Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Add cycling to our tourism menu

What would it take to boost Southwest Florida’s bike tourism?

To answer that, we first need to define what kind of tourism you want. Is it the touring bicyclist, where bikers would come to and through Southwest Florida as part of a larger and longer ride? Or is it the recreational rider drawn to visit Southwest Florida by many different attributes, including (but not limited to) its biking options?

For touring tourists, our area would have to be part of a larger whole, a state-spanning bike system with all the necessary infrastructure to allow multi-day multi-rider rides seamlessly. That’s a tall order, one our part of the state is years (decades?) away from even considering. That doesn’t mean the hardy (and very self-sufficient) cyclists won’t tour through our region. But our lack of a connected bike system on our roadways – let alone a stand-alone bike trail with the necessary rest and support stops – keeps the touring to a very small (and determined) group.

Bike tourism could be a part of Florida's future
But when it comes to making cycling a more robust offering on our tourism menu, success could be in sight… if we wanted it.

We’ve seen an increase in bike facilities, and in connecting those facilities in a way that makes them usable and more user-friendly to those who want to use their bikes for more than just a brief ride.

Sanibel clearly leads the way in this, with a well-promoted and -used system of bike paths that can take tourists from their hotels and condos to shops, restaurants and other island amenities. The island also has a robust rental system giving visitors access to bikes for an hour to a week or more. The only cycling challenge the island may face is its popularity, as the shared-use path gets crowded in season and more athletic cyclists often must resort to the island’s narrow roadways to escape the slow-moving masses.

Nevertheless, our region has the weather (most of the year), the numbers (likewise) and the terrain to make cycling a draw for visitors. What’s missing?
  • Connections. While it’s getting better, many of our bike/ped facilities don’t really go (or get you) anywhere. They’re good for recreation, but not for transportation.
  • Consistency. We have bike paths and lanes that stop and start depending on the road design du jour when that street or project was built… or that just stop dead, leaving a rider stranded unless they’re willing to play with the big dogs in on-road traffic (which many simply will not do).
  • Directions. Either our bike facilities have no signage at all, or what they have doesn’t help a visitor get from Point A to Point B (or tell them why they’d want to). The wayfinding signs for the Tour de Parks routes are the exception that should become the rule, with verbiage that is directed at visitors and not just residents (who probably already know the way).
  • Decorum. It’s gotten a lot better, but there are still too many motorists who view cyclists as an afterthought (or worse). If you invite someone here to ride their bike and then endanger them, belittle them, ignore them and leave sharp objects in their path… yeah, they won’t be coming back.
  • Infrastructure. Beyond bike paths, lanes and trailhead parking(don’t get me wrong, we need these, too), to boost bike tourism we need more bikes. Local (non-island) bike shops do rent bikes on a short-term basis, but that’s not their focus (and it shows). And we’re not at that critical-mass phase where a bike-share program is economically feasible. But if hotels, motels and condos could provide their guests the option to bike by having some bikes on hand, that would be a start. So would a bike-rental program – even just a bike shop – in our more metropolitan areas such as downtown Fort Myers… which rightly works to draw cyclists, but doesn’t have an easy way for visitors to go along for the ride.

Meeting some of these needs could be easy… better signage takes more will than money, for example, and decorum improves incrementally as more people bike or see others on them. Better and more consistent facilities is a heavier lift, drug down even further by the severe backlog in bike infrastructure funding that leaves good projects stranded behind a long and equally deserving line.

Nevertheless, when it comes to tourism draws, we’ve got beaches and boating, Blueway and baseball. Why not add bicycling to the mix?

Ready to ride or run?

Run? The running season won’t start in earnest until late September, but you can celebrate Labor Day with a 5K on Monday, Sept. 5, starts at 7:30 a.m. at Lowdermilk Park, Naples. (

Ride? Critical Mass rides rule (but you may want to confirm the times, as summer may force changes): Friday, Aug.26: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at 7:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out at 4706 SE 11th Place for a family-friendly ride through the Cape. Lights required, helmets recommended. Saturday, Aug. 27: SW Florida Critical Mass will offer a starter/sightseeing ride on Saturday; gather at 9 a.m., roll at 9:15 a.m. from 2160 McGregor Blvd. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction. Friday, Sept. 2: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. Join a family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix (beginning at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out) at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. (

Both? On Saturday, Sept. 3, head north for the Venice Sprint Sept. 3 ( – or stay put and be part of the Galloway Captiva Tri Weekend Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 10-11 ( Looking ahead, there’s the Siesta Kay Sprint Tri Sept. 24 ( and the Marco Island Sprint Oct. 2 (
# # #

Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29: Upcoming running/walking/biking/tri events

Here is your upcoming events update for the Labor Day weekend and beyond.

