Sunday, September 29, 2013

Volunteers needed for Nov. 10th Streets Alive! event downtown Fort Myers

During the summer we told you about Lee County's inaugural Streets Alive! event (see below) and said we'd be back in September with a call for we're back! 

What: Streets Alive! was created to incorporate fun, fitness and food to promote healthier lifestyles by temporarily closing streets to motor vehicles and opening them for people to have fun and get active.   (It's our local version of a "Ciclovia").

The free, family-friendly event includes a fair-like setting where participants will be encouraged to have some human-powered fun--walking, biking, jogging, Zumba, hopscotch, skateboarding, street games, jump rope, yoga, dancing, and more--in a series of activity villages along a 2-3 mile route.  Along the route, local restaurants and outlets will be offering food and beverages, highlighting their most delicious and nutritious menu items.

When:  Sunday, Nov. 10th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Downtown Fort Myers River District (see map for details)

Sponsor:  Healthy Lee Coalition, a movement created to empower and inspire the people of Lee County regarding healthy lifestyle choices through education and action.  BikeWalkLee is among the many coalition members. 
Volunteer Opportunities:  This is a large event spread out over 2-3 mile route and there's a need for many volunteers (100-200). 

Here are some of the jobs volunteers are needed for:
route support
check-in/check out
volunteer captions
"mystery shift"

There are two shifts:  8-11:30 a.m.; and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Benefits:  (in addition to being part of a wonderful community event)
            A free t-shirt
            A chance to win a weekend at South Seas Island Resort in Captiva

How to sign-up:  Go to Streets Alive Lee website: and click on "Get involved" link on left hand panel.  There you'll see all the information about how to sign up.  If you have any questions, please contact Diana Giraldo (, 239-321-7926)

Please help the organizers by signing up to volunteer NOW, and help recruit more volunteers by spreading the word to your neighbors, friends, and co-workers.  Thanks!

BikeWalkLee will have a booth with lots of interesting activities planned, so stay tuned for an upcoming blog post for more details.

Thank you for being part of making Lee County a healthier community!

Previous BikeWalkLee blog posts on Streets Alive!:


News-Press in-depth feature on texting while driving

Florida's new law that bans texting while driving goes into effect Oct. 1st and today's Sunday edition of the Fort Myers News-Press focuses extensively on the topic, with a series of articles, video stories of people impacted in our community, interactive tests, polls, graphs, and their own on-street survey.  Kudos to News-Press for raising public awareness, helping with the culture change process, and highlighting the need to strengthen the legislation.  BikeWalkLee partner organizations (LMHS, Injury Prevention Coalition, Stay Alive, Just Drive!, along with BikeWalkLee reps), are also quoted in the articles.

Below are a few excerpts from the 9/29/13 series, with links to all the articles, videos, etc.

Florida texting and driving ban sends message:  New law first round in fight against distracted driving
by Steve Doane and Lindsay Downey, News-Press

Syndi Bultman has seen the dark side of texting while driving.

Not just inconveniences, such as missing a light due to a tweeting teen or passing a slow-moving texter. As a trauma nurse at Lee Memorial Hospital, she’s dealt with the worst a distracted driver can do. They stand out among the thousands she’s treated during 25 years on the job.

Bultman can still see the half-dozen tubes curled across Chelsey Murphy’s matted red hair days before she was declared brain dead and buried. The Naples teen was the victim of a driver chatting on his cellphone.

“People need to ask themselves if the call or the text is worth dying for before they answer,” said Bultman, chairwoman for the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition and injury prevention manager for the hospital’s trauma center.

As injuries, deaths and damage from distracted driving continue to add up, Florida has taken a small step to fight back.

On Tuesday, House Bill 13 will go into effect across the state, outlawing texting while driving except under certain circumstances.

The law is classified as a secondary offense, which means police cannot pull a driver over for texting, but can issue a citation for it during a traffic stop. Florida joins 41states where texting while driving is illegal. It’s the fourth, along with Nebraska, Ohio and Iowa, where texting is a secondary offense.

The need for such legislation is evident in traffic statistics:
• About 80 percent of car accidents are the result of driver inattention, according to the coalition.
• In 2012, the Florida Highway Patrol investigated 530 Lee County crashes related to distracted driving. It has looked into 460 such accidents so far this year in Lee, up from 174 distracted driving crashes in 2011.
• Texting while driving causes about 1.6 million crashes per year, according to the National Safety Council.
• A documented 3,331 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, an increase from 3,267 deaths in 2010, according to

Even more compelling are stories from people whose lives have been irrevocably changed by a tweet, text or message on their device.

