Saturday, February 28, 2015

Court: Fla. must prove hit-and-run drivers knew about crash

Last year the Florida Legislature passed the Aaron Cohen hit-and-run law (named after a Miami cyclist who was killed by a hit-and-run driver), strengthening the penalties.  This year FHP has been pursuing enforcement of these cases, and just two weeks ago launched an awareness campaign, which we applauded in our blog.  Now the Florida Supreme Court has issued a ruling that represents a setback for enforcement of hit-and-run cases, requiring proof that the driver knew they had hit someone. As the parent of the victim stated, "This allows everyone to flee the scene and use that as an excuse and say, 'Wow, I didn't know I was in a crash.'" Below is the article about the court decision.

Court: Fla. must prove hit-and-run drivers knew about crash


Feb. 27, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Drivers in Florida can't be prosecuted for leaving the scene of an accident unless there is proof they knew they were in a crash.

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously agreed with a lower court's decision to throw out the conviction of a South Florida man charged after he hit a skateboarder while driving in the rain.

Zachariah Dorsett was driving his truck down Florida's famed A1A highway in Boca Raton when he struck a then-15-year-old skateboarder who had fallen into the crosswalk.

Dorsett maintained that he did not know he had hit Nicholas Savinon when he was pulled over by police about 3 miles from the accident.

There was no evidence of damage to the truck, braking or any skid marks in the 2007 accident. Dorsett, who was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said he had his radio, windshield wipers and air conditioning on at the time.

Savinon was dragged nearly 90 feet under his truck. One witness testified seeing the truck back tire go up and down over Savinon, while another saw the skateboard get spit out from underneath the truck and split in two.

A jury convicted Dorsett of leaving the scene of a crash that caused an injury. He was sentenced to two years in prison. An appeals court in 2013, however, overturned the decision and ordered a new trial because jurors were never asked to decide whether they thought Dorsett knew he had been involved in an accident.

The state Supreme Court in its ruling sided with the appeals court. In the decision, Justice Charles Canady wrote that felony convictions require proof that someone "willfully" broke the law and knew what they were doing.

"The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver had actual knowledge of the crash, an essential element of the crime of leaving the scene of a crash," Canady wrote.

Michael Savinon, the father of Nicholas Savinon, said the decision means that other hit-and-run drivers in the state may be able to get away with the crime in the future.

"This allows everyone to flee the scene and use that as an excuse and say, 'Wow, I didn't know I was in a crash,'" Savinon said.

Nicholas Savinon, who is now 22, had a traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident and spent weeks in a coma. His mother, Lydia Savinon, said he still lives at home with his parents and just recently began working at a Publix grocery store.

She said she remains convinced that Dorsett did know that he hit her son.

"In my opinion, there's no way he couldn't have known," Savinon said.

The ruling by the court means that the case could wind its way back to prosecutors in Palm Beach County. An assistant state attorney said Thursday that until the case is officially remanded back to them they cannot decide whether they will push for a new trial.

Questions about the case were emailed to Dorsett's attorney, but she said she could not comment until she had spoken first to her client.

Lydia and Michael Savinon said they are more concerned now about taking care of their son instead of focusing on whether Dorsett is charged again.

"We're surviving," said Michael Savinon. "Our whole focus as parents is just to help him be part of our family."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Feb. 23rd: Upcoming running/walking/biking/tri events

Upcoming events

·         Sunday, March 1: Hooters Half Marathon. 7 a.m. start, course starts/ends at Hooters (Edison Mall), winds through McGregor neighborhoods to downtown then south on U.S. 41. (
·         Sunday, March 8: Second annual 5K Run/Walk and Health Fair, to raise funds for Golisano Childrens Hospital’s ”Mission Nutrition” program. Race starts at 9 a.m., health fair runs 9 a.m.-1 p.m.(
·         Saturday, March 14: 5th annual Scope for Hope 5K run, 2-mile walk and kid's fun run. Century Link Sports Complex at Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers. Registration opens 7 a.m. (
·         Saturday, March 21: Lehigh Spring Festival Race in the Park 5K. Veteran’s Park, 55 Homestead Road South, Lehigh Acres. (
·         Saturday, March 28: Lipman’s Run for Backpacks, 5K and Junior Fun Run. Kickoff for the Celebrate Immokalee festivities, starts at 165 Airpark Blvd., Immokalee. Registration opens 6:30 a.m., 5K starts at 8 a.m. (
·         Saturday, April 18: Verot Viking 5K paint run/walk. Bishop Verot Catholic High School. Registration 6:30 a.m., run 7:30 a.m. (

Cycling and other events:

