Wednesday, February 27, 2013

FBA Annual Awards recognize two of our champions

The Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) has just announced its 2012 awards, and BikeWalkLee is thrilled that two of our champions are among the winners--Don Scott of the Lee MPO and Billy Hattaway of FDOT District 1.  Congratulations to both Don and Billy for this well-deserved honor.  Lee County is lucky to have such dedicated professionals working to improve bike/ped facilities and safety in Lee County.  Thanks to FBA for recognizing them!
Don Scott, Lee MPO Director
FBA Supporting Agency of the Year:  Lee County MPO, Don Scott, Director

Being a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) director can be a thankless job, one that means juggling funds and priorities in a way that often results in no one being happy.  Not to mention it requires having to deal with funders who have their own ideas about how the money should be spent.  Somehow, however, Don Scott and his small staff have managed to make bicycle/pedestrian access and safety a priority without alienating those who would rather concentrate on motor vehicle capacity.

The completion of a countywide bike/ped plan, including getting two of three pilot projects that are part of the plan off the ground, is among the agency’s recent accomplishments.  As well, Lee MPO was among the first MPOs in the country to approve a resolution to develop a Complete Streets policy, a resolution that at least two member jurisdictions have taken to the next level, one already at the implantation stage.  Lee County has a long way to go to make it a truly bike-friendly community, but is well on its way due to the efforts of Don Scot and his dedicated MPO staff.    

FBA Bicycle Professional of the Year:  Billy Hattaway

Billy is the Florida Department if Transportation (FDOT) District 1 Secretary and serves as their bicycle/pedestrian safety improvements point person for the state.  FDOT has launched a comprehensive effort, targeting the top 10 most dangerous areas in Florida (Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward, Orange, Volusia, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval, Lee and Polk), with Billy leading the effort.  Besides being a professional traffic engineer, Billy is a certified planner who has worked in both the public (FDOT twice) and private sector. 

Prior to returning to FDOT, he worked for a transportation consulting firm well known for its bike/ped/transit work.  Additionally, he is a CyclingSavvy Instructor and accomplished cyclist with firsthand experience of conditions and design issues cyclists deal with on a regular basis.  Florida is fortunate to have Billy back in a role where he can have a significant impact statewide, something that is long overdue and welcome.

Dan Moser column: Cape Coral Bike-Ped advocacy group launched

Florida Weekly, Feb. 27, 2013       
 This week's Moser column highlights the new Cape Coral Bike-Ped advocacy group, along with upcoming events.
Cape Coral has long been known by cyclists, especially group and club riders, as having had many good options for long rides. But as this 100-square-mile community has developed, quite a few of those choices have been eliminated for all but the most confident and experienced cyclists. BikeWalkLee has worked to encourage improvement to the situation, not just for distance cyclists, but for all non-motorized modes of transportation and recreation.

Now, however, there’s an organization fully dedicated to that effort. Below is what the group has to say about its mission:
“Cape Coral Bike- Ped is a new volunteer organization whose mission is to develop a system of interconnecting bike and pedestrian routes throughout Cape Coral for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are an avid runner or cyclist or someone who seldom exercises, connecting bicycle and pedestrian routes in Cape Coral is good for our economy, improves quality of life for citizens, and increases tourism. “Tourism is big business in Florida and Cape Coral is not getting its fair share of bicyclists, runners, and walker’s tourist dollars.

As Craig Dearden, an avid cyclist and CFO and COO of Realmark Development notes, ‘Being outside is what Florida is all about, improving the walking and bike lanes will promote our community as a place to exercise and safely enjoy our paradise.’ “The monetary effect of cycling tourism can have a huge impact on the city. Cyclists alone contribute an estimated $133 billion to the U. S. economy. More than $46.9 billion is spent on meals, transportation, lodging, gifts and entertainment during bike trips and tours. When you add in the contribution from runners and walkers the economic impact is even more substantial.

Patricia Young, a member of the Lee County MPO Bicycle- Pedestrian Coordinating Committee notes, ‘Connecting bike lanes, paths and sidewalks  improves the quality of life for everyone. It encourages health and well- being and spurs economic development.’ “Cape Coral Bike- Ped volunteers are stepping up to work in partnership with the city of Cape Coral to make a difference in the way the city improves and builds its bike lanes, paths and sidewalks. Visit our newly created website to learn more, donate and volunteer. We need your help through tax- deductible contributions and your willingness to volunteer to make this vision a reality. Together, we can develop a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly Cape Coral.”

Having been involved in advocacy for decades, I’m confident their approach will be effective. Even prior to becoming a formal organization, the core members of Cape Coral Bike-Ped developed relationships with key decision makers, influential community leaders, and the public that will be served by the increase in access and safety. If you’re a resident of Cape Coral and enjoy cycling, walking, running, or skating — and believe transportation options are vital — I encourage you to get involved.

