Thursday, December 10, 2015

BWL Column: Connectivity critical when it comes to cycling


Connectivity of our bike/ped network is critical to safety and accessibility, and is the key ingredient for encouraging more people to bike and walk. Our column contrasts what is happening in Cape Coral and Fort Myers. 

BikeWalkLee Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" section, Dec. 10, 2015
http://www.news-press.com/story/life/outdoors/2015/12/09/connectivity-critical-bike-walk-lee-cape-coral-mass/77033192/


Why does connectivity matter in cycling and walking? For the same reason that the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts.

Having great facilities in isolation may be good for those people who want to ride or walk only in that area. But what about those who want (in particular) to ride somewhere to enjoy a good bike path? Or who want to be able to actually DO things – such as commute, shop, get to appointments – by bike without having to take their lives in their hands on local roads not built to accommodate cyclists?

When isolated bike lanes or paths are linked together by simply adding a few miles of paths, all of a sudden a bunch of smaller facilities become a good-sized, usable network – and the opportunities to bike places multiply exponentially.

Want to see that in action? Look at Cape Coral, where Cape Coral Bike Ped’s considerable efforts with the city to link existing segments created a 90-mile network almost overnight – which recently helped win the city a Bronze Bike Friendly City designation and a lot of attention.

Want to see it not being done? Look at downtown Fort Myers, which desperately wants to be bike friendly and has made some investments in facilities to encourage cycling. However, if you want to ride to downtown to enjoy those improvements, be prepared for a lot of honking and sidewalks unless you know the back streets and are willing to meander… because there are no good bike paths or lanes leading downtown in almost any direction (you can safely traverse the Edison Bridge if your legs are up for the climb).

The city missed a chance to correct this mistake by not including any bike improvements in the planned renovation of McGregor Boulevard set to begin soon. That means cyclists either have to brave the narrow driving lanes (curbed to add even more excitement) or join the pedestrians and (illegal) golf carts on the narrow sidewalks…. or they have to haul their bikes downtown, unload them to enjoy a ride, then reload and return home by car.

So Fort Myers may be where people should be riding their bikes, but over time Cape Coral may be where people actually ride on a daily and consistent basis – because, thanks to a sufficient and safe bike network, cyclists will actually be able to get there from here (wherever here and there may be).
Turning to a different kind of connectivity, this time of year a lot of people like to admire the artistic (and often awe-inspiring) efforts of homeowners who go all-out in outside d├ęcor for the holidays.

Whether tastefully done or seriously over the top, holiday decorations are often quite a show – and there’s no better way to see them than on a bike or on foot.

Bikes are good because you can cover more ground while still proceeding at a pace that lets you take it all in, but you really need a good set of lights (front and back) to keep everyone safe. A walk can be a more impromptu thing – grab a flashlight and go – and either activity will help you burn off a few of those holiday calories.

Even better, however, these excursions by bike or on foot can get you back in touch with your neighborhood (and your neighbors, if they’re out taking in the sights and lights themselves) while taking you away from the usual frenzy of family and festivities. It’s a great break in the day and a great way to see nearby decorations (or even those not so nearby, if you’re willing to go a little farther).
You have two Critical Mass rides to choose from -the traditional Fort Myers fun ride or the new Cape Coral ride. (Photo: Courtesy of Critical Mass)

Whatever your reason, get into the season… and escape some of its stress with a ride or walk today.

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: Break up your holidays with a run… either  the Santa Stroll 5K run/walk at Sugden Park in Naples (www.eliteevents.org) or the longer Knights of Charity 10K in Estero (3dracinginc.com).
Ride: You now have two Critical Mass rides to choose from… the traditional Fort Myers fun ride (on Friday Jan. 1, rolling out at 7:15 p.m.) or the new Cape Coral ride (just as fun and family friendly, this month  at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26).
Both: Tri for the holiday spirit at the Christmas Sprint in Naples on Dec. 20, or keep training for the HITS Naples Triathlon Weekend on Jan. 9-10.
#BeSeenLee: To keep people safe at night while biking, we’re working to provide free bike lights to those unable to afford them (but who have to ride at night). BikeWalkLee partners (such as including Pawnbroker Marketing and Billy's Bikes) will be coordinating events during this campaign. Be sure to watch the BikeWalklee Facebook and Twitter pages for more #BeSeenLee event announcements and details.

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