Today's News-Press features a commentary by BWL's Margaret Banyan and Ann Pierce about the potential for recent community engagement in Tice to be the beginning of a new approach to transportation planning throughout Lee County and its municipalities.
Walkers and bicyclists in Tice and other parts of Lee County face inhospitable conditions that put everyone at risk. The high incidence locally of bicycle and pedestrian deaths and injuries are exacerbated by speed, design problems, access difficulties, inadequate sidewalks, confusingly dangerous crosswalks and no bicycle accommodations.
Activities like these Tice workshops are the beginning of efforts that will have demonstrable economic and safety outcomes.
Not long ago, Miami was considered one of the worst cities for bicycling and pedestrian safety. Elected officials aligned themselves with grassroots citizens’ networks making infrastructure improvements for safety and leveraged these efforts to revitalize declining neighborhoods. Last year, Miami was awarded national status as a Bicycle-Friendly Community and its two-year-old bike share program is already considered one of the best in the nation.
In the same spirit of citizen-led community improvement, FDOT partnered in the Tice activities by launching its countywide safety campaign, “Travel SafeLee.” The campaign is designed to change bad behaviors that create unsafe conditions on our roads.
These events in Tice should be the beginning of a new approach to transportation planning throughout Lee County and its municipalities. Transportation officials should seize this opportunity of a new, more open approach to engage in the least costly and most effective type of public/private partnership — that of a government working in active cooperation with its own citizens.
Our elected officials need to invest scarce funds to improve conditions for all road users, developing creative solutions generated from the rich resource of broad citizen input, and building the infrastructure for strong local economies, healthy communities and a sustained environment.
We have a ways to go, but Tice and all of Lee County can become a “best in the nation” place. Working together with our public agencies we have the ability to make the improvements necessary for all to enjoy safe and convenient walking, cycling, and transit use.
Margaret Banyan, Ph.D., is an associate professor and director of the SW Florida Center for Public and Social Policy at FGCU. Ann Pierce has worked as a sustainability professional for 30 years.