Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Moser Column: Cross-country bicycling network offers local benefits
Dan's column highlights the status of the longterm efforts to designate a bike route across the country as well as across Florida. His advocacy update spotlights the threat to bike/ped access and connectivity that is happening in Fort Myers, with the developer on Meadow Park Drive planning to close the popular access corridor that has been used for decades. If you live in that area and/or use this critical bike/ped access, time to contact your Fort Myers elected officials and urge them to protect the public access.
Work is well underway to designate a national bike route that’s similar to our interstate highway system, a good example of the progress on the bike/ped front throughout the country. It’s a longtime dream for many that’s finally coming to fruition, albeit piece-by-piece. Much of the network is on-road with some segments having bike lanes and many others without any markings.
Also included in the US Bicycle Route are segments of paved trails that are immediately adjacent to highways and roads, while others are dedicated facilities such as abandoned rail lines converted to trails, and even others along active rail lines. While most of us will never be so ambitious to ride cross-country using the US Bike Route, its existence benefits every community it touches upon, just as our interstate highway system does.
Along with this large-scale undertaking are similar regional and local efforts, including some that aim to make their entire routes exclusively off-road on shared-use pathways. Among those endeavors are many in Florida.
This popular and critical bike/ped access in Fort Myers is being threatened by development. One that will directly benefit us and is currently on our local transportation planners’ radar is the Florida SUNTrail System (floridasuntrail.com).
The Lee County MPO is joining with all the other MPOs in our SUNTrail region — which stretches from Tampa Bay to the eastern edge of Collier County — to give us a better chance of becoming the next priority for receiving the bulk of state funding.
To that end, BikeWalkLee added its voice with a letter of support, which describes our area’s commitment to bike/ped infrastructure. The letter states, in part: “The $10 million federal TIGER grant awarded in 2013 to the Lee MPO for its Complete Streets Initiative Project will be completed by the end of 2016, setting the stage for enhanced economic benefits from bike tourism, which would be greatly enhanced by a trail system … Bike tourism is already gaining traction in Lee County with the recent completion of Cape Coral’s 90-mile bicycle routes system. By the end of this year, there will be 14.3 miles of additional shared use paths as result of the TIGER grant, increasing the current connected shared use path system in the area (Lee County’s Tour de Parks Loop) to a total of almost 50 miles.”
Along with that good news comes a threat to bike/ped access and connectivity that is a vital part of Complete Streets. A very popular access corridor for pedestrians and cyclists that has existed for decades is slated to be closed by a developer. Meadow Park Drive, the street that formerly provided a link between McGregor Boulevard and Colonial/ Summerlin, was closed to motor vehicle traffic many years ago in order to keep this residential area from being overrun by drivers seeking to avoid the McGregor-Colonial intersection. As part of the road closing, the city had the foresight to leave open the sidepaths and allow non-motor traffic to continue to flow. But in 2004 the city gave away — apparently at no charge to the adjacent property owner — the entire street, an action that had no consequences until now, because the land surrounding Meadow Park remained undeveloped. Then one day that all changed.
After a number of stalled attempts to develop the property, new owners took over and are planning to try again. But the new developer does not intend to honor the vital public access that has existed since the original nearby developments — which granted this perpetual access — were built. Residents of The Hamlet, Mission Monterey, McGregor Reserve and all the McGregor neighborhoods will have this access cut off if the developer succeeds. To add insult to injury, the ownership group is trying to fast-track a long-expired development order that doesn’t even resemble the plan being shown on its own website.
Not surprisingly, area residents have taken up the battle to save this precious access.
For more on this and many other bike/ped matters, visit BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com).
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways. ¦
— Dan Moser is a longtime 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.
>> Sunday, March 13, Mission for Nutrition 5K Run, Fort Myers (endurancesportstiming.com)
>> Saturday, April 23, Fight for Air Stair Climb, Oasis Towers, Fort Myers (fightforairclimb.org)
Cycling and other events
>> Sunday, March 13, 18th annual Royal Palm Classic, Fort Myers Brewery, Gateway (caloosariders.org.)
>> Sunday, March 13, Everglades Ride, Everglades City