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Monday, November 26, 2012

BikeWalkLee's comments on draft transportation element of Comp Plan--a different path forward for Lee County



BikeWalkLee has invested a great deal of time and effort in working to ensure that the principles of complete streets and a balanced multi-modal transportation system that supports livable and sustainable communities in Lee County are incorporated into the amendments of the Comp Plan.  We are now at the critical stage--reviewing the all-important draft transportation element.  

On November 25th, BikeWalkLee provided written comments to both the LPA and the CSAC, recommending the rescission of transportation concurrency and the replacement of the automobile Level of Service (LOS) tool with an alternative approach that is performance-based, multi-modal and context sensitive.  The auto-LOS tool has been the primary driver of Lee County's roadway overbuilding and growth of sprawl.

Report from 11/26/12 LPA Public Hearing on Draft Transportation Element

The LPA began its review of the transportation element, starting with a staff power point presentation by LeeDOT's Andy Getch, followed by public comment, and then some general discussion among the members.  In addition to BikeWalkLee's comments, representatives from both the Bayshore and Palm Beach community panels spoke, emphasizing the need for a multi-modal complete streets approach consistent with their community character.  There was strong representation from the health community--Sally Jackson and Syndi Bultman from LMHS, Diane Holm from the Lee County Health Department, and Rick Hadec, the Horizon Council Health and Wellness task force chair.  The health team focused on the cost in lives and dollars to our community of unhealthy lifestyles and unsafe roadways. Syndi's Mark Twain quote in referring to problems with the auto-LOS approach was perfect:  "If you always DO what you always DID, you always GET what you always GOT!" Thanks to everyone who spoke at this morning's LPA hearing!

While the LPA will continue its review of the transportation element at its Dec. 10th meeting, there will be no further opportunities for public comment. The only individuals that will be allowed to speak on December 10th will be those from a county agency or committee, with specific mention of the CSAC and the MPO.  Although there is no opportunity for the public to speak at the Dec. 10th meeting,  you can still submit your comments in writing to Janet Miller and she will distribute them to the LPA members.  There will also be an opportunity for the public to comment online in the "Town Hall" Horizon 2035 site.  As soon as the transportation element has been posted for discussion, we'll let you know.

BikeWalkLee Overview Comments on 10/26/12 Draft Transportation Element
LPA Meeting 11/26/12

OVERVIEW
The New Reality
In order to understand what's at stake in Lee County's Comp Plan rewrite--the first major redo in 26 years--it's important to understand the multi-faceted new reality we face.  The bottom-line is that the status quo is not an option.  In order for Lee County to deal with this new reality and chart an economically viable path forward for our future we must make radical changes in the Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan), especially in the land use and transportation elements.  Changes in the transportation and land use paradigm are evolving at a rapidly accelerating pace both nationally and regionally.  It is important for Lee County to reap the potential benefits and not get left behind.  We are at a crossroads: suffer the negative economic consequences of a status quo approach or position ourselves to be at a competitive advantage.   Luckily, with today's technology and "open source" approach to sharing best practices, Lee County can benefit from models and best practices developed by other communities across Florida and around the country with little difficulty.   It is critical that our elected officials understand what is at stake in this process and embrace the change that is required.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations
To provide the big picture context in which to review the draft transportation element, this paper presents the components of this new reality, outlines what has to change, then specifically looks at the implications for Lee County's draft Transportation Element.  Our specific comments on the draft are informed by two new studies--BikeWalkLee's"Moving Beyond Transportation Concurrency" November 12th report on other Florida communities and FDOT's "Expanded Transportation Performance Measures for Growth Management" Oct. 31st report.

Our summary recommendations are as follows:
  1.  The rescission of transportation concurrency now, as recommended by staff;
  2. Deletion of automobile and proposed multi-modal LOS and replace it with goals for the LOS replacement tool, with the actual tool to be developed and incorporated into the LDC; 
  3. Outline a joint County and MPO collaborative process for developing transportation performance measures and a mobility plan and fee system all of which would be incorporated into 2040 LRTP ( finalized by 2015); and
  4. Amend the County's LDCs subsequent to the LRTP adoption to reflect additional changes to the LOS replacement tool as well as to implement the mobility fee. 
 Given the significant changes needed in this draft, we suggest that the LPA request staff to bring back a revised version of the transportation element to the LPA for a second review.

