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Thursday, September 18, 2014

LeeTran to increase service, fares


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joann Haley
Lee County Transit (LeeTran)

 LeeTran issued a press release today making it official re: restoration of last year's service cuts, the fare increase and the planned service improvements with those revenues.  BikeWalkLee thanks the BoCC for listening to its citizens and investing in vital LeeTran services.  A special thanks to everyone in the BWL network who worked over the past year in support of these efforts.


LEETRAN TO INCREASE SERVICE, FARES

FORT MYERS, FL, Sept. 18, 2014 – In separate actions this week by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, measures were approved authorizing LeeTran to restore previously cut service on nine routes, add weekend service to two routes, and increase its fares.

At its biweekly Tuesday morning meeting, the Commissioners unanimously approved increasing LeeTran’s base adult fare from $1.25 to $1.50. The discount fare increases from 60 cents to 75 cents; the Beach Trolley fare goes from 50 cents to 75 cents. Pass prices also increase proportionally. “Our last fare increase was in 2008,” explains Transit Director Steve Myers. “Our survey of other Florida agencies indicated that $1.50 is the norm.”

At Wednesday evening’s final budget workshop, the Board passed the fiscal year 2014-2015 budget which includes funding to reinstate service cuts made in the fall of 2013. The cuts eliminated some evening trips on nine routes, as well as service on Veterans Day and Martin Luther King Day.  “We’ve seen a noticeable decrease in ridership since those reductions were made,” Myers said.

Commissioners also agreed to invest a portion of the additional fare revenue in new service in Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral. Sundayservice operating every 60 minutes will be added to Route 110 serving Lehigh Acres, and Saturday service on this route will be increased to run every 60 minutes. Sunday service will also be added to Route 70 serving Cape Coral, operating every 60 minutes. These improvements will cost an estimated $247,125.

“Only nine of our 22 year-round routes offer Sunday service,” said Myers. “Our Transit Development Plan, which forecasts transit needs for the next 10 years, prioritizes improvement of our weekend service.”

The reinstatement of evening and holiday service will occur on Thursday, Oct. 2. The fare increase will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015, and the Route 110 and 70 improvements will begin on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015.

BikeWalkLee: Ride don't sit

This week's BWL column reviews research on the dangers of sitting...and encourages you to walk and cycle more and sit less. 
 BikeWalkLee Column in News-Press "Go Coastal" section, Sept. 18, 2014

If you're reading this, you might not want to sit down.

There's a growing mantra that "sitting is the new smoking." Don't dismiss it out of hand as more alarmist rhetoric. One of the people making such a comparison was cardiologist Martha Grogan, who said: "For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking."

How bad is it? Consider this (as compiled by Active):
• In a typical day, by the time you add up sleeping, working, watching TV, computer time, meal time and commuting time, an average American could log up to 22 hours of inactivity.
• Two hours of sitting is as harmful as 20 minutes of exercise is beneficial.
• A university study concluded that up to 20 percent of deaths of people over age 35 could be attributed to the lack of physical activity.
• Prolonged sitting increases your risk for the aforementioned cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, muscular disorders, headaches, back pain, obesity, weight gain and diabetes.
• Some 70 percent or full-time U.S. workers hate sitting, but they do it anyway.

Those who sit but exercise may think we have less to worry about. Not so. If being fit means getting 60 minutes of exercise a day (a pretty high standard for most) and the rest of your day entails sitting, that one hour of action doesn't undo all the other inaction. That's why many people use those activity wristbands not when they're exercising, but when they're not – to track how much activity they undertake in their normal lives, when the real damage can be done.

Which brings us to the point: If sitting is bad for you, stop sitting so much. Get on your bike and ride, or put on your shoes and walk (or run or hike or dance or just move, you get the idea). Studies have shown that in places where biking and walking are relatively high, obesity and related health issues are relatively low. Other research ties walking or cycling to work with positive psychological effects, releasing endorphins to blast the blues in a somewhat direct correlation to the number of steps taken – so walk longer to be happier!

That's why we encourage people to try to incorporate biking and walking into their daily lives rather than just making it something you do at a special time and place. That's why it's important that we as a community support more bike-able and walkable facilities, both in what gets built as well as what's already in place – so having a safe place to bike or walk isn't the impediment to more movement.

