Bicyclists cross US 41 on a recent Saturday morning.Staff | email@example.com Michael Donlan is glad he was wearing a helmet. As usual, he started one Sunday in November on a bike ride along with his wife, Francesca, and two other couples from their neighborhood. Things took a nosedive when they turned onto Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. That’s when a Nissan Sentra ran a red light, hit a car, hit Michael and then hit his friend Brian Dunham. Michael was unhurt, but Brian was thrown over the hood of the Nissan, smashing the windshield with the impact. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and was treated and released.
But the whole group was affected. “Our wives and one other couple had front row seats to the spectacle,” Donlan said. “We were doing it right. We all had helmets, head- and tail-lights and were wearing bright cycling clothes. We were following the rules of traffic. You just never know.” They certainly would agree with the movement that is on to investigate crashes more closely and cover the state with “complete streets” that are safe and convenient for everyone, including pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
Billy Hattaway, FDOT District 1 SecretaryContributedComplete Streets
The local complete streets movement has a champion in a rather unexpected place: the Florida Department of Transportation. “They’re road builders,” said cycling advocate Dan Moser, a co-founder of the BikeWalkLee coalition. “Their model has always been to build ‘emto‘em andthrough‘em.”
But FDOT District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway rides in a different gear. “He’s a planner as well as an engineer,” Moser said. “That’s what’s so refreshing about this.” Hattaway is also a cyclist who logs more than 3,500 miles a year.
Speed and Pedestrian FatalitiesSource: Florida Department of TransportationHe is rather a road warrior for the complete streets cause statewide, and making the rounds giving presentations throughout the 12,000-square-mile district, which includes Collier and Lee counties and ten others. They are ideas he has shared with 800 engineers and planners in District 1.
Hattaway’s plan is about much more than bicycles- it’s a re-envisioning of parts of Florida’s sprawl-led transportation infrastructure, with a goal of increasing quality of life and “sense of place” by creating streets that are safe for all.
“At the local level, land development patterns play a big role,” Hattaway said in an interview with theSpotlight.“Planners across the country understand that our 50 years of sprawl development have contributed significantly to our problem.”
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast
The statistics have begun to shout. A report by Transportation for America in 2011, titled “Dangerous By Design,” listed several Florida communities, including metropolitan Lee County, among the most hazardous in the nation for pedestrians.
“We have been part of the problem with our focus on just moving cars,” Hattaway recently told the Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization. He laid out a menu of antidotes, including reducing design speeds on local roads that have been built like superhighways. “Road diets” — engineer speak for removing car travel lanes to decrease speeding, where appropriate, were also discussed.
Another focus is the installation of multi-use pedestrian/bike paths, and the narrowing of car travel lanes to make room for safer bicycle lanes.
Aspects of the plan assume that a culture change is under way that allows for sharing the roadways, and indeed that is necessary, Hattaway said. It’s not a message that always has gone over well in what has generally been a car-centric society.
Florida can have more harmony on its highways and byways with several actions, Hattaway believes. Much can be done with little or no additional cost, he said. For example, while resurfacing a road is a major expense, those needs are already in the transportation budget and can be simply done differently.
Hattaway has been working on complete streets measures with a statewide initiative called “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow,” which he began to lead in spring 2012.
In fact, this is Hattaway’s second stint with FDOT. He’s been down this road before. From 1987 to 2002, he served as director of the office of design and a state roadway engineer, and advocated for complete streets then. He left FDOT to work in the private sector until 2012, when under a new administration he was hired back, and people seemed to be listening.
Public Official Of The Year
Hattaway is one of nine people selected “Public Officials of the Year” byGoverningmagazine and featured in its December issue. Hundreds of candidates are nominated by readers and hail from across the country and winners are chosen for their leadership and innovation.
Hattaway literally wrote the book on complete streets for Florida. He was author of the Traditional Neighborhood Development chapter of theFlorida Greenbook,a design manual for local governments. The neighborhood plan represents a shift away from the Conventional Suburban Development model mainly because, in DOT lingo, “the street geometry, adjacent land use, and other elements must support a higher level of transit, pedestrian, and bicycle activity than seen in a CSD.”
Those are magic words as well to Darla Letourneau, co-founder of BikeWalkLee, a local organization that advocates for change. She believes in the message as well as the man. “Billy is one of those rare public officials who has a vision, knows how to lead change in a large organization, inspires and motivates others, and ‘walks the talk,’” she said. “He’s a passionate champion of complete streets, a balanced multi-modal transportation system, and livable communities.”