Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Moser Column:Better biking and pedestrian opportunities are within Fort Myers’ easy reach

Today's Dan Moser column focuses on two opportunities in Fort Myers to improve biking and walking--the Golf Course renovation project and a possible downtown LMHS hospital-area pathway.  
Dan Moser

“Let’s head downtown” is a phrase that’s uttered by many folks on a regular basis. Young and old, families and singles, regulars to the River District and newbies alike. One way many would like to get there is by bicycle, just for the fun of it for some, but as a real alternative to driving and parking for others. It’s an option that has many benefits with very little downside, except for the reality of making the trip.

The River District has a very good pedestrian environment (some drivers’ behavior notwithstanding), as do certain other parts of the city. But one thing Fort Myers does not have is adequate and safe access to downtown for those on bicycles. Five-foot-wide sidewalks are not meant for bicycles but end up being the primary facility used because most major roads in all directions have little or no bike accommodations and thus are unacceptable for most who would otherwise use them. A local street grid exists in many neighborhoods that are adjacent to downtown, so closing a few gaps on those major roads could make a big difference in keeping bikes off the narrow sidewalks, which are often busy with pedestrian traffic.
On a Show and Tell ride a few weeks ago we used the local road network to travel between the Green Market at Colonial and McGregor Boulevards to downtown. Besides one waterway crossing that required us to use McGregor for a very short distance, the golf course was the only other obstacle that forces many onto the 5-foot sidewalk. As part of our Show & Tell experience we rode other segments of the McGregor sidewalk, prompting one participant who came from across the river to comment that riding that route made her appreciate what Cape Coral has to offer for its cyclists. Fort Myers has two opportunities knocking on the door right now to change that opinion.

As part of the major overhaul of our historic Fort Myers Country Club golf course, the 5-foot sidewalks that serve as the only way to get around it can be moved off the roadways and widened to a multi-use pathway design and width. The sidewalk along McGregor is immediately adjacent to the road at a tricky curve, a design that makes one cringe when heading south on the sidewalk (on foot or bike) as a northbound vehicle approaches, appearing to be coming right at you until it passes. The good news is that it appears the sidewalk will indeed be moved off the road. The bad news is it will likely remain a sidewalk, not a multi-use path.

On the other side, the golf course’s Cleveland Avenue sidewalk segment is as bad it gets along that highway. A Road Safety Audit was recently conducted from the Edison Mall to the Caloosahatchee River Bridge and the golf course segment appears to be one of the only opportunities there is to get the sidepath moved. Like the McGregor side, widening it and setting it back away from the highway’s edge — similar to the park-like pathway in front of Lee Memorial Hospital — would greatly enhance the walking experience and close a gap for cyclists between local neighborhood streets. Also among the RSA recommendations will be to designate and mark bike routes using the calmed, low-volume neighborhood streets as an alternative to U.S. 41 along the entire study area.

Another opportunity that’s knocking is related to the hospital’s park-like path. A small park and linear path already exists on the neighborhood side that’s adjacent to Manuels Creek, a waterway that runs from the river to east of Cleveland Avenue / U.S. 41. Although it becomes a drainage canal as it reaches U.S. 41, its proximity to Lee Memorial Hospital means the pathway could be extended and become part of a trail network on and around the hospital campus, similar to one being developed at Cape Coral Hospital. And because the city owns the property that runs along the creek and canal, a multi-use pathway could be added that would get cyclists all the way to Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard, making it a major east-west route for non-motorists. A conceptual plan for the hospital-area phase of the pathway that ties into McGregor Boulevard and the Edison & Ford Winter Estates has already been developed; the rest of the trail would complement the city’s bike/ped master plan since it doesn’t appear that nearby Hanson Street, which was to be the primary east-west bike/ped route, will ever get the necessary treatment to become that route.

To see if these opportunities become reality, be sure to visit for updates on this and many other bike/ped matters.

Upcoming events
Saturday Aug. 9, Cape 5K, Jaycee
Park,Cape Coral (
 Thursday, Aug. 14, FMTC 2-Mile Fun
Run, Fort Myers Brewing Co (12811
Commerce Lakes Dr.)
 Saturday, Aug. 16, Fast Cat Cross
Country 5K, Estero HS
 Thursday, Aug. 28, FMTC 2-Mile Fun
Run, Run Florida (13101 McGregor Blvd.)

Cycling and other events:
 Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13-14
Galloway Captiva Triathlon, South Seas
Resort, Captiva (

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