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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lee MPO requests FDOT increases in local bike/ped funding



The Lee MPO submitted its funding priorities to FDOT, which included increased funding for bike/ped projects.

At the June 22nd, MPO Board meeting, BikeWalkLee's representative, Ann Pierce, spoke about the proposed funding priorities to be submitted to FDOT for consideration in their upcoming Work Plan for 2013/14-2017/18.  As part the Board's approval of the 2035 LRTP in 2010, it adopted two resolutions to provide policy direction to the staff and committees to make more progress on a balanced multi-modal transportation system.  

BikeWalkLee expressed its support for the $7.9 Million request for bike/ped projects, or 9% of the total funding request.  Last year the MPO requested $5.2 million or 5% of its budget for bike/ped, so this is an increase in actual and relative terms.  Kudos to the MPO staff, committees, and Board for their support!

·      BikeWalkLee's other comments to the Board focused on three questions: 

1.       what is the split by mode share and how does that compare to last year?
       Over the past 10 years, the MPO has put an increasing share of its resources into transit, traffic ops, and bike/ped
      •   comparing our June 2011 request to June 2012 request, its proposed that transit go from 1% to 7%; traffic ops from 25% to 30%, and bike/ped from 5% to 9%. 
      •   these trend lines are moving the county towards its goal of a balanced multi-modal transportation system.
2.       how are we implementing the goal of making road improvements first before creating new road capacity?
      •  Lee County is still focused on expanding capacity, with 99% of the road dollars this year going to widen roads vs. improve/repair existing facilities.
      • To meet the MPO's goal of "fix it first", we'd like to see this mix shift in future years.
3.       Are objective criteria being used to prioritize the projects?
      • While the prioritization of projects was not based on the merged prioritization approach which uses objective criteria, having both sets of rankings allows staff to beta-test the merged approach in anticipation of changes in the next update of the LRTP. 
  •  
  • The next step is for FDOT to come back in the Fall with its draft Work Plan.  At that point, the Lee MPO can see how that Plan compares with this June request, whether FDOT supported the county's priorities established; and whether the mix of types of projects changes from what we requested.
               

Friday, June 22, 2012

US DOT announces TIGER IV grants--Lee County's complete streets initiative not one of the lucky winners


 Lee MPO's complete streets project application for a TIGER IV grant wasn't one of the lucky winners this round, but we can try again. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 47 transportation projects, including 2 in Florida, will receive a total of almost $500 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) 2012 program.  In all, the Department received 703 applications from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia,  totaling  $10.2 billion, far exceeding the $500 million set aside for the program.  This is the fourth round of TIGER funding.

Unfortunately, Lee MPO's application for a $10 million complete streets initiative was not among the award winners.  We're excited about the two grants that were awarded for Florida projects--$18 million for the Wave Streetcar Project in Fort Lauderdale, and $10 million to complete the Riverwalk in Tampa.  We're also pleased to see that on a national basis, 12 percent of the projects went for multi-modal, bicycle and pedestrian projects and 16 percent went to support transit projects, demonstrating USDOT's continuing support for a balanced multi-modal transportation system.
 
Although we're disappointed that Lee County's application wasn't successful this round, we're heartened by the fact that the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate provides $500 million for a future round of TIGER grants.  As the Tampa Mayor said, this is the third time they've applied for TIGER funds for their Riverwalk project, so it looks like the third time is the charm.  Lee County's complete streets project application was submitted for TIGER III and IV, so let's try again for TIGER V!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: Group riding requires adherence to road rules

June 20, 2012     Dan's column focuses on the do's and don't of group rides for law enforcement officers, cyclists, and motorists.
Much too frequently I field complaints from cyclists who’ve had encounters with law enforcement personnel when on group rides. As part of my job as Florida Bicycle Association’s program director, as well as in my various roles locally, nary a week goes by that I don’t hear from someone who’s been pulled over and is asking what to do when what was an isolated incident becomes the norm on certain roads or communities.

