Thursday, November 19, 2020

BikeWalkLee: Rail right-of-way a path to success

BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, November 19, 2020
by Ken Gooderham

Collier County and the cities of Bonita Springs and Estero are studying the possibilities of acquiring miles of railroad rights of way connecting all three, for eventual re-use as multi-use pathways and public transit.

So why is this a good opportunity and a great idea?

Simple… it’s a unique possibility to capture a swath of property adjacent to already developed (or developing) areas, guaranteeing a lot of potential users right next door.

It would give these governments the opportunity to create a multi-use and multimodal transportation corridor from the ground up, where designs and needs could be planned and integrated, instead of retrofitted and accommodated.

It could create a higher-speed public transit option away from the congestion and confusion of U.S. 41 and Interstate 75 – and close to homes, shops, businesses and government offices.

And it could be a building block to expand a similar multi-use corridor northward along the same corridor, creating a potential bike/ped/transit pathway that could stretch from northern Collier County to Charlotte County and beyond.

The Elliot Bay Trail in Seattle, Washington (

Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t – but it will take commitment, courage and (of course) cash to become reality.

The three governments are working with the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands on the acquisition, which is still in the study-and-negotiation stage… so a long way from reality. Still, you have to start somewhere.

Also, right now Collier is more focused on public transit, while Estero and Bonita are looking at the bike/ped options more seriously. Both are needed, and we can hope that, if this idea comes to fruition, both bike/ped and transit stay on the table.

The idea itself is not new, having been thoroughly explored in a 2013 study of the Seminole Gulf Railway corridor sponsored by the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT). A number of options for the right-of-way were discussed, along with the opportunities and obstacles in each.

Would it be easy? No. Would it be worth it? Absolutely.

Creating a convenient and uncongested public transit corridor would be a real asset for our area, giving people a real alternative to automobiles at a considerably reduced cost (because you’re building from scratch and working with clear right-of-way). You could even consider multiple transit options… starting with bus rapid transit (just like it sounds, buses making fewer stops and covering more distance) to light rail and even commuter rail as the population (and potential users) grew.

You would still have sufficient space to create a safe and convenient bike/ped path system that could allow people to bike north and south in relative security – another great asset as well as a valuable amenity for nearby neighborhood.

Let’s face it: This area is going to continue to grow, and we’ll never be able to build enough roads if everyone has to rely solely on cars to get around. As roadways get more and more congested, viable mass transit is going to become more attractive to users – and more crucial to maintaining our quality of life.

Similarly, recreation and transportation focused on bike and pedestrian facilities will also continue to grow, so providing a safe and functional network of paths will be another quality-of-life asset. And, as anyone who has watched bile/ped facility in this area knows, if you build it they will come.

So kudos to these three government entities for pursuing this very prudent possibility. We hope the studies and discussions end up make this plan a reality. If that happens, we also hope that Lee County and the City of Fort Myers build on this momentum by launching their own look into expanding this transportation corridor northward.

It’s a great idea that could be a game-changer for our area. Let’s hope the pieces come together.

Turkey Trot? Not!

Another victim of the coronavirus is the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Trots… at least some of the in-person events. The venerable Cape Coral Turkey Trot (celebrating its 41st year) is virtual only, as is the FGCU Gobbler 5K. The Gulf Coast Runners’ Trot has been shortened to 2 miles (from the usual 5K) – but it’s both virtual and in-person (at Naples’ Cambier Park). If it just won’t be Turkey Day without your 5K Trot, head to Hertz Arena in Estero for the Elite Events’ run at 7 a.m. on Nov. 26. Just don’t forget your mask! 


Here’s what is 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.


  • 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)
  • Strides for Education 5K, Feb. 6, 2021 (in-person and virtual)


  • GCR Thanksgiving 5K, Thursday, Nov. 26 (in-person & virtual)
  • Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Saturday, Jan. 17 (in-person & virtual) 


  • 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
  • Sarasota West Coast Half Marathon and 5K, Sunday, Dec. 20
  • Venice Half Marathon and 5K, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021
  • City of Palms Half Marathon and 5K, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021
  • Paradise Coast Half Marathon and 5K, Saturday, March 27, 2021



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 ( 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 ( 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. 


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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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

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