Events update
It was cool and windy for this year’s Edison Festival 5K, but it still attracted almost 1,500 runners and walkers, most not fazed by the weather. Of course, having an excellent post-race event — including one of the country’s largest nighttime parades — probably influenced the numbers and lack of concern over the temperature. As usual, the Fort Myers Track Club did an excellent job managing this huge undertaking, something it will do again this coming weekend when it conducts Hooters to Hooters Half Marathon.

Speaking of well-managed events, Caloosa Riders holds its annual Royal Palm Ride from Buckingham Community Park on St Patty’s Day, Sunday, March 17. For the past few years, this popular ride unfortunately coincided with the Hooters race, but volunteers will once again be able to provide support on the half-marathon course, something race organizers greatly appreciate.

Finally, High Point Place is open for those training for the American Lung Association’s annual Fight for Air Stair Climb being held on Saturday, April 27. Through this month the stairwells are open on Saturday mornings; Wednesday evenings will be added beginning in March. Stair climbing is one of the most efficient and effective physical workouts one can engage in and you needn’t be some kind of super athlete to benefit. Try it, you’ll like it.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at or 334- 6417.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Report from Feb. 22nd MPO Board meeting

At Friday's MPO Board meeting, several topics of interest to BikeWalkLee were discussed: the 2012 annual report on implementation of the countywide bike/ped master plan was presented, a letter to the FL state legislative delegation in support of a ban on texting while driving was approved, and the Board authorized the Chair to work with staff on developing a policy framework for the LRTP 2040 process.

Bike/Ped Master Plan Implementation report
MPO staff presented the first annual report on the implementation of the bike/ped master plan,  adopted by the board in June 2011.  BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau spoke during public comment and thanked Don Scott and Ron Gogoi as well as BPCC for preparing this excellent report.  A great deal of progress is being made by the agencies and municipalities in filling the gaps in our bike/ped facilities so we have a connected and safe network of bike/ped facilities; and we're beginning to implement the plan's 65 policy recommendations.  As reported by BWL in October, the county has constructed 148 lane miles of new biking and walking facilities in the past 3 years.  She expressed appreciation to the Board for the efforts and progress made by each municipality and agency and encouraged them to continue to make this a priority.

Texting while driving letter
The Board approved a letter to our state legislative delegation in support of legislation to ban texting while driving.  Mayor Sullivan suggested that the letter needed to be strengthened to ban all use of cellphones while driving but the consensus of the Board was that it was better to take an incremental approach and focus on the first step of banning texting while driving.  During public comment, BWL's Darla Letourneau thanked the Board for initiating this letter and noted three developments since the last Board meeting, which are a reminder of the dangers on our roadways and the need to take action on multiple fronts to address them: 
Lee County finished January with a record 12 traffic fatalities (highest since 2005), with 8 of the 12 being vulnerable road users (4 ped/2 bike*/2 motorcycle/4 cars). 
Last week's National Safety Council reported that 2012 traffic fatalities and injuries were both up 5% over 2011, with distracted driving as one of the potential factors in the increase;
FHP launched a campaign against hit-and-run drivers and noted that 60% of the victims are pedestrians. 
She also reported that a FL Senate committee has reported out a bill, making texting while driving a traffic offense (SB52) (secondary vs. primary offense).  This bill would exempt texting while stopped at a traffic light, which is of concern.  BikeWalkLee hopes that the bill is strengthened as it goes through the legislative process.
Policy framework for LRTP 2040
MPO Chairman Kevin Ruane suggested that with the major revenue shortfalls facing transportation funding as well as other demographic and economic realities, there was a need to begin now to look at the 2040 Plan in a different way.  He stated that we need to know how much money is projected to be coming in, how much it is going to cost to fully maintain what we have, and what is left over for any potential new/expanded facilities.  He stated that we're going to have to do more with less money and we need to have a project list that we can actually afford to do.  He asked staff to reach out to the Nashville, TN MPO to invite them to make a presentation to our MPO Board about how they reinvented their process by right-sizing their projects and reducing funding needs.

The Board voted unanimously to authorize Chairman Ruane to work with Don Scott (MPO staff director) to develop a framework for the 2040 LRTP process, including involvement of the Board in the policy discussions at the front end.  This topic will be an agenda item for the Board April 19th meeting.

The Board's representative to the Florida MPO Advisory Council, Councilman Leonardo, also spoke about the policy and legislative priorities of that group, some of which relate to the LRTP plan process.
Impact Fees
The Citizens Advisory Committee report highlighted the committee's resolution in opposition to the suspension of impact fees, which was transmitted to the BoCC earlier in the month.  Several board members representing municipalities spoke about the negative impact a suspension would have on their communities.

