Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BoCC April 23rd public hearing on Pine Island golf carts ordinance

As reported in our 3/16 blog post, the County has drafted an ordinance on golf carts on Pine Island that would ban their use by all users on all bike/ped facilities.  The public hearing is scheduled for April 23rd.
Background:   Last year the Pine Island community recommended to BoCC that they permit golf carts on roads and shared use paths on Pine Island (with some exceptions and restrictions).  BikeWalkLee issued a policy statement on the issue last year. After legal review of the issue by the County Attorney's office and LeeDOT, a draft ordinance was made available this week which proposes allowing golf carts on a list of designated roads on Pine Island (excluding most of Pine Island Road and Stringfellow Rd.).  Most importantly, the draft ordinance prohibits golf carts on bike/ped facilities, and states "No person may operate golf carts on any bicycle paths, shared-use paths, or sidewalks on Pine Island."

This proposed ordinance and background memo are on the agenda for the BoCC April 2nd meeting, with a proposed public hearing on April 23rd.  Click here for the background memo and materials.

Dan Moser Column: Fort Myers Track Club still going strong

This week's column highlights the impressive work of the Fort Myers Track Club and its contributions to charities throughout the county.  Dan's advocacy update encourages everyone to provide online input for the County's Sustainability Plan.
Dan Moser
Florida Weekly, March 27, 2013

In 1978, when I took up running as a serious activity and the year I entered my first race, the Fort Myers Track Club had just been founded. Having been a member ever since, as well as having spent some time on the board of directors a number of years ago, I remain impressed with this club. Not only does it organize and manage running events at the highest level of professionalism, the work it does results in many dollars being raised for charitable organizations.

Each year the FMTC conducts more than two-dozen races of various distances (5K, 4-miles, 10K and 13.1-mile half-marathon) and another half-dozen 2-mile summer fun runs, with all work performed by volunteers. But what’s even more significant is that the funds it generates are put back into the community, resulting in more than $500,000 going to the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and pediatric centers, college scholarships and other important causes. Ironically, most of this fundraising takes place at events that are not the track club’s. Instead, the club is hired by nonprofit organizations to manage races as fundraisers. Depending on a number of factors, FMTC sometimes donates all or part of the fee back to the organization. (A cautionary note to nonprofits: The fact that there are charity races, walks and bike events almost every weekend in our area should persuade you from considering adding yet another similar event to the calendar.)

If you enjoy the quality races conducted d by FMTC and want to ensure they continue, volunteer for one or another. Consider making a personal commitment to work one race for each two or three you run. The club’s core volunteers need as much support as they can get. You can find opportunities by visiting the FMTC website.

Speaking of a top-notch, well-established organization that serves our community by both providing services and raising funds, here’s another example: the 16th annual Rotary Eggs & Ears 5K to benefit the Do the Right Thing Recognition Program takes place Saturday, March 30. The Fort Myers-Sunrise Rotary, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and FMTC team up to ensure a quality event that’s run on the beautiful, tree-lined streets of Gateway. The kids will love it for the 1-mile fun-run and ancillary activities. Pre-race sign-up and packet pick-up is from 2-6 p.m. Friday, March 29, in the Community Room of Gulf Coast Medical Center on the corner of Daniels and Metro parkways. See you there or Saturday.

Another class-act, Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, recently conducted its Royal Palm Ride and the reviews are glowing. The new routes, guided 15-mile ride, and excellent post-ride fare were a big hit. Almost 50 volunteers worked hard to make this annual event better than ever. Already looking forward to next year.

