Thursday, October 13, 2011
Dan Moser's Florida Weekly column: Captiva Island: Paradise, but....
After a summer hiatus, Dan's bi-monthly columns are back. This edition focuses on the lack of pedestrian facilities in downtown Captiva, with an alert about a bike/ped issue which the Florida Legislature may take up this year.
Florida Weekly, Oct. 12, 2011
Swimming conditions off Captiva Island were almost perfect. The island’s cycling environment couldn’t have been much better. And the resort’s running surface and visual surroundings were as good as it gets. From top to bottom, the inaugural Galloway Captiva Triathlon that took place recently was a resounding success for all involved.
The feedback organizers received overwhelming confirms that the 100+ kids who participated in their age-specific triathlons distances on that Saturday morning had a blast. The same goes for more than 500 adults who took part in the sprint-distance race that began at the crack of dawn Sunday in the gulf, moved onto the road to cycle to Blind Pass and finished on foot by looping the beautiful, water-front golf course on South Seas Island Resort’s north end. Organizers, volunteers, public safety officials, and resort staff are all to be commended for the role each played in what looks to be an annual event. It was a classic example of what tourism officials call “heads-inbeds,” an event that provided quite a shot in the arm for the island’s lodging and dining establishments during the slowest business time of year.
Even with all the good things to say about the event and surroundings, one very negative thing has always stood out in my mind about this otherwise beautiful place: Very poor walking conditions exist for anyone wanting to travel by foot, particularly in the business district. Walking after dark is especially treacherous, particularly when traveling around the island’s last curve where a very bright, blinking yellow warning light blinds pedestrians and drivers alike (there are no street lights anywhere on Captiva, so this one dominates). A hike around the corner is particularly harrowing for folks with kids in tow. And Andy Rosse Lane, the road that dead-ends at the gulf and popular Mucky Duck restaurant, has sidewalks that appear to be considered more of a landscape feature and place to post signs and other obstacles rather than a facility for pedestrians.
Even after many attempts to improve the situation over the past two decades, the problems in the busiest part of the island remain because of resistance from some on Captiva who, for whatever reasons, are resistant to changes, especially between the island’s major resort and its village center. With parking being very limited you’d think everyone would be on board for that reason alone — not to mention for safety’s sake. But it’s simply not the case. It would be easy to point to the lack of adequate right of way as the culprit, but where there’s a will there’s a way, so there’s something else at play.
Whether the reason for neglecting both residents and visitors who travel by foot on Captiva is due to local politics, a misguided business strategy, or something else I’ve not been able to figure out, Lee County commissioners should intervene to create safe pedestrian access, even if some don’t want it to happen. It took Hurricane Charley to finally get paved shoulders added, another effort that met with plenty of resistance throughout the decades that attempts were made to accommodate non-motorists on much of Captiva Drive. Contrary to what some may believe, Captiva isn’t a private island, and the roads are publically owned and maintained, so safety and access should trump whatever is driving resistance in this little piece of paradise.
With the legislature coming back early this next session there’s a real need to get involved now, lest bad things slip by. Case in point: The word is that there’s going to be an effort to put gas-powered bikes and scooters in the same category as bicycles and low-speed, electric bikes. What’s problematic about giving the same legal status to gas-powered vehicles is the potential they have to create major problems for human-powered vehicles, much less powerful electric bikes and pedestrians. As things currently stand, most gaspowered vehicles aren’t road-legal and are never allowed to operate under power on sidepaths (nor are electric bikes), but many already can be seen both on-road and sidepath. It’s pretty easy to believe they’ll be zipping along in bike lanes and on bike paths and sidewalks once they are otherwise legal. Florida Bicycle Association and BikeWalkLee will follow this potential legislation closely and weigh-in as appropriate.
I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and- CyclingSavvy instructor and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334- 6417.
Sanibel Race for FISH 10K,
Saturday, Oct. 15, Sanibel
Community Center (www.
Race the Roof 8K, Saturday, Oct.
29, Verandah Community, Fort Myers
For more Lee County running
events visit Fort Myers Track Club
(www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) and 3-D