Citizen request for sidewalks in North Fort Myers
During public comment, Jane Antolini, a resident of North Fort Myers, asked the Board to consider filling the sidewalk gap between the Prairie Pines neighborhood and the new Publix complex.  MPO staff is working with FDOT to identify potential funds to address this gap.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

BWL Column: New map highlights Lee County bike routes

News-Press, Feb. 21, 2013

BikeWalkLee's column in this week's News-Press Go Coastal section highlights the new bicycle facilities map produced by the Lee MPO.  Thanks to the BPCC and staff!  Hard copies of the map should be ready for distribution in another week.

Sometimes a map helps you get to where you want to be by showing you the best route. Sometimes, however, a map can show you where you want to be by highlighting what’s missing to enable you to get there.

The new bike map being produced by the Metropolitan Planning Organization achieves both of those goals. It’s a guide for cyclists who want to transport themselves around the county by bike, to show them the routes available. But it’s also a guide for bike advocates and planners to identify gaps in the current bicycle infrastructure, the places where a little bit of new asphalt could make a big difference in bikeability.

Right now, maps are available online only, but printed versions are expected by the end of February. It replaces the last bike map published in October 2006, and comparing the two shows the significant improvements in bike infrastructure the county has seen in the ensuing six-plus years. Looking at the new map also shows the infrastructure work remaining to be done, where a lack of colored lines or a gap between two existing systems is clear.

Thanks for the MPO map goes to the organization’s Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinating Committee, which spearheaded the update and helped review and verify the routes.

“It was a recommendation that came out of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan,” said MPO executive director Don Scott. “For the rider, it does encourage use, enticing some people to take their bike instead of driving, giving recreational opportunities and getting out to different destinations.

The MPO hopes to update this map more regularly, perhaps even annually.
“One important part is to keep working on filling in the gaps,” Scott said. “I encourage people who use the map to forward suggestions that we can incorporate into future versions.”

Related Links

The old ballgame

Speaking of maps, if you’re interested in biking to spring training games, BikeWalkLee can help show you the way. On its website you’ll find maps showing routes to both JetBlue Park (for Red Sox games) and the Lee County Sports Complex (where the Twins play). Both sites are bike-accessible from neighborhoods throughout the county – even for those who prefer to ride in a more protected setting.

Biking to baseball not only gets you a little exercise (to work up a thirst for that ballpark beer?), but also helps you avoid the pre- and post-game traffic jams. Bike parking at both facilities is a little sparse… but if enough people start showing up on two wheels, perhaps that can be remedied.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BikeWalkLee's local representatives, including new Fort Myers Beach rep

BikeWalkLee welcomes its new representative for Fort Myers Beach, Bruce Butcher, who's chair of the Town's Safety Committee.  Thanks to all six of BWL's local reps for keeping our network informed and involved in what's happening around the county.

BikeWalkLee has been involved in advocacy on a countywide basis, participating in all the Lee County MPO meetings and committees, and in the Board of County Commission committees and hearings. While the majority of transportation decisions that affect bike/ped/transit facilities and complete streets policies are made in these two bodies, the local jurisdictions (Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel) also make bike/ped decisions on their local roads as well as influence decisions on county maintained roads.

Beginning in 2011, BikeWalkLee designated local representatives in each jurisdiction. Click here to the updated list and bios of our local representatives. These individuals serve as our “point persons” who lead the local advocacy efforts and keep the BWL network informed about what’s happening in their jurisdiction. Great things are happening in the local jurisdictions and our local representatives are in the thick of things.

We're pleased to announce that Bruce Butcher is the new BWL representative for Fort Myers Beach.  Bruce chairs the Town's Safety Committee that has been working for over a year to address pedestrian and bicycle safety on the Beach.

Here's the full list of our representatives:
 Bonita Springs:       Sarah Baker
 Cape Coral:            Steve Chupack
 Fort Myers:            Ann Pierce
 Fort Myers Beach: Bruce Butcher
 Sanibel:                 Tom Sharbaugh
 FGCU:                   Dr. Margaret Banyan

Click here for bios and contact information on our local reps.

So, if you live in one of these jurisdictions and want to get involved or have questions, contact our representative for that area.

County and Town Officials discuss Estero Blvd. improvement project

On Wednesday, BoCC and the Town of Fort Myers Beach held a joint workshop and discussed the Estero Blvd. road improvement project.  There was support for the project's planning process now underway.  The Town requested that a plan for funding and constructing all phases of the project be developed by BoCC this year, with the goal of funding the next phase of the project as soon as phase I is completed in 2013-14.  BikeWalkLee's recommendations, including a roundabout, were discussed.

 On Wednesday, the BoCC and Town Council of Fort Myers Beach held their annual joint workshop, with two items on the agenda  Estero Blvd and Traffic; and  Seafarer's Property and General Area) that relate to the Estero Blvd. road improvement project.

