Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Pedestrian, bicycle improvement projects moving along

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, September 11, 2019

A rending of the temporary improvement on Fowler Street looking south toward Hanson Street. COURTESY IMAGE

As Lee County and all of Southwest Florida continues to grow at a breakneck pace many transportation projects are taking place as well. While most road improvement projects or new road development include sidewalks or shared-use paths and sometimes even bike lanes, the fact is that what generally continues to be designed and built are facilities intended to move motor traffic as quickly and efficiently as possible with non-motorists being treated as secondary users.

This approach means pedestrians and those on bicycles continue to face dangers and difficulties when navigating our public rights of way. In fact, many of the improvement projects turn our streets and roads into full-fledged highways with design speeds increased by 10 mph or higher than the posted speed limit (usually 40 mph higher), making using them a challenging and largely unpleasant task for non-motorists.

Here are a few project updates.

¦ Fowler Street from Hanson Street to MLK/SR-82 is the last segment of the Metro corridor stretching from Alico Road in south Fort Myers to just north of the Shell Factory in North Fort Myers. It’s been left unimproved for decades and is the definition of a dysfunctional road segment. Although it’s under the jurisdiction of FDOT, the city of Fort Myers has held up any kind of improvement since the late 1980s, all at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists. There are no sidewalks or even usable shoulders, not to mention driver safety is compromised, as it’s a four-lane road with no median or left- turn lanes. FDOT and Fort Myers have finally come to a tentative agreement on at least an interim plan that provides accommodation for pedestrians (bicycle users will be accommodated on parallel Evans Avenue with the addition of an on-road, two-way cycle track; the existing sidewalk will remain on Evans). As part of the plan, Evans will turn one of its three northbound lanes into a southbound one; Fowler will have two southbound lanes and one northbound.

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 239-334-6417.
The fact that FDOT is willing to take this temporary approach after almost 40 years of taking no action tells me there’s really no satisfying the city of Fort Myers, so what a final plan might be remains to be seen. This segment is appropriate for a one-way pair as there are a number of perpendicular streets running between Evans and Fowler, allowing for easy access to locations on both streets. But because the city has dug in against a one-way pair (even though that’s what exists from MLK to both spans of the Edison Bridge) we’re stuck with this temporary solution which may last for another few decades.

¦ The spine of Lee County’s trail network runs adjacent to the rail line between U.S. 41 and Metro Parkway and includes John Yarbrough Park Trail (JY Trail), which currently exists from Six Mile Cypress Parkway to Colonial Boulevard. The next phase continues north to Hanson. This is indeed welcome news. But there’s really no plan to extend it as a pathway that’s not along a highway from Hanson (it’ll run along Metro/Evans from there and the path is a sidewalk not a shared-use path). Additionally, one of the key features that was supposed to be part of this extension will not come to be: there will be no direct connection between JY Trail and North Colonial Linear Trail. FTOD even redesigned the Metro overpass just north of Winkler Avenue to accommodate this planned connection.

¦ On the southern end of JY Trail a long-overdue trailhead parking lot is in the works. Lee County purchased property west of Metro and the railroad tracks and east of Independence Circle and is currently designing the trailhead facility, which is slated to be constructed in 2020.

¦ The SUNTrail statewide trail system segment in Cape Coral is making progress. This 12-foot wide, 6.5-mile project runs from Burnt Store Road to the east along Van Buren Parkway, El Dorado Boulevard and Kismet Parkway, terminating at Del Prado Boulevard. It’s broken into two phases with design of phase 1 — from Burnt Store to Nelson Road — about complete and construction slated to begin next year. What should be interesting is how a segment east of Del Prado that’s necessary to meet up with the north-south SUNTrail corridor in North Fort Myers along 41 will be dealt with. Lee County is currently designing a realignment to directly connect Littleton Road to Kismet, but it does not appear to be including a shared-use path facility along it in the plan.

To learn about this topic and more, visit and

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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