Florida Weekly "Outdoors" Section: 4/15/15
An uneven segment of concrete sidewalk creating a trip hazard. A lateral rut in the roadway pavement or storm drain grate creating a bike wheel grabber that can send a rider and one’s bike to the ground unexpectedly. Bougainvillea branches overhanging a pathway that snag and cut anyone who’s unaware of the damage it can do as they pass by it. Glass and other debris in the paved shoulder or bike lane — or, most commonly, on all of our bridges — causing blowouts and flats for bicyclists.
These are but a few examples that anyone who runs, walks or rides a bike, whether occasionally or routinely, inevitably encounters, many of which can lead to a fall or crash. And although the various departments managing our public or private roads try to keep the environment safe for all users, the most neglected aspect of our transportation network tends to be the spaces not intended for motor vehicles, yet which the most vulnerable use, perhaps because they go unreported.
Case in point: On a recent run in a master-planned community I found many stretches of the paved pathways that were fraught with hazards, especially for those on foot with compromised mobility or anyone using wheeled vehicles such as bikes, strollers and wheelchairs. The culprit is clearly tree roots pushing up the asphalt path. As I ran behind a mom on a bike with her child in tow behind her I noticed she had to keep checking to see if the trailer had tipped due to the poor pavement condition. Although the community’s roads are in pretty good condition it appears the sidepaths had not been repaired or resurfaced since being constructed, creating risk of injury for users and liability for the jurisdiction. A subsequent call to the responsible agency resulted in learning that work to repair the paths will soon begin.
While most of our rights of way are public, some, like the example I just cited, are private but with full public access. Each right-of-way is managed by a specific entity, but certain roads have multiple jurisdictions responsible for segments of the same corridor, making it somewhat confusing when trying to determine which entity to contact with a complaint or to report a problem. A common example of this is any road that intersects an interstate: regardless of whose ROW it is leading to and from the interchange area the interchange segment comes under the jurisdiction of Florida Department of Transportation.
For example, Daniels Parkway is a county road but the interchange segment of it is FDOT’s. Fortunately, when you’re not sure whose road or sidepath it is, the agency you initially contact will generally refer you to the correct jurisdiction or pass along the complaint or request if you guessed wrong. Even when the request is bigger than maintenance or repair (filling short sidewalk gaps or reporting obvious ADA violations, for example), the folks fielding calls or online inquiries are helpful in getting you to those actually responsible for addressing the problem. Please be sure to acknowledge those who take care of your complaint or request. Also, don’t hesitate to move it up the ladder if it isn’t resolved.
For example, a complaint that escalated to a much higher level was at first thought to be related only to maintenance of traffic during a road project but has turned out to be a serious design flaw. Regular users of the bike lanes on Treeline Avenue near the new terminal access road project lodged complaints during construction that they were being put at risk. FDOT intervened with the contractor to improve safety for cyclists in the construction zone, but even with their efforts it seemed the best bet was to avoid the area until work was complete. Unfortunately, the final configuration has also generated numerous complaints, something FDOT and Lee DOT (and, hopefully, the Lee County Port Authority) are working to resolve. All this effort has come about thanks to those who filed complaints and others who are following-up, both from within and outside the responsible jurisdictions.
You can learn more about this and many other important community matters at bikewalklee.blogspot.com.
Here’s a list of contacts:
- LeeDOT Request for Action, 533-9400 or leegov.com/gov/dept/dot/rfa/Pages/form.aspx
- City of Fort Myers Public Works, 321-8100 or cityftmyers.com/761/Support-Center
- City of Cape Coral Action Center, 574-0425 or etrakit.capecoral.net/etrakit3/CRM/issue.aspx
- City of Bonita Springs, 949-6262 or cityofbonitasprings.org/for-residents/report-a-problem
- City of Sanibel, 472-1179 or email Keith.Williams@mysanibel.com
- Town of Fort Myers Beach, 765-0202 or fortmyersbeachfl.gov/index.aspx?NID=205
- FDOT, 985-7800 or swflroads.com
- Viking 5K Paint Run, Saturday, April 18, Bishop Verot High School, Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
- Fast & Furriest 5K & 1-Mile, Saturday, April 18, Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers (3dracinginc.com)
- Dollars for Scholars 5K, Saturday, April 25, Rotary Park, Cape Coral (3dracinginc.com)
- Run for Kayla 5K, Saturday, May 2, Patriot School, Cape Coral (3dracinginc.com)
- Turtle Trot 5K, Saturday, May 9, Lovers Key Park, Fort Myers Beach (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
- Ride for Literacy, Saturday, April 18, Immokalee (caloosariders.org)