Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Moser Commentary: Weighing bike and pedestrian achievements and oversights

Dan Moser's in-depth commentary in last week's Florida Weekly about the positive and negative bike/ped/transit/complete streets developments throughout Lee County.

Dan Moser
Admittedly, I don't always see the forest through the trees when it comes to my perspective on the bike/pedestrian environment here in Southwest Florida, or even throughout our state. Having been involved as an advocate and professionally for more than three decades, my expectations are perhaps too high because I’m keenly aware of many other places where conditions are much better than here, including some that had been as deficient as ours at one time. Here, I'll share some examples of why I'm frequently disappointed, perplexed, disturbed and sometimes angry about the situation for those who simply want to bike, walk, run, use a wheelchair, skate or push a stroller safely on our public ways. I’ll also include the truly positive achievements that have occurred, examples that reflect the fact that things really are better now than even a few years ago.
• The good: Lee County's Metropolitan Planning Organization, followed by formal action from Lee County and the city of Fort Myers, has adopted “Complete Streets” policies. The bad: Except for Lee County, implementation has been mostly absent, with Lee County's commitment clearly wavering now that our cookiecutter development economy is returning, which apparently means LeeDOT’s transportation mindset has also reverted to business as usual. Perhaps the city of Fort

North Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach is a model “Complete Street.” North Estero Boulevard on Fort MyersBeach is a model “Complete StreetMyers will surprise me by actually implementing the formal policy it approved.
• The good: Lee County drafted and worked for a number of years to update its Comprehensive Plan. The draft includes guidelines to reduce sprawl, improve quality of life and move us in the direction the public clearly asked for in the lead-up to the development of this version of the plan. The bad: The Comp Plan is being watered down as it moves through the various stages of formal approval and is looking a lot like the old one (see above paragraph for the reason).
• The good: Lee County has been recognized nationally as a leader among governments for its draft Sustainability Plan, another guiding document that has far reaching economic, environmental, and livability benefits. The bad: County leadership has pulled the plug on the plan without formally approving it. The reason? See above.
• The good: The city of Fort Myers has created a vibrant downtown that attracts locals and visitors alike to spend time and money in this very walkable environment. The bad: Many areas of the city lack even basic pedestrian features, with cycling accommodation on city roads being even less prevalent, including, ironically, routes that would get folks downtown.
• The good: In a second attempt in a decade, a Transit Task Force worked for more than two years to develop a plan to move LeeTran from being a struggling, underfunded, under-appreciated department of Lee County government to becoming its own transit authority, a step that would allow it to grow and become a self-sustaining entity that will actually provide appropriate transit service. The bad: Another victim of plug-pulling by county leadership, although the reasons in this case appears to be a lack of commitment to transit as much as “back to business as usual.”
• The good: Citizens and business operators came together to develop a plan for the Tice Historic Community that includes improvements to Ortiz Avenue with a design that keeps at least a segment of the road from becoming a neighborhood-killing highway. The fewer-lane, slower-speed design will still move motor vehicles efficiently but be safer and includes bike/ped accommodation, abundant green space and an environment for small business to thrive. The bad news is that LeeDOT appears bent on turning it into yet another high-speed, multi-lane highway that residents don’t want and that’s not needed.
Where's the story?PointsMentioned Map9 Points Mentioned
I’ll close with achievements that have indeed made positive and lasting impacts without offsetting bad news: Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach will finally be getting long-awaited improvements that include pedestrian accommodations along all of it and bike lanes on much of it. Bonita Springsand Estero appear to be on track to become two of the most bike/ped-friendly communities in Lee County. Sanibel is a Bronze-level Bike Friendly Community that continues to expand and improve its network of paths. The $10 million TIGER grant Lee MPO was awarded will soon result in significant bike/ped and transit improvements. Cape Coral is about to complete marking more than 90 miles of bike routes and continues to work on closing gaps and providing bike/ped alternatives to major roads and intersections. And, finally, there are many good people working in various roles in government and for consultants who are making a difference, even when sometimes fighting uphill battles within their respective organizations. To those who still do and others who did but have moved on, your efforts are appreciated by many. Thank you.
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him atbikepedmoser@gmail.com or 334- 6417.

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