Run? Celebrate Labor Day with a 5K on Monday, Sept. 5, starts at 7:30 a.m. at Lowdermilk Park, Naples. (

Ride? Critical Mass rides rule (but you may want to confirm the times, as summertime may force changes): Friday, Sept. 2: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. Join a family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix (beginning at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out) at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. (

Both? On Saturday, Sept. 3, head north for the Venice Sprint Sept. 3 ( – or stay put and be part of the Galloway Captiva Tri Weekend Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 10-11 ( Looking ahead, there’s the Siesta Kay Sprint Tri Sept. 24 ( and the Marco Island Sprint Oct. 2 (

Upcoming events
  • Monday, Sept. 5: Labor Day 5K, starts at 7:30 a.m. at Lowdermilk Park, Naples. (
  • Saturday, Sept. 24: Hispanic Heritage Festival 5K, downtown Fort Myers, 7:30 a.m. (
  • Saturday, Sept. 24: Run Wild 5K, and 1K kids race. Wear your best wildlife attire, benefits the Conservancy and Naples Zoo. Starts from the Naples Zoo parking lot, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: Lexington Country Club 5K Run/Walk & Breakfast, 7:30 a.m. To benefit the Regional Cancer Center's Breast Health Center (Lee Memorial Health System). (
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 2016 Busey Bank Run for Prevention, downtown Fort Myers, 6 p.m. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 8: Cops & Joggers 5K, Centennial Park, Downtown Fort Myers, 7:45 a.m. Proceeds benefit the Fort Myers Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial Fund and the Brotherhood Ride. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 15: 8th annual 10K race 4 FISH (Friends In Service Here). Sanibel Community Park, 2231 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel; starts at 7:30 a.m. (
  • Sunday, Oct. 16: 6th annual Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay, North Collier Regional Park, 7 a.m. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 22: 8th annual Race The Roof 15K run, 5K run/walk, tot trot. Verandah Community. Proceeds to benefit the Habitat for Humanity, Lee and Hendry Counties. (
  • Saturday, Oct. 29: "Soup"-er Hero 5K Run/Walk, Gulf Coast Town Center, 7:30 a.m. Benefits Community Cooperative (
  • Sunday, Oct. 30: Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay, North Collier Regional Park. Includes costume contest, plus rock and roll, plus Octoberfest (

  • Friday, Sept. 2: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. Join a family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends and meet in the open field next to Publix (beginning at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll-out) at First Street Village, 2160 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. ( or
  • Friday, Sept. 9: NE-Lee Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7:15 p.m. for an 8 p.m. roll out at the Winn-Dixie, 14600 Palm Beach Blvd. Lights required, helmets recommended. (
  • Saturday, Sept. 10: Sanibel Critical Mass ride, gathers at 7:15 p.m. for a 7:45 p.m. roll out at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel. Lights required, helmets recommended. (
  • Ongoing: Join the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club on one of their many weekly rides for members and potential members, with an array of paces and routes to choose from. Check them out online at

  • Saturday, Sept. 3: Venice Sprint Sept. 3 (
  • Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 10-11: Galloway Captiva Tri Weekend, kid’s events Saturday (three age groups, not timed), adult sprint Sunday. Limited capacity, open-water swim, closed road course. (
Plan ahead. Other upcoming area tris include:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Riding a bike or walking to school leads youth to lifetime of health

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 8/24/2016

Walking and biking to school instills independence, responsibility and lifelong health.

School is open again so that means it’s also time for me to remind readers about the loss of independence and learned responsibility among students who don’t walk or bike to school or bus stops but are instead chauffeured by parents.

The chaos created around almost every school in our community for those who must or choose to walk or bike to get there is another aspect to consider. And let’s not forget the negative impact the daily invasion all those vehicles has on those who live and work in neighborhoods around schools, whether they are on foot, riding their bikes or driving their cars. But most important is the matter of kids’ health.

A prior column focused on the work being done in our community by Healthy Lee and others to reduce obesity and its associated health problems. It’s pretty obvious that using human power to get to and from school and other destinations and activities would go a long way in that endeavor.

Physical education teachers and school resource officers receive training in bicycle safety education using the school district’s bike trailer.
Physical education teachers and school resource
officers receive training in bicycle safety education
using the school district’s bike trailer.
The relationship over the past four to five decades between the decline in physical activity and increase in overweight and obese young people is hard to dismiss.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and a number of other sources, the obesity rate went from approximately 5 percent in 1980 to almost 30 percent currently. Kids walking or biking to school has a similar but inverse association: a University of North Carolina study found a decline in active transportation to school (i.e. walking or biking) on a national level from 41 percent in 1969 to less than 13 percent in 2006 (Lee County is likely much lower). Of course, the onslaught of fast food and junk food in kids’ diets, as well as an overall reduction in physical activity, are undoubtedly part of the cause. But just as is the case with adults who use active transportation on a regular basis (including walking to transit stops), those who incorporate walking and biking into the way they get around see a major effect on weight and wellness. For kids it’s something that lasts a lifetime: many will struggle with weight their whole lives as well as all the associated chronic health problems, from diabetes to hypertension to heart disease.

