Monday, June 15, 2015

News-Press: Political will is needed to make cycling safer

News-Press continues its year-long focus on bicycling safety and its "Share the Road" campaign, with another Sunday feature edition. The first feature article highlighted 7 cities across the country that are doing innovative things to create a bicycle-friendly environment. (Link: "Bicycling--7 cities that will make Florida riders jealous") This second feature article below looks at some solutions from SWFL communities.  (see links at bottom of blog to each of the four cities featured--Sanibel, Naples, Bonita Springs, and Cape Coral).  The bottomline message--we need to step up our game! Thanks again to reporters Jaine Zeitlin and Laura Ruane for their excellent work.

SWFL communities taking different routes, at different speeds

By Janine Zeitlin and Laura Ruane
Janine Zeitlin and Laura Ruane

Taking different routes, at different speeds.

That describes Southwest Florida communities' journeys toward making bicycling and walking safer.

At stake: Lives and quality of life in our region.

Last year was especially somber for Lee County bicyclists. Lee tied with two Florida counties twice its size for the third-highest number of bicyclists killed statewide. This ranking comes in a state with the worst record for bicyclist fatalities. Law enforcement stepped up outreach, but grants to do so have largely ended.

But it will take more than enforcement and education, said Billy Hattaway, Florida Department of Transportation's "champion" for bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

"We've got to change the design. We can't just keep doing what we've been doing and change the results."

As FDOT District One secretary, Hattaway is an inside guy making strides. One safety coup he scored last year was increasing the state standard for a bike lane to a 7-foot buffered bike lane. Engineers typically designed for 4 feet. He has more design solutions on tap and hopes local governments will follow suit.
Bike Route Opening
(NP Photo: Jim Paré)

That takes political will. Advocates for improvements include BikeWalkLee, Naples Pathways Coalition, Cape Coral Bike-Ped, the Blue Zones Project of Southwest Florida and bicycle groups including Sanibel Bicycle Club, Naples Velo and Caloosa Riders.

SWFL Critical Mass has captured attention through its monthly nighttime rides through Fort Myers' downtown.
Group leaders believe the more bicyclists of all ages, ethnicity and abilities are visible in the community, the more seriously government leaders will take their requests for safety measures. How Critical Mass will sway political action is yet to be seen.

This doesn't encompass everything and everybody working toward safer roads, but here are some solutions from Southwest Florida communities:

Link to 3/8/15 News-Press in-depth feature edition on biking safety:  Overview of News-Press March 8th feature coverage on biking safety and a call to action 

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