Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Metro Extension: cycling/walking interest groups want light now

 Metro Extension critics keep up the pressure--Cycling/walking interest groups want light now 

Oct. 31, 2012, by Dennis Culver

 It’s been 11 days since the opening of the Metro Parkway Extension in south Fort Myers, and area residents are continuing to clamor for traffic signals at the Briarcliff Road intersection.

The extension opened Oct. 21. Fifty-six-year-old David Vanaman was critically injured in a crash at the intersection the following day. There was another crash at the intersection Oct. 24, but there were no injuries.

The Florida Department of Transportation has plans to conduct a study at the intersection in December to determine if signals should be installed. A decision isn’t expected until February. Some community members are arguing FDOT should forgo the study and install the signals as soon as possible.

Bert Hamilton, the former chairman of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and an avid cyclist, said the intersection is particularly dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists, because they have to cross the extension’s six lanes of traffic.

“They totally ignored everything but the cars,” he said. “There has been a gross oversight, and I really don’t see why.”

Bike lanes on the extension and a shared-use path are being constructed, but Hamilton said accessing the path and crossing the extension is causing safety concerns.

“They forgot the most important part, which is to give the people who live there access to them,” Hamilton said. “It’s obvious they have blocked anyone who wants to get across the street.”
Debbie Tower, FDOT spokeswoman, said the study, which follows federal criteria, will look at side street traffic going through the intersection, the ease of left turns at the intersection and traffic delays.

There is already equipment for the signals installed underground at the intersection. Tower said FDOT will start collecting data as soon as the project is finished.

“That truly is moving as quickly as we can,” she said. “We have to study the intersection, because we don’t know.”

Darla Letourneau, with BikeWalkLee, a community group geared toward raising public awareness about safe travel on the streets in Lee County, sent a letter to FDOT Monday asking the department to skip the study.

Letourneau said she spent about 20 minutes at the intersection Saturday to get a feel for the traffic flow. She estimated 80 percent of the vehicles traveling east on Briarcliff remained on the road and crossed six lanes of traffic to make it to the other side.

“I was nervous trying to get across in my car,” she said, adding many cars on the extension speed through the intersection. “It’s like being on I-75, and there is nothing slowing you down.”

Hamilton said he was trying to get signals included in the project in 2009. He said FDOT and Lee DOT said they were going to work out a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross. He said it’s common sense to put signals at the intersection and last week’s crash should be enough to show they are needed immediately.

“They hadn’t had it open a day, and there is a man in the hospital in a coma,” he said.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Online "Town Hall": what do you think of changes to Character and Form Element?

The County developed an online interactive way for the public to participate in the process. A new topic--Character and Form--was just posted on its "Town Hall" interactive website.  Here's your chance to give a thumbs up or provide comments.  Click here to sign-up and vote. 
Please participate!

Designing the Future: Character & Form

Oct 09 - Nov 29, 2012   INSTANT POLL 

Designing the Future: Character & Form
What do you think about changes to this element?
I see the Vision! I think we're on track.
I think you missed an important issue. (Please see my comment below)
I don't get it. (Please see my comment below)
Don't care to vote or comment? Click here to let us know you visited this page and see the vote tally.
More Info:
Read the Livable Lee Vision Statement
Position Paper
Read the complete draft element
Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)
It’s something new. Rather than stick to the old familiar pattern of sprawling development - uses separated by seas of parking, accessible only by car – this element defines and enables a new form of development in Lee County. The new form is mixed use, compact and friendly to walkers and bus riders alike. Where can you find such places? This element starts the discussion about where these places should be as it considers how to make Lee County a livable community with unique urban, suburban, and rural places.

These new places to live, work and play may be in a neighborhood near you. The Character & Form Element tells you where, how and why they will work in urban, suburban and rural places in our county. If you are interested in a more attractive and better working Lee County – this is for you. It will also take money to make these places real. Where will it come from – the taxpayers, developers or somewhere else? That’s another reason to care about Character & Form.

This is a new element. Some of the ideas are old – traditional neighborhood development – the way things used to be built. The element breaks down – in detail - the rural, suburban and urban areas these new places will work – and how they can transform existing places from commercial corridors and aging neighborhoods. There are new ideas for urban design, transportation (not just about cars), and other public and private elements to make mixed-used places work. Lastly the element starts to put together the building blocks needed to encourage and inspire mixed use and put them in the hands of architects, developers, planners, and our public officials.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Palm Beach Community Planning Panel recommends "road diet/complete streets" approach to section of Ortiz Ave.

