Another senseless death. Another reason for the city of Cape Coral to aggressively pursue funding for bike routes and sidewalks for all major roads in the city.
Another cyclist lost his life on Sunday when a car slammed into Scott Johnsen on Diplomat Parkway. Diplomat is one of many roads in the city which does not have sidewalks or bike routes over large stretches. It is also is a four-lane road with open stretches where cars can speed. Residents have complained about excessive speeding recently. People also have complained about the lack of routes where cyclists and pedestrians could feel safe.
Adequately addressing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists has not been easy. The Cape has constructed 119 miles of bike lanes or paths and 192 miles of sidewalks, but there is much more to do. All main north-south and east-west roads throughout the city should provide safe routes for those who are not in vehicles.
The city has approximately 164,000 residents, ranking it ninth in the state. It has the third-largest land mass of any municipality in the state. With so much land and a growing population we hope a strategic and comprehensive plan is being built to add additional sidewalks and bike routes, so that this population of people feels safe.
Tight budgets over the last several years have prevented the city from funding future road projects that address these needs. Now, as budgets start to provide extra revenue because of rising property values and other assessments, it is time for the city to dedicate more funding toward these projects.
Johnsen's name is now added to an alarming and growing statistic. Lee ranks among the worst counties in the state with 491 pedestrians and bicyclists involved in crashes in 2013, with 25 losing their lives, according the Florida Highway Patrol. This year, seven cyclists and 14 pedestrians have died. Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of cycling deaths. Such a statistic will not change until government leaders devote more funding and attention to this serious issue.
People are dying, mainly because of aggressive and insensitive driving that puts people at risk. Law enforcement also should be charged with enforcing laws in areas where speeding has been reported.
The Cape police department provides extra enforcement to accident-prone areas based on data. They will respond to a high volume of calls from one area and add extra enforcement. If it is determined that there is enough data to support adding extra patrols to the area, then police will respond.
We applaud the continuing efforts of BikeWalkLee, Cape police, the sheriff's office and the Bike-Ped program for keeping the importance of bike and pedestrian safety front and center.
We also applaud ongoing efforts by cities and the county to improve safety. Cape has secured a grant to fund 18 additional miles of sidewalks and the design of five miles of bike lanes or trails. In a 2011 report, Lee County had more than 270 miles of bike paths on 596 miles of major roadways, or about 45 percent. Because of other projects completed or planned since then, that percentage is expected to climb when the Metropolitan Planning Organization issues its next report soon.
Cyclists and pedestrians should feel safe when they ride or walk. Bike paths and sidewalks provide that security. Fatalities are preventable if people play by the rules — vehicles traveling at safe speeds with attentive drivers behind the wheel and cyclists and pedestrians using bike lanes or sidewalks.