In some cases I come to the assumption that police action targeting group cyclists can be considered harassment, meant to intimidate and shoo away these pesky invaders. In those instances it’s usually a resident’s complaints about being delayed or inconvenienced that makes its way from the mayor’s office or other elected or high ranking official on to the corresponding law enforcement agency with the order to make these pests disappear. I also understand that minor traffic regulations are perhaps being ignored by cyclists, so police have the law on their side. That being stated, if the laws being broken aren’t creating safety problems for the cyclists or motorists, police could exercise discretion in enforcement, just as they do when they ignore motorists’ violations, which is frequently the case.



The bottom line is this: Merely being delayed by cyclists who have the right to use the road — including controlling the entire lane, whether single file or two abreast, because the lane is less than 14-feet wide (most lanes are 11 or 12-feet wide) — isn’t illegal and shouldn’t get groups pulled over and lectured, warned or cited. But blowing through stop signs and red lights, riding against traffic (something group riders rarely do), and generally flaunting traffic rules does justify such action.

As cyclists, we can all do ourselves a favor by riding smart, including controlling the lane when appropriate and prudent, and keeping in mind that we all must share the public right of way so should be considerate of others. And as drivers, that means being patient and understanding of the rights cyclists and other vulnerable road users have. Another suggestion I have for cyclists is that any aggressive or lawless attitude one might have when riding in a pack be something that’s not tolerated by the group. Finally, remember that public roads are not race courses (unless closed to other traffic for special events), neither for motorists or cyclists, so they must be used as intended and prescribed by traffic law and common courtesy.

This and that
The Brotherhood Ride (brotherhoodride.com), an annual week-long ride in honor of public safety professionals who lost their lives in the line of duty, successfully finished-up in St. Pete last weekend. Thirty riders participated this year, raising funds for the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

More than 300 participants took part in Fort Myers Track Club’s annual Membership
Run in early June, running through and around Hammond Stadium. Yes, it was hot and humid, but everyone seemed to enjoy milling around the stadium’s fountain afterward, where refreshments were served and the annual membership meeting took place. A few new board members were brought on-board along with those who were re-elected. Next up: Fourth of July 5K in Cape Coral (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)

For cyclists, the third annual Wheels and Wings Ride (www.peaceriverridersbicycleclub.com) is happening in Punta Gorda on Saturday, July 7. What’s great about this ride is the “gentleman’s race” and a trailer that will display the cyclists’ speed as they go by, with those going over the speed limit receiving a written warning (suitable for framing) from PGPD. Need I say more to get you there?
Finally, if you’re thinking of taking part in the second annual Captiva Tri (www.captivatri.com), held on Sept. 15 (kids event) and Sept. 16, don’t delay in registering. Last year the number of participants maxed-out, so some who wanted to take part were turned away.

Advocacy update
Lots of things are happening in the way of policy, facilities and enforcement matters. Be sure to visit BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com) to get updated.
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

Florida Weekly: Biking paradise


Florida Weekly article focuses on how low bike shops are faring and bike commuting, with quotes from several BikeWalkLee partners.
June 20, 2012
Biking paradise
Sales in town are rolling
BY EVAN WILLIAMS
<br />Mike Holm of Fort Myers Schwinn Cyclery turnes up a bike at his shop. <br />EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY Mike Holm of Fort Myers Schwinn Cyclery turnes up a bike at his shop.EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLYA SEGMENT OF BICYCLE SHOP CUSTOMERS DISAPPEARED IN the last five years along with many jobs. As employment figures begin to look brighter, active retirees in particular, and others looking for recreation and exercise, are turning the trend around.

Mike Holm said sales at Fort Myers Schwinn Cyclery were off 30 percent at the worst of the recession. He saw a 15 percent jump in sales during the 2011-12 busy season, from October through May, over last year.

“We have to double that again to get back to where we were,” Mr. Holm said amiably as he tuned up a bike at his shop on U.S. 41. “It’ll come back to it. I’m sure it will.”

