It’s easy to overlook the people who bring these issues to the forefront (and keep them there). This year, when pondering who to honor with its annual Complete Streets Champion award, BikeWalkLee wanted to rectify that – and recognize that as much work (sometimes more) to complete our streets is being done outside of government than within it.
Thus, BikeWalkLee’s 2015 Complete Streets Champion is the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which has been serving the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades, and Collier counties since 1976 by bringing together both funds and people to take on local problems and finding local solutions.
For example, when county officials decided to put the award-wining community sustainability plan on the shelf, the foundation stepped in to pull it back into action, hired the person who had spearheaded the county formulation of the plan, Tessa LeSage, and moved forward on expanding this plan into the community through the things the foundation does best: funding, focusing and facilitating.
"To take the complete streets vision to the next level, the foundation brings a new voice to the conversation and broadens the dialogue in a way that no government entity or other stakeholder can do on its own,” said BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau. “The foundation is rallying the community around this important cause, demonstrating that complete streets are a tool for making our communities more complete, more livable and more walkable – in short, making our community a place where people want to be.”
|BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau, left, presents the 2015 Complete Streets Champion award to Tessa LeSage with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. (Photo: Special to the news-press)|
Ken Gooderham compiles this for BikeWalkLee, 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.
Where to ride?
At times we hear from people who ask why bicyclists are riding in the roadway when there are perfectly good sidewalks right there.
The short answer: Bikes are vehicles that can be and have a right to be in the road. Sidewalks are for pedestrians first and foremost.
The less-short answer: Many of our local sidewalks are barely acceptable for walking, let alone riding a bike. (Think obstacles, uneven surfaces, terrible sight lines, narrow widths and more.) For bicyclists with the skills and confidence, sharing the road with the motorized vehicles can end up being the safer solution – especially if there’s a wide shoulder or bike lane there.
Wherever they plan to pedal, cyclists must remember to abide by the rules of that road. If they ride on a sidewalk, they have to act like pedestrians – except to give actual pedestrians the right of way. If they ride on the road, they should act like the other vehicles… which also means giving walkers the right of way as well as going with traffic (not against it), stopping and signaling as appropriate and all the rest.
Ready to ride or run?
Run: One 5K this weekend (Strides for Education at Florida Southwest College – and stay for the farmers market held there every Saturday), two more on Feb. 13 and a trifecta – marathon, half marathon and 5K – on Valentine’s Day in Naples… think of all the chocolate you can eat after that!
Ride: February is bookended with Critical Mass rides, with the Fort Myers ride Friday night, the Cape Coral ride the night of Feb. 26, and the starter ride the morning after that in Fort Myers. Mark your calendars: The Royal Palm Classic ride is Sunday, March 13. Join the Caloosa Riders for what is always a fun event, whatever the distance you choose.
#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 (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.