Tuesday, December 18, 2018

BWL letter to BoCC in support of Joel Blvd. "road diet"

BWL sent a letter to the Board of County Commissioners voicing its full support for the County's upcoming Joel Blvd. lane reconfiguration (known as a road diet), which is scheduled to be implemented as part of the regular resurfacing of this road in the Spring.  Road diets (along with roundabouts) are one of the best ways to improve the safety of all road users, esp. the most vulnerable.
Before and After photo of road diet
December 15, 2018

Dear Commissioners:
BikeWalkLee is a volunteer community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County and promoting policies that enhance the safety of Florida's roadways.  At a recent Community Traffic Safety Team (CTST) meeting, we became aware of LeeDOT’s planned new safety treatment on Joel Blvd. in Lehigh.  Given BikeWalkLee’s commitment to improving the safety of Lee County roadways, we wanted to voice our full support for the County’s scheduled Joel Boulevard lane reconfiguration (called a road diet), to be implemented in the Spring of 2019 as part of the regular resurfacing of this road.

As you know, for more than a decade, Lee County has consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous areas for pedestrians and cyclists both in Florida and nationwide, and Florida has ranked the most dangerous state in the country.  In the 2016 national “Dangerous by Design” report, Lee County was ranked as the most dangerous community in the country, demonstrating the urgent need for safety improvements on our roadways.  This road diet project is one way the County can demonstrate that it is taking action to turn around our “worst in the nation” ranking. 
We are pleased to see the County following through on the implementation of one of the elements of its 2010 Complete Streets Implementation Plan, developed to carry out the Board’s Complete Streets policy adopted in 2009.  A “road diet” (which typically entails converting an existing 4-lane road into two lanes with a center turn lane and bike lanes), is one of the key proven safety treatments promoted by FHWA and FDOT as part of its efforts to improve safety for all road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists who are the most vulnerable.
Road diets are proven to save lives by reducing the number of crashes by 20-50%; and by reducing speeds; the severity of the injuries is less, resulting in fewer fatalities.  This is particularly important for road users at the greatest risk—pedestrians and cyclists.   Safety is of paramount concern at the Joel Blvd. location, where 83 crashes have occurred over the past two years, six of which were fatal.  It is also an excellent choice for a road diet, given its current and projected vehicle volume loads.
One of the most cost effective ways to implement new complete street safety treatments is to incorporate them into the planning for road resurfacing.  We applaud the County for taking a holistic approach at this location, and urge you to make this a routine practice to integrate the complete streets and resurfacing planning in order to bring needed safety improvements on the ground faster and for much less cost than if done separately.

As with many safety improvements that are new to the public (e.g., road diets and roundabouts), there is often some opposition from residents and businesses when first proposed because it’s a change.  It’s clear from the research and reporting on the experiences of communities around the country that most public opposition is quickly forgotten after residents experience the new treatments and see the significant safety benefits associated with them.  It is important for our elected officials to stand by the importance of making safety of our roadways the top priority.

Thank you for making the safety of all road users, esp. pedestrians and cyclists, a top priority in your reconfiguration of Joel Blvd.

Dan Moser
On behalf of BikeWalkLee




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