And that's why it's important for groups such as Healthy Lee, Lee Memorial, the Dept. of Health, Streets Alive and the many other related efforts to push the connection between a more active Lee County and a healthier Lee County. People, politicians and businesses need to see the tie between health, the bottom line and a better quality of life for our community.

In the meantime, don't just sit there – move!

— BikeWalkLee is 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 BikeWalkLee.org.

Upcoming events
Running/walking:
· Sunday Oct. 11: Fort Myers Cops and Joggers 5K. Centennial Park, downtown Fort Myers. Race starts at 7:30 p.m., and proceeds will benefit the Fort Myers Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial Fund and the Brotherhood Ride. Registration: $20 adult, $15 youth on or before Oct. 9. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)

· Saturday, Oct. 18: 6th annual Sanibel 10K 4 F.I.S.H. Starts 7:30 a.m. at Sanibel Community House 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. Registration $30 by Oct. 11, $35 through Oct. 17 and $40 day of. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)

· Sunday, Oct. 19: Rocktoberfest 10 mile (or 2 x 5 mile) race. North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Pre-registration $55, students $45' starts at 7 a.m. (www.eliteevents.org).

· Tuesday, Nov. 11: Veteran's Day 5K Run across the Midpoint Bridge. Proceeds to benefit YMCA Youth programs. Race starts at 7 p.m. Registration: Before Nov. 1 veterans an youth $15, adults $20;
 Nov. 1-10 veterans and youth $20, adults $25. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)

Cycling & other events:
· Saturday, Oct. 11: Project 10 Ride 4 Wishes. Cape Harbour, Cape Coral. 15-, 30-, and 62-mile rides. $35 pre-registration, raises funds for Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. (www.eventbrite.com/e/project-10-ride-4-wishes-tickets-12368036129?aff=zvents)

· Sunday, Oct. 12: Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride. 10-, 15- and 25- mile rides. From The Bicycle Center, 3795 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte. $30 before Sept. 1, $40 after. (www.eventbrite.com/e/trek-breast-cancer-awareness-ride-the-bicycle-center-registration-11405930445)

· Sunday, Oct. 26: Fifth annual Tour de North Port. 15-, 35- and 65-mile rides that begin and end at the Imagine School, Upper Campus, 2757 Sycamore St., North Port. Full support, trick-or-treat rest stops. Breakfast and lunch offered. Starts at 7 a.m.; $40 each, $10 under age 10, group discounts available. (http://peoplefortrees.com/tourevent1_14.php).

· Sunday, Nov. 2: Streets Alive returns to downtown Fort Myers 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Activities for the entire family focused on active and healthy lifestyles. Details at www.streetsalivelee.org.

· Sunday, Nov. 9: Caloosahatchee River Ride 2014. 15-, 30-, 40- and 62-mile rides starting from Caloosahatchee Regional Park, 19130 North River Road, Alva. Register in advance or day of. (http://crca.caloosahatchee.org/events/?event=calendar&mon=11&details=1&id=350)

Triathlons:
· Sunday, Oct. 5: Marco Island Triathlon 2014, Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, 400 South Collier, Marco Island. 8 a.m. start $85 individuals, $160 teams (http://www.thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)

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 info@bikewalklee.org, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moser Column: Mark your calendar, make the most of cycling season