Click here to continue reading BikeWalkLee's comments:

Food for thought:  "We've run out of money, now we have to think!"  Winston Churchill

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lee MPO hears from international roundabout expert and discusses Lee County opportunities

Thanks again to Councilman Flanders, MPO Director Don Scott, and FDOT Secretary Billy Hattaway for organizing an excellent presentation by international expert Michael Wallwork on the uses and benefits of roundabouts.

 

In case you missed Michael Wallwork's Nov. 16th presentation on roundabouts, click below to see his powerpoint presentation:

PowerPoint Presentation from the November 16th MPO Board meeting given by Michael Wallwork.

 

Michael Wallwork
Mr. Wallwork's presentation covered:  
  •  What a  roundabout is and differences from a traffic circle
  • What is the benefit of roundabouts – safety, crash reduction, lower conflict points etc.
  • Pedestrian/bicyclists use, crossings and safety  
  • General cost and maintenance of roundabouts versus signals
  •  Types of roundabouts and where used (Tee, offset, freeway interchanges etc.)
  • Common design problems and driving of them
  • Visual amenities included with roundabouts 
MPO Staff Director, Don Scott gave an overview of the roundabouts being developed around the County and the status of those (existing, planned or in local government plans). The  MPO Board voted to have Don work with local jurisdictions to develop a comprehensive list of possible roundabouts in the County and will come back to the Board with a feasibility analysis and recommendations. 
Several citizens from the American Council of Blind spoke about their concerns that roundabouts were not safe for the blind, and some suggestions were offered about how to make them work better for the blind and disabled.  Dan Moser, Vice-Chair of BPCC, spoke in support of roundabouts, citing statistics showing the safety benefits of roundabouts for pedestrians and cyclists.  
Ann Pierce of BikeWalkLee thanked the Board and staff for bringing this presentation to the Board and suggested that something like this be done on a quarterly basis so that the Board can have a chance to learn from experts and other communities about best practices on a host of transportation issues, such as road diets, and mobility plans and fee systems.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

BWL Column: Complete Streets concept betters communities

 BikeWalkLee is excited to be launching a bi-weekly column in the News-Press' new "Go Coastal--get outdoors in SW FL" section.  This first column introduces the concept of complete streets and BikeWalkLee's mission.  Future columns will cover events and opportunities to make our area a better place to walk, run, bike and try transit; explain why street design matters for use and safety; discuss how local, regional, state and federal policies impact what our streets look like now and into the future; and much more. 

 November 22, 2012-- Go Coastal Section

Street, bike concept betters communities


How do you use the streets of Lee County? Drive your car or motorcycle on them? Ride your bike? Rollerblade or skateboard? Maybe you run or walk on (or next to or across) them, or negotiate your way using a wheelchair. Let’s not forget buses and trolleys, trailers and trucks of all sizes and shapes.
That’s a lot of users all competing for their own slice of asphalt, each with their own needs and concerns. Finding a balance that allows every user full and fair access is no simple task, and it’s too easy for one interest to outweigh all others.

In hopes of better balancing all the potential users, communities such as Lee County have adopted “complete streets” policies — road networks that are designed to allow all users safe and convenient access to streets, with accommodations for the unique needs of each whenever possible.

Not a “one size fits all” approach, it is a method of designing new streets to benefit every likely user and improving existing streets to enhance access and safety.


North Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach demonstrates a 'complete streets model.'
North Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach demonstrates a 'complete streets model.' / Courtesy of BikeWalkLee
 Why is this important? Because complete streets help create complete communities:

More economic revitalization: Complete streets can reduce household transportation expenses, stimulate and revitalize area businesses, create jobs and increase property values.

More walking and bicycling: Experts are encouraging walking and bicycling as a response to the obesity epidemic. Streets safe for bicycling and walking help people of all ages be physically active.

