Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Advocacy groups are raising awareness for pedestrians, cyclists

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 9/12/18

Hanson Street, above, in Fort Myers is an example of an incomplete street.
North Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach, right, is a complete street.
As much as I find lacking in our area in terms of the precarious environment for people on foot and bicycles, the dedication among individuals, groups and formal organizations working to affect change isn’t one of our weak points.

My Aug. 1 column delved into some of the projects coming online that should improve things and I briefly touched on folks who are organized in one way or another in order to affect change for the better. This time I’d like to expand on a few of those positive efforts taking place.

Southwest Florida Critical Mass just marked its fifth anniversary. This loose-knit group of people that meets up each month at four or five different locations around Lee County to enjoy parade-like rides is going strong. While having fun is the primary purpose, members also raise awareness about traffic safety and the many benefits of cycling, on their brightly lit-up, oftentimes tricked-out bikes. In some parts of the country the term “critical mass” is associated with bike advocacy that involves civil disobedience. The Lee County group is just the opposite as it represents fun and positive advocacy.

Streets Alive of Southwest Florida, originally created in 2012 as a Healthy Lee coalition effort to plan and facilitate our area’s first two Cyclovias, has expanded its focus beyond event management. It is now engaging directly with the community by undertaking bike/ped-related projects and efforts, primarily in at-risk and underserved neighborhoods. It is also conducting symposiums for government, private sector developers and individuals who are concerned about how growth affects our quality of life. Their achievements include needed improvements being made to the pedestrian infrastructure in and around Franklin Park Elementary School in Dunbar. Thanks to formal walking audits they undertook with residents, nearby nonprofits, and the school’s students and personnel, Streets Alive was able to document the need to add bike/ped facilities on school property and surrounding streets. It also secured grants to purchase bikes, safety equipment and to develop a curriculum specific to their needs to teach bike/ped safety. Many Streets Alive members have received formal training from the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Program so are certified community instructors who can conduct bike safety, clinics and assist schools, recreation programs, and others with hands-on bike/ ped safety education. It also planned and facilitated two exemplary conferences to educate professional community and transportation planners, elected officials, developers and concerned citizens about the benefits of sustainable development and Complete Streets.

BikeWalkLee continues to work behind the scenes to promote, monitor and inform the public related to Complete

Streets policies and practices in our area. This coalition, which came together in 2008 as a result of outrage over transportation policies and practices that focused almost exclusively on moving cars and that put pedestrians and cyclists at risk when using our public roads, has been instrumental in convincing local governments and even Florida Department of Transportation to embrace Complete Streets as official policy. The challenge now facing BikeWalkLee is ensuring the various governments follow through with their policies and not backslide by giving in to certain developers and others who would rather go back to accommodating cars over people. This is no easy task as our economy thrives and we again experience breakneck growth.

To sum up, along with other group efforts, such as Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition, Healthy Lee, Community Traffic Safety Team and supportive governmental agencies like the Metropolitan Planning Organization, there should be success in getting Lee County off the top of the list of most dangerous places for pedestrians and move us toward being truly bike/ped-friendly.

For more information on these projects and efforts, see ¦

- 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. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( 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.

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