Dan's column reviews the many great biking events coming up this Fall in SWFL and beyond.
2014-09-17 / Outdoors  Florida Weekly
Dan Moser
As the end of the bike touring season and post-summer blues begin to set in for our neighbors to the north, Florida’s bicycle touring season is just about to start in earnest. Granted, there are some excellent rides even during our hot and wet months, but the major touring events get going in October and run through April. Some are in our own backyard while others require a bit of travel and advance planning if you want to find a decent place to stay.
The first of the season in Southwest Florida is a new one for our area, Project 10 Ride for Wishes, a Make-A-Wish Foundation event being held in Cape Coral on Saturday, Oct. 11, from Cape Harbor (facebook.com/SWFLProject10). The very next day, Sunday, Oct. 12, is the Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride in Port Charlotte (bicyclecentercc.com/about/2014-trek-breast-cancer awareness-ride-pg444.htm). Then, on Sunday, Oct. 26, the annual Tour of North Port stages from the Imagine School north campus (peoplefortrees.com/tourevent1_14. php). None has a century ride as part of the options, but they’re each an easy daytrip. A local ride that offers a 100-mile route happens just after the new year: Tour de Cape takes off from Cape Harbor on Sunday, Jan. 18 (tourdecape.net). Later in 2015, the Caloosa Riders host the Royal Palm Ride in March and Immokalee Ride for Literacy in April to wrap-up the season (caloosariders.org).
Away from Southwest Florida, Ride 4 Ronald, a Ronald McDonald House fundraiser, is the first, and it happens on Sunday, Sept. 21, in Orlando (ronaldmcdonaldhouseorlando.org/events/2014-ride-4-ronald). Next up, on Sunday, Oct. 5, two Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Ride for Life events take place simultaneously, one in Lake Mary, just north of Orlando, and the other from Fort Desoto Park, located just south of St Petersburg. All three of these events include century ride options. But one that allows you to choose your own distance also happens on Oct. 5: the Withlacoochee Rail-Trail Ride begins and ends in Dade City, just northeast of Tampa, and takes riders on the 46-mile trail (meaning a century is possible) (railstotrailsonline.com). Another unique ride that actually starts in Fort Myers but doesn’t end here is 72 Hours to Key West (72hourstokeywest.com), a fundraiser for Sarasota-based Tiny Hands Foundation (tinyhandsfoundation.org). Riders return to Fort Myers via motorcoach.
Florida’s major bicycle events include Mount Dora Bicycle Fest (Oct. 10-12), Gainesville Cycle Fest (Oct. 24-26), Suwannee Fat Tire Fest (Oct. 24-26) and Horrible Hundred (Nov. 15-16). If you’ve only been to smaller, less established rides you should consider experiencing at least one of these.
Mount Dora (mountdorabicyclefestival.com) is the granddaddy of them all but has waned somewhat in terms of participant numbers since its glory days but still an excellent multi-day event.
This year’s Gainesville Cycle Fest (gccfla.org/gcf) is actually a combination of rides and related activities that also includes the Share the Road Celebration of Cycling, with workshops, seminars and an awards banquet being part of it. There are two different rides that offer century options (Santa Fe Century on Saturday and Horse Farm 100 on Sunday), with many other distances being conducted each day.
For mountain bike enthusiasts, Suwannee Fat Tire Fest (suwanneebike.org) is, unfortunately, happening on the same weekend as Gainesville’s event. (The very ambitious have been known to participate in both).
Finally, this year’s Horrible Hundred (horriblehundred.net) is celebrating its 35th anniversary and will include its usual impressive expo, a bike club leadership workshop, and plenty of challenging hills (century ride participants will climb more than 4,000 feet over the course of their ride, with Sugarloaf being the highest and hardest climb). In prior years more than 2,000 cyclists took part in the 100-, 70- and 35-mile rides.
Any of these events include options for all fitness and cycling skill levels and for folks of all ages. None are races, although it’s common for the leaders of the longest distance ride to challenge each other to be the first back to the finish. Unfortunately, that usually means breaking many traffic and safety rules since roads aren’t closed, so laws still apply. Perhaps if ride organizers incorporate a mini-race into their event it would encourage good behavior among the more competitive types. They could take the lead from Peace River Riders (peaceriverridersbicycleclub.com) which includes a “Gentleman’s Ride” (which incidentally includes women) and “Speed Trap” at its annual Wings & Wheels Ride, both which allow those who choose to take part to engage in full-out cycling with little chance of running afoul of the law or putting themselves in unnecessary risk. Based on feedback Wings and Wheels organizers receive, participants seem to agree that these ride add-ons make for an excellent event that lead to even more cyclists really challenge themselves in ways they otherwise wouldn’t do. The beer, Beef O’Brady’s chicken wings and Tour de France watch party (and speeding citations handed out at the post-party) also help make this ride one of Florida’s best small rides, and one that’s sure to grow.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Moser Commentary: Weighing bike and pedestrian achievements and oversights

Dan Moser's in-depth commentary in last week's Florida Weekly about the positive and negative bike/ped/transit/complete streets developments throughout Lee County.

