The News-Press, July 30, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Want proof that investing in bike/ped infrastructure works? Watch what happens once a bike lane or shared-use path is in place.
To misquote the well-worn movie phrase: “If you build it, they will come!”
One example: The bike path along Palomino Lane has been open less than a year, but it’s in constant use already – even in the summer!
In fact, it’s so popular that one of the communities nearby is working with the City of Fort Myers to construct its own shared-use path to connect to the Palomino pathway. This will boost usage even more, as well as move cyclists off a narrow two-lane road – the scene of a cycling fatality earlier this year.
Another example: Drive along Treeline Avenue some Saturday morning and you might see more bicycles than cars taking advantage of the bike lanes on both sides of the four-lane roadway – a favorite of the faster paceline riders – or the sidewalks along most of the roadway– preferred by more leisurely pedalers.
The coronavirus crisis has sparked a surge in cycling, but the popularity of bike/ped facilities was in place long before the pandemic arrived.
Whether a few streets long or an entire community wide, these facilities bring people out to enjoy a ride, run or walk at all hours of the day.
- Safety: Give people a safer place to ride, run or walk and they’ll use it. Getting them out of traffic and into a place designed with these activities in mind is a great attraction.
- Visibility: More people ride when they see more people riding, same with walking. It’s both a reminder that riding and walking is a viable option and the sense of safety in numbers – more people riding and walking reminds motorists to watch out for them.
- Convenience: Build a park people can drive to and they will… just not every day. But bring the park to their doorstep – literally – and watch them put it to use day in and day out.
|Photo courtesy: www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com|
More and more communities are realizing that bike/ped infrastructure is not just a good investment – it’s a public amenity that can attract residents and visitors simply by its presence. Just look at, say, Sanibel, where the extensive shared-use path is a boon to tourists and residents alike, both drawn by the ability to traverse the island without the constant need for a motor vehicle.
Cape Coral is following suit, identifying existing infrastructure that can be adapted for bike/ped use while working to fill in the gaps to make that infrastructure complete – and thus more useful to riders and walkers who want to get somewhere when they jump on their bikes or tie up their shoes.
More communities – existing and developing – tout their fitness amenities as a lure to buyers. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine they could also tout their community’s access to the larger county bike/ped network as yet another draw… which makes the continuing expansion of bike/ped infrastructure a smart move for city and county officials.
The county’s track record on creating bike/ped infrastructure is getting better, although there is still some lingering resistance to such investments (and a still-growing backlog of worthy projects lacking the funding to move forward). The county’s municipalities have done much better, even though some are more facile than others at making bike/ped planning integral rather than an afterthought.
If the coronavirus spike in biking stays in place, bike/ped facilities will see more demand. That’s why some smart cities worldwide are using this opportunity to expand bike/ped options and take back more of the public spaces for non-motorized use. More open space and less pollution, more room to run, walk or ride (at an appropriate distance) and less reliance on cars in places where their transportation attributes are not put to use.
Let’s hope the urge to ride or walk sticks around even when this tiresome virus has waned, and that local governments follow the international trends and keep growing our bike/ped infrastructure.
It should be a no-brainer. Just look around and see existing bike lanes and shared-use paths teeming with bikers and walkers… and you’ll see why building it is (public and private) money well spent.
Ready to ride or run?
Nothing new on the race calendars, just virtual events and the promise of racing to return come the fall (Covid willing). Keep checking the usual websites for updates… be prepared to sign up, but also be prepared to deal with postponements if the rules on gatherings don’t change.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.
# # #
Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.