Cycling is big business in Florida’s Congressional District 14, which includes 800,000-some people in Lee, and parts of Collier and Charlotte counties. There are 76 retail bicycle stores representing 319 jobs and $29.8 million in gross revenue in the district, according to a 2012 report by League of American Bicyclists.
<br />Bicycles for sale at The Bike Route in Naples. Bicycles for sale at The Bike Route in Naples.
“The recession hurt us bad,” admits Earl Lang, co-owner of Acme Bicycle Shop in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte. But the 2011-12 season was his best of the last three in sales. He attributes that to “cabin fever” (pent-up demand) and general optimism.

“I think this year people looked tired of not spending money,” said Matthew Walthour, owner of Island Bike Shop in Naples and on Marco Island.

Many of those tired of not spending money appear to be senior citizens who are more active than ever.

“Since the housing boom evaporated that type of person working in the housing industry that might spend $300 to $700 to $800 on a bike — they’re gone,” said Keith Newman, co-owner of Bike Route in Naples. “Most of them have left the area. But retirees have come on strong to take that over — our last two years have been some of the best ever. So I can’t complain now.”
<br />Employee Benjamin Kurke performs maintenance at the Bike Route in Naples. <br />EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY Employee Benjamin Kurke performs maintenance at the Bike Route in Naples.EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLYOne of the best sellers at shops in Naples, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda are bicycles that are easier on retirees’ wellworn knees or hips. These are sometimes called “flat foot” bicycles because you can board from a nearly natural standing position and put both feet flat on the ground at a stop.

Kim Campanella, owner of Bicycle Center in Port Charlotte, is one of the top dealers in the country for Trek’s Pure line.

“Most bicycles have you sitting on a stool,” said Ms. Campanella. “This has you sitting on a chair.”
Mr. Lang of Acme said a “flat foot” model, the Electra Townie, has been one of his trendiest models.

“It really builds people’s confidence,” he said. “They feel comfortable and safe.” Some of the most popular models — such as “hybrid” bikes good for a trip to the store, a ride to the beach, or wherever — cost between $400 and $500, but dedicated cyclists can spend upwards of $10,000 on an ultra highend road bike that weighs less than 3 pounds, has electronic gear shifting and carbon fiber wheels.

Sticking with their cars
Meanwhile, people looking to lower their gas budgets by riding more are the minority, shop owners said. Even $5 or $6 per gallon gas prices wouldn’t change that much, some say, even along with other benefits such as personal and environmental health.
“Every year when the gas goes higher people love to do stories on it, but I’m not seeing it,” said Ms. Campanella of Bicycle Center.

Mr. Holm of Schwinn is skeptical that there will be a surge in people who use a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation any time soon, even if gas hit $10 per gallon.
“People aren’t giving up their airconditioned cars yet,” he said.

Mr. Newman of Bike Route figures it would take gas prices of $7 or more per gallon to see a significant spike in bicycle commuters.

“Our customer base is pretty much recreational and fitness-type riders,” he said. “Not so much in the transportation end of it. I still don’t find there are many people using the bicycle strictly as a gas substitute.

“It’s tough to pry them out of their cars. There are plenty of ways around town to use the existing roads, but most people choose to use their vehicle.”
That includes himself most of the time, he admits.

Bike commuters stymied
Bicycle commuters as defined by the federal government — those who use a bicycle only, no car and no public transportation to get to work — are an even more rarified group.

That’s not to say there aren’t thousands of them. For instance, there were 429 people in Cape Coral who said they commuted only by bicycle in 2010 (about .7 percent of total commuters). By contrast, 6 percent of commuters in Portland, Ore., considered one of the most “bicycle friendly” cities in the nation, get to work by bicycle.

Those who commute only by bike grew by 39 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2010. But many challenges, including large swaths of urban sprawl or showers at the workplace, are holding that group of consumers back.

“People who are commuting to work are those who have no choice, by and large,” said Darla Letourneau of Bike- WalkLee, a Fort Myers-based group that advocates alternative transportation. “We don’t do a good job of providing accommodations at the other end.”

