Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sidewalks are not shared use paths

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, February 13, 2019

This FDOT side path on Cleveland Avenue is clearly a sidewalk intended for pedestrians. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY
Just when it appeared that the Florida Department of Transportation had transformed itself from the auto-centric roadbuilding agency of the past to one that had finally embraced Complete Streets, it backslid in a big way. Although it’s been under the radar for much of the general public and the media, a decision made in Tallahassee last year has drastically changed the policy related to side-paths construction and maintenance.

The new policy requires local governments to fully maintain any side path on FDOT roads that are meant for more than just pedestrians, meaning shared use paths over 8 feet wide and constructed of asphalt will no longer be built on state roads unless locals take over all aspects of maintenance (storm water management, surface repair and replacement, and other elements like railings and fences), an expense most governments will not agree to absorb.

Worse yet, FDOT made this major decision without any input from the many jurisdictions throughout the state that the policy has already begun to impact, which is totally contrary to a key principles of Complete Streets.

Like many states’ transportation departments, FDOT’s old motto was “we build them to ’em and through ’em,” referring to the way they operated without taking into consideration how roads would change communities or what local governments’ wishes were. The scars of this mindset are obvious when visiting just about any town in Florida where “main street” is or was the state highway ripping through its central business district, meaning there’s little chance of it being pedestrian-friendly unless locals forced it to be rerouted or redesigned.

Fort Myers is one such community that was able to convince FDOT to change the nature of SR 80 (Palm Beach Boulevard and Second Street) and SR 82 (Martin Luther King Boulevard). To FDOT’s credit, it recently put into place its own Complete Streets policy which includes much more bike/ped-friendly designs on surface roads (i.e., non-interstates and turnpike). Cleveland Avenue, from Winkler Avenue to downtown Fort Myers, should be a good example of this change of approach once work is completed.

However, this latest side path policy change will have many consequences that are clearly not complying with its own Complete Streets policy, a policy that first and foremost includes input from as many sources as possible, but especially those being directly impacted.

The effects of FDOT’s regression are significant. Even when buffered bike lanes are provided, narrow, concrete sidewalks rather than wider asphalt paths will reduce the number of folks who would use their bikes for transportation or to recreate, meaning more motor vehicles on the roads (motor vehicle travel lanes are much more expensive to build and maintain than SUPs). It will also severely impact the statewide trail system by creating many gaps because most jurisdictions simply will not take on maintenance of another jurisdiction’s right-of-way. Narrow concrete sidewalks do not meet the standards for the statewide trail network. And many funding sources specific to the statewide system or trails in general will be off the table due to adjacent segments on state roads not meeting standards, thus there would be no continuity. Already affected locally are SR 80 east of I-75, SR 78 (Bayshore Road) from just west of I-75 to SR 31, and SR 31 (the road to Babcock, which will have its own trail network open to the public).

At this point there seems to be little willingness by FDOT to reconsider its unilateral decision. For those local governments that have SUPs included on bike/ ped master plans or otherwise expected SUPs have two bad choices: let FDOT reduce them to sidewalks (as Lee County has already done) or agree to an unexpected, unknown, and unfair burden by taking on all maintenance expenses. These choices would never be required for elements of FDOT’s network that serve motor vehicles. To learn more about this and similar matters visit ¦

- 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

BikeWalkLee is not responsible for the validity of any comment posted at this site and has the right to remove any comment at any time.