Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Walk Audits provide "roadmap for improvements" needed to make walking safer in Tice and Dunbar communities

Over the past year, BikeWalkLee, FGCU, and Goodwill Industries have been working on a collaborative community project funded by a SWFL Community Foundation grant, to work with residents of the Tice and Dunbar neighborhoods to assess their walking and biking environments and to facilitate engagement in the community. The release of the Walk Audit Final Report this week provides local officials with recommendations to consider as they respond to last week's national Dangerous by Design 2016 report, which ranked the Lee County metro area as the most dangerous area in the country for pedestrians, with economically disadvantaged communities disproportionately impacted by unsafe conditions.

BikeWalkLee thanks the community residents who participated in the walking audits, the community organizations that hosted the walks, our project partners--FGCU, Goodwill Industries, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation; and members of the project team [Dr. Margaret Banyan, Diane Odeh, Vickie Rydz, Stephan Pierce, Mercedes Castillo, Darla Letourneau, and Dan Moser].  We are also appreciative to AARP for its excellent "AARP Tool Kit" for conducting walking audits. 

At the end of this blog is an extensive list of links to all components of this report, the Dangerous by Design 2016 report, and all BikeWalkLee's previous blogs about our efforts in the Tice community over the past 5 years.

Over the past five years, much work has been done with the Tice community, involving the Tice Historic Community Planning Group, BikeWalkLee, FGCU, Goodwill, the Lee Department of Health, along with many other community stakeholders.  Tice was also part of a federal grant administered through Project for Public Spaces to improve community engagement and livability in the Tice Community.  These combined efforts have resulted in thorough identification of problems and community-supported recommendations to policymakers to increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

BikeWalkLee has taken a special interest in working with the Tice community due to the high concentration of people riding bikes and walking, its high incidence of accidents, and its status as a disadvantaged community. We, and the community, believe that improving the conditions for walking and biking would translate into increased livability for its residents.

Walk Audit Final Report: A Collaborative Community Project
BikeWalkLee was a proud partner with Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University on a transportation and livability grant funded by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation administered through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. The grant was designed to work with residents of the Tice and Dunbar neighborhoods to assess their walking and biking environments and to facilitate engagement in the community. The Dunbar area was included in the grant as a way to leverage the project throughout two communities with high concentrations of pedestrians and bicyclists. The result was a series of walk audit reports that each documented the routes, issues, and opportunities within the neighborhoods. The team also produced a final report that summarizes the problems and opportunities throughout the neighborhoods.  Links to the final report as well as the ten individual walking audits are listed below.

The project also included the first known and documented research on what participants learned during the walk audits. Across the board, participants demonstrated increased knowledge of safe walking and biking. In addition, they increased their understanding of who is responsible for making change in their neighborhoods and who they can tell when there are problems.

Goodwill and its grant partners are continuing the work of improve safety for walking and biking in Tice and Dunbar, sponsoring a series of "Traffic Safety Tips and Tools" presentations in the community with BWL's Dan Moser. 

The partners are also continuing to distribute the Request for Assistance (RFA) cards developed by the team as part of this grant to provide an easy way to let residents know how to report infrastructure problems in their communities.

BikeWalkLee is grateful to its partners and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation for its commitment to seeing this grant through.  We also want to thank AARP (one of our partner organizations and national champions of Complete Streets) for its excellent tool kit on how to perform a walking audit, which was used as a model throughout these walk audits.

This work will position the highly walkable neighborhoods of Tice and Dunbar to advocate for better and safer infrastructure that will, in turn, enhance livability and community engagement.

Dangerous by Design 2016 Report
The recently released Dangerous by Design 2016 report by Smart Growth America, ranked the Cape Coral/Fort Myers metro area as the most dangerous for pedestrians in the country.  [See BWL blog 1/10/17: Lee County ranks as most dangerous metro area in country for pedestrians: BikeWalkLee's statement in response to Dangerous by Design 2016 report.]
The national report also documented that people of color and those in economically disadvantaged communities are disproportionately represented among pedestrian deaths.  This national finding holds true in Lee County: Our most economically disadvantaged communities, including Tice and Dunbar, are the ones suffering the disproportionate share of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities yet receive the least investments to make their streets safer.

BikeWalkLee's statement in response to this national report includes a detailed "roadmap for improvement", with suggestions for all regional and state agencies as well as each of the local jurisdictions.  All jurisdictions are asked to "Fund projects, review policies and revise practices to ensure that infrastructure in those community disproportionately impacted by unsafe conditions and those in underserved and economically disadvantaged communities are given priority."  In addition, the specific suggestions for Lee County and the City of Fort Myers include implementing the recommendations of this walking audit report.

Report by Dr. Margaret Banyan and Darla Letourneau

Links to Walk Audit Reports:
Walking Audit Final Report: A Collaborative Community Project, Jan. 2017
Individual Walk Audit Reports:
•    St. Martin de Porres (Participants)
•    Tice United Methodist Church
•    Morse Shores Civic Association
•    Jesus the Worker Church
•    Tice Elementary School
•    Orange River Elementary School
•    St. Martin de Porres Board
•    Franklin Park Elementary
•    Royal Palm--Housing Authority of Fort Myers
•    Mt. Hermon Ministries
•    Dunbar High School

Comprehensive Walk Audit Final Report and 10 audit reports (all above combined)

AARP Walk Audit Tool Kit

Links to BWL blog posts about focus on Tice Community (2012-to present)

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