The Town Council's lead on the Estero Blvd. project, Councilman Joe Kosinski, expressed appreciation to the County for the work underway on the design of the Estero Blvd. improvement project, highlighted the County's excellent Town Hall website, and stated that the project was being designed following complete streets concepts and consistent with BikeWalkLee recommendations.  While the Council was pleased with the process and the design of Phase I, which is funded at $7 million for the first of the 6 miles of the project, Commissioner Kiker and the Town Council expressed concern about the County's commitment to funding and constructing the remaining 5 miles.  Mayor Mandel asked for the county to come up with a plan this year to fund the rest of the project.  It was estimated that the total cost of the project is approximately $40 million.  Commissioner Mann warned that the county didn't have the money to fund the remainder of this project.  

Commissioner Mann also raised the roundabout idea, referencing BikeWalkLee's memo.  He stated his support for the use of roundabouts.  The Town agreed that it needs to be considered as part of the Estero Blvd. project and as part of the consideration for plans for the Seafarer property.  As a next step to determining the best use of the Seafarer site, commissioner Manning suggested that ULI be invited to do a charette to discuss options for the uses of this area and the Town agreed to that approach.  Commissioner Manning highlighted this project as an example of the type of in-fill development that the county wants to encourage.

There was concern by both Town and County Commissioners about the potential increase in traffic that will happen with the Ebb Tide development project that was just approved.  Commissioner Manning said that when the development order comes before the BoCC, they will require that traffic impacts be mitigated. 

Click here for the News-Press story about the meeting.
In advance of this meeting, BikeWalkLee sent a letter to both BoCC and the Town Council, transmitting again a copy of our earlier report and recommendations for the Estero Blvd. improvement project.  Below are excerpts from our letter:

 "As we have stated to both the MPO Board and the BoCC on numerous occasions, we believe that improving Estero Blvd. should be the top transportation priority for the county, given the economic value of this roadway to Lee County's tourism industry.  With the limited ROW on this narrow barrier island, it is essential that the redesign of this area focus on making it significantly more pedestrian/bicycle/transit-friendly, with a goal of achieving real transportation mode shifts. 

Last June, Mayor Kiker invited BikeWalkLee to analyze the Town's North Estero Blvd. improvement project to determine if the incorporated bike/ped/transit facilities can serve as a model for the larger county Estero Blvd. improvement project, and what improvements or changes may be needed.  On June 8th, a team from BikeWalkLee conducted a site visit and wrote a comprehensive report withrecommendations, that was transmitted to both the Fort Myers Mayor and Vice-Mayor, and to LeeDOT.  As you discuss the Estero Blvd. project at next week's workshop, I wanted to bring your attention to our suggestions for this important project and have attached our report for your review.

Below are some highlights of our suggestions:
  • The North Estero Blvd. project is truly a model complete street, and the town and county should strive to design the larger 6-mile Estero Blvd. improvement project similar to this model.
  • A roundabout at the entrance to Fort Myers Beach, at the base of Matanzas Bridge would greatly improve safety for all road users, esp. pedestrians, slow down traffic, and improve traffic flow, as well as providing a signature "gateway" to the town.  It is important that the discussions on the Seafarer Property take into account the potential ROW needs for a roundabout and/or other Estero roadway improvements in this area.
  •  Bike lanes should be provided (both sides of road) on Estero Blvd.
  • There should be dedicated left turn lanes vs. continuous left (suicide lanes)
  • The speed limit "downtown" should be lowered to 25 mph
  •  Improved pedestrian crossings should be installed and made highly visible from a maximum distance
  • Enhanced trolley access (which is important), should not come at the expense of safety and facilities for those cycling onto the island.  The solution must be truly multi-modal.
  • Although not part of the current scope of the Estero Blvd. improvement project, major improvements are needed on San Carlos Blvd. from Summerlin up to the Matanzas Pass Bridge to make them safer for all road users, and our report includes a series of suggestions (see p. 4)
  •  Our report also suggests some inexpensive things that can be done now to improve the road for both pedestrians and cyclists, as we wait for this improvement project to be completed (p. 5-6)
The County's online Town Hall MindMixer tool is an outstanding way to get public input and have a community dialogue on the Estero Blvd. Improvement Project.  To date, 89 people have participated in the conversation and there are lots of good ideas being shared.  If you haven't checked out the online conversation lately, it may be of interest.

We applaud the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach for its aggressive efforts to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety on Estero Blvd. and appreciate the ongoing work of your Safety Committee.  We know from research that complete streets are not only safer streets for everyone, but also support a robust local economy.  We look forward to seeing Estero Blvd. as Lee County's signature complete street model.

We look forward to participating with both the County and the Town in the development of the design of the Estero Blvd. improvement project."