Dan Moser
Admittedly, I don't always see the forest through the trees when it comes to my perspective on the bike/pedestrian environment here in Southwest Florida, or even throughout our state. Having been involved as an advocate and professionally for more than three decades, my expectations are perhaps too high because I’m keenly aware of many other places where conditions are much better than here, including some that had been as deficient as ours at one time. Here, I'll share some examples of why I'm frequently disappointed, perplexed, disturbed and sometimes angry about the situation for those who simply want to bike, walk, run, use a wheelchair, skate or push a stroller safely on our public ways. I’ll also include the truly positive achievements that have occurred, examples that reflect the fact that things really are better now than even a few years ago.
• The good: Lee County's Metropolitan Planning Organization, followed by formal action from Lee County and the city of Fort Myers, has adopted “Complete Streets” policies. The bad: Except for Lee County, implementation has been mostly absent, with Lee County's commitment clearly wavering now that our cookiecutter development economy is returning, which apparently means LeeDOT’s transportation mindset has also reverted to business as usual. Perhaps the city of Fort

North Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach is a model “Complete Street.” North Estero Boulevard on Fort MyersBeach is a model “Complete StreetMyers will surprise me by actually implementing the formal policy it approved.
• The good: Lee County drafted and worked for a number of years to update its Comprehensive Plan. The draft includes guidelines to reduce sprawl, improve quality of life and move us in the direction the public clearly asked for in the lead-up to the development of this version of the plan. The bad: The Comp Plan is being watered down as it moves through the various stages of formal approval and is looking a lot like the old one (see above paragraph for the reason).
• The good: Lee County has been recognized nationally as a leader among governments for its draft Sustainability Plan, another guiding document that has far reaching economic, environmental, and livability benefits. The bad: County leadership has pulled the plug on the plan without formally approving it. The reason? See above.
• The good: The city of Fort Myers has created a vibrant downtown that attracts locals and visitors alike to spend time and money in this very walkable environment. The bad: Many areas of the city lack even basic pedestrian features, with cycling accommodation on city roads being even less prevalent, including, ironically, routes that would get folks downtown.
• The good: In a second attempt in a decade, a Transit Task Force worked for more than two years to develop a plan to move LeeTran from being a struggling, underfunded, under-appreciated department of Lee County government to becoming its own transit authority, a step that would allow it to grow and become a self-sustaining entity that will actually provide appropriate transit service. The bad: Another victim of plug-pulling by county leadership, although the reasons in this case appears to be a lack of commitment to transit as much as “back to business as usual.”
• The good: Citizens and business operators came together to develop a plan for the Tice Historic Community that includes improvements to Ortiz Avenue with a design that keeps at least a segment of the road from becoming a neighborhood-killing highway. The fewer-lane, slower-speed design will still move motor vehicles efficiently but be safer and includes bike/ped accommodation, abundant green space and an environment for small business to thrive. The bad news is that LeeDOT appears bent on turning it into yet another high-speed, multi-lane highway that residents don’t want and that’s not needed.
Where's the story?PointsMentioned Map9 Points Mentioned
I’ll close with achievements that have indeed made positive and lasting impacts without offsetting bad news: Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach will finally be getting long-awaited improvements that include pedestrian accommodations along all of it and bike lanes on much of it. Bonita Springsand Estero appear to be on track to become two of the most bike/ped-friendly communities in Lee County. Sanibel is a Bronze-level Bike Friendly Community that continues to expand and improve its network of paths. The $10 million TIGER grant Lee MPO was awarded will soon result in significant bike/ped and transit improvements. Cape Coral is about to complete marking more than 90 miles of bike routes and continues to work on closing gaps and providing bike/ped alternatives to major roads and intersections. And, finally, there are many good people working in various roles in government and for consultants who are making a difference, even when sometimes fighting uphill battles within their respective organizations. To those who still do and others who did but have moved on, your efforts are appreciated by many. Thank you.
— 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 atbikepedmoser@gmail.com or 334- 6417.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sept. 15th: Upcoming walking/running/biking/tri events

Lots of October events to start planning for, including the second annual Streets Alive! event in downtown Fort Myers on Nov. 2nd.  Did you participate in last weekend's Captiva Tri?  share your photos with us.

