The official Blog for bikewalklee.org. BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County, FL.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Dan Moser's column: Mayors challenged to complete our streets
This week's column provides an update on activities in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers--the three local cities that signed on to USDOT Secretary Foxx's Mayors' Challenge (an initiative to promote bike/ped safety and complete streets).
Three of Lee County’s municipalities have signed-on to the Mayors’ Challenge, an initiative of USDOT that’s intended to jump start the implementation of the Complete Streets plan. The cities of Bonita Springs, Cape Coral and Fort Myers have agreed to address each of the elements of the challenge and provide self-assessments to gauge progress, along with taking a Complete Streets approach to transportation planning. The elements of the challenge include:
¦ Identify and address barriers to make streets safe and convenient for all road users, including people of all ages and abilities and those using assistive mobility devices.
¦ Gather and track biking and walking data.
¦ Use designs appropriate to the context of the street and its uses.
¦ Take advantage of opportunities to create and complete ped-bike networks through maintenance.
¦ Improve walking and biking safety laws and regulations.
At a recent Metropolitan Planning Organization Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinating Committee meeting each municipality provided an update, including how they are approaching the challenge. The reports were both informative and generally encouraging.
Bonita Springs is about to embark on a total re-do of its Main Street, Old 41, so the timing for the Mayors’ Challenge couldn’t be better. There seems to be an awareness among both elected officials and key staff that the Complete Streets approach is the way to go and their self assessment reflected this commitment, although they realize they have work to do to meet all of the Challenge’s goals, not to mention creating Complete Streets.
Cape Coral, which is on a roll in terms of becoming a truly bike-friendly community, has the support of many of its elected officials and senior staff but also boasts a public-private partnership approach as one of their best assets. Cape Coral Bike- Ped, the organization that was formed to develop and put in place the initial bicycle route network by engaging the business community to help fund it, continues to be a driving force. The city just submitted its application to League of American Bicyclists for a Bike Friendly Community designation. It’s not all about cycling, either. The city’s self-assessment made clear it’s taking a Complete Streets approach, something that’s quite an undertaking in a city that has a grid system of roads that cover the entirety of its 110 square miles.
Fort Myers, which includes some of Southwest Florida’s oldest neighborhoods as well as the more sprawling suburban areas to the south and east — including reaching into Lehigh Acres — is taking a much different approach. Although the city approved a Complete Streets policy a number of years ago, moving to the implementation phase, which requires amending a number of guiding documents and changing the way staff reviews and approves developments and their own projects, has been stifled up to this point. But a citizens led working group was put in place to tackle both the next steps of implementing the Complete Streets policy and leading the Mayors’ Challenge. The self-assessment report, which was prepared by staff and not the citizens group, reflected the disconnect within the city as compared to the other two municipalities. As has been the case for many years, there’s a perception among some within that there’s no need to formalize a Complete Streets policy because it’s already being done so, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, other than having a stellar walking environment in the downtown River District, there’s a lot to be desired in many other parts of the city. As for being considered a bicycle-friendly community, there’s much work to be done before they could even consider applying for such a designation. All that being said, if city staff who are working with the citizens group are allowed to implement the recommendations that result, Fort Myers will be both a Complete Streets model and Bicycle Friendly Community.
The monthly Fort Myers Critical Mass ride happens this Friday, Sept. 4. As usual, this evening fun ride stages from the old Boulevard Plaza lot next to Publix between McGregor and West First Street. Details can be found at meetup.com/ Biking-SWFL.
We’re about a week away from the annual Galloway Captiva Triathlon, a very popular event that’s perfect for the whole family. As in past years, it’s sold out and registration is closed. But there’s always a need for volunteers over the course of the weekend of Sept. 11-13. If you’d like to lend a hand and have some fun doing so, go to captivatri.org/volunteers.
The annual City of Fort Myers / Healthy Harvest 5K is being staged at the location of our community food gardens at the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center, just west of FleaMasters Fleamarket on Martin Luther King Blvd. In conjunction with it will be audits of the surrounding area’s infrastructure and environment to gauge the walkability and conditions for those using bicycles to get around. For 5K info, you can go to healthyharvestfarms.org and to inquire about the walking and biking audits, contact Ann Pierce, who’s leading the Fort Myers Mayors’ Challenge committee, at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and 334- 6417.