Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bicycle Friendly Communities' Steve Clark visits Fort Myers

Steve Clark, the League of American Bicyclists' (LAB) Bicycle Friendly Community Specialist came back to Lee County on Feb. 4th for his 4th and last local visit to Lee County communities--this one in the City of Fort Myers. Thanks to everyone who participated in the Feb. 4th event. A special thanks to Steve Clark for his great hands-on assistance and for inspiring and motivating us to work harder to become bicycle-friendly communities!

Participants in the Fort Myers bike audit ride with LAB's Steve Clark
Lee County was selected as one of the 100 communities that the League of American Bicyclists is visiting in 2015, as part of its new initiative to bring bicycle-friendly expertise directly to the local level, thanks to the support of Trek and Trek dealers. These visits are an opportunity for local communities to get some hands-on technical assessment of its bicycling infrastructure and to learn about best practices from other communities, with the goal of making communities such as Lee County more bicycle friendly.

Steve Clark, the League's Bicycle Friendly Community Specialist conducting these visits, is a long-time bicycle advocate and expert, who has done everything from being the first bike/ped program manager in Boulder, CO (now one of the most bicycle-friendly communities in the country), to co-founding the Minnesota Coalition of Bicyclists, serving as Past President of the League of American Bicyclists, as well as being an independent transportation planning consultant. Given his extensive travels across the country visiting 75+ communities a year focused on bicycle-friendly practices, there's probably no other one person who knows as much as Steve about America's biking infrastructure, programs, and culture from which he can identify best practices to share with other communities.

LAB's Steve Clark with Darla Letourneau and Ann Pierce
Fort Myers Visit
Steve Clark of the League of American Bicyclists returned to our area on Feb 4th to conduct one last Bike Road Audit in the City of Fort Myers. BikeWalkLee members participated with a total of fifteen other riders in the morning audit, which included a number of city and county employees.

The ride covered all of the access routes to the downtown with stops to point out safety and access opportunities for improvement on roads under state, county and city jurisdictions. After the ride, some 24 people, including Councilman Forrest Banks, met at Harborside to review photos and participate in a debriefing discussion.
Photos from the Fort Myers debrief session

Steve related that while Fort Myer’s bike mode share is just under 2%, compared to Miami Beach at 5.4% and Key West at 20%, it has actually doubled in just a few years. He stressed that good ordinances make all the difference in both increasing mode share and safety and gave the example of Santa Monica, CA where all city events promote the free bike valet parking to increase convenience for cyclists while reducing parking demand and traffic congestion.

Steve stressed the importance of taking a comprehensive approach with a suite of ordinances, Comprehensive Plan updates and alignment of Land Development Codes.

The group discussed designation as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” and the criteria encompassed by the 5 Es of good policies:
  • Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park
  • Education: Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride
  • Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling
  • Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users
  • Evaluation and Planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option
  • With the newest, Equity across gender, income, race and ethnicity soon to be a 6th.
 Steve itemized some broad strategies the City can take now in moving forward. These are: to always prioritize walker and cyclist’s safety first, be prepared to take advantage of any and all road or sidewalk work to increase widths and give more safe space, redesign the biggest streets first, to accommodate those people who walk and ride and always think “connectivity”, plan and retrofit cut-troughs and neighborhood bike/ped only connections.

Specific audit recommendations were:

1. at the base of the Edison Bridge need to paint and sign a merging zone for bike riders to move left of the right turning cars and then create a through lane

2. add bicycle accommodations on MLK between Fowler and Cranford

3. at Thompson and MLK, extend the small island in direction towards DT and consider further markings or signs to clarify where to ride

4. Road diet Broadway to one lane each way with very nice, wide bike lanes on both sides. This road can become a beautiful boulevard to serve as major north/south bicycle corridor from Colonial to DT. Include on-road parking to stimulate business development. At intersection with MLK will need to then reroute over to Monroe or signalize crossing at Broadway

5. W. First St, use highly visible sharrow markings within green rectangles and white dashed sidelines. Will need good “bikes may use full lane” signage

6. The paved crosswalks at Heitman and First Streets while nice to look at, are not functional. Cars rarely stop. They need to be made more visible with highly reflective, non-slip white paint outlining them and larger, better roadside signs to get driver’s attention.

Steve urged the City to apply for “Bicycle Friendly Community” as there is much to learn in just the process of applying and designation, once gained, is a way to ensure that you have a truly family friendly community.

Report by Ann Pierce

Darla's post-Fort Myers City Visit  video interview with Steve Clark

Fox-News-4 covered the story on the Feb. 4th evening news, but a recording was not posted on their website.  The reporter interviewed local cyclists Dave Wheaton (and BPAC member) and Isobel Hitchcock, asking them what should happen to make Fort Myers better for cyclists, and also interviewed Steve Clark about his recommendations to the City.

Related BikeWalkLee blog posts:

1/18/15: Reflections on national Bicycle Friendly Communities expert, Steve Clark's week in Lee County

1/29/15: LESSONS FROM THE ROAD: BFC Steve shares five key insights from a year of Bicycle Friendly Community visits

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