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

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