More return on infrastructure investments: Integrating sidewalks, bike lanes, transit and safe crossings into a road design spares the expense of building them later.

More quality of place: People using the streets in all kinds of ways — for travel, business and social interactions — is a hallmark of a vibrant and livable community.

More transportation choices: Streets that provide travel choices give people the option to avoid traffic jams, save time and peace of mind.

More safety: Improved design and accommodation for bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit reduces the incidence of crashes.

BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed for safe and convenient travel for all users. Its members work to create opportunities for residents to enjoy this county’s streets and to enact better policies to ensure those streets are complete.

In the weeks ahead, we will be writing about ways you can get out and play on Lee County’s streets; introduce you to some of the groups, events and opportunities to make our area a better place to walk, run, bike and try transit; explain why street design matters for use and safety; discuss how local, regional, state and federal policies impact what our streets look like now and into the future; and much more.

Visit bikewalklee.org

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Invite to BikeWalkLee advocates to attend MPO Bike/Ped Safety Action Plan Training Dec. 12th

 If you care about improving the safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in Lee County, here's your chance to learn more and become involved--attend the MPO's Dec. 12th training course.

The Lee MPO is developing a Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan to reduce bicycle and pedestrian injury and fatality crashes through a wide range of recommended activities that will be identified as part of this project.  The project was approved by the Board in the Spring and the project scope has been defined and a consultant brought on to begin the process of developing the Action Plan.  The first step in launching this effort is a stakeholder training course for staff and professionals as well as advocates and community members.

The MPO is hosting two all-day training sessions--Dec. 11th for staff and professionals and Dec. 12th for advocates and community members.  BikeWalkLee urges interested citizens and advocates in its network to attend the Dec. 12th  training session.  Please RSVP to Stephen Benson.

Below is the announcement from MPO staff:

Planning & Engineering for Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities
Stakeholder Training


These courses are designed to target the needs of local practitioners, law enforcement officers,
and community members for the identification of effective techniques to address bicycle and
pedestrian safety issues. It is also intended to assist agencies in further enhancing existing
bicycle and pedestrian safety programs and activities, including identifying safety problems,
analyzing information, and selecting optimal solutions. This course is best suited for engineers, planners, traffic safety and enforcement professionals, public health and injury prevention professionals, and decision makers who have the responsibility of improving pedestrian and bicycle safety at the state or local level.

Both sessions will cover similar material but are geared for different audiences.  Please RSVP with which session you will be attending to Stephen Benson at sbenson@tindaleoliver.com.

 

Workshop Location:
Lee County Tax Collector’s Office
3rd Floor Conference Room   2480 Thompson Street   Fort Myers, Florida 33901

These workshops are conducted as part of the Lee County MPO Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Action
Plan.  For additional information contact William Roll at  wroll@tindaleoliver.com.

Moser's Column:Opposites attract: Experiencing the trails of Sanibel and Alva

This week's Moser column focuses on the good and bad of cycling on Sanibel, the mountain biking trails in Caloosahatchee Regional Park, and an update on safety issues at Briarcliff.

Nov. 21, 2012

Like so many other local residents, day-trippers and visitors from around the world, I’m a big fan of Sanibel Island. Luckily for me, a few weekends ago I had an opportunity to cycle on Sanibel’s extensive pathway network, providing a tour of the island for Tim Bustos, Florida Bicycle Association’s executive director, himself a first-time visitor to Southwest Florida. He was in town to present Sanibel Bike Club with a Share the Road mini-grant for its outstanding welcome center project on Periwinkle Way.

If you haven’t been to the island for a while you’ll find some new paths, a few existing ones widened, and many places to park your bike and explore nature trails, beaches and historic sites. A few years ago, the League of American Bicyclists designated Sanibel a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community, something the bicycle advocates are proud of (although, for some reason, the city seemingly doesn’t really embrace this achievement). But with all the great things about Sanibel and its pathway system, there are a number of problems that sometimes make for testy and even dangerous situations for all users of the paths and roads.

