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
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.
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 bikewalklee.blogspot.com. ¦
- 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 email@example.com 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.