Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Town of Fort Myers Beach makes pedestrian safety improvements

 As Lee County focuses on bike/ped safety this month, we wanted to highlight the progress made by the Town of Fort Myers Beach in making its streets safer for pedestrians, with the installation of new rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) at two crosswalks.  Thanks to the Town Council and its Public Safety Committee for its commitment to improving safety on Fort Myers Beach.
New crosswalk safety improvements have been made in 2 locations

The Fort Myers Beach (FMB) Town Council recognized the need to improve pedestrian safety as a result of fatalities on Estero Blvd. FMB created a safety task force which led to a permanent Advisory Committee established in 2012. 

Initially we were concerned with lighting, driver distractions, crosswalk improvements and safety awareness.
Improvements at Estero Beach and Tennis Club/Santini Plaza

 The initial goal was to get some quick wins to improve safety and begin testing some new ideas for FMB. Lighting was an initial concern as  it was difficult to see pedestrians at night. Doing a simple audit we determined that 19 streetlights were not working. FPL was notified and the lights where fixed. Streetlights are now audited each month by the PSC (public safety committee).
Pedestrian safety improvements include a RRFB beacon

Next we set a minimum goal for crosswalk lighting. All cross walks were reviewed. In some cases crosswalks were moved closer to streetlights and in some cases new poles where added and in some lights were added to existing poles. 

A safety awareness banner was designed and deployed across Estero Blvd in strategic locations for the 2013 season opening.

There were numerous street signs that were not needed. These where identified and removed to keep drivers focused and not distracted. The Town had previously passed new rules for commercial sign.

A significant improvement was made with the installation of 2 pedestrian refuge crosswalks. These crosswalks also incorporate RRFBs (rectangular rapid flashing beacons). One replaced and existing high volume crosswalk the other was a brand new crosswalk in an area with high density condos with a commercial center across the street. This was an experiment to test the effectiveness of these types of crosswalks.

Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs)
A new safety brochure has recently been developed by the committee. The town council has provided funds to publish this brochures. We plan to distribute to visitors on the island and as a general education tool. 

Why the concern? As mentioned previously there has been fatalities but there are issues with the infrastructure on Estero Blvd. Most of the blvd only has sidewalks on one side of the street. Lighting is constrained by environmental regulations. Bike lanes are not available. During season traffic congestion is extreme. People are used to crossing the street randomly to get to the other side where there are sidewalks. Walking on the shoulder is difficult due to lighting, drop offs and standing water when it rains. During season people on concentrating on vacations and having a good time. 

The Public Safety Committee's focus continues to be on crosswalk improvements, lighting of Estero Blvd, traffic calming and safety awareness education.

Report by Bruce Butcher, BWL's FMB representative, and Chair of the Town of FMB Public Safety Committee

Angie Ferguson Column: Children's bike safety starts at home

Biking is a family affair (NP photo)
As Lee County focuses on bike/ped safety this month, it was great to see Angie Ferguson's column on bike safety tips for children.

News-Press, April 30, 2013:  Angie Ferguson Column
Bike riding can be fun for the whole family, but it needs to be enjoyed safely. Bicycle safety involves developing riding skills, wearing the right protective gear, and looking after your bike. Parents need to teach their children about riding safety and caring for their bike before they leave the house.Helmets are mandatory — so set a good example!