Seasonal population increases means corresponding congestion on the roads and paths, oftentimes resulting in both being overcapacity. On roads, this means gridlock on the paths, it results in chaos between pedestrians and cyclists, especially if proper etiquette isn’t understood or practiced, which is too frequently the case when folks are weaving, making unexpected moves and moving too fast for conditions. The fact that some very busy paths are still only the width of a sidewalk adds to the problem.

Misunderstanding between motorists and path users occurs at many intersections because of pavement markings that suggest path users must stop at almost every intersection, even when the path runs adjacent to the through roadway. But because it’s counter-intuitive for path users to stop when they otherwise wouldn’t, and the fact that there’s no corresponding stop sign, thus is unenforceable, most continue on, rightfully assuming they have the right of way through the intersection.

According to the city, police officers will soon be patrolling on bicycle, a move that could help improve conditions, assuming they’ll address motorists’ infractions as much as those by cyclists and pedestrians. Educating, rather than strict enforcement, would be the best approach, so perhaps “pathway ambassadors” (i.e., community service aids or official volunteers) would be more appropriate than full-fledged law enforcement officers.

On to Alva
The day after being on Sanibel’s paved trails we rode Caloosahatchee Regional Park’s single-track mountain bike trails. Again, this was Tim’s first visit so we took it easy, although it ended up being more for my sake than his. He’s an accomplished unicyclist who’s ridden some of the most challenging trails in the U.S. on his one-wheel bike. We were at the park to exhibit and meet the participants of Caloosahatchee River Watch’s annual River Ride. This year’s ride saw the most participants ever, all who were treated to an excellent day. Kudos to Keith Kibbey and all the River Watch volunteers!

Advocacy notes
Pressure continues to mount on the Florida Department of Transportation to make the safety improvements on Metro Parkway at the Briarcliff Road intersection that should have been in place before the highway opened. Residents, injury prevention specialists and traffic safety officials, as well as the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, are imploring FDOT to act quickly before another person is severely injured or killed. There’s more on this subject at BikeWalkLee's blog.
 
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.

Pedaling changes: Lee’s roads become a bit safer for bikers



Today's Florida Weekly article highlights the new bike/ped facilities throughout Lee County, based on BikeWalkLee's recent report

 November 21, 2012

Steve Rodgers of the Caloosa Riders.
Steve Rodgers of the Caloosa Riders.
  Call it the first gift of the season, ahead of Hanukkah (beginning Dec. 8), ahead of Christmas (Dec. 25), ahead of a new year that could promise fitness and pleasure for any who choose — a massive life-quality package delivered to 635,000 Lee County residents, courtesy of Don and Darla, Steve, Ken, Dan and countless other private citizens and local government officials who jammed hard for years to make it happen.

The gift: Lee is now a county made safe for pedaling, not just gas-combustioning.

Bicyclists can ride to or from Sanibel Island, for example, to east Lee County, Lehigh Acres, Gateway, FGCU, the JetBlue Red Sox stadium, the major parks, Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs and Estero — and they can continue riding right down into Collier County, without getting run over.

A new report by the private, nonprofit BikeWalkLee, the citizens’ engine that helped power up government awareness and passionate interest in “complete streets,” lays out what’s available and accessible to residents in each of five cities, along with the unincorporated neighborhoods of the county.

The Tour de Parks loop is a continuous 32-mile stretch of bicycle-safe paths. The Tour de Parks loop is a continuous 32-mile stretch of bicycle-safe paths. However, the report suggests that much work remains to be done.

“As noted in the (2009) master plan,” wrote Darla Letourneau, a BikeWalkLee founder, “Lee County has significant bicycle and pedestrian facilities but they are fragmented. The plan identified 668 miles of bicycle gaps and 758 miles of sidewalk gaps.”

But the gaps are closing. In one of many examples, 2.2 miles of new bike lanes completed in Cape Coral “actually resulted in a new 17-mile connected loop,” Ms. Letourneau noted.
Long, safe paths
Meanwhile the gift, if you will, comes ribboned in two special features — two loops — that together comprise 65 miles of bicycle-safe paths, finally laid down, connected and marked by signage for any and all pedaling comers.