Running/walking:
·       Sunday Oct. 11: Fort Myers Cops and Joggers 5K. Centennial Park, downtown Fort Myers. Race starts at 7:30 p.m., and proceeds will benefit the Fort Myers Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial Fund and the Brotherhood Ride. Registration: $20 adult, $15 youth on or before Oct. 9. (http://www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)

·       Saturday, Oct. 18: 6th annual Sanibel 10K 4 F.I.S.H. Starts 7:30 a.m. at Sanibel Community House 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. Registration $30 by Oct. 11, $35 through Oct. 17 and $40 day of. (http://www.ftmyerstrackclub.com/Sanibel10k/13FIsh.html)
·        Sunday, Oct. 19: Rocktoberfest 10 mile (or 2 x 5 mile) race. North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Pre-registration $55, students $45’ starts at 7 a.m. (www.eliteevents.org).

Cycling & other events:
·       Saturday, Oct. 11: Project 10 Ride 4 Wishes. Cape Harbour, Cape Coral. 15-, 30-, and 62-mile rides. $35 pre-registration, raises funds for Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. (www.eventbrite.com/e/project-10-ride-4-wishes-tickets-12368036129?aff=zvents)

·       Sunday, Oct. 12: Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride. 10-, 15- and 25- mile rides. From The Bicycle Center, 3795 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte. $30 before Sept. 1, $40 after. (www.eventbrite.com/e/trek-breast-cancer-awareness-ride-the-bicycle-center-registration-11405930445

·       Sunday, Oct. 26: Fifth annual Tour de North Port. 15-, 35- and 65-mile rides that begin and end at the Imagine School, Upper Campus, 2757 Sycamore St., North Port. Full support, trick-or-treat rest stops. Breakfast and lunch offered. Starts at 7 a.m.; $40 each, $10 under age 10, group discounts available. (http://peoplefortrees.com/tourevent1_14.php).

·       Sunday, Nov. 2: Streets Alive returns to downtown Fort Myers 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Activities for the entire family focused on active and healthy lifestyles. Details at www.streetsalivelee.org.
2013 Streets Alive! event in downtown Fort Myers

·       Sunday, Nov. 9: Caloosahatchee River Ride 2014. 15-, 30-, 40- and 62-mile rides starting from Caloosahatchee Regional Park, 19130 North River Road, Alva. Register in advance or day of. (http://crca.caloosahatchee.org/events/?event=calendar&mon=11&details=1&id=350)

Triathlons:
·        Sunday, Oct. 5: Marco Island Triathlon 2014, Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, 400 South Collier, Marco Island. 8 a.m. start $85 individuals, $160 teams (http://www.thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)

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 info@bikewalklee.org, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Florida Weekly feature article puts spotlight on safety in Southwest Florida

Thanks to Florida Weekly for highlighting the continued need for attention on bicycle and pedestrian safety in Southwest Florida. Be sure to check out the insights from BWL's Darla Letourneau and Margaret Banyan.

Deadly Streets

FLORIDA RANKS WORST IN THE U.S. IN PEDESTRIAN & BICYCLE SAFETY
COURT NEDERVELD IS A BICYCLIST. A ROAD rider. He’s ridden across the United States. He’s journeyed from the Canadian border to New Orleans.
For years he’s spun and mashed those pedals most days a week up and down the southwest coast of the Sunshine State, which leads nonriders to question his sanity, he says. Florida is is now ranked number one as the most dangerous state in which to walk or bicycle somewhere — anywhere.
And now Mr. Nederveld, president of the Peace River Riders bicycling club, is about to leave the North American continent and travel to Spain, where he plans to embark on a 350-mile journey out of Pamplona.
In all his time on the road, the 65-year-old master of a two-wheeled, man-powered cycling machine — first invented two centuries ago and cast in roughly its current design about 20 years before Henry Ford ever put a single internal combustion automobile on the road — has never had an encounter, or even so much as a brush with a motor vehicle.

Steve Rodgers and members of the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club on a road with no bike lane. 
COURTESY PHOTOS Steve Rodgers and members of the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club on a road with no bike lane. COURTESY PHOTOSThat’s unusual for long-time bicyclists. Some have been badly injured in accidents. But many have been nudged, brushed or solidly bumped by vehicle mirrors, or forced off the road to avoid being nudged or brushed or worse.
Sometimes they’re merely threatened.
“I was riding onto Sanibel a couple of weeks ago and a guy in a Jeep going the other way started yelling at me to get off the road,” recalls Steve Rodgers, past president of the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, who puts in about 125 miles a week on the roads. “I wasn’t anywhere near him; he just didn’t like me.” He’s been bumped, too.
Not Mr. Nederveld.
“It’s about thinking, and I’m confident in controlling my surroundings,” he says, echoing the personal-responsibility, personal-care mantra that most serious cyclists adhere to. It’s about knowing the bike, choosing a safe route and time of day, wearing a helmet, using a mirror, observing laws that apply to cyclists as well as drivers, and avoiding confrontations with drivers who sometimes seem to be looking for trouble.