 Not only is it the right thing to do but it’s also the law. In 1997, Florida adopted the mandatory helmet law for children 16 years of age and younger. This law applies on roads, bike paths, bike lanes, shared and segregated footways and other public places such as recreational parks and car parks. Make sure that your child always wears a helmet when riding. Your child’s helmet should be:

The right size and fitted correctly. The helmet should be comfortable and not too tight or loose. Caps should not be worn under helmets as they ruin the fit — wear a visor over the helmet to protect you from the sun. Choose a helmet that is not too heavy and provides good ventilation.
Positioned on the head properly. The helmet should sit level on the head, covering the forehead, with the rim just above the eyebrows. The straps should be correctly adjusted and the buckle securely fastened. The straps should form a “V” shape with the plastic strap guide sitting just under the earlobe. The buckle should be close up under your chin.
Kept in good condition. If the helmet hits an object or the road, you should replace it. Don’t leave a helmet exposed to direct sunlight when not in use, make sure the foam is not old and crumbling, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Also, make sure that your child’s bike is well-maintained. Regularly check brakes, wheels, pedals, bearings and chains so that the bike will stop quickly in an emergency. Each time they ride, check if the tires are hard, if the brakes work and whether there are any rattles. Check the tires, bearings, gears, and nuts and bolts and lubricate the chain and cables each week. See a professional bicycle mechanic if you are unsure about the bike’s safety.

To help your child become a safe cyclist, let them have lots of practice on safe paths while offering tips on bike handling. Basically, they should be able to ride in a straight line, brake properly and corner safely. And always, ride in designated areas such as bike paths whenever possible.
Finally, choose a bike that suits your rider. Having the right size bike plays a big part in safe cycling. A bike that’s too big for your child is dangerous. Your bike shop professional can help you determine the right fit for you.

— Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist from Fort Myers. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach and USA Cycling coach. For more training tips, read her blog at triathlontrainingisfun.com or contact her at gearedup.biz

Monday, April 29, 2013

Second Tour de Parks and Bike Audit for staff and local officials

On Sunday April 21 BikeWalkLee and Lee County Parks and Recreation hosted another Tour de Parks ride and Bike Audit for City and County officials, advisory board members and staff.   
 We had 11 participants, including representatives from City of Fort Myers Public Works, and Community Development, Lee County Office of Sustainability and several local planning consultants.  We were also happily joined by two riders from Naples Pathways – one, an avid cyclist at age 86!

Starting in the early morning coolness, riders received instructions on Rules of the Road from guide Dan Moser before heading out from Lakes Park, off of Gladiolus Drive, and traveling east and north along the Six Mile Cypress multi-use path to the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers.  Most, both experienced and new cyclists alike chose to ride the entire 20 miles, returning via the John Yarbrough Linear Trail. Several, though were more comfortable opting for the two shorter alternatives routes of 12 and 16 miles.

Throughout the ride, stops were made to observe and analyze roadway and intersection conditions, assessing design, engineering, and maintenance with an eye to those features that support safe and enjoyable cycling. Some aspects of the roadways and trail system were very well designed and others hindrances to both safety and convenience.

Our guests from Naples found it “a most informative and pleasant ride” and “a wonderful program (they) would like to see it expanded to other counties and municipalities.”  They had never been to Lakes Park or cycled any of the links of Lee County’s Tour de Parks and were quite impressed with the quality of these facilities.

The next Bike Audit for staff, committee members, and local officials is planned for Saturday May 18th, starting at 8:00 a.m. from the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers.

Report by Ann Pierce

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dan Moser's Column:Get a jump on National Bike Month

Florida Weekly, April 24, 2013              Dan's column this week focuses on the many activities during Bike Month, including the Ride of Silence on May 15th.  The advocacy update highlights the various safety initiatives underway in Lee County.

Dan Moser
Throughout much of America people are just getting back on their bikes as the weather works its way toward consistently warmer temperatures. To help encourage more to ride, the League of American Bicyclists designated May as National Bike Month many years ago. But for those of us in Southwest Florida the month of May brings some of the hottest temperatures we’ll experience all season until regular rainstorms temper things just a bit. So May might not seem to be the best time to embark on a new physical challenge. However, since cycling on flat terrain can be as easy or as hard as one desires it to be, it’s actually quite a good way to recreate, get in a workout, or even travel for purpose when the heat would otherwise make outdoor human powered activity miserable.

