Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Design matters

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, February 26, 2020

This keyhole bike lane won’t exist with FDOT’s new policy. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY
Vision Zero, the effort being undertaken by many governments and organizations to not just reduce traffic-related crashes but to eliminate them, is a worthy goal, but if plans aren’t fully thought through there will be unintended consequences.

Some consequences may result in the exact opposite of what Vision Zero is meant to do, such as making it more difficult to get around efficiently. A major change to Florida’s roadway design guidelines may be an example.

The change — outlining when bike lanes are to be used — was announced locally at the January meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinating Committee — an advisory committee that deals with bike/pedestrian matters throughout the county.

Specifically, bike lanes will no longer be included on state roads that have no curbs and with posted speeds of 45 mph or higher. In Lee County, that means that segments of U.S. 41, Pine Island Road/ Bayshore Road, McGregor Boulevard, San Carlos Boulevard, Palm Beach Boulevard and MLK Boulevard could be affected when resurfacing or other improvements are made. It includes the potential removal of existing bike lanes. U.S. 41 from around Alico Road to just south of San Carlos Park, which will soon be resurfaced, as the first example of this new policy..

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 standards mandate that in populated areas where bike lanes are not constructed, a shared-use path (meaning at least 10 feet wide and made of asphalt) should be constructed to accommodate pedestrians and those on bicycles. If there’s only a concrete sidewalk (8 feet or less) or no sidepath, a 5-foot paved shoulder with right-turn lane keyholes (moving the shoulder from the right side of a right-turn lane over to the left of it so there’s no conflict at the intersection) is an option but not a requirement.

On U.S. 41 near San Carlos Park there are currently 5-foot concrete sidewalks (which frequently go underwater during rainy season) so a paved shoulder and keyholes may be how the final product ends up, unless the sidepath is upgraded to an asphalt shared use path. Or not.

FDOT’s intentions to separate those on bikes from high-speed motor vehicles is understandable, and the majority of people who ride bikes would prefer that be the case. But there are a number of other elements to consider, including how pedestrians might be affected. Those who prefer operating bikes on the road generally ride at higher speeds than is appropriate on pathways so that means if they are relegated to the path by design they pose a risk to pedestrians when traveling at high speeds.

And at each intersection, whether side streets or driveways, there’s now a much higher risk of conflict for cyclists since many motorists don’t stop where indicated or, in some situations, aren’t required to stop prior to crossing the pathway because it’s set back so far from the road.

Another major factor is the reality that e-bikes and other micro-mobility devices will soon be everywhere and will be operating at speeds way too high for sidewalks and shared-use paths. From my observations and experience it’s already a problem.

I have no doubt that FDOT is making its best effort to implement Complete Streets in a way that balances access and safety and that it’s committed to providing shared use paths wherever they forego bike lanes. But the reality is that it could/would never allocate enough funding to even come close to doing so, since the vast majority of state roads statewide have speed limits at or above 45 mph and without curbs.

To its credit, FDOT recently reversed its short-lived policy that any time it constructs a sidepath wider than a 5- or 6-foot concrete sidewalk local governments must take on maintenance and repair or default to having sidewalks. Most local governments would balk at that requirement and settle for a sidewalk designed and constructed exclusively for pedestrian traffic.

Another constructive step FDOT is taking will be to review all local bike/ pedestrian master plans so it will know where bike lanes on state roads are proposed or expected in order to come to some kind of agreement that will accommodate the most people.

That’s a good approach, assuming the micro-mobility element will be fully considered in whatever facility or treatment type is offered. Operating e-bikes under electric power is currently banned when on sidepaths (unless local ordinances are enacted to allow them) but it’s rarely enforced. And while the most common e-bikes now in use have a top electric-only speed of 20 mph the fact is that there will soon be a lot more in operation that have much higher speeds.

If adequate accommodation for all users isn’t provided, we lowly pedestrians will be most impacted. Bringing outside experts and users into the decision-making process is a must if FDOT is to get it right.

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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