Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dan Moser Column: (In)Complete Streets

 Dan highlights examples in Lee County of our incomplete streets and the need for more investments and better policy decisions. This column also includes Part II of his shout-out to women in our community who are making our community better for walking and biking. Thanks Diane, Sally, Cindy, and Carolyn!

 Florida Weekly "Outdoors" section, Oct. 21, 2015

Patchwork. Spartan. Unmaintained. Substandard. Gap-ridden. These are a few terms that describe the bike/ped infrastructure in Lee County. While there are plenty of good things taking place in terms of creating an adequate environment for non-motorists, we still have so much to do to make right the iniquities of the past (including the very recent past) that it’s clear we’re not expending enough funds doing so. A few examples will make this point, including the fact that decision makers think nothing of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on roadway “improvements” that are intended only to expand motor vehicle capacity — and which may or may not result in significantly better bike/ped conditions — yet they have trouble providing even a small percentage of that to address our well-documented backlog of needs for non-motorists.
One exception to that fact is the $10 million Federal TIGER grant that’s being used to fill gaps and create a better walking and cycling environment from Colonial Boulevard southward to the Collier County line. Unfortunately, even with that robust infusion of funding, many problems will remain, including Estero Parkway and access to FGCU, to name just two. Unbelievably, FGCU turned away TIGER money to add bike lanes and a proper pathway on its main entrance, citing “environmental issues,” and instead opted to spend $1.5 million to construct an extravagant sign and tower to remind everyone who they are. To add insult to injury, there have always been bike lanes and proper pathways on Ben Hill Griffin Blvd and bike lanes and a pathway network within the university campus but merely one 8-foot sidewalk along each of the two entrance ways. And even those were added only after much arm-twisting. I remain at a loss to understand FGCU leadership’s transportation-related decisions.
The city of Fort Myers is well known for overrating itself when it comes to its walkability and bike-friendliness. Granted, there are pockets of well-done areas, but there’s much to be desired, especially for those who want to ride a bike anywhere but on 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalks. And while the city frequently touts its Riverwalk, officials totally blew it on having a true walkable waterfront, with Edwards Drive and Centennial Park being the only places that actually have a walkway along the water. And now there’s a real possibility that the Vue property, which is adjacent to Centennial Park, will be allowed to delete a requirement to provide public waterfront access as part of its development order. To experience a real Riverwalk in Southwest Florida, take a short trip to Punta Gorda.
The most glaring example of Incomplete Streets is the total lack of pedestrian access across the Caloosahatchee River on Lee DOT bridges, a fact that can only be described as inexcusable. Unlike pre-1980s transportation project decisions that were made when there was no concern for non-motorists’ needs, it wasn’t that long ago that Lee County made three separate and deliberate decisions to forego including pedestrians accommodation on the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges and, most perplexing, the Sanibel Causeway. Bicycle users fare only slightly better, being accommodated by default with the presence of motor vehicle breakdown lanes. However, access to and from the bridge structures is marginal at best and nonexistent at worse. Until Lee DOT comes up with a fix to these deliberate and discriminatory actions, Lee County government cannot consider itself as embracing Complete Streets, no matter what formal resolutions and policies it has on the books.
Advocacy update
Along with the remarkable women I mentioned in my last column there are more to recognize for their commitment to making our community better. Just like the others, these women are extraordinary and we’re lucky to have them in our midst.
Two who are affiliated with the healthcare profession are Safe Kids coordinators Sally Kreuscher and Diane Holm, the health department’s public voice. Both are seasoned veterans in their respective roles, having also worked in other aspects of human services, giving them excellent perspectives from which to operate. It’s impossible to quantify how many lives they’ve saved through their efforts but suffice it to say the number is undoubtedly significant.
Then there’s Cindy Banyai, a community builder who understands and uses social media as well as anyone. Appropriately, Cindy serves as BikeWalkLee’s electronic media guru, among other things she does for the coalition. Somehow she finds time for BWL even though she runs her own consulting firm, is an adjunct university professor, program evaluator for SWF Community Foundation and is a wife and mother.
Carolyn Conant is undoubtedly the main reason Cape Coral is on such a roll in its efforts to become a true bike-friendly community. She is tenacious in getting individuals, business leaders and government officials to do what’s necessary to make the city a place where anyone can get around safely and efficiently by bike as well as attract others to visit because of its bike-friendliness. In the relatively short time she’s been so deeply involved, she’s done what no one else has been able to accomplish in decades of trying. Be sure to thank Carolyn, Cindy, Diane and Sally next time you see them.
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 and 334- 6417.

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