A run, walk or bike ride in the woods this time of year might mean dealing with the path being obstructed by overgrowth as the rain puts plant life into high gear. While that’s to be expected there, similar conditions are far too common on our sidewalks, paved pathways and even bike lanes, it shouldn’t be that way in the built environment. In those spaces it’s always someone’s responsibility to keep vegetation trimmed back. But just whose responsibility it is depends on where the property exists and (sometimes) from where the vegetation is growing.
In every jurisdiction, whether it’s a city, town or unincorporated area of the county, overgrowth emanating from private property into the public right of way is the responsibility of the property owner. So, in those cases, one is compelled to keep public space such as sidewalks and pathways free of obstructions.
In some cases, however, a property owner has the additional responsibility to keep sidewalks and pathways clear and safe even if the problematic vegetation is planted in the public right of way. And in some cases, physically maintaining the sidewalk also falls within the adjacent property owner’s scope of responsibility, including replacing damaged a segments when they become a hazard or are not accessible by persons with disabilities (ADA non-compliant). In our area, that policy is in effect in the city of Fort Myers.
Public works or transportation departments are responsible for keeping the public right of way safe and accessible elsewhere, although because of budget constraints they often only respond to complaints and don’t do the kind of preventive maintenance that’s necessary. But in most cases, they’ll usually promptly take care of problems that are not caused by a private property owner if there’s a public safety issue (although the city is less than consistent as to how it manages the ordinance in such circumstances).
Regardless of who’s responsible, we should all do what’s necessary to ensure pedestrians and bicyclists unfettered access. Especially this time of year, when things can quickly get out of hand, be sure to keep your vegetation trimmed back, ask your neighbors to do the same, and make the appropriate government department aware of problems it should handle (including, when necessary, making a call to code enforcement). Of course, the requirement to keep the pathway clear includes non-organic items, such as parked cars, trash receptacles and other moving or stationary objects.
A reminder that Fort Myers Track Club’s annual Membership 5K Run happens on June 22 at Hammond Stadium and the 4th of July Freedom 5K takes runners across the Cape Coral Bridge on the holiday. Information on both can be found at www.ftmyerstrackclub.com. In Punta Gorda on July 6, the Peace River Riders holds its Wheels & Wings Ride (www.peaceriverridersbicycleclub.com), and Galloway Captiva Triathlon (www.captivatri.com) happens the weekend of September 14-15 (there’s already a wait list for some divisions).
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a bike ride to experience conditions on our pathways and roads may be worth even more. In a recent column, I mentioned the Tour de Parks sample rides being conducted for government officials. There’ve now been four, with dozens of participants having taken the 6- to 20-mile ride. Even with the heat and humidity being a factor in the most recent outings, feedback has been excellent, and the plan is to continue to offer the rides at least once a month through the rest of the summer, perhaps expanding to twice monthly later. Requests to replicate these revealing excursions in areas beyond the Tour de Parks route have come from around the county, including Fort Myers Beach and North Fort Myers. If you know of an elected, appointed or governmental staff official who you’d like to get out on a ride that will expand his or her awareness of what’s good, bad and downright dangerous in their community please let them know of this opportunity. The goal, of course, is to affect change, but they’ll also have fun. All the details, including a link to the Tour de Parks map and MPO Bike Map can be found at 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 Bicy cle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334- 6417.