·         Saturday, Feb. 28: Fourth annual Cycling for Fallen Heroes. 10-. 28-, 42- and 62-mile rides, staggered starts at 7:30 a.m. from the Estero Trek store. Benefits the Brotherhood Ride, to honor first-responders killed in the line of duty. (
·         Saturday, March 21: 7th annual Miracle Limbs ride, to benefit Miracle Limbs- Courage in Motion. 10-, 28-, 42- and 62-mile rides starting from north Collier Regional Park, Naples. Includes breakfast and lunch, registration opens at 6:30 a.m. and first ride starts at 7:30 a.m. (
·         Sunday, March 22: 17th annual Royal Palm Classic. Starts/ends at Fort Myers Brewing Company, 12811 Commerce Lakes Dr, Suite 27-28, Fort Myers. Ride starts at 8 a.m., 62-, 30- and 15-mile distances. ( or
·         Saturday, March 28: Pedal and Play, Punta Gorda. 62-, 30-, 15- and 10-mile rides, plus a City Manager’s History Tour. Includes breakfast and lunch, rest stops for the longer rides. Register and info online at or
·         Sunday, April 19: Immokalee Ride for Literacy, details soon. (

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lee MPO sends letter to Lee Legislative Delegation in support of Rep. Passidomo's bike/ped safety bill (HB 231)

At today's Lee MPO Board meeting the members approved sending a letter in support of HB 231 to the Lee Legislative delegation, asking them to enact the bill this legislative session.  BikeWalkLee spoke in support of the proposal and applauds the Board for taking action.

P.O. Box 150045, Cape Coral, Florida 33915-0045 (239) 244-2220
February 20, 2015

RE: MPO Board letter to the Lee County Legislative Delegation

As the Florida Legislature begins this legislative session, the Lee County MPO Board is writing to urge your support of HB 231, a bill introduced by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo. The proposed legislation strengthens and clarifies current laws and toughens penalties, to make our roads safer for all road users, especially vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.  We are pleased that a member of the Lee delegation, Rep. Passidomo, is sponsoring this important bill.

For most of the past decade, Florida has consistently been the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians and cyclists. Lee County's pedestrian fatality rate is almost twice the national average, while the cyclist fatality rate is a startling four times higher than the national average. Due to these alarming statistics, Lee County has been one of the 10 communities included in FDOT's comprehensive bike/ped safety initiative launched in 2011.

The Lee MPO has placed a high priority on improving bicycle/pedestrian safety in Lee County.  In 2013, the MPO Board adopted a Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan which is aimed at greatly reducing bicycle/pedestrian injuries and fatalities through a wide range of recommended activities--from education, engineering to enforcement.  

As part of our commitment to improve bike/ped safety, we support the need for stronger laws and enforcement tools to make Florida roadways safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  We believe HB 231 helps clarify rules and responsibilities for cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and people in wheelchairs.  There are several conflicts in the current law that need to be cleared up so that the laws are more enforceable.  We believe that the increased penalties for violation of the laws that protect cyclists and pedestrians are also warranted.  The provisions in the bill focused on education, such as creating a requirement for the state to include safety information regarding cyclists in driving handbooks and on driver's exams, is also part of the comprehensive approach needed to make Florida a safer place for walking and biking.

We urge you to support HB 231 this session to help make Florida roadways safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Councilman Tom Leonardo, Chairman
Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization

Members of the Lee County Delegation:
Rep. Ray Rodriguez
Rep. Dana Eagle
Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen
Rep. Matt Caldwell
Rep. Kathleen Passidomo
Senator Garrett Richter
Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto

cc:  Governor Rick Scott
      FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold
      FDOT District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway

Thursday, February 19, 2015

BWL Column: Checklist gets you ready for next bike ride

 This week's BWL column gives you tips on what you need to do to get ready for your next some research results that will encourage you to take a lunchtime walk.

News-Press "Go Coastal" Section--BikeWalkLee's 2/19/15 column

1. Tires, inflation: Check that they’re properly inflated… too low increases your risk of a flat, too high makes the ride rougher.
2. Tires, condition: Got enough tread to get a grip on the road?
3. Wheels: Check your quick-release skewer to make sure it’s tight…and if you don’t have one, then check your wheel nuts for the same thing.
4. Chain, lubrication: When was the last time you lubed it? Can’t remember? Then do it now.
5. Chain, condition: Is it tight enough, and not sagging (which can lead to slippage and worse)?
6. Brakes: Enough left on the pads to enable you to stop smoothly? Are they properly adjusted? Too loose and you’ll struggle to slow down, too tight and you might buck yourself over the handlebars.
7. Seat post: Tight and at the proper height?
8. Handlebars: Secure and properly adjusted?
9. Helmet, location: Hopefully, on your head. If so, is it tight and straight? If not, do you have any next-of-kin to notify?
10. Helmet, condition: Looks for cracks and frayed straps.
11. Visibility, day: Wear something that will stand out from the landscape and is also appropriate for the weather.
12. Visibility, night: Might be out after dark? Pack those lights (front and rear) and your reflective gear.

BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County—streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at

Turtle wins the race
Good news for slower runners and mid-day walkers: Two recent studies suggest your habits might help you live longer and think better.

First, according to Danish research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, slow and steady wins the race for a longer life. While joggers in general live longer than those who don’t exercise, this study said that joggers who go slow (no specific pace was cited) and less (between 1-2.4 hours a week) lived longer than those who ran faster and more often. In fact, the study suggested the non-exercisers and faster/more frequent runner might enjoy the same mortality… but without enough explanation (or sample size) to make a convincing case.

A better case was made for the benefits of a lunch-hour walk, in a different study published in a Scandinavian medical journal (apparently that part of the globe is the go-to place for walk/run/bike studies). There, researchers compared the mood of noontime walkers.. no prescribed distance or intensity, just 30 minutes minimum.

Those who strolled said they felt “more enthusiastic, less tense and generally more relaxed and better able to cope” after their walks. Productivity was assumed to rise as well, although that was more difficult to measure. All the walkers also showed gains in fitness after their participation in the study.
So tell your boss you can’t work through lunch — you need to take a walk to be better at your job that afternoon. Maybe even try a little jogging… live longer and work better, what’s not to like?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lee County's Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) requests commissioners for additional bike/ped retrofit funds

Kudos to BPAC for its recent letter to BoCC requesting additional funds for bike/ped retrofit projects.

Background on BPAC
BPAC is a 11-member committee, established in 1989, and  appointed by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to evaluate and recommend bicycle and pedestrian facilities to be built in Lee County.  It evaluates citizen requests for retrofit bike/ped facilities, reviews projects for complete streets, and considers member and staff requests for projects needed to fill gaps in the county's system.  Based on these reviews, it recommends a prioritized list to the BoCC for consideration in the annual CIP budget.  (Click here for background on the committee, its charter and its members.)

BPAC Action
Over the past decade the need for retrofit projects has grown as the funds available to meet these needs has declined in real terms, resulting in a growing backlog and citizen concerns about requested projects not being funded.  This Fall, BPAC began discussing the need for additional funds. At the Nov. 19th BPAC meeting the committee discussed its proposal to send a letter to BoCC to request additional funds for bike/ped retrofit projects.  The committee agreed to make this topic the main agenda item for the Dec. 17th meeting and invited committee members and members from the public present at the meeting to submit ideas and data analysis for their consideration for that Dec. 17th discussion. Click here for BikeWalkLee's report analyzing the history and trends in LeeDOT funding of bike/ped stand-alone projects that was submitted to BPAC in December.  

 At BPAC's Jan. 18th meeting, the committee unanimously agreed to send a letter to the BoCC asking for an annual funding level of $2 million for bike/ped retrofit projects.  In the current 5-year CIP, $3.86 M is budgeted for these projects, or $772,000/year. Thus, the requested funding level is about 2.5 times more than the current funding level.

 Note that the BPAC request only deals with stand alone retrofit projects, which is the focus of BPAC's responsibilities.  Since the adoption of the 2009 Complete Streets Resolution, it has been standard practice for the County to include bike/ped facilities in road projects being constructed.  Funds for those projects are included in the overall road project costs. 

Honorable Commissioners:

As you are aware, 2014 has been a deadly year for cyclists and pedestrians in Lee County with 19 deaths within incorporated and unincorporated areas in Lee County, making us one of the highest counties in Florida for fatalities.

One of the BPAC responsibilities is to prioritize and recommend retrofit projects to the BoCC.  Currently, we have 85 projects at an estimated cost of about 65 million dollars on our waiting list.  Most of these projects were initiated by citizen's requests or by BPAC members to fill gaps in our system.  We typically receive about six new requests per year.  Currently, we have good projects that have been on our list for over 20 years that have not been scheduled for construction.

With the rate of new requests and our current backlog, it would take well over 50 years to complete the project list.  It is disconcerting to citizens who take the time to speak at committee meetings, to find out that by the time the sidewalk they are requesting for their children to walk to school is completed, their children will have already graduated from high school.  Bicycle and pedestrian retrofit facilities are funded through gas tax, impact fees and grants.