Advocacy update
If you haven’t already done so, time’s running out to pipe in on Lee County’s Sustainability Plan before public input is incorporated into a final draft. One aspect of the plan that’s been mentioned numerous times in this column and is the primary concern of BikeWalkLee is Complete Streets. But besides transportation options, the plan includes many more elements, including our community’s economy, environment, and social fabric, among others. At its recent “live” public input workshop, more than twice the number of people expected to attend showed up and stayed to offer their ideas and preferences. County staff was very happy with the enthusiasm and energy and hopes there’s the same level of interest and feedback with the electronic public input via the interactive survey. Besides making choices and determining priorities, there’s opportunity to include any suggestions or ideas you may have about the future of our community. You can learn about the effort by going to the Sustainability Office’s home page.

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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

LeeTran recognized by BoCC for receiving FL Transit System of the Year Award

BoCC recognized LeeTran at Tuesday's Board meeting for being named the 
Florida 2012 Transit System of the Year by the Florida Public Transportation Association.  Way to go, LeeTran!

 LeeTran staff accepting FPTA award at the annual meeting. From Left to Right:
Peter Gajdjis, Steve Myers (LeeTran Director), Bob Southall, Ron Garrison (FPTA President), Jill Brown, Carman Monroy (LeeTran), Paul Goyette.

At the March 26th BoCC meeting, the Board recognized LeeTran for having earned the Florida Public Transportation Association’s designation as the 2012 Transit System of the Year and extended their gratitude to all LeeTran employees for bringing this honor to Lee County for the benefit of its residents and visitors and for the commitment and dedication each of you bring to the job every day.

The proclamation stated:

                    LeeTran has demonstrated excellence through the development of its 25-Year Vision Plan, and by earning such national awards as $13.9 million for the acquisition of clean, diesel-electric hybrid buses, $1.4 million for improvement to Veteran’s transportation systems, and $5 million for the construction of a new transit facility; and

                   LeeTran has shown sustained increases in ridership, including a 17% increase in fiscal year 2012, and now serves a total of 3.76 million riders.

Kudos to LeeTran!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lee County's online Horizon 2035 "Town Hall" adds land use element for public comment

Walking, Riding & Rolling: Transportation Element

This week the land use element was added to the online "Town Hall" interactive website for public comment.  It's up to YOU to become part of this exciting interactive community conversation!

New Horizon 2035
A new vision of Lee County in 2035 - an economically and environmentally desirable place to live, work and visit - was crafted through an extensive community planning effort that included over 40 public workshops. Now, it’s time to revise Lee County’s growth management plans to bring that vision of a Livable Lee to reality. The most important changes to the Lee Plan are highlighted here. Will they get us to our vision? Here’s your chance for a final “thumbs up” – or a last-minute tweak of the elements as we present them over the next few months.
 Designing the Future: Land Use
The Future Land Use Element is the foundation for the entire comprehensive plan. Future development, community character, economic development, environmental protection, housing, and transportation all come together in the Future Land Use Element. In it, you will find the big picture – with color maps included – showing us where Lee County is headed and how we will get there. 

Whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area in Lee County, you should care about this element. How Lee County continues to grow and develop will affect us now and will have an impact on our children and future generations. Will we have a strong economy? Will we have strong neighborhoods? Will we have transportation choices, clean water and other services for the future? This element answers these questions and ties together strategies for future growth for coping with the challenges we will face today, tomorrow and into the 2035 horizon. 

There is a lot that is new. The Future Land Use Element has been restructured to better coordinate what we are trying to accomplish in the new vision – including livability, strong connections, community character, and sustainability. Policies are strengthened to better promote more mixed-use, more efficient development, and more transportation options. There are policies to promote the right development in the right place, at the right time. We are trying to reinforce what it means to be an urban, suburban and a rural place – all while protecting our natural environment. Policies for specific communities – such as Lehigh Acres and Estero – have been relocated to the “Communities Element.” Lastly, this element has been revamped based on changes to other elements including transportation, community facilities, housing, conservation, and the county’s new vision.

Traffic fatalities on Lee County roads continue in March

Doug McGregor News-Press political cartoon on distracted driving
While the final March numbers aren't in yet, traffic fatalities and injuries continue at heightened
levels in March, with vulnerable road users especially at risk.

