Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 5/31/17
leempo.com), which is comprised of representatives from all local governments, made clear that our elected officials still aren’t overly concerned about the fact that the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area (all of Lee County) is the most dangerous place in the U.S. to be a pedestrian. One comment in particular from a member who sits on the board confirmed the lack of concern and political will to do something about our dubious ranking.
The MPO meeting minutes noted that this elected official was concerned that Florida Department of Transportation’s plan to implement sorely needed safety features on Cleveland Avenue between the Edison Mall and downtown Fort Myers might create delays for motorists. Considering that this segment of U.S. 41 is one of our hot spots for injuries and fatalities involving pedestrians you’d think the member’s comment would have been focused more on whether the proposed safety improvements are enough. Another MPO member seemed more concerned with landscaping than pedestrian or motorist safety (there are no provisions in the plan presented to improve conditions for those using bicycles). Based on what I learned from the meeting minutes and many other dealings I’ve had regarding this matter, I’m convinced the Dangerous by Design report (smartgrowthamerica.org/dangerous-by-design) that deemed Lee County the worst-of-the-worst for pedestrian safety hasn’t had the impact on our leaders I’d hoped. So if being called-out by this report won’t cause our leaders to take action, what will?
|Cleveland Avenue is a sea of asphalt with no refuge|
to help pedestrians cross. Dan Moser/Florida Weekly
Based on current traffic crash stats and the prevailing lack of concern among our elected and high-ranking officials it’s business as usual, meaning we’re not even close to moving in the right direction so perhaps it’s time to take a step that may not go over well with everyone.
What I’m thinking needs to be done to get the attention of those who matter and who can make a difference is to conduct a social media campaign that also focuses on those who don’t live here. Perhaps by getting the word out that Lee County is a risky place to visit or live because of our hostile traffic, bicycle and pedestrian environment but also because nothing of significance is being done to change this condition. Surely, some folks would have concerns about raising a family in such an environment, moving their business here, or even visiting, if there’s a good chance they won’t be able to take a stroll, bike ride, or even a drive without the fear of injury or worse.
Social media being what it is today, it won’t take a sophisticated marketing campaign and budget to get this message across. Personally, I keep my social media use to a minimum. I do, however, think I understand the extent of its reach and potential impact. This is indeed a drastic approach and not one I put out there without the concern of shooting ourselves in the foot by undertaking it. But considering the seeming total lack of concern (or, much to my surprise, even of lip-service) to address a problem that’s literally a matter of life and death I contend it’s a course of action that should be considered as a last option. I’d like to think the leadership of our hospitality, tourism, economic development and home building industries will put some pressure on our commissioners and council people to take our traffic safety problems seriously. From a solely local perspective, something like this can also spark discussion and shed light on the inaction among elected officials, something that just might make a difference to voters when deciding who should run our local governments next go-around.
As I’ve asked before in this and prior columns, if being called-out by this report won’t cause our elected leadership to take action what will? Maybe a harsh tactic such as this is the only way.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways... Dan ¦
- Dan Moser is a long-time 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.