, he could use it at Sandoval.
“I’ve got a tag, I pay insurance, and they’ve still got a problem,” he said. “Where do they draw the line? It’s not like I’m driving on the sidewalk or just out running around. I pick up my kids from the bus stop.”

BikeWalkLee, an advocacy for alternative modes of transportation in Lee County, endorses the use of LSVs on slower roads “for a variety of reasons, including their traffic calming effect… and because they are a more energy efficient mode of travel.”

Richard Cucchi, owner of Caddy Carts on U.S. 41 in Northport, suggested different communities should decide for themselves if golf carts, LSVs, both or neither suit it, but noted the environmental benefits.

“Anytime you get a big gas guzzling vehicle off the road and replace it with something half its size, it’s a good thing,” he said.

Sydney Kimble, who along with Bob Love owns Electric Motion Golf Carts in Naples, feels they could be safe in downtown.
“I think the downtown area of Naples could be really geared toward (using LSVs.),” he said.

The Pine Island proposal 

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association in April asked Lee County commissioners to allow not just LSVs, but also golf carts, on most Pine Island roads. That’s already legal on barrier island communities such as Captiva and Boca Grande.

But some business owners say golf carts sharing the road with cars, even in calmer settings, could be a dangerous mix.
It could help his business but hurt his customers, said Don Steward of Affordable Golf Carts, which has locations in North Fort Myers and on Marco Island.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for people to be competing with Cadillacs and Towncars on a golf cart,” he said.

Michael Perkins of Advantage Golf Carts in Bonita Springs, agrees. “They shouldn’t be on the roads with cars,” he said.

John L. Young, 86, was killed April 25 trying to cross Summerlin Road in Fort Myers on a golf cart, reports show. Summerlin is a busy street, unlike many on Signs on New Post Road behind Sweetbay on Bayshore Road. Pine Island. Mr. Stewart of A+ Carts said Mr. Young was his customer, and that he had poor eyesight. This is one reason why allowing golf carts the same accessibility as LSVs could be troublesome, Mr. Stewart said, because people who otherwise couldn’t get a driver’s license could use them and get hurt.

In North Fort Myers behind the Sweetbay Supermarket on Bayshore Road sits a congregation of communities. Some signage shows where carts can and can’t go but it doesn’t distinguish between LSVs. Jackie Hanley, who lives in Foxmoor Lakes, a deed-restricted community by the Sweetbay that allows golf carts, enjoys hers.

“I go to the pool with it,” she said. “I sometimes take it over to the grocery store.” ¦

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

News-Press reports on bike/ped facilities that will be included in road projects nearing completion

News-Press 5/29/12

Written by Marisa Kendall

It's great to see the media reporting on road projects under construction with inclusion of bike/ped facilities so that ALL road users can see what improvements are coming!

"Lee County to wrap up construction work on roads:  Lane widening, bicycle paths and sidewalks for pedestrians are among the improvements"

 After years of lane closures and orange barricades, several road improvement projects in Lee County are nearing completion.Of nine major project under way — six are expected to be completed by the end of the year, and three should be finished this summer. Most of the projects include new safety measures for bicyclists and pedestrians, such as bike paths and sidewalks.

Click here to read the in-depth front page story.

Click here to read the in-depth front page story.  http://www.news-press.com/article/20120529/NEWS01/305290025/Lee-County-wrap-up-construction-work-roads?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Home