Getting to work on your bicycle may depend on the street layout between you and a job.

“I love the idea (of commuting by bike) and I encourage it,” Ms. Campanella said. “But just the way Port Charlotte is laid out you won’t see a lot of people like in Boston (her hometown), or New York or even Fort Myers, doing that.”

Employees often have no other facilities besides a bathroom to clean up or change in after a ride to work.

“When they get to work they feel sweaty and a lot of people don’t provide lockers and showers and things like that,” said Mr. Walthour of Island Bike Shop. While shop owners expect to continue to see strong sales continue with the retiree market, commuter sales aren’t likely to surge as long as the culture and practical considerations for that sector remain the same.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BikeWalklee sends recommendations to BoCC on draft transportation CIP


BikeWalkLee sent a memo to BoCC with its recommendations on the draft transportation CIP (5-year Capital Improvement Plan) prior to the Board's June 25th budget workshop.  BikeWalkLee recommends that the Alico Rd/Ben Hill widening project be delayed until a master plan is developed for the Research Diamond area; and recommends that the1.3-mile Ortiz widening project in the Tice neighborhood (from Luckett to Palm Beach Blvd.) be changed to a "road diet" (2-lane divided with road improvements), making it a complete street and avoiding a costly and unnecessary road widening.  Read the memo for the complete set of recommendations. Click here to read the memo.

On June 19th, BikeWalkLee sent a memo to County Commissioners with its recommendations on the transportation component of the draft CIP, which outlines the planned roadway projects for 2012-2017. Below are excerpts from the memo:

Last year, as called for in your approved Action Plan to implement the 2009 Complete Streets Resolution, the staff developed a revised transportation planning and budgeting process.  This year is the first time that the new approach has been used to develop the 5-year transportation funding plan, reflected in the CIP.  The staff is to be commended for its interdepartmental team effort in developing this plan.

The draft CIP is an improvement over previous years and reflects a first step in implementing the new approach. The staff has done an excellent job of ensuring that all planned road projects include bike/ped facilities in their designs.  However, they have not yet taken the next step to analyze the merits of the road projects in terms of the broader complete streets and sustainability goals.  It is our hope that as the collaborative county staff process evolves, road projects will be evaluated in terms of the goals and priorities the county has articulated.[i] 

Attached you will find specific recommendations  made by the Community Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC) and supported by BikeWalkLee for changes to the draft CIP. (See Attachment 1.)

This memo is intended to provide some background and rationale for these recommendations.  Given the County's revenue shortfalls, declining gas tax collections, lower impact fees, and reductions in federal and state funding, funding for transportation projects will be tight for the foreseeable future.  Each of the expanded road capacity projects must  be closely scrutinized, weighing both the initial capital and life-cycle maintenance costs against the county's current funding realities and certainties of future sources. 




Monday, June 18, 2012

FHP and SAO response to Letter to Governor Scott re: Tracey Kleinpell investigation


 BikeWalkLee received responses this week from FHP and SAO to our May 31st letters to Governor, FHP Director, and State Attorney General on the official response to cyclist Tracey Kleinpell's death, and we responded to FHP.
 See our response, requesting data and answers to more questions.

Here's the non-response from State Attorney Stephen Russell's office:

From: Welch, Mark [mailto:MarkWelch@flhsmv.gov]
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 4:50 PM
To: dletourneau@bikewalklee.org
Cc: HSMV-Corr
Subject: FW: BikeWalkLee's Letter to Governor Scott: Protest the official response to cyclist Tracey Kleinpell's death

Dear Ms. Letourneau:

Governor Scott has received your email and has asked that I address the issues regarding the Florida Highway Patrol. 

It is most unfortunate that Ms. Kleinpell was tragically killed while riding her bicycle in Lee County.  The men and women of the patrol work hard to investigate crashes in a professional, unbiased manner to determine why the crash occurred, who was responsible and to file the appropriate charges, when applicable.  As we are statutorily directed to investigate crashes, we are not in the position to recuse our members from investigating crashes as you have requested. 