Kudos to the Palm Beach Community Planning Panel for taking the time to explore the implications of the roadway options for Ortiz Avenue.  Based on their hands-on research, they voted to support a complete streets approach.

Earlier we reported that the Palm Beach Planning Panel was considering options to respond to the proposed widening of Ortiz Boulevard's northern section.

By way of background, Ortiz Avenue is a road that runs north/south between SR 80 and SR 82 approximately one mile west of I-75 and is identified as part of the County's Primary Bike/Ped Network in the MPO Bike/Ped Master Plan.  Ortiz is planned to be widened from a two lane road to a four lane with a median and turns lanes and the speed raised to 45 MPH.  In March, the Palm Beach Planning Panel recommended that the County conduct further analysis of the options.

 In order to achieve a full understanding of the implications, the panel organized a tour of Gladiolus Boulevard on October 17th. 

Gladiolus had been described as being comparable to what the widened Ortiz would look like. The panel interviewed residents, LCSO deputies assigned to the area, and community leaders. Overall, those interviewed liked the street lights, new sidewalks, medians, and new bus shelters. These seem to have improved safety significantly. However, residents also noted that the new roadway design, "was a speedway" and had caused neighbors homes to flood.

At the October 23 Palm Beach Planning Panel meeting, the members discussed the implications of their tour and voted unanimously to support a two lane street with turn lane and medians or crossing islands on Ortiz, north of Ballard, consistent with the community's visionThey asked LeeDOT to investigate other options should capacity be needed in the outyears.

This process is testimony to the importance of walking audits and just getting out to see the realities of streets.  Click here for further discussion about
the impact that road design has on community livability, economics, and health, and why a complete streets approach makes sense for this section of Ortiz.

Report by Margaret Banyan

Want to get involved? Openings on bike/ped committees

 There are openings on several committees for citizens interested in getting involved in bike/ped issues--from the MPO's Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinating Committee, the County's BPAC, a new advisory committee in Bonita Springs,  to an ad hoc study committee in the City of Fort Myers to work on a complete streets design manual.  In addition, BikeWalkLee is looking for someone to serve as its  Fort Myers Beach representative. Here's your chance to make a difference in your community. 

MPO's Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinating Committee

There are two open seats for citizen members of the expanded Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinating Committee (BPCC).  Click here for our September post about this position.  Interested individuals should apply directly to the MPO staff and the BPCC was make the recommendations to the MPO Board for approval. If you have questions, contact Meghan Marion.

BPAC has two vacancies, one is appointed by District 3 Commissioner and the other is an at-large affordabout housing representative.  If you are interested in applying, contact Kim Kirton with Public Resources.

Bonita Springs' new Bike/Ped Advisory Committee

At the Oct. 17th Bonita Springs City Council meeting, the Council createed a Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee.   The Committee will review relevant ordinances, organize public events and works with other bicycle and pedestrian organizations at the state and national levels."

The Committee will meet on the third Monday of every month.  Nicole Perino, Parks and Rec Director, will serve as the staff liaison and Councilwoman Janet Martin will serve as the council person liaison.  If you live in Bonita Springs and are interested in serving as a member of this committee, contact Nicole Perino at

 City of Fort Myers creates ad hoc committee to develop complete streets design manual

 The next step in the city's process of implementing its 2011 complete streets resolution is to develop complete streets design guidelines, using the national framework model called Living Streets Manual, which was recently adopted by Broward County.
To assist the staff in customizing the manual to the city's needs, the city is establishing an ad hoc study committee by December, which will develop recommendations and the guidelines for City Council consideration by December 2013.  Members of the committee will be from the following organizations:
1.  Fort Myers Bicycle Pedestrian Board
2.  Fort Myers Planning Board
3.  BikeWalkLee
4.  FDOT
5.  LeeDOT
6.  Lee Memorial Health System
7.  Lee County Health Department
8.  LeeTran
9.  Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.
If you are interested in participating, please contact Bob Gardner, Community Development Director, @ 633-5114.

BikeWalkLee's Fort Myers Beach representative

Since 2011, BikeWalkLee has had representatives/reporters in each of the jurisdictions. Click the title above for a review of the existing representatives and what the assignment entails.  There individuals serve as our "point persons" who lead the local advocacy efforts and keep the BikeWalkLee network informed about what's happening in their jurisdiction.  Our Fort Myers Beach position is vacant and we are looking for someone who lives in FMB.  With the upcoming Estero Blvd. improvement project and the implementation of the Town's pedestrian safety task force recommendations, it is an important time to have some "ears and eyes" from the Beach.  If you are interested, contact Darla Letourneau.

