Dan's column this week introduces the new WalkWiseLee education program. Contact Dan to schedule your presentation! The advocacy corner talks about BikeWalkLee's bike light campaign.
Florida Weekly April 1, 2015 Outdoors Section
When it comes to traffic safety there’s little debate that Lee County — and all of Southwest Florida for that matter — leaves much to be desired. In fact, we’re among the worst of the worse in terms of risk for motor vehicle drivers, pedestrians and operators of bicycles.
But it’s also a fact that there’s an ongoing and robust effort taking place to make our dismal record a thing of the past. Many partners work tirelessly within coalitions and other groups and organizations on this important matter. Among the most dedicated are Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition, Stay Alive... Just Drive!, BikeWalkLee, Cape Coral Bike-Ped, Lee County Emergency Medical Services, the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization, Lee Memorial Health System, Florida Department of Transportation, and all of the law enforcement agencies that serve our communities.
With so many organizations and coalitions focusing on traffic safety I think it’s accurate to say things would be even much worse if they weren’t involved. At least that’s what keeps me and many of my colleagues doing what we do.
Education and awareness campaigns are among the tools employed, often in conjunction with enforcement and engineering efforts. The latest addition to our toolbox is WalkWiseLee (facebook.com/walkwiselee), an innovative education program that was developed by the Center for Urban Transportation Research at University of South Florida and funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. WalkWiseLee succinctly addresses all aspects of traffic safety and is based on techniques proven to be effective while it was being developed in the Tampa Bay area by CUTR, a nationally recognized research center that serves as a valuable resource for decision makers, transportation professionals, educators and the general public. They’ve provided their services here many times.
One example of the effectiveness of the WalkWise program comes from CUTR’s data that indicates that before the group’s presentation, only 65 percent of participants correctly answered that a pedestrian should walk against traffic when sidewalks are not available. Immediately after the WalkWise presentation, about 90 percent answered correctly. This may sound insignificant to some but I can confirm that it’s very common for folks to be confused about the direction they should walk as well as which direction to ride their bikes (always with the flow of traffic). CUTR also found that the interactive nature of the 15-30 minute presentations, which can be extended in length if the audience is engaged and interested in learning of others’ experiences and sharing their own, make the delivery technique very effective. Since its inception, Walk- Wise Tampa Bay has been presented to more than 20,000 people who have attended the more than 1,600 presentations CUTR has conducted in the Tampa Bay area, so it has plenty of data to back up its claims.
If you’d like to request a WalkWiseLee presentation for any size group all that’s required is an appropriate place to meet. All participants receive a reflective backpack and those completing an online post-presentation survey will be sent a WalkWise Florida T-shirt (while they last). Of course, there’s no charge for participants or those hosting it. To request a presentation, visit walkwiseflorida.com/pedestrian-presentation or contact me at dan@bikepedmatters.
BikeWalkLee has launched the “Six- Foot Flag” campaign, but with a twist. You may remember seeing orange flags attached to the back of bikes to improve their visibility to motorists; unfortunately, due to unintended consequences, it turned out not to be as good of an idea as it sounds. That being the case, the new “Six-Foot Flag” that BWL is promoting are bike lights. With public support they’re seeking to purchase and distribute 2,000 lights to make bike riders more visible. They’re also encouraging people on bikes to use flashing lights even during daylight hours to make others more aware of their presence and raise awareness of bike and pedestrian safety issues here in Southwest Florida. If you’d like to donate to the cause, visit gofundme.com/swfl6ftflag_lights.
Of course, you can learn more about this, WalkWiseLee, and many other important community matters at bikewalklee.blogspot.com.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
¦ Harbour Heights Half-Marathon, Saturday, April 4, Punta Gorda (harbourheightshalfand5k.org)
¦ African Aid 5K, New Hope Church, Saturday, April 11, Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
¦ Viking 5K Paint Run, Bishop Verot High School, Saturday, April 18, Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
For more Lee County running events, visit Fort Myers Track Club (ftmyerstrackclub.com), Endurance Sports Timing (endurancesportstiming.com) and 3-D Racing (3dracinginc.com). For Naples/ Collier running info, it’s the Gulf Coast Runners (gcrunner.org). Charlotte County running information is at zoomersrun.com. Walkers can visit meetup.com/Walking-SWFL.
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and 334- 6417.