Locally, a few things are planned for Bike Month. Most of the events will take place during Bike to Work Week, May 13-18. However, the week prior also has a couple of notable events. Wednesday, May 8, is Bike to School Day. At least one school — Three Oaks Elementary — plans to participate, but for anyone with a school-age child, the day offers a great opportunity to get your kids out of their chauffeur-driven motor vehicles (you, of course, being the chauffeur) and onto their own vehicles. It’s a chance to give them a taste of the kind of independence those of us who are older than 40 experienced, back before kids were driven everywhere they needed to go. Take a ride with them prior, to be sure they have the skills and knowledge they need to get there safely.

If you’re tired of commuting from behind the wheel yourself, you can change things up a bit by instead getting behind the handlebars during the entire week. If nothing else, give it a shot on Friday, May 17, the official Bike to Work Day. I’ll be set-up outside the Oasis Restaurant in downtown Fort Myers (2260 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) to offer complimentary refreshments and other items for anyone who drops by on a bike that morning. A couple of days before that, on Wednesday, May 15, the Caloosa Riders are facilitating our local Ride of Silence to remember those killed or injured while on their bikes. It starts and finishes at Centennial Park, beginning at 7 p.m. the Bonita Bay Bicycle Club is also hosting a Ride of Silence, but asks that non- BBBC member contact their organizer (cvwesq@earthlink.net) at least one day prior if you’d like to participate. Then on Saturday, May 18, a guided ride on a portion of our Tour de Parks route is planned for elected and appointed officials and staff of our local governments. The purpose of this “reality check” tour is to get our decision-makers out on the pathways and roads to experience the good, bad and ugly of the infrastructure that’s in place (or, in some cases, not in place). We hope the ride both educates and inspires.

Ghost Bike: A Tragic Symbol of Why There’s an Annual Ride of Silence
Ghost Bike: A Tragic Symbol of Why There’s an Annual Ride of Silence 

Advocacy update
Lee County’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Action Plan is one step closer to completion  after a public workshop that took place last week. Once implemented, the various strategies and resources that are  intended to reduce bike/ped fatalities and serious injuries by 5 percent each year for the first five years. That goal should mesh well with the FDOT’s upcoming in the "Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow" initiative (ads have already been airing on local TV) and other approaches that were outlined at USDOT’s Southeast Regional Bicycle Safety Summit, held in Tampa earlier this month. Local representatives who attended that summit came back with high hopes and great ideas that were shared by others. Our own Complete Streets efforts were among those showcased there. You’ll find all the details on BikeWalkLee’s blog.

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 dan@floridabicycle.org or 334- 6417.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Take FDOT's survey on bike/ped safety

 As part of FDOT's bike/ped safety campaign, "Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow", they are conducting a survey.  Click here to take the survey, and share the link with anyone you think might be interested.  After clicking on the link, just click the logo to start the survey.

This survey is important for FDOT’s campaign in making our streets safer for ALL users. Please take the 3 minutes to complete this tool.

Sanibel’s Weekly Newspapers Publish “Cycling Safety Notes” To Promote Bike Safety

Thanks to the Sanibel Bicycle Club and the local island newspapers, Sanibel is promoting bicycle safety on its shared use path system.  Check out the series of PSAs...maybe they can be modified for your community.

Sanibel’s weekly newspapers, the Island Sun and the Island Reporter/Islander, have both joined the effort to promote bicycle safety by publishing a regular series of “Cycling Safety Notes” public service ads.  The ads deliver a series of messages, seven in all, including cycling basics such as:  “Always wear a bicycle helmet”; “Ride on the Right”; “Warn to Pass”; and “Don’t wear Earphones While Cycling”.  Whimsical in tone, they are designed to reach Island residents and vacationers using Sanibel’s Shared Use Path who may not have been on a bike in a while and need to be reminded about the rules of safe cycling.