Retrofitting roads with bicycle lanes or sidewalks is more difficult and much more expensive than designing them in the first place. Retrofitting roads with bicycle lanes or sidewalks is more difficult and much more expensive than designing them in the first place.“I have lights on my bike, I wear brightly covered clothing. And I recommend to all cyclists that they use lights on their bikes even in the day, because if you can increase your chances of being seen even a little bit, that is huge,” says Jane Cheffy, president of the Naples Pathways Coalition.
She learned that again the other day.
“I’ve had so many friends get injured, and I’ve had a mirror on Crayton Road brush my arm. But the other day I was driving my car to the office at 7:50 a.m., and the bright sunlight was in my eyes, blinding me. A cyclist in front of me was riding with flashing lights, and that kept me from hitting him. I really could have hit him. Now that I’ve had this experience from a driver’s point of view, I’m telling everyone I know to ride with their lights on.”
When luck runs out
All of which would be a smart approach for pedestrians, too.
But sometimes what happens is about luck, or the lack thereof.
For almost 2,000 bicyclists and pedestrians in Charlotte, Lee and Collier Counties just in the last four years alone, Mr. Nederveld’s brand of spot-free luck eventually ran out in one degree or another, according to accounts and estimates by planning organizations, law enforcement officials and local cycling organizations such as BikeWalkLee, the most organized and politically active citizens’ group in the region.
They were injured, killed or (if they were lucky) merely had their bicycles damaged or destroyed.
It’s a dismaying number for the many local and state officials along with citizen volunteers who have worked together for years to improve conditions for bicycling and walking, not to mention driving and riding on public transit, in the region.
That effort is a process not yet an achievement, says Darla Letourneau, executive director of BikeWalkLee — one that will be years or decades in the making.
“We’re a suburban sprawl state — it’s why Florida’s safety record is so bad,” she explains. “Two-lane roads got six lanes. We kept widening roads for years without thinking about bicyclists and pedestrians, and people are supposed to cross six lanes of traffic to get to a shopping center. So improving the crash injury and fatality thing is going to take a long time. And if you keep building more high-speed roads that run through neighborhoods, no matter how many bike paths you put out, you still have to cross the busy street. It’s a very long term proposition.”

BANYAN BANYANProgress has been made, no doubt about that, acknowledges everyone taking part in the ongoing debate about how to use money, and where. There are hundreds of miles of bicycling lanes and paths that weren’t here a decade ago. There are education programs and law enforcement audits of dangerous intersections. There is money for what the advocates have long called “Complete Streets” — that almost magical comingling of bicycle, pedestrian and public transit needs with the motor vehicle culture and its needs: for example, $8.8 billion this year alone in the Florida Department of Transportation budget aimed at helping to create complete streets, says Debbie Tower, a spokeswoman for the 12-county District 1 that includes Southwest Florida.
Meanwhile, some of the old planning notions persist, the dinosaur thinking that fails to consider people on foot or bicycle, says Margaret Banyan, an assistant professor of public policy at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Professor Banyan lives in the Tice region of East Fort Myers, one of the county’s older neighborhoods crisscrossed by the fabric of roads, small homes, closely entwined neighborhoods on narrow streets, and vibrant immigrant lives that appeals to her so much, she says.
What does not appeal, however, are the plans some county designers put into place on Palm Beach Boulevard, or laid out to turn Ortiz Avenue into six lanes and make other changes that would accommodate drivers, but not the significant number of walkers and bicyclists in the community.
“On Palm Beach,” she explains, “a big part of the problem is speed, and another part is that there is not a lot of right of way to build sidewalks, and no right of way for bike lanes.”
That wasn’t part of the planning, even when the road was redesigned a few years ago.
“So we sort of said, ‘that’s not an insurmountable problem.’ And we proposed better bike and pedestrian pathways north and south of Palm Beach.
“We know roads and streets can transform communities, and one of those is Honore Avenue. They proposed a six-laner there at first, then a four-laner, then they reduced it to two, with a turn, low-impact greening, great bike-laning and bike walks, and good shade. The drainage, instead of being typical gutter drainage, is low impact, which is good for the environment.”
But other proposed changes in the communities there or elsewhere have remained on the desks of some county officials, advocates say, going nowhere.
And the accident numbers keep going up.
Tossing money at them does help, but it doesn’t solve the problem, say the advocates of safety.
“This unfortunate distinction as the number one state in the country for the highest bike pedestrian fatalities is not a distinction we want to keep, but solving the various problems takes time,” says Ms. Tower of the FDOT.
So nowadays, the FDOT looks at safety on all roads for all users in terms of what Ms. Tower calls “the three E’s: education, enforcement and engineering.”
The money is there, too — $8.8 billion in the budget this year for improving road safety. Sometimes that means studying danger spots to determine future action. Sometimes it means retrofitting what the experts call “Car sewers”: roads that were originally designed only to move motor vehicles, and now accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists or public transit opportunities either poorly or not at all. Sometimes it means putting in sidewalks (which are not recommended for bicyclists since they’re more dangerous than roads).