Update on Lee County Comp Plan Process (Horizon 2035): Transportation Element Available

  •   BikeWalkLee has been participating in this year-long process of updating the Lee Plan to ensure that the complete streets/sustainability focus in the EAR is carried through in the actual Comp Plan amendments. This week the important Transportation Element has been released for review.

    Updated Schedule for Review of Elements by Committees:

     The draft Transportation Element is now available

     BikeWalkLee is very focused on the transportation element, which is critical to implementation of a balanced transportation system and complete streets.  We are working with staff and will be providing comments on the draft as it becomes available and will share those comments with committees as well as our network.

    Revised meeting dates:

    LPA--Nov. 26th & Dec. 10th:  The Transportation Element will be reviewed in in these two meetings.

    CSAC--Nov. 28th: The Transportation Element will be reviewed at this meeting.

    BPAC--Their planed Oct. 17th workshop on the Transportation Element hasn't been rescheduled yet.  Stay tuned.

    Want to Attend Committee Meetings? 

    • The LPA meets on Monday mornings (usually 1st Monday of  month) at 8:30 a.m. in the County Board chambers. Additional Monday meetings have been added to provide more time for review of the Comp Plan elements.
    • The CSAC meetings on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. (usually 3rd Wednesday of month) in the conference room of Admin Building (2115 Second Streets, Fort Myers). 
    At both committees there is an opportunity for public comments and the public is encouraged to participate.

    [Note: draft elements become available to the public 10 days prior to the LPA committee review.  Check the County's Horizon 2035 web page for documents.

    New Topics on 2035 Town Hall website

    The County developed an online interactive way for the public to participate in the process. 

    Earlier this month, the County posted four more topics on its "Town Hall" interactive website.  Here's your chance to give a thumbs up or provide comments.  Please participate!

BikeWalkLee asks FDOT to install traffic signal at Briarcliff and Metro Extension

 BikeWalkLee adds it voice to others in the community asking FDOT to install a traffic signal at the new intersection of Briarcliff Rd. and Metro Extension.

BikeWalkLee's Letter:  
October 29, 2012

Secretary Hattaway: [FDOT District 1 Secretary]

BikeWalkLee, a community coalition working for complete streets in Lee County, would like to add its voice in support of calls throughout our community for the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Briarcliff Rd. and the new Michael G. Rippe Parkway (Metro Parkway Extension) in South Lee County.  All indications are that this intersection will meet the warrant requirements and a traffic light will be installed.  There should be a way to install it now rather than later, for the safety of the Briarcliff residents and all road users on the Metro Extension.

Improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians is a key goal of BikeWalkLee's efforts, and we have been primarily focused on this aspect of the Briarcliff and Metro intersection.  We know that improvements in safety require a multi-pronged approach--roads designed to accommodate the safety and accessibility needs of all road users, rather than simply the needs of fast-moving automobiles; education of all road users--motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians--about their responsibilities to drive, walk, or bike safely; and enforcement of traffic laws, esp. speed limits and obeying traffic signals.  We know that many crashes are caused by human error factors.  However, we believe that improved signalization, along with law enforcement and education, can raise user awareness and help reduce the sometimes deadly influence of human error factors. 

The new bike lanes and shared use path on the Metro Extension are not yet completed so the dangers to pedestrians and cyclists at this intersection cannot yet be observed.  However, it is clear from observing the dangers to motorists at this intersection, that this will be an even more deadly intersection for cyclists and pedestrians.

BikeWalkLee has been concerned about potential safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists on the new Metro Parkway Extension since the roadway was approved for funding in 2009.  Through the MPO's Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinating Committee (BPCC) and the County's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), BikeWalkLee's advocates worked closely with FDOT and LeeDOT staff on the design of this 6-lane roadway to ensure that there were adequate and safe facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.  As a result of these efforts, the road was designed to have on-road bike lanes and a shared use path, and the intersection of Briarcliff Rd. and the Metro extension was designed to have a traffic light.  It was clear to BPCC, BPAC, and BikeWalkLee in 2009 that a traffic light would be needed at this intersection to provide safe access from the Briarcliff community to the biking and walking facilities that were to be located on the west side of this new road, across from the neighborhood on the east side.  It didn't make sense to build these biking and walking facilities if users couldn't safely access them.