From 2007 to 2011, the patrol has investigated 224 fatal crashes involving bicyclists and 1189 fatal crashes involving pedestrian throughout Florida.  Those crashes resulted in 311 citations issued to parties involved.  You have indicated there is a troubling pattern of disregard for the rights of the most vulnerable road users.  We are always open to reviewing our practices.  If you could provide us with specific information concerning the pattern you are referring to, we will gladly review the information to determine if there was any unprofessional conduct by any of our members. 

Our personnel in Tallahassee have reviewed the report and determined that Corporal Gissendanner conducted a proper homicide investigation. In order to charge any person with a crime in Florida, the law enforcement officer must have probable cause that a crime was committed.  There was no indication that probable cause for any crime existed in this crash.

We welcome any legislation that makes our roadways safer for our residents and visitors.  We appreciate your efforts in promoting pedestrian and bicycle safety in our state.

Respectfully,


Captain Mark D. Welch
Office of Professional Compliance
Florida Highway Patrol
2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS-53
Tallahassee, FL, 32399-0500
Office: 850.617.2305
Fax: 850.617.5146

 BikeWalkLee's Response to FHP:
June 21, 2012

Dear Captain Welch:
Thank you for your June 18th response to our May 31st letter to Gov. Scott concerning the official response to cyclist Tracey Kleinpell's death.  We appreciate your timely reply.  However, it didn't respond to the questions we asked of FHP in our May 31st letter to Colonel David H. Brierton, Jr., FHP Director (see Attachments 1 and 2), and we have several questions about your response.  Subsequent to our letters, on June 1st the investigative file was made available to the public by the State's Attorney Office, which we reviewed as reflected in this letter.

1.  With respect to the data you provided in your following statement:
“From 2007 to 2011, the patrol has investigated 224 fatal crashes involving bicyclists and 1,189 fatal crashes involving pedestrian throughout Florida.  Those crashes resulted in 311 citations issued to parties involved."
This means citations were given in 22% of the bike/ped fatalities over the five-year period.  What you haven't provided (as requested in our letter) is a breakdown of who was charged -- the pedestrian, cyclist or driver -- and what were the charges? Were those charges civil or criminal?  In what percentage of the cases were vehicular homicide charges filed against the driver? 

Although you haven't identified who was cited, we are concerned that only 22% of the cases resulted in citations.  If all of these were against the motorists, are you implying that the remaining 78% were the fault of the victim?  In Lee County, up until the time LeeDOT stopped gathering its own traffic crash data, we found that less than 40% (39% in case of cyclists and 35% in case of pedestrians) of all crashes between motorists and vulnerable users to be the fault of the vulnerable user.  (See Attachment 3.)  How could FHP’s data be so different?  BikeWalkLee would like a better breakdown of FHP’s data, including specifics about the other 1,102 fatalities (1,413-311 = 1,102), and which parties were at fault in the 311 in which citations were issued, as well as the type of charges. We feel this discrepancy is the crux of the issue and relates to our contention that there’s an inherent bias in cases investigated by FHP.  Once we have this data, we will be able to respond to your request for evidence of a pattern of bias.    


Local Planning Agency (LPA) continues review of Comp Plan amendments at June 28th meeting




As explained in numerous blog posts over the past year, BikeWalkLee is participating in this year-long process to ensure that the complete streets/sustainability focus in the EAR is carried through in the actual Comp Plan amendments.  This month's Lee Plan draft elements for review include two elements:  Conservation and Coastal Management and Housing.
 
The upcoming LPA meeting is being held on Thursday, June 28th at 8:30 a.m. in the Old Lee County Courthouse (2120 Main Street, downtown Fort Myers (Board Chambers).  They continue their review of the Comp Plan amendments.  Public comment is welcome.

Click below to read about the two elements on the agenda:

2.  Housing