“We are such a distracted nation,” said Joyce Schneider, associate pastor of Tree of Life Church in Naples and friend of Murphy, who was 19 when she died. “You go down the road and everyone’s driving and texting and talking. We do so many things while we’re driving a car that can kill us.”

The News-Press interviewed dozens of people affected by distracted driving while reporting on this issue. Many of their heartbreaking accounts are detailed in the following stories.  Click here to continue reading.

by Christina Cepero, News-Press
"...Most drivers interviewed agree the new law is a start but needs to get stronger...."

“Florida seems to need to crawl before it can walk. We see it as a first baby step,” said Darla Letourneau, founding member of the BikeWalkLee coalition. “I truly believe that having something be against the law even if it’s hard to enforce is the beginning of not making it socially acceptable. Cultural changes take a while.”

Florida has had a seatbelt law since 1986 but it became a primary offense in 2009.

Jay Anderson, executive director of the Stay Alive …. Just Drive organization, said the Legislature finally did it because otherwise the federal government was going to withhold highway safety funds.
Anderson predicts the same trigger for the Legislature to strengthen the anti-texting law.

He said law enforcement can pull over drivers suspected of texting for careless driving, which is a $164 ticket and three points on a driver’s license.

“That sends a better message than a $30 slap on the wrist,” he said.

Dan Moser, a local traffic safety consultant, agrees the careless driving law has more teeth. “When I see something as watered down and literally as pathetic as this anti-texting bill that ends up resulting from Tallahassee, it just makes you say we need some new leadership up there,” he said.
Related Links
More: Texting and driving videos and public service announcements
Interactive: Play our texting and driving game

Monday, September 23, 2013

Take-aways from Broward presentation at MPO Board meeting on 9/20/13

Greg Stuart making presentation to Lee MPO Board
Lots of great "take-aways" for Lee County on rail, transit, complete streets, and economic development from the Broward MPO Peer Exchange presentation and discussion at Friday's MPO Board meeting.  At
that meeting, the Board also adopted the MPO Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (BPSAP) and discussed TIGER implementation, which is reported in a separate blog post.
At the Sept. 20th Lee MPO Board meeting, Board members, staff, and citizens had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Greg Stuart, Executive Director of the Broward MPO, about its innovative transportation plan.  The plan includes a shift from road capacity expansion to transit investments, transit funding innovations, better integration of land use and transportation planning, and implementation of its newly adopted Complete Streets program. 
Greg Stuart, Broward MPO

When the economic crisis hit Broward in 2008-9, the Broward MPO Board realized that the way they were doing business would have to change since the funding to implement their plan was simply not there.  The Broward MPO decided it couldn't  afford to build any more roads and instead embarked on a strategy to grow transit.  Greg Stuart described how they worked with their FDOT district to shift funds that had previously been used for roadways to transit funding.  They experimented with shifting funds, with an initial investment in transit.  The result of their efforts demonstrated that the investment increased ridership.  In turn, they then tripled their investment in transit (from $15.5 million to $58.2 million) and added $100.3 million investment for more sidewalks and bike lanes to connect to their transit system. 

One of the key concepts that Mr. Stuart talked about was how Broward measures success.  They employ both performance and return-on-investment (ROI) measures to evaluate the success of their investments.  This allows them a broader set of tools to address how people access the places they want to go.

Mr. Stuart also talked about Broward's complete streets initiative, that started with a large CDC grant focused on the health benefits of complete streets.  Broward is taking a corridor approach and currently has two complete streets/road diet demonstration projects underway.  These projects have spurred economic development, resulting in clear high returns on investment.  Mr. Stuart described how Broward started paying attention to traveler behaviors instead of LOS models that simply measure how many cars are anticipated on a road.  As a result, they reduced one of their roads from a 6 lane road to a 4 lane road based on the finding that people who lived there walked or wanted to walk more.  They found that people adjusted to their environment and automobile congestion didn't get worse.

Finally, Mr. Stuart also talked about how they had integrated land use and transportation planning through the MPO process even though the MPO didn't have jurisdiction over land use planning.  Greg emphasized the importance of jurisdictions working together as a "council of governments" to move forward together as partners.  

Lee MPO Chair, Kevin Ruane
There was an extensive discussion between the MPO Board members and Mr. Stuart on a wide range of topics.  Several members commented about how timely and valuable this exchange of ideas had been.  As Commissioner Mann said, we can't continue to do "business as usual", and agreed that we needed to focus on return on investment.  There was also discussion about the new rail system coming to the East Coast, called All Aboard, a privately funded project.  The rail project to the University and Miami airport is costing $500 million; however, it is spurring development at exponential rates. For example, Ft. Lauderdale has already approved $3 billion of development along the rail line.   