If you’re a parent or grandparent with some influence, here are a few things to consider. October 5 is National Walk to School Day so perhaps that’s a day to at least give it a try. But don’t expect that day’s activities to represent reality. It may include police escorts and other assistance that’s not normally the case. But at least it’s an attempt to get kids on their feet. Similarly, National Bike to School Day occurs in May, during National Bike Month. Ask your child’s school administrator if they teach bicycle/ pedestrian safety as part of their physical education curriculum. The Lee County School District has a trailer full of bikes and two Safe Routes to School instructors who work with physical education teachers on a rotating basis.

Another option is to initiate a walking (or biking) school bus on a year-round basis. A walking school bus is simple and fun. One or more parents take responsibility for leading kids to and from school or a bus stop, picking up others along the way. Check to see if your child’s school is willing to assist to get it off the ground, perhaps with the help of the school district’s school resource personnel.

At a recent focus group discussing ways to make our communities more walkable and bikeable, an FGCU student who was born and raised in Lee County provided very telling insight. She said that driving for every trip is so ingrained in those that have lived their whole lives in our suburban sprawl environment that it has come to be the norm. So even when other options exist they are not really considered. Indeed, some FGCU students actually drive from their on-campus dorms to their classes. The only way to avoid this outcome is to make walking and biking a routine part of childhood.

Parents and grandparents can make that happen by being role models, teaching them how to be safe in traffic (remembering that sidewalks are just as much a part of traffic as the travel lanes), and eventually letting them venture out themselves so they learn to be responsible for their own safety and gain independence. Rather than chronic health problems, those are the kind of long-term impacts I’m sure every parent wants for his or her child.¦

- 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 and 334- 6417.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cape Coral BikeWalkSafely2Live PSA Video contest launched today

As a result of the tireless work of Cape Coral Bike Ped in partnership with the City of Cape Coral, a safety video (PSA) contest for all Lee County schools was launched today at Cape Coral City Council Meeting.

From the press release:
'Calling all middle and high school students in media and audio-visual classes and your teachers, join this effort to create videos that encourage students to learn about bicycle and pedestrian safety issues.

The City of Cape Coral could send your Lee County school up to $1,000 to purchase media equipment or for bicycle and pedestrian initiatives. The best middle and high school students’ Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos will be aired on TV ads in Lee County.

This contest through media or audio-visual teachers is open to all Lee County Public, Charter, Private and Parochial schools.

As part of the City of Cape Coral’s bicycle and pedestrian safety initiative, Cape Coral Bike Ped volunteers and the City are asking for your help to increase the number of students who ride their bicycle and walk to school safely.

As Carolyn Conant, of Cape Coral Bike Ped, states: “With the help of middle and high school students’ in Lee County and their effort to create positive bike/ped safety messages in PSA videos that appeal to their peers, we can make this region safer for bicyclist and pedestrians. We believe that peer-to-peer safety and education videos will be a very effective method to get the message out on the rules of the road, the need to wear a helmet and other safety initiatives.”

So get your teachers to commit to be part of this contest, have your teacher go to and click on the big blue BikeWalkSafely2Live PSA Contest button to get started. Read the Contest Rules, get your parents or guardians to sign a Parental Release Form and have your teacher submit the best 15 video submissions on the online Entry Form. You can do it, get started today!

We are looking for creative approaches to encourage more students to ride and walk to schools and throughout the region in a safe manner. Participants need to create 10, 15 or 30 second videos that highlights bicycle and pedestrian safety and rules of the road and can be shown on TV ads if winners.

The Lee County School District will be sending out information on this contest to their principals today. Notice will also be going out to private and parochial schools.

The details:
  • Open to all Lee County middle & high school students in media or audio-visual classes.
  • Entries must be completed and sent in using the online Entry Form by the Lee County teacher (or designee) along with your uploaded video.
  • Videos must be uploaded at, click on BikeWalkSafely2Live PSA Contest button then click on the Entry Form to upload the videos.
  • Media production or audio-visual teachers, at the middle or high school level, will submit their students’ up to 15 best PSA video on the online Entry Form after reading the Contest Rules.
  • Every student involved in the video must return a signed Parental Release Form to your teacher for uploading onto the Entry Form for that project submission.
  • A project submission is as follows: one 30 second video, up to two 15 second videos or up to three 10 second videos.
  • Submissions will be accepted from September 5, 2016 through November 18, 2017. 
Winners will be chosen on originality, creativity, and how well the students use their artistic vision to portray the theme and how successfully the bicycle and pedestrian safety concept is conveyed. Be sure that what is being conveyed meets with bicycle and pedestrian safety laws in the State of Florida. Check out or websites for bicycle and pedestrian safety laws in Florida. The decision of the judges is final.

