by Ken Gooderham
|Billy Hattaway, center, is pictured with his Complete|
Streets Champion award presented by BikeWalkLee
leaders Darla Letourneau, left, and Margaret Banyan.
(Photo: Special to The News-Press)
What is that, you may ask? Just as it implies: It’s a group of neighbors walking around their neighborhood to document issues and instances where something makes that area unsafe to walk or ride.
That something can be poor signage or a mistimed signal, lack of street crossings or obstructions to seeing oncoming traffic. It can be something as major as no sidewalks or lanes on which to walk or ride, or something as minor as vegetation or delivery vehicles blocking the way.
The point is to look around the place you know, but with eyes (and cameras and clipboards) alert to things that reduce safety and increase hazards for non-motorized vehicles. Then, you document those problems and see what can be done about them.
Sometimes the solution is easy – asking a property owner to trim the bushes or seeing that a crossing signal is adjusted to allow sufficient time to safely traverse the roadway. Sometimes, it can take more work – such as installing a traffic or crossing signal, changing speed limits or constructing sidewalks or side paths.
But if you can document the problems, and get the community to rally behind the solution, sometimes great things can happen. A lot of local communities have successfully improved the walking and riding safety on their streets, and more such projects are underway today.
It all starts with identifying a problem… and that can be as easy as simply getting a few neighbors together to take a walk. Make sure to include ALL the neighbors you can, as it makes a difference to have very different perspectives looking at the same situation. Age and ability change what you see (and need) in walking and riding.
AARP has a very easy-to-use walk-audit toolkit that walks you through all the steps necessary for a successful audit; they also offer a guide for those who are willing to lead an audit to help with planning and organization. Both are available online at aarp.org/walk-audit.
And if you want to see a local (and ambitious) series of audits encompassing the Tice and Dunbar communities, a new report has just been issued documenting all its details.
The audits were organized by BikeWalkLee, FGCU, and Goodwill Industries, with funding from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Eleven audits in all were conducted, and the report shares their findings and documentation.
The audits revealed a number of issues impeding safe walking and riding, of course. But they also uncovered a sense of community and engagement, with those participating in the audits engaging other members of their community (often for the first time) and happy that someone simply asked their opinion about these conditions.
You can download the full report (and the AARP toolkit) at the BikeWalkLee website (bikewalklee.org) and find out more about the audits (and a lot of other walking and riding information) at the BikeWalkLee blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com).
Sometimes the steps to a better neighborhood in which to walk or ride start with a few people taking a few steps of their own. Look into it today.
A Complete Streets championSpeaking of the Tice/Dunbar audits, one of the leaders who helped move the process forward was Billy Hattaway, the Florida Dept. of Transportation district serving Southwest Florida, who championed a number of complete streets efforts that have made a big difference to area walkers and bicyclists. Such leadership, especially on the state level, is crucial to making our roadways safer of ALL users.
That’s why BikeWalkLee recently honored Secretary Hattaway as its Complete Streets Champion for 2016, as a way to honor his many efforts and underscore how crucial leadership on these issues is to successfully implementing a more all-user-friendly approach to transportation. Hattaway has since moved on from FDOT to work for the city of Orlando as its transportation director, but the initiatives he initiated and implemented while leading FDOT's statewide efforts to implement complete streets and improve bike/ped safety should continue to mean safer streets into the future.
Ready to ride or run?Run: Had your fill of 5Ks yet? There are more on tap, including Strides for Education this Saturday at Florida Southwestern, a Runs the Arts on Sunday in downtown Fort Myers, and races in Cape Coral and Naples the following weekend (plus the Edison Festival Junior Fun Run). Details at ftmyerstrackclub.com, runtothearts.com, gcrunner.org and 3dracing.com.
Ride: Critical Mass is back, with the original downtown Fort Myers ride Friday night, the NE Lee ride Feb. 10 and the Sanibel ride Feb. 11. All are at night events, so bring lights (and a good attitude, of course); helmets recommended for all, and details are at http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events.
-- 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.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE
Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.
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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.