But those two loops, the Tour de Parks (roughly 32 miles, visiting eight parks or special sites) and the University Loop (33 miles or so), are only part of ongoing improvements across major intersections, and through neighborhoods and locations where bicycling once would have been considered impossible or highly dangerous.

“There has been a sea change in the way the Lee County Department of Transportation (in particular the Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO) is looking at road projects,” says Steve Rodgers, president of the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club.

Now, a road doesn’t get designed or improved without planners considering if and how they should include paths for bicyclists and pedestrians, he explains.

Officials are also using grants, federal money, state money and local money — roughly $2.5 million from per year from Lee taxpayers, according to Don Scott, director of the MPO — to put in not only bike paths, sidewalks and wider shoulders, but kiosks and special “wayfarer” signs, along with bike-safe crossing opportunities at major intersections.

And all of it is designed to help connect the already extant hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes or paths.

Mr. Scott suggests that in future, no retrofitting should need to occur. It costs roughly 10 times more to retrofit a major road for bike and pedestrian use.

“The biggest bang for the buck is doing a larger project and making sure you include bike/ped in it up front,” he explains.

“Better facilities equals better access and better use, which not only helps those who already ride but encourages others to try it out,” argues Ken Gooderham, a BikeWalkLee member and a longtime bicyclist.

For all of the improvements, Lee County still falls short of many exceptional communities in the United States, where planners and citizens worked together to create compellingly accessible complete streets for all users — Portland, Ore., or Austin Tex., or Boulder, Colo., to name several examples.

“For the number of square miles in Lee County (804 on the ground), our facilities are now average,” says Ms. Letourneau. “But we’ve come from a deficit to get there, and we have a ways to go to become extraordinary.”

Mr. Gooderham suggests a good way to think about the future, and act on it in the present.
“Think less about getting from Point A to Point B and more about making bicycling a seamless part of the transportation alternatives in Lee County, so commonplace that people don’t even need to think about it or make it a big deal anymore,” he advises.

“The county’s complete streets policy is a great start, and county officials have been embracing it with more enthusiasm. But the real driver is people asking why their streets can’t include bike lanes and sidewalks, and getting out to use them when they’re built. That kind of bottom-up demand is what will really drive the expansion and enhancement of the bike/ped infrastructure in this area.” ¦

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

BikeWalkLee Welcomes new County Commissioners




 BikeWalkLee welcomes Commissioners Larry Kiker and Cecil Pendergrass.  We look forward to working with our new commissioners in support of complete streets and a balanced multi-modal transportation system.

 On November 20th, two new County Commissioners were sworn in, Larry Kiker and Cecil Pendergrass.  They join Commissioners Manning, Mann, and Hall.  Commissioner Pendergrass will assume the duties of Chair and Commissioner Kiker the Vice-Chair.  

Both new members have voiced support for BikeWalkLee's mission in response to our candidate questionnaire and in meetings with our team.  Chairman Pendergrass was a former police officer which means he is well aware of land use and road condition issues that affect the safety and well-being of residents and visitors.  Commissioner Kiker was the Fort Myers Beach Mayor during the Town's construction of the model complete streets project on N. Estero Blvd. and also initiated the recent pedestrian safety task force.

Many challenges will face the Board in the coming months and we look forward to working with the Board in support of complete streets and a new transportation paradigm.

Chairman Pendergrass with BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau
BikeWalkLee would like to thank outgoing commissioner, Ray Judah, for his unwavering and strong leadership in support of complete streets over these past four year and for his support for bike and pedestrian concerns over his 24-year tenure.  Commissioner Judah spearheaded the Commission's adoption of its award-winning 2009 Complete Streets Resolution.  As the MPO Chairman, he facilitated adoption of the 2009 MPO Resolution and championed the development of the MPO countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.   He also was BikeWalkLee's inaugural "Complete Streets Champion of the Year" in 2010.  His contributions to completing the streets of Lee County leave a lasting legacy for the Lee County community.