For more information contact: Carolyn Conant, Cape Coral Bike Ped, at 239-851-9737 or Jodi Walborn, Safe Routes to School coordinator and Bike Ped member, at 239-738-3155.'

BikeWalkLee comments on USDOT proposed performance measures

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released draft performance measures that sets the requirements for how states and metropolitan areas measure traffic congestion. These measures are important for transparency and accountability in transportation funding.

However, BikeWalkLee is concerned, along with our national partners, that the measures are outdated and prioritize moving cars quickly, rather than measuring economic growth, safety, equity, and opportunity.

See the BikeWalkLee comments submitted to USDOT below:

August 16, 2016
U.S. Department of Transportation
Docket Operations
M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE. Washington, DC 20590

Docket Name: National Performance Management Measures; Assessing Performance of the National Highway System, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and Freight Movement on the Interstate System
Docket Number: FHWA-2013-0054
RIN: 2125-AF54

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Federal Highway Administration’s proposed performance management measures.

BikeWalkLee is a citizen based community coalition, with 70 stakeholder organization supporters, who work to raise public awareness and advocate for complete streets. BikeWalkLee is dedicated to improving the quality of life and mobility in Lee County. Lee County was recently awarded a TIGER V grant for its complete streets initiative project, where improving safety is a key goal. Lee County's traffic safety record for bicyclists and pedestrians is in the top 10 worst in the state; and Florida is the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians and cyclists. Twenty-three percent of recent roadway crashes in Lee County involved injuries or fatalities to bicyclists or pedestrians--nearly double the national average.

For some time, BikeWalkLee has advocated for performance measures and targets for each transportation mode. As a result, we are concerned about the proposed rule for its inattention to modes other than the vehicle. The outcomes of these performance measures will be to reinforce an already failing transportation system that is focused on moving cars quickly. Instead, these proposed measures should support the USDOT’s commitment to transportation accessibility and complete streets that serve all users of our system. In essence, the focus for these measures should be based on the very human need for accessibility.

These comments are focused on the measures outlined in the proposed rule document, including those related to traffic congestion; on-road mobile source emissions; freight movement on the Interstate System; performance of the Interstate System; and performance of the non-Interstate NHS.

Congestion Measures. BikeWalkLee supports the inclusion of performance measures to account for congestion that include all modes. The measures should focus on the different kinds of congestion that the traveler experiences when using different modes. For example, a transit user will experience delays if the vehicle (e.g., bus or rail) is at or over capacity regardless of if the road it travels on is experiencing delay. Conversely, if the roadway is experiencing delays, a transit vehicle may or may not be “congested”. This requires that performance measures be sensitive to the difference and relative advantage of each mode within its unique context.

Air Quality. BikeWalkLee is also concerned about the measures associated with on-road mobile source emissions. The proposed rule limits that applicability of this measure to only the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) - funded projects. This is problematic, as the opportunity to reduce emissions comes from operations and capital projects. The rule, then, should recognize this and measure emissions reductions from all CMAQ recipients, rather than simply focus on CMAQ projects. In addition, this rule ignores the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that can come from increasing other non-vehicular modes of travel (such as walking and biking).

Accessibility. BikeWalkLee is further concerned that the proposed rules miss out on the important opportunity to measure accessibility. Accessibility is often defined as the individual’s ability to reach their desired destination, regardless of mode (foot, bike, or automobile). The importance of this measure cannot be overstated. As changes are made to the transportation network, accessibility is affected. For example, increases in automobile mobility may decrease transportation accessibility. This is especially true when major roadways are constructed through urban areas.

To improve the proposed rule, BikeWalkLee supports the revisions as proposed by Transportation for America in their public comments on Docket No. FHWA-2013-0054. In addition, as a member of the League of American Bicyclists, our organization endorses the content of the Leagues response to Docket No. FHWA 2013-0054.

While these two organizations are able to voice the national perspective on these issues, BikeWalkLee understands what's at stake on the local level. Our local officials will use these measures to prioritize projects and funding on the ground. The consequences for the content of these measures are significant at the local level, affecting our ability to implement complete streets programs, as well as reduce safety risks to pedestrians and cyclists. We need our federal partners to provide leadership by establishing the incentives and measures that will provide accountability for all levels of government to reach these goals.


Margaret Banyan

Margaret Banyan
Steering Group Member,
BikeWalkLee a coalition working to complete the streets in Lee County