With recent changes in the LDC and adoption of Complete Streets by the BoCC in 2009, new development and roads are designed and built to include the appropriate bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  We have many years of legacy development which were originally built to the standard of the day, but do not meet current construction standards.

Our goal is to be the best bicycle-pedestrian-friendly county in Florida.  We respectfully request the BoCC to increase the budget for bicycle and pedestrian retrofits to $2,000,000 per year.  Please consider increasing existing sources and/or research alternative funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities retrofits.

Don Mayne, Chair
Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Moser column:No surprise: we’ve got a long way to go to become a cycling-friendly community

Dan's column this week reports on the recent Bicycle Friendly Communities national expert visit to communities in Lee County and the work that lies ahead to make our county more bicycle-friendly.

Florida Weekly, Outdoors section, 2/18/15

Having an outsider who’s also an expert visit a community to provide insight can be enlightening or surprising to some and validating to others. That’s exactly what we hoped would be the case when Steve Clark from the League of American Bicyclists came here to help our various cities, towns and counties become Bike Friendly Communities, one of LAB’s Bike Friendly America designations. Steve was also anxious to provide tips and feedback for those interested in becoming a Bike Friendly Business or University, although, unfortunately, I don’t believe anyone took him up on that offer.

While here, Steve stayed on Sanibel and cycled to most of his destinations, including to Cape Coral, a ride in which he came very close to being taken out by an apparently clueless motorist while making a left turn. Based on his comments about this near hit, he rarely encounters as many motorist-cyclist conflicts as he did here. That’s coming from someone who visited 75 communities last year. After Steve had been here for enough time to get the feel for our infrastructure and traffic dynamics, he was put on the spot by a reporter to give our area a grade, something he said he didn’t really want to do.

But the reporter pressed on, asking him to rate our area on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best. Even considering Sanibel is a Silver-level Bike Friendly Community, we rated “3” in Steve’s opinion.
Such a low number coming from someone who is well qualified to make such a judgment was no surprise to those who ride, run and walk our roads and sidepaths. (Personally, I’m inclined to give us a 2.5 rating.) But it should be a wake-up call to our decision makers. If we expect to continue to lure visitors and new residents to our area we must improve that number. If we want to reduce our transportation spending by encouraging the use of bikes for transportation as much as for recreation and exercise we must improve that number. And if we want to keep vulnerable road users from being injured and killed at totally unacceptable levels that are well above state and national levels we must improve that number.

The good news coming from Steve’s visit is that most local governments engaged him and appear to be interested in improving their cycling environments. Cape Coral and Bonita Springs were especially interested and their citizens and visitors will likely benefit greatly should they truly become Bike Friendly communities. Unfortunately, our main and overarching government entity, Lee County apparently had no interest in even meeting with Steve, other than making an appearance when Steve met with Fort Myers officials after a ride with about 15 staff members and citizens. The county’s disinterest is sad because a number of years ago Lee County applied for Bike Friendly Community designation but didn’t even make “honorable mention,” so it’s quite clear that the “3” ranking is valid and Lee County must be part of improving that number. Let’s hope our commissioners make up for this missed opportunity and direct their manager and senior staff to get back to implementing the Complete Streets policy they approved but that now appears to be on ice, as is the case with so many promising undertakings they’ve abandoned or gutted. Those include an excellent Sustainability Plan, significantly beefing-up LeeTran, and its own main planning document, New Horizon 2035.

Hooters Half-Marathon
It’s almost time for one of the best half-marathons and post-race parties in Florida to take place right in our front yard. More than 1,100 runners participated in Hooters Half-Marathon ( last year with quite a few more volunteers joining in to enjoy the post-race festivities. Whether running or volunteering, this is an annual event that’s well worth the effort and early morning wake-up call. Add to that the fact that the proceeds go to very worthy causes, Hooters Half-Marathon is much more than just another race — it’s an experience that helps define our community.

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

Upcoming Events

¦ Saturday, Feb. 21, Edison Fest 5K, downtown Fort Myers (
¦ Sunday, March 1, Hooters Half-Marathon, Hooters, Fort Myers (
¦ Sunday, March 8, Mission Nutrition 5K & Health Fair, Fort Myers (
¦ Saturday, March 14, Scope for Hope 5K, Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers (
Saturday, March 21, Lehigh SpringFest 5K, Lehigh (

Cycling and other events:
¦ Saturday, Feb. 28, Cycling for Fallen Heroes, Estero (
¦ Sunday, March 22, Royal Palm Classic, Gateway (
¦ Saturday, March 28, Miracle Limbs Ride, Naples (

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 or 334- 6417.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Action Alert: Public hearing and final vote on March 3rd re: BoCC proposal to extend impact fee reductions

On Tuesday, March 3rd the Lee County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on their proposal to extend the impact fee reductions (with proposal to only collect 45% of the full cost) for THREE more years.  At the end of the meeting they will vote on the proposal. Much is at stake for advocates of complete streets and county taxpayers in this decision, so plan to share your views with commissioners at the March 3rd meeting or before. Click here for BikeWalkLee's Jan. 29th letter to Commissioners urging them to vote to return impact fees to the full 100% rate, as modified by the Duncan Report updates.