Court Nederveld 
COURTESY PHOTO Court NederveldCOURTESY PHOTOAnd it employs officials who deeply care — a District 1 engineer named Matt Weaver, for example, whose title is Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Champion for District 1.
When Mr. Weaver and his colleague in District 1, Providance Nagy, received complaints from members of a bikepedestrian committee about travel over the Peace River Bridge on U.S. 41, they decided to climb on their bikes and ride it — several times.

ANDERSON ANDERSON“She was on her mountain bike,” he says of Ms. Nagy, who also serves a reservist in the Marine Corps and has now been deployed to South Africa, “and I was on my somewhat fancier street bike.”
They discovered bolts sticking out of the guardrails into the bike lane, and a lot more trash in the northbound lane because the bridge slants that direction, and it collected there.
As a result, in the coming couple of weeks the shoulder will be marked as a bike lane, and made contiguous with projects north of the bridge so riders will have an easier time.
“The first thing I tell anybody who cares is that first and foremost I’m a citizen cyclist bicyclist runner, and I also happen to be an engineer. If you have any problems, complaints or even suggestions, just get in touch with the DOT. Just call us. We do come to work trying to make things better here,” says Mr. Weaver.
By the numbers
And so do the private organizations in Collier, Lee and Charlotte, first by getting a grip on the problems and the numbers.
Working hand-in-hand with Lee’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (comprised of elected leaders from each local government along with a few staffers), BikeWalkLee offers a map that shows exactly where each reported accident involving a motor vehicle and a bicyclist or pedestrian occurred in Lee County, the most dangerous county on the coast, between 2011 and 2013 — all 1,197 of them.
Those accidents resulted in injuries, fatalities or occasionally just property damage, and they appear in locations from urban center to country road.
The current year has been even worse, to date. The numbers suggest that 2014 is on par to set a several-year record for injuries or fatalities — especially with the snowbirds and late fall tourists set to pour into the region beginning in October.
In Charlotte County as of last month, the sheriff’s office responded to 23 accidents involving bicycles alone during the year, and in Collier that number amounted to 60 as of the last week in August.
But in Lee County the number was more than double Collier’s, and the number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents together have run well over 150 so far in the year, with an unfortunate jump in fatalities. As of late August, 16 bicyclists or pedestrians have been killed on Lee roads. must become much more aggressive in charging drivers who hit bicyclists who are following the rules of the road. And unless an obvious violation has occurred — DUI, for example — they have often been reluctant to charge drivers with any crime, or even to ticket them.
In Collier County, for example, in only four of the 60 accidents involving bicycles and cars investigated this year were citations issued, three of them to the bicyclists.
Police are more aggressive about safety now than they used to be, however. In Charlotte County, for example, “we try to educate the public as much as possible,” says Deputy Dan Cotton, a community policing officer who patrols on a bicycle.
In five years on that job, he’s never been hit or bumped by a motor vehicle. But off the job he was run off the road wile riding his own bicycle. He got the license plate of the road rager, called the company, and accepted an apology from the driver after his boss made him apologize, he recalls.
Meanwhile, “we lead by example. We wear helmets and use lights and have gloves,” he says. “And the sheriff’s office gives away helmets to children. We gave away 159 last month and at another event in September we’ll probably give away 200. We fit the helmet on the person and make sure it’s sized correctly.”
But a change in the way police treat drivers who hit bicyclists is also essential, says Dan Moser, Florida Weekly’s bicycle columnist and a member of BikeWalkLee.
“In enforcement, what I’ve seen is that they do a pretty well-rounded job, now. They’re focusing on the motorist more, especially when it comes to giving citations out.
