BWL's column this week explores the how and why of bike/walk friendly communities. In SWFL there's been real progress throughout the region to build a better bike/walk culture. Let's keep up the good work.
News-Press "Go Coastal" Section, April 14, 2016
Obviously, it varies by place. Each community has its own assets and liabilities when it comes to biking and walking – just ask a cyclist or pedestrian, and you’ll likely get an earful. But, in general, it means to make a place more conducive to biking or walking of all stripes, and addressing those liabilities in a proactive (rather than reactive) manner.
How? By methods such as:
Planned (and adequate) facilities: Rather than including bike/walk facilities later, smart communities include them in the design, planning and construction of new transportation -- when it’s also usually cheaper, too – then facing a costly and required retrofit. It also means making crucial connections with these facilities, so people can actually bike or walk to do things – not just to go from Point A to Point B, then run into a brick wall (or an eight-lane highway), turn around and go back to where they started.
Necessary infrastructure: It’s not just the facilities, it’s the little things you need to better utilize them – such as bike racks and smart traffic lights/crossings, water fountains and sufficient shade.
Community support: This means both in the halls of power and in the paths and lanes themselves. Popular support gets walkers and cyclists out on the paths and lanes, where there’s strength and safety in numbers. Political support (which usually follows closely behind popular support, of course) keeps getting those facilities planned, built and maintained.
What’s in it for a community to more thoroughly embrace cycling and walking?
Those communities are usually healthier communities. More people moving under their own power means more people burning calories, exercising muscles and maintain (or even improving) their fitness and wellness.
Those communities are safer places for bikers and walkers. The more people see bikers and walkers out and about, the more they’ll keep an eye out for them when driving.
Those communities are safer in general. More eyes on the street is one of the best crime deterrents around. If you’re a criminal looking to break in to a building, which one would you prefer… the one on a deserted street, or the one on a street where people are walking or biking by all the time?
Those communities are more people-friendly. The planners and architects can explain those more thoroughly, but streets that are designed to include bikers and walkers tend to look (and be) more inviting and at a scale for people (rather than fast-moving traffic).
Those communities are usually business-friendly, too. People walking or biking past your shop can look in the window, can notice sale signs or eye-catching items and can even stick their head in the door to look around. That’s really hard to do from a fast-moving vehicle.
As we said, every community has its own approach to being more bike/walk friendly. It’s not a “one size fits all” process, but rather the will and willingness to take the necessary steps to make taking steps (or rides) easier.
In Southwest Florida, you can see the range of bike/walk friendly communities. The good news is that overall there’s been real progress throughout the region to build a better bike/walk culture. Let’s keep up the good work.
-- Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of 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.
More Critical Mass rides
The popular Critical Mass rides are gaining, well, more mass. New rides are kicking off on Sanibel (of course) and northeast Lee County (a welcome surprise). The details:
- The Sanibel ride gathers at Jerry's parking lot (Periwinkle and Casa Ybel) on the second Saturday (so the next ride is May14) at 7:15 p.m. to roll out at 7:45 p.m.
- The northeast Lee ride (NE-Lee) gathers at 14600 Palm Beach Blvd. (the Winn-Dixie) on the second Friday (next ride May 13) at 7:17 p.m. to roll out at 8 p.m.
- In downtown Fort Myers on the first Friday night of the month (next May 6) – 12 miles long, 8-11 mph.
- In downtown Cape Coral on the last Friday night of the month (next April 29) – 11 miles long, 8-11 mph
- In downtown Fort Myers on the last Saturday morning of the month (next April 30) – 6 miles long, 8-11 mph.
Ready to ride or run?
Run: You can try a 5K on the beach (Beach Bums, Lowdermilk Park, Naples on Friday, gcrunner.org) or you can Run4Kayla, a 5K run/walk plus fun run plus wheelchair dash at Patriot Elementary in Cape Coral on April 23 (3dracing.com).
Ride: The Cape Critical Mass ride is Friday night, April 29, followed by the Slow Roll training ride Saturday, April 30, in downtown Fort Myers.
Both: On May 1, you can tackle the Lake Avalon Reverse Triathlon & Duathlon (eliteevents.com), or you can finish your preparations for the Cape Coral Yacht Club Sprint May 14 (capeparks.com or active.com)… or you can register and get ready for one of the raft of races coming up (including the Galloway Captiva Tri, which opens registration May 1).
#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.