News-Press 8/2/15: Cape Coral seeks "bicycle friendly' designation, by Laura Ruane
Cape Coral is seeking national recognition for efforts to make making bicycling safer and more appealing within its boundaries. Persides Zambrano, public works department planning manager, put final touches this week on the city's application for "Bicycle Friendly Community" status from League of American Bicyclists.It could be as late as December before a decision is announced on the application, an ensemble effort that included the Cape Coral Bike-Ped and BikeWalkLee advocacy groups and other community members. "We feel like we have a good chance, because we can show to this group that we're getting serious in this city about promoting healthy lifestyles," Zambrano said.
In 2014, Sanibel moved up from the first level, Bronze, to Silver in the league program. As communities make further progress, they can earn even higher levels: Gold and Platinum. Gaining recognition for bicycle friendliness not only encourages people from throughout Southwest Florida to visit Cape Coral: It can benefit the region's lifeblood tourism and hospitality industry that employs an estimated one in five people in Lee alone.
"Anything that is an enhancement to our outdoors offerings is very attractive to our tourism efforts," said Tamara Pigott, executive director for the county Visitor & Convention Bureau. "Having that designation would give us another way to sell bicycling in our community," Pigott said.
Improvements Cape Coral's bicycle-related achievements over the past two years include: completing 90 miles of seven interconnected bicycle routes, with more than 1,500 community-sponsored signs installed; forming a police bicycle patrol; debuting the Web page, CapeCoral.net/Bicycling; creating three public service announcements for TV and the Web; printing brochures with bike route maps that were distributed online, locally and to five Florida interstate visitor centers; posting downloadable bike route maps; and sponsoring 13 park kiosks with maps and QR code links to the city's bicycling Web page.
A master plan to be developed will allow the city to determine most effective things to do next to continue to enhance bicycling and walking in the city, said Carolyn Conant, head of Cape Coral Bike-Ped. Cape Coral Bike-Ped hopes to create one or two more additional interconnected bike routes, she said.
Stephen Clark, a bicycle league community specialist, rode in Cape Coral during a weeklong visit to Southwest Florida in January: "I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and earnestness of that group." More than half the applications for the bicycle friendly community designation are denied or score no more than an "honorable mention," Clark said.
However, communities can reapply in less than a year. Clark also noted, "whether or not you get the designation, you get a ton of feedback and suggestions, and insights on your strengths and areas for improvement."