Fort Myers Councilman Flanders discussed research from Jeff Speck's Walkable Cities book which demonstrated that cities get the most economic development results/ROI on a multi-modal street.  Cape Coral Mayor Sullivan and Bonita Springs Councilman Simmons delved into the freight component of Broward's rail project.  Mr. Stuart indicated that the Broward rail/freight project was going to substantially reduce maintenance costs on roadways. 

Mr. Stuart also emphasized that there's lots of federal money out there but you have to look for the new sources.  Federal investments today are about leveraging the resources you have.  Broward has received two TIGER grants since the program began in 2009 and plans to go after another TIGER grant next year.  Sanibel Mayor Ruane noted he planned to follow-up with Mr. Stuart for ideas about how Lee County can best leverage our TIGER grant. This Broward discussion on transit and rail projects serves as helpful background for the November Lee MPO Board meeting, which will focus on the rail feasibility study, the land use study, and the transit task force.

BikeWalkLee comments
Dr. Margaret Banyan
Dr. Margaret Banyan pointed out that in looking at all these issues, policymakers need to first ask, "what's the ultimate goal?"  We're trying to achieve three things--economic development; livability; and fiscal responsibility.  We have to connect our policy choices to those goals.  For example, more efficient transportation means getting more people out of cars.  We need to figure out how to measure the impact of policy decisions.  We need ways to measure ROI of complete streets, of transit.  We know they have high returns for economic development and livability.  How do we get staff of all jurisdictions to look at the real impacts and costs of decisions.  How do we find ways to make consistent transportation decisions?  Businesses are looking for consistent policy choices.  If we want businesses to relocate here, they have to have certainty about things like transit investments.  We know from research that the firmest commitment to business is a rail line (or subway).

There was discussion by several Board members as well as BikeWalkLee of the need for Lee County to move towards a regional transit authority.  Councilman Flanders requested that the Board be updated about the regional transit authority issue at the November meeting, which the board agreed to.

Darla Letourneau highlighted the collaboration between the Broward and Lee County staffs over the past two years on complete streets, which has been beneficial to both communities.  She urged Lee County to consider using the Broward Model Complete Streets Manual as the tool for making planned changes in our policies and design standards, including the recommendations in the BPSAP adopted on Friday by the MPO Board.  She also highlighted the innovative public engagement approaches that Broward is using in their 2040 LRTP plan and urged the Lee MPO to consider some of these innovative approaches as a way to better engage our community in the transportation discussion.

Next in the series of Peer to Peer Exchanges
Upcoming exchanges will focus on a presentation of the  Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) FDOT-sponsored report, which reviewed the MPO 2035 LRTP's done by Florida communities five years ago and addresses the funding shortfalls ahead.  This presentation is tentatively scheduled for the joint Lee/Charlotte MPO meeting in December.  The Hillsborough County MPO will be invited in early 2014.

Links from Previous BWL blog Peer Exchange stories:

Report by Darla Letourneau

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lee MPO Board adopts Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and prepares to implement the TIGER grant

The Lee MPO Board adopted the Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan at its September 20th meeting.  This plan is a key step in Lee County's strategy for improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in our community, developed with involvement of a broad-based group of stakeholders. The TIGER grant award--the imperatives for successful implementation as well as lessons learned from the successful process--was also discussed.

Background on Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan

At Friday's Lee MPO Board meeting, the Board adopted the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Bicycle Safety Action Plan.  This plan was developed in conjunction with FDOT District 1 and a broad array of local stakeholders, including BikeWalkLee,  beginning in 2012 as a follow-up to the MPO's countywide bicycle pedestrian master plan. The purpose of the Safety Action Plan is to reduce bicycle and pedestrian injury and fatality crashes through a wide range of recommended activities--from education, engineering, to enforcement.  The report focuses on 18 specific recommendations (both short-term and long-term), with specific milestones and assignments for action. Click here to review the plan. 

Public Comments on Safety Action Plan

BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau talked about how the implementation of the BPSAP must be an integral part of the implementation of the TIGER grant because both have the goal of improving safety.  The TIGER grant will provide additional bike and ped facilities, providing connectivity and filling gaps, but without the elements of this action plan--enforcement, education, policy and design changes, and most of all--culture change--we won't be able to reduce bike and ped fatality and injury numbers.  She encouraged the Board to track results of both TIGER grant and the BPSAP together.  She also highlighted the importance of setting quantitative targets for reducing the bike/ped fatality and injury rates, as called for in the Plan, and the Board's role in holding everyone accountable for results.

