Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 10/10/18
Since early this summer there have been quite a number of opinion pieces — from letters to editors to guest columnists’ writings — expressing exasperation and demanding solutions to our water woes. Like too many other problems our community faces, it took a near meltdown of the tourism and fishing industries for anyone other than the “usual suspects” (i.e., environmentalists, scientists and others who have been sounding the alarm for a long, long time) to finally become indignant and press for action.
Whether this newfound support to solve the problem will eventually succeed is yet to be determined, but it sure can’t hurt to have so many more aware of and concerned about just how much impact bad water has on our community’s economics and quality of life.
Much like our current water problems, our chronically unsafe traffic environment has been obvious and festering for decades. Both have been denied the attention and resources necessary to adequately address these issues. Why our local, state and federal governments, the business community and the general public give such relatively low priority to both significant problems remains a mystery to me.
Understandably, our water quality and natural environment have taken center stage recently. Just like the many obvious indicators of problems for pedestrians and cyclists that have and continue to plague our transportation network, our water and environment woes have been apparent for decades. Yet it wasn’t until the double-whammy of our inland waterways becoming clogged with algae and tons of suffocated sea life washing up on our shores did almost every elected official acknowledge the seriousness of the problem. And then only because of the economic impacts it’s having, not so much the environmental and health costs. So, until the lives lost or forever changed by traffic related incidents equate to what our leaders at all levels consider an economic crisis, it looks like nothing will change. Unless, of course, until there are leaders in office who decide we’ve had enough.
Being mid-term election season, we have an opportunity to move toward changing priorities that benefit all citizens when it comes to health, safety and quality of life. Each of those elements does indeed have economic value so there should really be no negative trade-off versus the status quo. In some cases it will take new representatives to recognize and address the problems. In others it’s just a matter of those in office being on the wrong side of the majority so they are being thwarted in their efforts. Unbiased information is required to determine how candidates and incumbents at various levels of government, from municipal positions to the federal levels, will work on those and other important matters.
For those seeking background of an overall sense on currently elected officials and candidates the Lee County chapter of League of Women Voters (lwvlee.org) is an excellent resource. Politifact Florida (politifact.com/florida) offers a Truth- O-Meter that covers many topics and statements made by elected officials and candidates.
Specific to issues related to pedestrians and bicyclists, Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) has “Legislative Platform” pages and the League of American Bicyclists (bikeleague.org) has an “I Bike – I Vote” section. BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com) is a good source of information on the people, organizations and policies.
If we are ever to shed the stigma and related reality of being the most dangerous place in the U.S. to be a pedestrian, we must have in place leaders who acknowledge and seriously address the causes. ¦
- 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.