Below are links to news stories over the past two weeks about fatalities and serious injuries of vulnerable road users on our roadways, and related safety issues:


3/24 News-Press:  

3/15 News-Press: Traffic crash with school bus caused by careless driving:

3/12 News-Press:  Another vulnerable road user (this time a motorcyclist) dies on Lee County roads.

BWL FB Post 3/10: At least two in BWL network saw the aftermath of a bad bike crash on Winkler near Summerlin on Saturday afternoon, 3/9.  Although it was never reported in the press, we finally found out what happened.  This information was provided from LCSO on 3/25:

The crash investigation was conducted by Cpl. Gould of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit.  The investigation revealed a white Chevrolet pickup truck was northbound on Winkler Road (near Sweet Bay Market) when a 59 year-old white male road his bicycle into the path of the pickup truck.  The bicyclist was transported to LMH for injuries received as a result of the crash.  Cpl. Gould found the bicyclist at fault in the crash and cited him for careless driving and DUI.

3/9 WINK News and News-Press:  31 fatalities on Lee County roads so far in 2013, both WINK and NBC-2 news have stories focused on issue:

3/8 Naples Daily News:  Another pedestrian fatality last night on Fort Myers Beach.

Other Safety news:
3/20 News-Press:  Cape Coral Committee approves guardrails at intersection near canal where 2 fatal crashes have occurredSafety features pitched for Cape Coral roads

3/24 News-Press:  Today's letters to editor include 2 letters continuing the community dialogue about bad drivers in SWFLSunday's letters to the editor

3/10 News-Press:  letter to editor about why so many traffic fatalities--Bad driving habits commonplaceSunday's Cape Coral letters to the editor

3/18  National CDC report:  
CDC reports that Americans drive distracted much more often than Europeans.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lee MPO Board sends letter to FGCU President re: funding transit service to FGCU

 At Friday's MPO Joint Lee/Collier Board meeting the Board discussed at length the issue of transit service to FGCU.  The Board voted to send a letter to President Bradshaw requesting that FGCU work with Lee County and LeeTran to identify funding to keep the Route 60 service operating.  BikeWalkLee strongly supports this action by the MPO and encourages FGCU to work with LeeTran and other community partners to resolve the immediate funding problem and play a longer term leadership role in support of multi-modal transportation.

See Naples Daily News 4/1/13 article on issue.


In February, an agreement between FGCU and Lee County about funding for the LeeTran Route 60 expired, and FGCU decided to discontinue its shared of the funding for the route (about 50% of the cost), leaving LeeTran with few options other than to recommend discontinuation of Route 60 that runs from US 41 through San Carlos Park over to the University and back.

Friday's MPO Discussion and Action
At the March 22nd Joint Lee/Collier Counties MPO Board meeting, at the recommendation of the joint Lee/Collier Citizens' Advisory Committee, the Lee MPO Board* voted to send a letter to the FGCU President requesting that they continue to work with Lee County and LeeTran to identify funding to keep the LeeTran Route 60 service operating.  See the MPO letter below that was sent to FGCU on March 22nd.  *The Collier MPO Board didn't have a quorum and could not vote.

 Prior to the vote, there was extensive discussion by MPO Board members as well as public testimony.  Councilman Tom Leonardo (Fort Myers) was concerned about the inefficiency of Route 60 and questioned whether the route should be maintained given budget pressures and the need to set priorities. 
Councilman Mike Flanders (Fort Myers) stated that he had spent 1 1/2 years working at FGCU and expressed concern that the University was not promoting multi-modal transportation and that they need to diversify and show more participation and involvement in the community.  He stated his support for the MPO letter, stating that it is a good signal for the MPO to send re: multi-modal transportation and the need to place a higher priority on participation in the community.  

