¦ Hurricane Irma brought its wrath to our area with a direct hit, creating problems for many months after its passing, including in our parks and on our pathways. As with any impactful event like Irma some good comes with the bad. Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers helped strangers, and public safety personnel went above and beyond the call of duty. One group of volunteers whom I feel deserve to be recognized for the heavy lifting they’ve done - and continue to do - to reopen Caloosahatchee Regional Park’s many miles of mountain bike trails, is the Florida Mudcutters. They were ready to get to work well before Lee County Parks and Rec would allow them to do so for safety reasons and continued to chomp at the bit while awaiting permission to take on what is a difficult task after a normal summer, never mind post-hurricane. Anyone who enjoys the challenging single-track trails at CRP should be grateful to this outstanding corps of volunteers, the same group who built the trails in the first place.
|Trail in Caloosahatchee Regional Park (Photo: news-press.com)|
¦ The hurricane also brought to light some very weak elements of the various governments’ recovery processes which, in general, was admirable. However, in too many cases bike paths, sidewalks, and even some bike lanes along roads and highways much too busy for most non-motorists to attempt to “share” with drivers, were left blocked by debris well after what can be considered a reasonable time period. This resulted in unnecessarily hazardous situations and denial of access for pedestrians - including those with disabilities - and bicyclists. For example, the Summerlin Road pathway along the Whiskey Creek wall was inaccessible for over a month because of three or four piles of downed trees that were quite obvious to any government official driving by. Hopefully, when another storm creates similar access and safety problems for non-motorists, our governments will put pathway on the same priority level as the roads they run adjacent to.
¦ Just like the classic movie “Groundhog Day,” missed opportunities by the city of Fort Myers to improve its walking and bicycling environment occur over and over, and 2017 was no exception. One of the main misses this time involves the city’s signature roadway, McGregor Boulevard. Over 20 years after blowing the first chance to either widen the sidewalks to shared use width or add bike lanes, they did it again. When FDOT “improved” McGregor in the mid-1990s before giving it over to Fort Myers, the city could have pitched in dollars to make either or both of those improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists, but it chose not to. (Ironically, it was illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks at that time so rather than make necessary improvements they simply changed the law.) This time, after convincing FDOT that it did a poor job on the storm water infrastructure back in the 90s, they were awarded enough money to redo that element of McGregor. That prompted a number of us to lobby the city to add some of its own funds to do what should have been done two decades earlier - widen sidepaths or remove all medians - but officials declined, crying poor. Interestingly, they somehow came up with money to add more medians - the very features that make cycling on the road a non-starter for most people (you rarely see anyone riding in the travel lanes of McGregor). After finally caving in to a cry for public input on the matter they held a McGregor Landscape Medians Public Workshop in November. But before even considering the results they began reconstructing the medians that had existed before work began. To this day I have no idea what the outcome of the workshop is nor have I been able to get answers from the city. In terms of Fort Myers missing opportunities, failing to listen to its citizens, and making poor decisions in general, I don’t expect 2018 to be any different than it’s been for decades.
¦ On a positive note, there’s Sanibel Island. I admit to sometimes coming down hard on the city of Sanibel, usually for the way cyclists using the roads are treated. But it should also be commended for its commitment to continually improving the extensive pathway network and, in 2017, for making that network a high priority for reopening after Hurricane Irma.
¦ Finally, Lee County’s purchase of Edison Farms is a major positive event for our area, a decision that puts an end to the possibility of the almost 4,000- acre property being developed. It would be great if walking, running and biking trails are part of the plan but even if that’s not in the cards it’s a win all around. At the very least, the historic flooding that occurred in 2017 won’t be added to by additional development and the land will instead serve important environmental, water quality and storm water management purposes. ¦
- 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 email@example.com and 334-6417.
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.