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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

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
BY EVAN WILLIAMS

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

 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column:America’s fat, but we can do something about it

Dan's May 23rd column focuses on the growing obesity problem and Dan's solution--sustained physical activity and healthy eating.  He reports on last week's Ride of Silence and the mounting tragedy in Tracey Kleinpell's case.
 
By now, everyone knows that way too many Americans are overweight or obese. Having worked in public health for almost a decade, I witnessed in great detail this national phenomenon happen in warp-speed. From a societal perspective, this is as big as a problem gets. And it should be just as big a deal for those who fall into the obese category as it is for society as a whole, although that doesn’t appear to be the case.

There are many reasons for our collective girth, with the two most obvious ones to me being the food industry convincing regulators, retailers and the public that their processed goods are what the public wants, and our own behaviors that include buying into that myth (with vigor); the second being that too many people are sedentary. But all is not lost because we, as individuals, can do something about our own situation. Even the food industry realizes this, as evidenced by some of the better choices now available due to public demand.



Last year, on my flight back from the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. I sat next to a lobbyist for the processed food industry. Since I had just been doing some lobbying of my own, we had something in common to talk about. The message the industry rep told me they convey to our elected officials when confronted about the many ills of processed and fast food is that “there really isn’t any bad food, just bad choices.” Listening to him, I realized I’ve made some good choices over the years, including having sworn-off fast food a long time ago.

Undoubtedly, I could be doing much more for my health and well-being, having an even better diet being one. But those two basic aspects of my life — engaging in regular, sustained physical activity and staying away from foods I know are no good for me the majority of the time — might just be a starting point for anyone to stop the weight gain and associated ills that are otherwise coming.

Admittedly, neither engaging in regular exercise nor sticking to a decent diet is always convenient or possible, but making both part of daily life has become just as addictive as doing the opposite, with the benefits of the former far outweighing whatever pleasures come from sitting around eating food we know isn’t good for anyone. And there are plenty of programs and resources available to help make such a change happen. All you have to do is choose to make your move.

This and that
First, a correction: Contrary to my statement in a prior column, Gov. Rick Scott did proclaim March as Florida Bicycle Month in Florida this year. Of course, May remains National Bike Month.
There were three Rides of Silence in Lee County this year, with the Fort Myers ride attracting almost 100 cyclists who rode through downtown, along U.S. 41, and back via McGregor Boulevard. As part of pre-ride remarks, Lisa Buolher, a world-class runner and cyclist who was struck by a distracted driver while on her final training ride before competing in the World Duathlon Championships, spoke of her serious injuries, remarkable recovery and thoughts on the crash. The message to drivers: We need to keep our attention on the task at hand so we don’t put anyone in Lisa’s position — or worse.

Tragedy mounts in the case of Tracey Kleinpell
Someone who wasn’t as lucky as Lisa is Tracey Kleinpell. A little over a year after Tracey was killed on the Sanibel Causeway by Theresa Shirley, the truck operator who drove across the centerline and into the breakdown lane, striking Tracey and sending her into the water to her death, the state’s attorney announced only a slap on the wrist is warranted in the case. Even though prescribed muscle relaxers and pain relievers were found in Shirley’s system — and she admitted falling asleep at the wheel — she’ll face a minimal charge of failure to remain in a single lane. FHP, the investigating agency, didn’t even conduct a field sobriety check, although emergency personnel at the scene indicated Shirley appeared sleepy and lethargic. If there’s ever been a case that requires FHP to take a hard look at the way it conduct investigations involving bicyclists and pedestrians, this is it. For the many others who’ve experienced similar injustice, I hope Tracey’s death will serve as the tipping point for reform to happen.

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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review of New Horizon 2035 Lee Plan elements continues


 
BikeWalkLee has been participating in this year-long process of updating the Lee Plan to ensure that the complete streets/sustainability focus in the EAR is carried through in the actual Comp Plan amendments.
 




Background:  Horizon 2035 is a comprehensive review and update of the Lee Plan through the year 2035. The Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) adopted by the Commissioners in early 2011 resulted in a sustainable vision for growth and development. The County is now using this vision as the basis to update the Lee Plan’s goals, objectives and policies. Over the past 8 months, the staff developed and committees reviewed a series of issue papers.  Starting in March, the staff began presenting draft Comp Plan language for each of the elements in the Plan.

The next two elements were presented to the LPA on Thursday, May 31st (8:30 a.m. in BoCC Chambers).  The two elements are:
1.  Capital Improvements--This element addresses the public services and infrastructure systems, including transportation and includes the transportation concurrency issue.
2.  Historic Preservation
 Click here to read the documents.






The two elements will also be discussed at the June 20th CSAC meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the County Administration conference room.  At the beginning of both committee meetings, the agendas include an opportunity for public comment. We encourage you to participate in this process.

Also on the LPA agenda for May 31st is the county's draft Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for FY 2012/13-2016/17 for review, which includes all the county's infrastructure projects, including transportation.

Invite to ITE May 30th webinar event:Raised Median Islands and Pedestrian Safety



The Southwest Florida Chapter of Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM 


At the Regional Planning Council Conference Room.
On Victoria Avenue at US 41 in Fort Myers. 
 Cost $5.00. Snacks and drink will be provided.
Please RSVP to Steve Jansen:JANSENSJ@leegov.com


Webinar Description:
Charlie Zegeer, of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, will present design considerations for raised median islands and discuss research findings related to their effectiveness in improving pedestrian safety.

·         Sheila Lyons, of the Oregon Department of Transportation, will discuss how the agency has installed dozens of median islands to assist pedestrians and bicyclists across state and local roadways.
·         Gary Sokolow, of the Florida Department of Transportation, will present the history of Florida’s Restrictive Median Policy, which has been implemented since the early 1990s and requires essentially all new multilane arterials to include median islands.
·         Jack Ecklund, of the City of University Place in Washington, will provide a local perspective on the use of raised median islands and their benefits.
·          
The presenters will also participate in a question and answer session to discuss how to address barriers to median implementation, and answer questions from the attendees. Representatives from state and local agencies will learn about the benefits of raised median islands, as well as key considerations for their application in a variety of settings.