Mayor Ben Nelson (Bonita Springs) argued that we need more transit service to FGCU, not less--the two hour headways is too long.  He argued that the MPO should be forceful in urging the University, which bills itself as sustainability-focused school, to participate in the county's multi-modal transportation planning and in finding a solution to the current funding problem for Route 60.  

Councilman Steve McIntosh (Bonita Springs) expressed concern about where the University was going to find the $250,000 needed to continue to pay for Route 60.

Ann Pierce of BikeWalkLee highlighted what can happen when a new University focuses on cars and doesn't think long-term about the need for a multi-modal transportation system as the University grows.  She cited George Mason University (GMU) in Northern Virginia as an object lesson.  When GMU was built in the appoximate center of Fairfax County in the 1970s, it was in a rural area and the University decided not to become part of the planning for the greater DC metro area subway and transit system but rather to rely solely on roads.  As a result of their refusal to think long-term about multi-modal, GMU is now a poster child of notorious traffic problems and gridlock for that whole region.  It is important that FGCU not become such in southwest Florida.  Ann spoke about the need for FGCU to be involved in long range planning in the county.  To date, they have been absent from the County's Comprehensive Plan update process and were absent from the MPO's 2035 LRTP process.  These plans affect the quality of life and economic viability of our region and the University needs to take a proactive role.

Roger Strelow of the Estero Council of Community Leaders and spoke of the importance of not regarding the current situation as a given.  FGCU has policies in their Campus Master Plan to incentivize multi-modal transportation, but they have more parking garages and parking spaces than almost any other university.  By being so car-focused, they are sending the following signals to the students--"bring your car--there's plenty of room".  He noted that we know from research that today's young people are less interesting in owning a car.  Roger highlighted what other universities are doing to finance transit services for students, including the University of Florida--a contribution for transit services is part of the student fees.  FGCU's fee structure should incentivize the use of transit.  He also suggested that the route and frequency should be re-examined to find ways to make it work better.  He urged the University to sit down with LeeTran to talk about options that the University has to strengthen demand for service.

Michael Griffin of the SWFL Transportation Group also highlighted what other universities have done to charge student fees for public transit services.  He also suggested that the private sector should be part of the discussions with FGCU.

Dr. Margaret Banyan, FGCU faculty member, spoke representing herself, to say that there is discussion internally at the university about the need to restore funding for this transit service.  Faculty are asking that the university to look at other funding options and encouraged the MPO to send this letter.

Commissioner Manning also supported sending the letter saying the BoCC needs to know what FGCU intends to do before the County Commission has to address the issue in its budget.  MPO Board Chair, Mayor Kevin Ruane supported moving forward with the letter and suggested that FGCU explore ways to enhance and expand transit services.  The vote by the Lee MPO in support of the letter was unanimous.

Below is the letter that the MPO Board sent to FGCU President Bradshaw on March 22, 2013: 

Dear President Bradshaw:

The Lee MPO Board is sending this letter to encourage the University to continue funding FGCU’s share of funding for the LeeTran Route 60 which provides public transit service to the Campus. Having transit services to the University is an important alternative transportation option for the students, faculty and staff reaching the campus as well as providing access to off campus attractions, work and housing. The inclusion of public transit service to the University is identified in many of the Objectives and Policies of the recently completed Campus Master Plan and is an important Transportation Demand Management strategy to help mitigate the traffic impact as the University continues to grow. 

The current and projected student enrollment places significant demands on Lee and Collier county transportation systems: both the road and transit networks.  If, as has been identified in the Master Plan, most of the student housing for the University will be off-campus, this will require more transportation options for students.  Close to fifty percent of the students that attend the University come from Lee or Collier County making transit a viable option. The use of the transit system to access the University is not just for the large student population but also for the faculty and staff that make the University the 19th largest employer in the five county region.   

The Joint MPO Board recommends that FGCU continue to work with LeeTran and the Lee County Government to identify the funding needed to keep this important transit service operating. 

Mayor Kevin Ruane                                                            
Lee County MPO Chairman