Last week we celebrated two new local communities earning Bicycle Friendly Community status--Cape Coral and Naples. This week we look at what it means for cyclists and residents in those communities. Thanks to BWL's Ken Gooderham for writing this excellent column.
BikeWalkLee's News-Press "Go Coastal" column: Nov. 25, 2015
The news that both Cape Coral and Naples recently earned a bronze Bike Friendly Community designation was widely hailed. But what does that mean for cyclists and residents in those two cities?
It means these municipalities are working to improve conditions for cyclists – and, by extension, everyone. That’s not just bike paths; it’s education and coordination, a focus on safety for all road users, and a reduction in fatalities even with an increase in ridership.
It means they are committed to actual improvements, not just the status quo. The League of American Bicyclists (LAB), the group which awards the designation, doesn’t grade on promises, but on actions. LAB has very specific benchmarks communities ought to meet to even get on the bike-friendly chart, while recognizing that no two communities are alike. The common theme is to show progress in making your city better for biking – and that doesn’t happen through speeches and platitudes, but with a commitment to improvement with the funding and staffing to back it up.
It means they support the economic enhancements better bicycle infrastructure brings. Better bike facilities bring people to business areas and, better yet, keep them there longer to potentially spend money and attract other buyers (and sellers). The BFC designation is a tourism tool as well, telling people who are looking for a place to play (and stay) that a community has this very attractive amenity to offer them, is a place that values safety and fitness, and doesn’t necessarily rely on cars to make things happen.
It means these are cities with strong leadership and strategic community support. Better bike-friendliness almost always tends to involve a public-private partnership, where a strong private-sector advocate works with (and motivates) a willing public-sector implementer. It takes time to achieve, requiring a network of partners with focus and staying power – essential building blocks for any community-building effort and a sign of strength whatever the undertaking.
|From left: Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag; Mayor Marni Sawicki; Gary Aubuchon, representing Cape Coral Bike-Ped, and Steve Neff, Public Works director, were on hand when Cape Coral earned a bronze Bike Friendly Community designation. (Photo: special to the news-press)|
For example, in weighing bike friendliness LAB looks at how communities fare in the five Es:
- Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park.
- Education: Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride.
- Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling.
- Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users.
- Evaluation & planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option.
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: Up early Thursday? Join the turkey trotting tradition either with the venerable Turkey Trot in Cape Coral (starts 7:30 a.m.) or a new 5K at Germain Arena (starts 7 a.m.). Too late for those? Then plan on the 10K River Run (downtown Fort Myers Dec. 5) or the 5K Everybody Runs (JetBlue Park Dec. 6).
Ride: Skip the leftovers and the shopping, and join the Caloosa Riders for their traditional Turkey Leg Century Ride on Friday (www.caloosariders.org). Or celebrate the birthday ride for Go Girl Cycling on Sunday. Too much? Then wait for the monthly SW Florida Critical Mass ride on Friday, Dec. 4.
Both: Try a tri for the holidays at the Christmas Sprint in Naples Dec. 20, or get training for the HITS Naples Triathlon Weekend Jan. 9-10.