Friday, April 22, 2016

Cape Coral residents share ideas for improving walking and biking

 Thanks to everyone who came to Wednesday's Community Workshop in Cape Coral to provide ideas for the city's Bike/Ped Master Plan. There was a good turnout and lots of great feedback. Thanks to the consultant and staff team. Below are two articles about the event. See BWL's April 4th blog for more background. (Photos by Darla Letourneau.)

Cape Coral Breeze, April 22, 2016, by Chuck Ballaro:
 Residents have say in bike/ped master plan

Lee Waller plans to move to Cape Coral in the next month, and he hopes to see some improvements made in bicycle accessibility for Hancock Bridge Parkway, as he commutes by bike to work.

John Karcher wants to see more connectivity between the dedicated bike routes already in the city, as well as fix the choke points.

City residents had their say on Wednesday as the city of Cape Coral hosted a community workshop on the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan at the Cape Coral Public Works Building on Nicholas Parkway.

Residents had an opportunity to look at the current routes and make suggestions of what improvements need to go where, as well as ask them what they would like to see in a bike/ped master plan to make it safer and to enhance the experience for those enthusiasts or those who might want to get involved.

Persides Zambrano, Public Works planning manager, said the idea was to get the community to bike and walk more often and find out what their priorities are.

"Once we put the plan together, if they identify with the plan, they will protect it and make sure it gets implemented and make it like it's theirs," Zambrano said.

Also on hand were consultants from Alta, which focuses on making active communities where walking and biking are an integral part.

Brad Davis, said he saw a lot of excitement in regards to having more places to walk and bike.

"We are focusing on the goals that people want to see in Cape Coral, so we'll take everyone's input and put it all together so there's a cohesive vision," Davis said.

The city is working with the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Florida Department of Transportation on developing the master plan, with the goal of creating a safe, healthy, and more-vibrant cycling and walking community.

City staff applied for a FDOT grant through the MPO to cover the $152,000 cost of the master plan process.

The first step of such a project is always to get input from the public, and they came out to do just that.

Among the questions asked were:
  • What does it mean to you walk and bike in Cape Coral, both currently and in the future?
  •  What are the priority walking and biking issues and needs in Cape Coral?
  •  What are the best place to walk and bike?

  •  Could you imagine walking or biking to work once per week?
Waller does it every day from his home in North Fort Myers, crossing the Edison Bridge into Fort Myers, putting in about 60 miles of biking per week.

He said he wants to see work done when he moves to Cape Coral, since where he will need to commute from isn't up to snuff.

"Right now, Hancock is not a very bike-friendly area. It's crowded and has a bumpy sidewalk. We need more protected bike lanes that get us away from traffic and make riding a bike an alternative to driving a car," Waller said.

Karcher said this is a great opportunity to bring the city closer together.

"We need to find the choke points. Veterans Parkway has a great bike path, but it's difficult to cross Pine Island Road. Instead of new paths, let's fix the choke points," Karcher said.

Residents said that among the program items they would like to see are car-free street events and bike/walk safety campaign. They also said people want to see protected and buffered bike lanes, bike friendly intersections and pedestrian crossing improvements.

Mike Swanson, of Cape Coral Bike/Ped, rides 60 to 75 miles per week. He said the city is doing a good job getting community input and looking at the options.

"The people who use the facilities are important to get their input and from those who would desire to walk or ride, but can't because there are no facilities," Swanson said. "We need more bike lanes and more sidewalks."

Cape Coral currently has nearly 90 miles of bike paths, some of them created by taking double lanes and making them single lanes.

Cape Coral earned bronze status from the League of American Bicyclists in 2015. Zambrano said the goal is to be raised to silver status, which very few cities have earned.

The city is still accepting input online.

Those interested can post comments of pedestrian, bicycle, transit or motorized nature. Participants also can propose a desired bike and/or walking route. Visit the online interactive map. 

The master plan should be completed sometime in the fall, which the city council will then have to accept or reject.

NBC-2 Report, 4/21/16: Paths, sidewalks become a Cape planning priority

Link to Video:
The city of Cape Coral is in the middle of a master plan to add sidewalks and bike paths.

It's a huge and expensive undertaking, considering the size and the number of streets that need them, so planners are focusing first on neighborhoods around schools.

"If they are not safe, I am not happy," said Kevin Hendry, whose son will be a freshman at Mariner High School later this year. "I do not want my child to get run over."

The family lives two miles from the school, too close to be picked up by a school bus. But there are no sidewalks to help him get there safely.

"It is dark when the high schoolers go to school," Hendry said. "There is no light out. There are no street lights."

He's hoping, after posting his concerns on the city's interactive map, that something will get done. The city created the map to see where the needs for sidewalks and bike paths are the greatest.

It's part of a $150,000 grant toward the master plan.

The top priority now is Southwest 20th Avenue, near Trafalgar Elementary and Middle schools. Hendry is hoping the area around Mariner will make the list before his son begins classes.

"You built the school, you build the sidewalks," Hendry said.

Councilman Jim Burch addressed the challenges of the way Cape Coral was designed in the 50s and 60s. The city was built up without the infrastructure it would later need.

"The grant money we get to do these things have criteria attached to them that don't allow us to put them in other places," said Burch.

The great recession set back infrastructure projects 10 years, but Burch says the city is catching up and priorities are in place.

"The number one priorities are the schools," said Burch, referring to the need to for sidewalks within two miles of all city schools.

On Wednesday night, the city took more input at a workshop at the City Public Works Building. The meeting was filled with people voicing their concerns over biking safety around town.

"Increased bike paths, not lanes, bike paths," said Jo Zeller, who wants the city to step up.

She bikes five to six days each week with her husband Tom. She says she likes Veterans Parkway best.

"I've had many real close calls," said Zeller.

Cape Coral resident Gary Wilson lives near Old Burnt Store Road and wants the city to address continuity issues in bike lanes.

"It seems we have a mile of bike lane and then it just stops," said Wilson. "That doesn't work for anyone who is trying to get anywhere."

Whatever happens, Burch says, people will need to be patient.

"It's gonna take a lot of time to do it and a lot of money," said Burch.

The feedback from this process will be turned into a draft proposal this summer and in the fall. City Council will approve the master plan.

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