The public service ads were developed by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, whose club activities have long emphasized bike safety advocacy and promotion.  In recent years the Sanibel Club has developed and distributed cycling safety messages in other printed forms, including posters, bookmarks, cycling maps and brochures.  That led to the idea to ask local newspapers if they’d be willing to run public service ads.  The publishers saw the need for more public education on bike safety and agreed to help.  Club members wrote the copy and designed and produced the ads.  With seven ads in the series, the publications are able to rotate them to keep the message fresh.  The ads have been running regularly for the past year.

Said Club President Sharon Hannon, “The Sanibel Bicycle Club has been pushing the safety message for a long time, and it’s great to see other organizations and entities in town embracing the message.  We think these newspaper public service ads are doing a great job of helping to keeping the idea of safe cycling front and center.  It’s a challenging job in a resort area like this with so many vacationers who are not familiar with our streets, paths and traffic patterns.  And each week there’s a new group of visitors arriving, so the education process is non-stop.”

Other clubs and organizations who might be interested in doing a similar program in their area are welcome to use the Sanibel Bicycle Club’s materials as a starting point (although some of the copy may need to be revised to fit the specific needs of another location).  Copies of the public service ads can be accessed on the BikeWalkLee website.

Report by Tom Sharbaugh, BWL's Sanibel representative

Thursday, April 18, 2013

BWL Column: Complete streets can help complete communities

BikeWalkLee's bi-weekly News-Press column this week features the complete streets planning underway in Lehigh Acres.  The info box highlights what else is happening in Lee County on the complete streets front--the Tampa Summit and the NCSC report.  

More information

Elsewhere on the complete streets front, Lee County’s efforts and policies were in the spotlight at last week's USDOT Bicycle Safety Summit in Tampa hosted by Secretary Ray LaHood. County sustainability director Tessa LeSage was one of the speakers, highlighting how safety can be improved by how we plan and build the environment – and how the county’s complete streets program helps us do that. Also, in a recent report from the National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America, Lee County ranked second in the state (behind Winter Park) for its complete streets policies. Overall, in just four years Florida has gone from six communities with complete streets policies to 32.

Can a complete street help complete a community? A planning effort to change the face of Lehigh Acres is showing the way.

At 96 square miles and more than 120,000 lots, Lehigh Acres is struggling to make the transition from platted-land suburb to stand-alone and sustainable community – and, in the process, has to overcome some flaws in its original design made glaringly clear by growth. One of those is the need for the infrastructure necessary to evolve into a full-fledged community, which includes directing growth and creating more urban activity centers that would move away from sprawl and toward a commercial core that mixes in residential and recreational needs.

Plans for these activity centers (created by local planning wizards at EnSite) include multi-use designs integrating commercial and residential, re-routing traffic flow to allow for “through” as well as “to” movement; and designing a streetscape that’s more inviting to businesses and pedestrians alike. That’s where complete streets come into play.

Buildings are closer to the street to create intimacy, with on-street parking to calm traffic and parking garages to handle quantity. Sidewalks, bike lanes and dedicated public spaces make this far more pedestrian- and bike-friendly than the current road system – and having people living over the commercial areas ensures street-level activity after business hours and on weekends.

“Mixed-use development focuses community at the street level, where businesses thrive, people interact with one another and gathering spaces become the heart of the community,” said planner Shellie Johnson with EnSite. “Complete streets form the basis for being able to achieve this mix of economy, community and environment.”

It may be many years before Lehigh is actually home to the 350,000 people projected to live there someday but, by designing these activity centers and implementing other planning corrections to promote complete streets and a sustainable community, the community will be better equipped to handle this growth when it inevitably occurs.

“The planning and design study currently under way will provide the county with a master plan of infrastructure needed to support the redevelopment effort,” said Johnson “It will be an important tool in the planning and capital improvement scheduling for many years to come. Once completed, the county will be able to identify phases of redevelopment that can be implemented as budgets allow.”

— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at BikeWalkLee.org.