Syndi Bultman spoke on behalf of the LMHS Trauma Center and as Chair of the Injury Prevention Coalition in support of the action plan.  She reminded the Board of the consequences of our high bike/ped fatalities and injuries in terms of patients they see in their trauma room.

Steve Chupack spoke on behalf of the Cape Coral Bike Ped group.  He highlighted what CCBP has done to create 90 miles of connected and signed bike routes.  This bike/ped safety action plan will improve safety, which will be important for the users of the new Cape bike routes.  He talked about the need to involve the entire community in safety, including bike safety rodeos at two Cape schools--a program that needs to be expanded to more schools.  Steve cited the Wayne Gretsky Rule:  Asked the secret of his success in scoring a record-breaking number of goals he replied:  "Simple, really: I don't skate to where the puck is: I skate to where it will be."  He urged MPO members to continue "to skate to where the Lee County bicycle pedestrian safety improvements puck will be.  That's what this Action Plan is all about."

Now that the plan has been adopted, the hard work begins--implementation of the plan.  This will require the commitment and continuous involvement of the broad group of stakeholders--including law enforcement, judicial officials, municipalities, FDOT, various local, regional, and statewide agencies, a broad array of advocates, and the media.  It will also require new ways to collaborate in a structured way with the various stakeholders.  It will be critical for the MPO Board to stay focused on the action items in the report and take the lead in driving the accountability to results.

TIGER complete streets initiative grant implementation

Chairman Ruane said the TIGER grant is an opportunity for Lee County to be a role model for other communities, to think outside the box, and to use this high profile investment to kick start economic growth in Lee County.  He said that there will be a great deal of scrutiny with this grant so it will be imperative that the MPO move quickly and efficiently to successfully implement this grant.  The deadlines are tight so there's no time for mistakes, delays, or missteps and no margin for error.  Successful implementation will require collaboration and teamwork on the part of all Lee County agencies, municipalities, and public/private and community partners.  He asked that TIGER implementation (and related safety action plan) be a standing item on all MPO Board agendas.

MPO Executive Director, Don Scott, highlighted what this grant is and is not.  The specific projects to be constructed are clearly spelled out in grant application, so this is not an opportunity to fund other needed sidewalks and biking facilities.  Don is working with FHWA, FDOT, and other TIGER award communities regarding the initial steps in preparing for implementation.

Darla Letourneau (BikeWalkLee) made a presentation to the Board focused on broader "lessons learned" for the county from our success in winning the TIGER grant.  She detailed all the steps along the way taken by various organizations and agencies over the past 5 years that formed the building blocks for success.  Her ingredients for success included some of the following: from the MPO Board's 2008 request for a countywide bike/ped master plan to the development, adoption, and commitment to implementation of the master plan; community-wide efforts--MPO, BoCC and Lee County administration,and Fort Myers-- to adopt and implement complete streets policies and programs, using new ways to collaborate and work in cross-organization and cross-jurisdiction teams; the role of BikeWalkLee in advocating for the building blocks of change and the TIGER project, and in communicating the County's progress to the public and to our national partners; the County's progress in creating additional facilities on the ground during this time; and the importance of bringing in Alta's national TIGER team to help us strengthen our application. 

Her message was that to be successful in the new world of grant competition requires local governments to adopt a vision and put in place the policy framework and practices to demonstrate commitment to a new direction...that's the foundation upon which any grant request is judged.  So, it's not just a simple request to staff to go write a good application and hope to get federal (or state or foundation) grants.  If the broader foundation isn't in place, and if local governments are not working in new cross sectoral, cross disciplinary, cross jurisdictional ways, demonstrating leadership through innovative public/private partnerships, and through broad networks, they are not likely to compete well.  These grants go to communities that have demonstrated that investment of grant resources in their community will leverage larger transformative changes.

On behalf of BikeWalkLee, Letourneau thanked the MPO Board and the hundreds of other people--from staff members throughout the county, multiple agencies, organizations, advisory committees, officials, community stakeholders and partners, and individuals-- who contributed over the past 5 years to the many building blocks that enabled our TIGER application to be successful.  A special thanks to MPO Executive Director, Don Scott, for his steadfast commitment and hard work throughout this process; and to Dan Moser (BWL) and Andy Getch (LeeDOT) for their decades of work in the trenches to improve bike and pedestrian facilities in Lee County, and for their on-the-ground expertise which was essential in the development of the countywide bicycle pedestrian master plan (and will be critical to the successful implementation of this grant project). 

For further background information:

Also see our April blog post prior to the public workshop.


Report by Darla Letourneau