Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Moser Column: Punta Gorda teaches lesssons Fort Myers can learn from

This week's Moser column highlights biking and walking improvements in Punta Gorda, lessons from last week's BWL "show and tell" ride in downtown Fort Myers, and an advocacy update.
Dan Moser
TEAM Punta Gorda conducted its annual Pedal and Play in Paradise rides earlier this month, an event that gives participants a taste of the cycling and pedestrian environment in and around the city. And as has been the case for about eight years, City Manager Howard Kunik led a ride afterward to give those in tow an update of progress made in the last year and a preview of things to come.

For a variety of safety-related reasons, I’m not a big fan of sidepath cycling. But for those who enjoy cycling on pathways, Punta Gorda offers a very nice environment, especially in its historic area. Since rebuilding began after Hurricane Charley devastated the area in 2004 there has been a focus on ensuring open spaces with greenbelts that include multi-use pathways (not just narrow sidewalks) as one of the key aspects of that initiative.

TEAM Punta Gorda (, a grassroots, public-private partnership that has taken the lead on the post-hurricane effort, put forth a plan for a linear pathway “ring around the city” that includes the city’s waterfront Harborwalk along the Peace River from Fishermen’s Village to Charlotte Regional Medical Center. To date, a significant amount of the waterfront pathway is in place as well as other segments of the ring to the west and south of city center. It’s not yet done but there appears to be plenty of public support and political will to lead one to expect that a complete ring around the city will come to be.

“Show & Tell” riders discuss options to improve access to the Fort Myers River District. 
“Show and Tell” riders discuss options to improve access to the Fort Myers River District.
  Besides the relatively central bike/ped improvements, there’s also a plan to eventually link Punta Gorda to Arcadia and Fort Myers with a linear trail along the railroad corridor and also to meet up with the southern end of Sarasota’s pathway system. These connections are key elements, because all too often those who would otherwise choose to use their bicycle to get to and from a town center can’t do so because access is difficult, perceived as unsafe, or at least deemed an unattractive option for all but the hardiest of souls (or those with little choice).

Fort Myers River District access
In many ways, Punta Gorda is a lot like Fort Myers, with a very walkable and historic waterfront district. Except for within Centennial Park, Fort Myers has standard sidewalks and not multi-use pathways designed for bicycle users as much as pedestrians, as is the case in Punta Gorda, both along its waterfront and beyond. Both cities have issues with safe and comfortable access from outside the downtown area, something that was made apparent to representatives of the city of Fort Myers on a recent “Show and Tell Ride.”

On the Fort Myers ride, a group of around 20 left the city hall parking lot just after the evening rush hour, heading first to the south along the Broadway/Jackson corridor. It then moved toward the Dunbar neighborhood, followed by routes leading to Palm Beach Boulevard neighborhoods as well as access to the Edison Bridge leading to North Fort Myers. Finally, the group experienced West First Street, which is the primary access that leads to local streets serving as alternatives to McGregor Boulevard, which I’ve featured in the past as one of our area’s not so bike-friendly roadways. A number of excellent suggestions were gleaned from the group, many of which could be quickly implemented at reasonable costs. These recommendations that will improve safety and access by bicycle to the city center will be put forth formally to city leaders. BikeWalkLee member Ann Pierce and Mayor Randy Henderson are to be commended for making this very informative and potentially productive outing happen.

Advocacy matters
The recent tragic death of popular local weatherman Jim Reif as a result of a bicycle crash will hopefully lead to some good by raising awareness of the value of helmet use as well as some of the risks related to sidepath use as compared to roadway riding. Already I’ve heard stories of those who have now decided to wear a helmet whenever they ride and who have begun encouraging their family and friends to do as well. And those on our “Show and Tell Ride” had a chance to take a critical look at the obstacles and hazards one must deal with when using the sidewalks that are clearly intended for pedestrian traffic. You’ll find more about this and other matters at BikeWalkLee’s blog (

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.

— Dan Moser is CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and program director for Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at or 334- 6417.

Upcoming events
Ears & Eggs 5K, Saturday, April 19, Gateway

 Run for Kayla 5K, Saturday, May 5, Patriot
ES, Cape Coral (

Cycling and other events:
Fight For Air Stair Climb, Satuday, April 26, High Point Place, downtown Fort Myers (

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