Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Moser Column: Unnecessary, man-made risks remain a problem for cyclists

Dan's column this week shines a spotlight on the dangerous railroad tracks that recently caused a serious crash with multiple cyclists.  He also gives kudos to Cape Coral police for their new bike patrol focused on traffic education/enforcement and community relations.

Dan Moser's Outdoors Column: Florida Weekly, Dec. 10, 2014

Dan Moser
Being physically active is something many Southwest Floridians strive for and try to make a routine part of our lifestyle. Of course, anything we do in an attempt to stay healthy — or, for that matter, simply go about our daily business — has some degree of risk, whether it be muscle and body part overuse, dehydration, or exposure to things that can do harm, among others. Both of the former risks are usually easily managed. But the latter is a bit trickier because the hazard we’re exposed to may be out of our control.
For instance, running on a treadmill may involve the aforementioned risk of overuse as well as bad form that creates ongoing problems. Trail running adds to it the potential to trip and fall and has other risks inherent to traversing uneven and varying surfaces. But road and sidepath running and walking brings not only the trip hazard but risks involved with traffic interaction, including motor vehicles, bicycles and other pedestrians. For those who remain acutely aware of their surroundings this isn't usually a major problem. However, when normal risk is compounded by the lack of a safe place to run or walk, or by hazards created by construction or poor design and left in that condition, or illegally ms parked vehicles with no enforcement occurring, it’s a problem. The same risk analogy is true for cycling on a stationary bike versus on trails, roads and pathways.
Road work, which frequently involves disruption of bike/ped accommodations, can only be described as a chronic problem when it comes to non-motorists being put at unnecessary and enhanced risk. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act requires safe access for pedestrians during roadway construction projects of any magnitude, it's rare that such access is provided or proper maintenance of bike/ped traffic that directs users to a safe alternative is actually put in place. 
How our government allows contractors to get away with this illegal oversight — and pay them to provide non-existing access or proper MOT, no less — is beyond understanding. Perhaps one day someone will make a legal issue of not only failing to provide required access, but for taking tax dollars without delivering the services in the contract. Those who approve and pay the contractors are just as guilty as those taking it.
Another man-made hazard that takes its toll on bicyclists and sometimes motorcyclists is skewed railroad tracks. Lee County has a number of these, including a set on Alico Road that recently caused a serious crash among cyclists traversing them. Any at-grade track that deviates from a 90-degree angle is a problem, but those on Alico have a very serious deviation and were pointed out as a potential hazard well before the widening and bike lanes were completed. One-way Evans Avenue, near downtown Fort Myers, is another highway that has skewed tracks with a bike lane and, like Alico, no risk-reducing mitigation has been put in place.
To reduce risk at these locations, adequate warning, additional space for cyclists to maneuver to 90 degrees, and track flangeway-fillers are inexpensive and effective treatments that could and should be put in place, especially on multi-lane highways where bike lanes are present. As I mentioned, the unnecessary risk was specifically pointed out in public meetings and on the record well before work was done. Any professional traffic engineer should know better than to allow this situation to have been built and to remain in place.
Advocacy update
An example of something good coming from tragedy: The Cape Coral Police Department has instituted a bike patrol. After a young cyclist was killed in the early morning hours while riding to school, the city of Cape Coral got serious about eliminating such tragedies. One of its approaches is to train officers for a bike patrol. But rather than the usual “crime-prevention” patrol, where officers have little interest in being cycling role models or dealing with traffic matters, CCPD’s bike patrol will be taking a different approach. Traffic education/enforcement and community relations will be the focus, with mounted officers practicing what they preach, in terms of proper bicycle operation. But they need some help fundingwise, so if you’re interested, contact Justin Klein at justin_ or 673-8628. You can also visit BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee. to learn more about this and other bike/ped matters.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
— 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 at and 334- 6417.

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