For additional statements about what's at stake in this decision read:

 What do I need to do?
1. Write a Letter to the Editor of the News Press expressing your support for ending impact fee reductions.

  2,  Before Tuesday, March 3rd call, email and/or write the Commissioners to urge them to end impact fee reductions.  Under the current ordinance the reductions automatically expire March 13th.

3. Speak at the March 3rd County Commission public hearing before final vote on the impact fee rates. (9:30 a.m. in County Commission Chambers)

Opportunities for Communicating with Individual Commissioners: (Write a letter, an email or call County Commissioners)

o John Manning:, 533-2224
o Cecil Pendergrass:, 533-2227
o Larry Kiker:, 533-2223
o Brian Hamman:, 533-2226
o Frank Mann:, 533-2225 [NOTE: only commissioner who voted against the impact fee reductions.]

Letters to the editor:
· submit online:
· submit by email:
· or any local/community paper that publishes letters to the editor

Background Links:

Dear Commissioners:            

BikeWalkLee, a coalition working to complete Lee County's streets, works for a more balanced transportation system.   At the Feb. 3rd Board meeting you will be considering whether to reestablish the 100% impact fee program, as modified by the recommendations of the Duncan Report. BikeWalkLee  urges you to take no action to extend reduced impact fees, so that the previous impact rates automatically are reinstated effective March 13, 2015, as called for in your March 2013 ordinance.  We further urge you to adopt the recommendations in the just released Duncan Associates Road Impact Fee Study and School Impact Fee Study, updating the 100% rates reflecting current costs.

We commend the Board for its wisdom in ordering verification of actual current costs via the Duncan Report updates.  And, now armed with this information, there are no policy reasons to not follow the report’s recommendations and fully fund the necessary infrastructure.

BikeWalkLee has steadfastly opposed the suspension or reduction in impact fees over the past four years, opposed the Board's 80% reduction in impact fees in March 2013, urged the Board to end the reduction in Feb. 2014, and now urges the Board to reestablish the 100% impact fee program, as modified by the required updated fee schedules recommended in the "Duncan Reports". 
As Commissioner Mann has often stated, "there is no free lunch."  The decision before you is about equity-- who pays for the infrastructure and services.  The County's policy framework is that it is shared responsibility--developers (impact fees), taxpayers (property taxes), sales taxes (residents and visitors), and bed taxes (visitors). New developments create infrastructure and service costs for governments.  The question is who should pay these costs: Those who created the costs and will benefit from the services; or the existing taxpayers through increased property taxes?  Fairness dictates that the costs be borne by those benefiting.  And, good economic sense dictates that  development-driven expansion of our public infrastructure --roads, schools, parks—be fully funded.   

Otherwise, we will usher in long-term consequences of a declining reputation and  the inability to attract and retain residents and businesses, who,  in an increasingly competitive world, are looking at quality of life features.

Road impact fees are a significant source of revenues for transportation infrastructure projects, including  bike/ped improvements, both as part of roadway projects and as stand-alone retrofit projects.  Any reduction in road impact fees has an adverse effect on funds available for these improvements.  According to LeeDOT's 1/16/15 report to Commissioner Mann detailing the list of completed transportation projects funded with road impact fees from 2000 to present, 38% of bike/ped facilities during this period were funded with impact fees.
There are currently $58 million worth of bike/ped stand-alone projects that have been approved and prioritized by the County's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), waiting to be funded.  Since historically at least 35% of all of Lee County’s transportation infrastructure dollars have come from road impact fee revenues, any reduction in that vital revenue source means funding for bike/ped projects will be further jeopardized. 
BikeWalkLee is pleased that in the new draft ordinance staff has  included language broadening the definition of what road impact fee funds can be used for.  This language provides the county with more flexibility to use road impact fees for bike/ped improvements and bus pull out lane improvements that accommodate vehicle trips by providing alternative travel modes.  This language change begins to move the road impact fee into a more multi-modal transportation approach, as BikeWalkLee has long advocated.
Economic prosperity comes from quality investments in community infrastructure.  We urge you to vote to return impact fees to the full 100% rate, as modified by the Duncan Report updates.

Darla Letourneau
On behalf of BikeWalkLee