BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, October 22, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
Government revenue is down. There’s no clear end to the pandemic. Uncertainty reigns, with confusion close by its side.
So why is it a good time to invest in bike/ped infrastructure? Let me tell you why.
- Demand is high, and the need should continue to grow.
The pandemic pushed people outside as a safe place to meet and move. That pushed bike sales to record highs, as well as getting people out walking and running in growing numbers. And now, even as governments strive to force open the economy by relaxing Covid clampdowns, a lot of people are keeping up their open-air exercise routines… both out of habit, enjoyment and health concerns.
More users need more paths and lanes on which to safely ride, run and walk. That can accommodate them today and encourage them tomorrow to turn something healthy into a habit even when the pandemic panic subsides for real.
- It’s a good economic jolt, growing jobs by building something that adds value to communities.
There are a lot of people out of work, a lot of companies struggling. An influx of infrastructure spending could counter that at a time when the economy needs a lot of encouragement… and too many parts of our local, state and national infrastructure is aging and in need to repair or replacement.
So let’s make some of that infrastructure bike/ped focused. Why? Because people will use it, which creates value in the neighborhoods it serves, which boost home values, which increases property taxes, which helps to fund local government and build local businesses. There aren’t a lot of investments that can claim that.
- People are rethinking how they live, increasing the focus on fitness and family. Bike/ped suits this new normal.
The pandemic has shown some people which community amenities are necessities vs. extravagances. At a time when people are spending more time together (families) and apart (friends), amenities that won’t close but will allow distancing (and which can get you from Point A to Point B to boot) and which are nearby and accessible become more attractive – and more essential.
- Money is as cheap as it will ever get… so use it, don’t hoard it.
Investing in infrastructure usually means borrowing the funds you need now to build now, and paying it back by creating value that generates revenue (see above). This equation works best with the cost of borrowing is lower rather than higher… and right now, interest rates are as low as they can go (perhaps). So investing in things a community needs and which enhance values makes a lot of sense.
- This is a great time to make this area into a place that draws people, not just tourists... that creates assets, not just attractions.
Southwest Florida has a number of things working in its favor… beaches and boating, natural beauty and world-class weather (if you like it on the warm side). It’s a natural fit for bike/ped as well, with the terrain and climate that should draw people from around the globe. But those people need more than just flat land and sunny skies – they need places to safely ride, run and walk. And those have been hard to find over the year in Southwest Florida.
A positive note: When communities have invested in bike/ped facilities that are safe and functional, people have come to use them. Sanibel Island is a prime example, of course, but the growth of bike/ped facilities in Cape Coral and Estero (among others) and the investment in networks that connect paths and lanes into a viable recreation/transportation system throughout Lee County is an asset in attracting visitors and residents who want to be more active and less tied to motor vehicles.
Are we there yet to make this a cycling/walking destination? No, but at least you could argue that we can see that off in the distance now, as opposed to it being a speck on the horizon 20 years ago. A serious and focused investment in bike/ped infrastructure that builds on the current improvements to enhance access, safety and function, could give this area an asset that would build on its outdoor attributes in a very positive way.
There may be an opportunity to do something special here. Let’s give it some thought..
Below is what’s scheduled for organized running and biking events locally… but confirm with the organizers and be flexible in case conditions change and large-group activities are limited. Of course, wear a mask and act appropriate to your age, condition and concerns.
FORT MYERS TRACK CLUB (ftmyerstrackclub.com):
- Sanibel Island 10K Race 4 F.I.S.H., Aug. 18-Oct. 31 (virtual)
- Cape Coral Turkey Trot 5K, Sept. 17-Nov. 26 (virtual)
- City of Palms River Run 10K, Sept. 17-Dec. 5 (virtual)
- Lazy Flamingo Half Marathon & 2-Person Relay, Sept. 17-Dec. 20 (virtual)
GC RUNNERS (gcrunner.org):
- Halloween Monster 5K (Naples), Saturday, Oct. 31 (virtual)
- Old Naples 10K, Saturday, Nov. 7 (in-person & virtual)
- GCR Thanksgiving 5K, Thursday, Nov. 26 (in-person & virtual)
- Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Saturday, Jan. 17 (in-person & virtual)
ELITE EVENTS (runeliteevents.com):
- Fall Classic Half Marathon and 5K, Naples, Saturday, Nov. 21
- Thanksgiving Day 5K Run and Walk, Estero, Thursday, Nov. 26
- Naples Christmas Glow Run 5K, Saturday, Dec. 5
- Naples Distance Classic 5K, 10K and Half Marathon, Sunday, Dec. 6
- 2020 LCEC Goblin Gallop 5K, Oct. 31, Jaycee Park, Cape Coral (in-person) (active.com)
- Run for Foster Kids, Oct. 1-31 (virtual) (runsignup.com)
The Caloosa Riders are offering member rides, but some are open to non-members (and it wouldn’t hurt you to join the club); check their ride calendar (caloosariders.org) for a description of the distance and speed, and to see if the ride is open to all.
SW Florida Critical Mass is offering their usual slate of family-friendly rides, although the NE Lee ride seems to be lacking a leader and thus is not on the calendar. The options are below, and you can check out their line-up online (http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/) for details and times.
- SW Florida Critical Mass ride, first Friday of the month. A family-friendly slow night ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Helmet and lights required, meet in the parking lot at 2180 West First Street, Fort Myers.
- Sanibel Critical Mass night ride, second Tuesday of the month. Gathers at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel. Lights required, helmets recommended.
- Cape Coral Critical Mass ride, fourth Friday of the month. Gather at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly night ride through the Cape; helmets and lights required.
- Saturday Morning Slow Roll, fourth Saturday of the month. Meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction.
If racing is not your thing but you’d like to
support their return nonetheless, consider volunteering to help out at
the few in-person offerings ahead. With Covid concerns still corralling
some of the club’s usual volunteers, a few new helping hand would
certainly be welcomed.