As part of the deliberations on the design of these facilities, FDOT agreed to install the underground infrastructure for this light, which has been done, and LeeDOT agreed to pay for the maintenance of the traffic light after installation, and has recently reaffirmed this commitment.

We understand that FDOT engineers are following the federal MUTCD criteria that requires traffic studies prior to  "warranting" a signal installation.  However, we know that exceptions also can and have been made to this policy.  We believe that the immediate dangers to all road users--drivers, as well as pedestrians and cyclists--resulting from the lack of  a traffic light at this busy intersection, where a large established community with no other exit in and out except via this new 6-lane high speed highway, merits just such an exception to established procedures.

FDOT's quick action could avoid the devastation of more human lives damaged by crashes on this roadway.  We know that by itself, a traffic signal will not make this roadway safe, and share your commitment to educating the public about safer driving habits.   We also encourage law enforcement to continue their campaign to enforce the speed limit on this new roadway.

We are heartened by your leadership within FDOT to improve the safety for pedestrians and cyclists across Florida, and appreciate your efforts to make Lee County's roadways safer for all users.  Thank you for considering our request, and requests from many others in our community, to install a traffic light quickly at this dangerous intersection.

Darla Letourneau
on behalf of BikeWalkLee

Saturday, October 27, 2012

FDOT Secretary Hattaway's vision for multi-modal transportation in District 1

Back in March, Secretary Billy Hattaway, FDOT District 1, wrote this article about his vision for multi-modal transportation in District One.  As Lee County works towards its goal of a more balanced multi-modal transportation system, it is good to know that FDOT District 1 is a leader in this effort and that we have a great resource available to us. (thanks to Naples Pathways Coalition for posting this on their blog...which I tripped over while searching for something else on the Internet!) 
FDOT District 1 - From the desk of Secretary Billy Hattaway

Secretary Billy Hattaway
FDOT District One First Edition Issue 1, 2012 (March 2012)
From the Desk of
Secretary Hattaway
This article was created based on a request from one of our employees to share my vision for multi-modal transportation in District One.
I’m interested to know about the Secretary’s vision for Public Transportation in the District with the new projects such as Bus Rapid Transit, The Commuter Service Program (biking, walking, carpool, vanpool, telecommuting, green initiatives, parking management, etc.)”

My vision is based on many years of experience in working nationally with state DOTs and local governments on improving the balance between all modes of transportation for their communities and thorough review of reports and articles concerning the changing trends and demographics in the United States.

We have been blessed for decades with the freedom to drive with little expense to take care of our daily needs or travel recreationally. That freedom has allowed us to live at increasing distances from work, school and our downtowns. More recently, there is an increased recognition that the costs of sprawl development patterns, such as costs of personal transportation, municipal services, schools and busing of children, are becoming less sustainable. That combined with demographic changes of baby boomers (like me) and many in younger generations wanting to live in more urban walk-able communities is driving an increased demand for local governments and state transportation agencies to improve the balance between all modes.

District One has numerous communities along our coast who recognize this trend and are working to implement changes in their development patterns and transportation systems to create communities that are more supportive to walking, biking, and transit. I believe our role as a transportation agency is to provide leadership in these efforts and we have a responsibility to work with them collaboratively in achieving their goals. This will involve increased partnerships with local governments who are willing to truly partner with us to achieve mutual goals to increase mobility for our citizens and visitors.

Local governments are looking to the Department for support in creating streets that are more comfort-able and safer for pedestrians and bicyclists which also supports increased transit ridership. This includes both working with them in planning and designing “complete streets” and providing technical expertise to them in achieving their goals for redevelopment and improving their local transportation network.

In my role as Secretary I have already begun discussions with some of our local governments who have begun planning or implementation of redevelopment of their downtown and along some of our corridors. Their roles include planning efforts that truly engage their citizens in creating a vision for the area they are focused on, recruiting champions who will ensure their plans are carried out, developing implementation plans that are financially feasible, and committing to change development patterns to support the changes they are requesting of the department. I have expressed to them that we will work with them to achieve their goals.

My commitment to our employees is to work with you and support you during our transition into this expanded role of the department, which will involve learning new skills for public outreach, planning and design. This is an exciting opportunity for those who are interested in learning new skills and expanding their capability and value to the Department.
   Consistent, Predictable, Repeatable