Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Can trails impact our traffic safety problem?

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, March 27, 2019

Yarborough Trail is the spine of the Fort Myers trail network. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it 100 times. People will no longer ride their bikes. This sad statement comes from visitors, new residents, snowbirds and long-time residents. While I do my best to explain the principles and benefits of vehicular cycling versus operating on sidewalks, most are not swayed because of our dismal traffic crash history and what they observe every day. For these frustrated cyclists and countless others who would prefer staying off the roads, wouldn’t it be great to be able to ride (and walk or run) separated from traffic on dedicated pathways that are designed and built to handle more than pedestrians?

Our area has a number of examples of shared use paths, but creating a much more complete network is necessary for cycling to be a viable option to driving.

Dale Allen, president of Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation, recently addressed local elected officials and others at the Collabratory in Fort Myers. His presentation included reminders that Florida and many of its communities is among the most dangerous in America for pedestrians and cyclists.

Having a robust trail network can change this, he said. Mr. Allen highlighted several examples of popular trail networks around the U.S., with details related to the multitude of benefits they generate, from economic to health and safety to quality of life. In Florida, SUNTrail can be the catalyst to changing our reputation, he said.

Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson invited Mr. Allen to address a meeting of the Florida League of Cities and mentioned the idea of creating special taxing districts as a way to fund bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Bonita Springs Deputy Mayor Peter O’Flinn, Florida Bicycle Association’s 2018 Elected Official of the Year, explained how transportation impact fees can be used as mobility fees to expand use beyond accommodating more cars on the roads and instead cover all users’ needs.

Mr. Allen said the Florida Department of Transportation is supportive of SUNTrail and the concept of trail networks throughout Florida.

To learn more about the Gulf Coast Regional Connector, our segment of SUNTrail, visit Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation at and  ¦

- 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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