In January, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx challenged mayors across the country to take a leadership role in addressing pedestrian and bicycle safety. A former mayor himself, Foxx understands that effective action to reverse the trend of rising pedestrian injuries and deaths can only be achieved through a partnership between the federal and local governments.
This spring the mayors of Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers signed on to the “Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets,” an initiative by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (USDOT) to promote more safety for bikers and walkers —something sorely needed in Southwest Florida. To date 209 cities have signed on, 32 of which are in Florida.
To be part of the year-long initiative, mayors have to issue a statement on the importance of bike/ped safety, form a local team to pursue better safety and accessibility goals in the city, and take action on seven Challenge activities:
•Take a Complete Streets approach in their city, so that facilities are planned with all the users in mind.
•Identify and address barriers to make streets safer and more accessible for all users of all ages and abilities.
•Gather and track bike/walk data, so there’s a clearer picture of the bike/ped conditions and so that decisions can be made based on facts rather than faith.
•Use designs that take into consideration tomorrow’s needs as well as today’s.
•Seize opportunities to complete existing bike/ped networks and facilities… so bikers and walkers aren’t literally left standing at the side of the road when the lane or path runs out.
•Strengthen bike/walk safety laws.
•Educate and enforce proper road use behavior by all.
Mayors (and cities) taking part in this Challenge not only get access to federal data and programs (and gain a better understanding of the USDOT process), they also network with their counterparts nationwide to see how other areas are tackling similar situations.
With no federal funding, this program relies upon local staff and the input of time, energy and innovative thinking from teams of community volunteers. This unique structure will help create the grassroots support and broad citizen awareness needed to change the assumed values underlying all transportation planning. The resulting better designs, better data and greater determination will make conditions safer for local bikers and walkers, while accelerating the momentum gained in bike/ped safety in the past few years.
Look around you: There are more people biking and walking today. Isn’t it better to keep them safe rather than sorry? So, kudos to Mayors Ben Nelson, Marni Sawicki, Randy Henderson, and their respective city councils, for taking a big step for safety.
Hang up and drive
April is National Distracted Driving Month, so in honor of that we offer the following:
•At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
•Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
•The National Safety Council estimates a quarter of crashes involve cell phones, and that drivers using handheld or hands-free phones are four times more likely to be in a crash.
•A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 60 percent of crashes involving teen drivers were preceded by some kind of distraction.
•When asked, only 30 percent of drivers admitted texting while driving… but 75 perecent said they’d seen someone else doing just that.
So, this month, the next time you think that text or call just can’t wait… remember that it can.
Want to support the “6ft Flag” Safety Movement - Bike Lights Campaign, a grassroots movement to help improve the safety of cyclists in Southwest Florida? Go to http://www.gofundme.com/SWFL6ftflag_lights for details and to donate.
BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County—streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.
Ready to ride or run?
Run: Plenty of 5K choices this weekend… you can fight cancer, grant wishes, support Bishop Verot or race with your furry friends. Check out www.fortmyerstrackclub.com, www.sfla.wish.org or www.active.com for details.
Ride: Try the fifth annual Immokalee Ride for Literacy on Sunday, with 15-, 30-, 45- and 62-mile rides starting at 8 a.m. Proceeds benefit The Family Literacy Academy of Immokalee; got to www.caloosariders.org for information.
Upcoming: And don’t forget the monthly SWFL Critical Mass ride is Friday, May 1, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Riders gather at the open lot near the downtown Publix (off West First Street) for a 8-10 mile fun family ride.