“That’s what should happen. The killing machine is the car.”
But the issues become more complicated, he admits, because bicyclists and pedestrians often break the rules — in part because the rules don’t work.
“The reason frequently that pedestrians and bicyclists misbehave is because of their experience,” he says. “When they do behave, it doesn’t get them anywhere. For example, they don’t use crosswalks because when they’re in them, they almost get run over. So they say, ‘I’ll go downstream or upstream and cross where I can. I’m protecting my interest.’ In many places they’re facing motorists who don’t even think about their right to be there. And that’s because we’ve designed those roads to accommodate speed and motor vehicles. Only.”
But that problem will not be solved merely by engineering fixes to a few most-dangerous spots, says Don Scott, executive director of Lee’s MPO.
“The sheriff’s department has conducted bike-enforcement events and we’re looking at some of the same old (dangerous) spots — U.S. 41 at Crystal or in old Bonita, the 41 and Del Prado corridors, Palm Beach Boulevard — but one of the problems we face when we say, ‘What are the dangerous locations?’ is that they’re spread out.”
Why?
The answer may be an imperfect but still dangerous storm of different factors. Among them, years of bad planning. Streets that are not both safe and accessible. A failure on the part of many drivers to recognize that bicycles are vehicles with the full compliment of road rights — and responsibilities — of any motor vehicles.
For example, on streets that are 14 feet wide or less, bicycles can take the full lane, by law. That’s based on the calculation of 9 feet in width from side mirror to side mirror for a truck, plus another 3 feet of space that motorists are required to give bicyclists, plus 2 feet out from a curb that cyclists are supposed to ride.
And on any streets, while drivers must give a bicyclist a minimum of three feet, by law, bicyclists must stay in bike lanes, where provided. And stop at stop signs or lights.
But even if many other problems could be solved, the old bugaboos still haunt the streets, too: drinking or drugging and riding, either bikes or vehicles. Or drinking and drugging and walking. Or telephoning, texting and ear-budding.
“We’ve become complacent, not only as drivers but as bicyclists and walkers,” says Jay Anderson, executive director of Stay Alive-Just Drive.
“Especially with these electronic devices. It puzzles me to death why someone biking or walking feels it necessary to engage in this behavior. I watched someone riding a bicycle down the sidewalk with their ear to a phone the other day. If you can’t do it driving, why can you do it bicycling?”
The rash of crashes proved so alarming to officials in the Trauma Center at Lee Memorial Health Services that they looked into the details of pedestriancar accidents just in April alone, when people on foot kept getting nailed at significantly higher than the usual recent rates.
“In April alone we had 20 pedestrians hit by autos, and 14 became trauma alerts,” notes Syndi Bultman, injury prevention manager for Trauma Services.
“In April, 2013, by contrast, 12 were hit by autos, with eight trauma alerts.
“We did a further breakdown for April — our average age of victim was 53, although it ranged from 18 to 87. There were 11 males and nine females. Fifteen percent of those had to go up to the Operating Room. And 40 percent required ICU care.”
All that becomes a bloody, costly process for everybody. Perhaps more significantly, however, were these statistics: “Of the victims, 30 percent had alcohol on board, and 25 percent had toxic substances on board — drugs,” Ms. Bultman says.
“In the end, 13 out of 20 were able to go home, four had to go to a rehab facility, one is still here at the hospital, and a couple went to the morgue because they died.”
Those who were killed, she says, “did not have drugs or alcohol aboard.”
That was just in a single month. Ms. Bultman adds this sobering statistic, about pedestrians and the drivers of motor vehicles who hit them: “If you’re the driver, at 30 miles per hour you have a 50-50 chance of killing someone. And at 45 miles per hour it jumps to an 85 percent chance. Your vehicle is a weapon on the roadway. So everybody’s responsibility is to keep your eyes on the road.”
No one disagrees with that. But there are many who don’t follow that advice. ¦

Link to article in Florida Weekly here.