|Carolyn Conant has a plan to fulfill a long-overdue need to provide appropriate access across the Caloosahatchee River for non-motorists.|
Southwest Florida draws people from many parts of the country and world, including quite a few who decide to make it their home. Among those who end up here are those who can be considered visionaries, bringing ideas from their own imagination or from what they’ve experienced in the places they’ve lived or visited. Carolyn Conant is one of our visionaries whose dreams have a very good chance of becoming reality.
Those of us in the world of bike/ped advocacy know Carolyn for being the driving force behind Cape Coral becoming a Bike Friendly Community. Although she’s only an occasional bike rider, Carolyn’s background as a budget manager for a major national construction firm, along with her urban studies and social services education, gives her the tools she used to make that happen.
A while back Carolyn spearheaded the public-private effort to get almost 100 miles of bike route designed and marked in that city, the trigger that moved Cape Coral to its BFC. Now she wants to take it to the next level by making Cape Coral a destination for those who want to have a top-notch bicycling and pedestrian experience. Her idea would also fulfill a long-overdue need to provide appropriate access across the river for non-motorists. The lack of access between Cape Coral and Fort Myers is a major shortcoming the League of American Bicyclists noted in its review of the Cape’s Bike Friendly Community application.
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The westbound span of the Cape Coral Bridge was opened in the early 1960s and is due to be replaced before the end of this decade. Carolyn seized on this fact by introducing her vision to go well beyond constructing a spartan structure with a signature bridge that would attract visitors, vastly improve safety and access for all users, create economic development and enhance quality of life for residents on both sides of the river. It’s early in the process and Carolyn has brought her vision to any and all government and non-government bodies that would listen, from civic and business organizations to government councils and advisory committees. She has been well received.
Just like any transportation project that’s designed beyond the basics there’s a higher cost. But the additional resources expended will pay off in benefits over time. In this case the vision is for a bridge, or multiple bridge structures, that provides access for all users along with upgrades such as pedestrian-friendly underpasses with artistic lighting, sound features, art installations and the possibility of keeping one of the old spans and turning it into a dedicated bike/ped linear park that will connect to other parks and business districts on both sides of the river.
When looking at the current configuration on the Fort Myers side, the design is about as bad as it gets for all those who must traverse it. It’s confusing for drivers, unattractive for those on bicycles, and downright hostile for pedestrians who can’t use the bridge but also can’t get to the neighborhoods leading to it. The Cape side isn’t nearly as confusing, but because of its wide-open nature, speeding is a problem. Any new design should address all the approach issues while also adequately accommodating every user. In fact, if the right design is chosen, it’ll do much more than that.
Of course, there are many hurdles to jump, the primary one being whether Lee County and the city of Cape Coral have the political will to expend more money than what a usual spartan structure would cost. But based on Carolyn’s track record of convincing folks that matter, getting a final product that’s the destination signature bridge she envisions is a very real possibility. And we’d all benefit from it.
To learn about this topic and more, visit bikewalklee.blogspot.com and www.streetsaliveswfl.org.¦
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.