BikeWalkLee's Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" section: 12/22/16
|Dec. 8th Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony (L to R: David Murphy (David Murphy, Andy Getch, Matt Spielman, Christine Deramo, Antionette Johnson, Doug Meurer, Darla Letourneau, Commissioners Pendergrass, Pat Connor, and Ray Gonzalez)|
Tireless champions, a committed community and patience… lots and lots of patience.
That’s the lesson from the Fiddlesticks Boulevard Shared Use Path, which marked its opening with a county-sponsored ribbon cutting Dec. 8.
For background: Fiddlesticks Boulevard is a road leading off Daniels Parkway to four major communities totaling some 5,000 residents. Like so many thoroughfares around here, the road was flat, fast and potentially fatal to walkers and bikers alike.
Enter the dedicated champions, Ben and Kelly Bishop, who moved to one of the communities in 2004 and quickly committed themselves to improving the bike/walk safety of the boulevard. While requests for improvements had been made before, no sign of widespread support was ever in evidence. (Patience…)
That soon changed. The Bishops worked with the four Fiddlesticks communities to get their associations to sign on to supporting bike/ped improvements with county officials. With the larger circle of community champions, the project gained momentum to move it on to the county’s five-year Capital Improvements Project budget. Due to the backlog of requests, such projects usually can hope to be funded only at the end of that CIP cycle. (More patience…)
Possible improvements to the boulevard were suggested, from “share the road” signs to sidewalks and more. But community support and pressure resulted in a county commissioner-convened community meeting in 2012 where residents turned out in force to push for a shared use path – a wider, more useful and more expensive solution. (More patience…)
County officials saw the strong support as reason to agree to a higher priced shared use path. The design phase turned up some new issues, necessitating changes and additional permitting. (More patience…)
|Ben and Kelly Bishop committed themselves to improving the||bike/walk safety of Fiddlesticks Boulevard.|
Permits and plans finally in hand, the county awarded the construction contract in June 2016… and six months later, everyone gathered on a December afternoon about two weeks ago to celebrate a project well done, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by District 2 Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass.
The new path connects the Fiddlesticks Boulevard communities to the Daniels Parkway path, and from there to the larger county bike/walk network. Residents can now ride or walk to shops and more in safety… they could even ride to the spring training games just up the road and cruise past all those cars stuck in all that traffic.
Congratulations to everyone who helped bring this project to fruition, adding another crucial connection to the bike/walk network.
Other communities can learn from this, of course. Want to make your neighborhood safer to bike and walk?
- Identify a need and propose a specific project.
- Have a community champion willing to hang in there to the end.
- Build and maintain community support start to finish (however long it takes).
- Learn the county process and players to get things started and keep things moving.
- Be there for the long haul, with patience to spare.
Biking, walking to happier holidays
While we always encourage people to enjoy the plentiful opportunities to bike, walk and run in Southwest Florida, holidays are an especially excellent time to hit the trails and paths.
- To create family-friendly moments. Biking and, in particular, walking is something almost all of your family and visitors can do… so you can do it together.
- To give everyone a little space. Getting on each other’s nerves? Get out and go for a walk or ride… it breaks up the routine and break downs some of the bad family habits we all can fall prey to.
- To burn off some calories. Even the most prudent among us can partake a little too festively this time of year. Moving around is still the best remedy to too much food… so get moving!
- Finally, to beat the traffic. The week between holidays is often approaching gridlock on our roads… but not necessarily on our paths. Would you rather be stuck in traffic, or pedaling by it?
Ready to ride or run?
Run: There’s a break in organized events with the holidays coming, so you’ll need to find friends and family (or too much food) to keep you motivated to move. You can celebrate the new year with a 5K and plunge in Naples (gcrunner.org), or keep in training for the River Roots & Ruts Half Marathon/5K on Jan. 8 (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
Ride: Celebrate New Year’s Eve early with Critical Mass, with a night ride Dec. 30 in Cape Coral, a morning ride in Fort Myers on Dec. 31, and the original CM downtown ride Jan. 6 Details and RSVP at http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events.
Both: The HITS tri series returns to Naples on Jan. 7-8 with distances for everyone, from the short Open to the full Ironman (hitstriathlonseries.com/naples-fl)