|Turning this unpaved pathway along Cleveland Avenue into a paved trail would connect the two neighborhoods on either side of Fort Myers Country Club. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY|
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Depending on many factors, such as where we come from, where we visit, or our individual everyday experiences, our perspectives on Southwest Florida’s bike/pedestrian infrastructure and overall environment can fall anywhere from excellent to horrendous. I regularly hear comments reflecting both extremes.
I admit to looking at this subject very critically because I’m involved in so many aspects of it, from injury prevention to equitable transportation and recreation access for those on foot and bicycle. That being my point of view, our part of Florida rates a “C-”, with lots of room for improvement. That’s actually a generous grade, considering the Cape Coral/Fort Myers metro area is the most dangerous place in the country for pedestrians (smartgrowthamerica.org/dangerous-by-design).
¦ Central and south Lee County: The last infrastructure element of Lee County’s $10 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery)(leempo.com) grant is wrapping up as wayfinding signage are being installed. The bulk of funding went to improve our bike/ ped/transit network from Colonial south to the Collier County line, mostly on U.S. 41 and points east.
¦ Lehigh Acres: Planning work continues for the Able Canal Multi-Use Trail (swflroads.com/ablecanalpathway) that will serve as a 5.5-mile linear park as well as linking existing parks and recreation areas in Lehigh Acres. There’s a way to go before the pathway is on the ground but funding to continue moving towards that end is in place.
¦ Cape Coral: The possibility of creating public use within the long-abandoned Cape Coral Golf Club property remains alive (saveourrecreation.us). After a developer’s plan to build homes on the site was denied by the city in 2017 the city council approved the reinstatement of the Park Master Plan Stakeholders Group in order to come up with recreational-use recommendations for the 175-acre former golf course. The city still doesn’t own the property but it is in negotiations with its owners.
¦ Fort Myers: A non-motorized link between Cleveland Avenue and McGregor Boulevard will likely run along Fort Myers Country Club property on Hill Avenue. A major benefit is the possibility of utilizing the canal berm along Carrell Road from Cleveland to points east, theoretically linking to both John Yarbrough (JY) Trail and North Colonial Linear Trail. Since the proposed trail from McGregor to U.S. 41 must run along a portion of the golf course property along Cleveland to get to the intersection with Carrell, the next logical addition to the plan would be to continue north along U.S. 41 to Halgrim Avenue, thereby connecting the two neighborhoods on either side of the golf course and giving residents access to the Carrell trail.
¦ Fort Myers: The extension of JY north of Colonial is also being studied. The ultimate plan is to reach downtown and the river, mainly utilizing the existing Metro/ Evans corridor. But the key missing link at this point — besides the pathetic segment of Fowler Street from near Hanson Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (that’s a sad story in itself) — is from Colonial to the new Metro overpass north of Winkler. If properly designed and constructed (a big “if”) JY will also connect to the existing North Colonial Linear Trail and the proposed Carrell Road trail. Information about the two Fort Myers projects can be found at cfmpathwaystudies.com.
¦ Southwest Florida Critical Mass (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL): These well-established outings are not your usual group rides in that they truly represent the essence of having fun on a bike. And while the rides are entertaining they also raise awareness about traffic safety and the benefits of cycling.
¦ Streets Alive of SWF (streetsaliveswfl.org): This nonprofit that began as the creator of two Open Road/Cyclovia events has morphed into one that, according to its mission statement, will foster a livable community through activities, advocacy, education and service.
¦ BikeWalkLee (bikewalklee.org & bikewalklee.blogspot.com): With a mission similar to Streets Alive this community coalition that was established in 2008 works to raise public awareness and advocate for Complete Streets in Lee County. The main difference is that BWL works behind the scenes on governmental policy matters and posts information related to advancing Complete Streets on its blog and via e-newsletters.
¦ Bicycle/pedestrian master plans and bike map: Lee MPO (leempo.com) is the conduit for funding of local jurisdiction bike/ped master plans that identify needs and quantify required resources. Along with those slated to be funded in the near future is the revision of a countywide bike/ped safety action plan. As well, work on a new edition of Lee County’s bike map should be forthcoming from Lee MPO now that TIGER grant projects are complete.¦
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and 334-6417.
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.