Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Moser Column: Safe bike/ped access to area parks is hit and miss

Dan's column this week highlights the history of efforts to enhance the connection between biking and walking and area parks and the need for more attention to this important aspect of our area's quality of life.   Take Dan's challenge: "If you know of a park that needs better access please contact your elected representative to make them aware and take action"
Florida Weekly "Outdoor" section Jan. 13, 2016

Everyone knows about Lee County’s many gulf beach parks but there are also a number of other public parks and recreation areas that offer a variety of features, environments and outdoor activity opportunities. Unfortunately, as is the case with far too many other popular destinations in our area — from shopping centers to schools — gaining access to some of them by foot or on bike is challenging at best and downright risky at worse. Besides the obvious safety issues, having to provide what should be unnecessary additional parking for park users is costly and a waste of what would otherwise be additional green or recreation space. Considering how important parks are to the area’s economy and quality of life for residents and visitors alike, it’s frustrating this condition persists.
One reason I personally find it so disappointing is because about 35 years ago I first became involved in bike/ped advocacy due to this particular infrastructure shortcoming. In the late ’70s I got hooked on running and quickly realized how few safe places there were for anyone venturing onto our roads by foot. And not only for recreational runners like myself. A few years later I ended up living a mere mile from the entrance to what was then the newly opened Lakes Park and its network of shaded paths. However, unless I wanted to drive there, my only option was to use the ditch along the dead-man-curve segment of Gladiolus Drive before it was turned into the six-lane highway it is today, which includes a multi-use path on one side. Riding my bike there back in the day was even more risky (there are still no bike lanes on that segment of Gladiolus). My exasperation from that particular situation and my day-to-day running and cycling experiences led me to join others who were looking to help attain better conditions for both cyclists and pedestrians, an effort that continues today. While access to Lakes Park is now a good example of what should be the norm, there are still way too many parks and recreation spaces that lack even the basics for people — many being families and children — to get there safely via foot or bicycle.
A good step in the right direction toward that becoming reality came about in 2006 when the city of Fort Myers approved a Parks and Open Space System Master Plan, a plan that made non-motorized linkages to their parks and recreation areas a top priority. In fact, the development of that plan led directly to the city following it up with a bike/ped master plan, which also includes non-motorized connections to these destinations as a critical element of this plan. Unfortunately, neither of these documents have been utilized as fully as those of us who provided plenty of input had expected, thus many parks, community centers, and greenspaces still lack adequate access. The good news is that at least a few of the recommended improvements have been made in the city. As well, throughout all of Lee County there’s a fairly comprehensive inventory of what’s on the ground and where such needs exist, thanks primarily to the Metropolitan Planning Organization working with each jurisdiction to document that information. With that resource in place there’s still hope that the various governments responsible for providing safe non-motorized access to our parks and other public facilities will truly make it a priority to do so. If you know of a park that needs better access please contact your elected representative to make them aware and take action.
Upcoming events
>> Cape Coral Critical Mass ride, Saturday, Jan. 26, downtown Cape Coral (
>>Tour de Cape, Sunday, Jan. 17, Cape Coral (
>> Naples Bike Brunch & Family Festival, Sunday, Jan. 24, (

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