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Thursday, July 24, 2014

BikeWalkLee: Bikers focus on Sanibel

This week's BWL column, written by Tom Sharbaugh, shares the history of the Sanibel Island path system. Anyone looking for proof that interested citizens can advance the cause of bike/ped safety in their community need look no further than nearby Sanibel Island for a good example.  [Note: photos below did not appear in printed article due to space constraints.]

BikeWalkLee's News-Press "Go Coastal" Column: 7/24/14
When the Sanibel Causeway opened in May 1963, it brought a period of intense development to what was previously a sleepy barrier island.

For cyclists and pedestrians, it also brought a nightmare as they were forced to share narrow island streets with non-stop traffic, including heavy construction vehicles. Without benefit of bike lanes or sidewalks, every trip by bike or by foot became a life-threatening experience.

Eventually, residents had had enough, and a few concerned citizens decided to do something about it. In December 1972, four island women — Grace Whitehead, Mariel Goss, Sherry Vartdal and Starr Thomas — organized the Sanibel Bike Path Committee to work toward creation of a system of “hike and bike” trails for the community. As mothers of young children, these women had a special interest in improving safety for bicycles and pedestrians.

The group adopted a slogan: “Preserve, Protect and Pedal.”
Sanibel Path Welcome Center 2012

Preserving the environment and wildlife was (and still is) a hot button with Sanibel residents. Protecting children with safer streets was a key goal of the effort, and pedaling was promoted as a healthy alternative to motor vehicles for getting around the island. (It is interesting that these same themes are alive on the island today.)

After unsuccessfully seeking help from Lee County and state entities, organizers determined that if their effort was going to succeed, they would have to drive it through local efforts, raising money for the project and calling attention to the importance of their cause.

What followed is a classic example of “bootstrap activism,” as the founding women geared up local fundraising efforts. They placed donation jars at local businesses, which raised their first $1,180.

They created a local phone directory for Sanibel and Captiva, selling the first edition for $2 with all proceeds going toward building the new bike path. They sold T-shirts and sand dollar necklaces, and they organized fundraising dinners.

In addition to raising money, the organizers looked for ways to increase awareness about why this was an important community need. In February 1974, the women organized a protest during which 15 bicyclists rode the length of Periwinkle Way in the middle of the traffic lane during rush hour.

After determining that bikes had the same rights as motor vehicles to be on the road, they decided to use this as a demonstration to county commissioners and law enforcers that a safer alternative was needed for bikes and pedestrians.

Later, the group invited all the Lee County Commissioners to a pot luck luncheon, after which they drove them around the streets of Sanibel to see first-hand the unsafe road conditions.

Eventually, these efforts made a difference. Influenced by the Sanibel group’s activities, Lee County developed a plan for a county-wide network of paths and a funding strategy for county and state funding to pay construction costs. Also that year, Florida’s Department of Transportation (FDOT) set aside $2 million in federal funds for bike path construction.

And when the City of Sanibel was incorporated in late 1974, the path system was a prominent issue; candidates for the first City Council election were asked to state their positions regarding the path system. In 1976, the first 2½ miles of Sanibel’s path were built along Periwinkle Way, funded by $10,000 in seed money from the Sanibel Bike Path Committee, matched by a similar amount from FDOT.

Since those early days, Sanibel’s path system (now known as a “Shared Use Path”) has been expanded many times and now covers over 25 miles of off-road pathways. Responsibility for overseeing path construction & maintenance now rests with the City of Sanibel, funded by city tax revenues. But stewardship of the path continues to be a responsibility shared between the city and the citizens of Sanibel.

Periwinkle Path before improvements

Periwinkle path after improvements
In recent years, the job of advocating for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and safety has been taken on by the Sanibel Bicycle Club. Founded in 1994, the club has worked closely with the city and its Department of Public Works to identify path expansion opportunities, maintenance needs and safety issues, and to provide volunteer help for path-related projects.

In a throwback the path’s early history, in 2005 the Sanibel Bicycle Club established the “Sanibel Trails In Motion” fund, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to raising money through donations to pay for path enhancements. To date, Sanibel Trails In Motion has collected more than $57,000. The Trails In Motion Fund helped to pay for preparation of Sanibel’s 2009 Shared Use Path Master Plan, in partnership with the city.

In the past 10 years, Sanibel’s path system has been extended to new parts of the island, widened in heavily traveled areas, and separated from the roadway with a grassy median. Recent focus has been updating crosswalks and adding safe interconnectivity of the path with major destination locations.

Anyone looking for proof that interested citizens can advance the cause of bike/ped safety in their community need look no further than nearby Sanibel Island for a good example.

— Tom Sharbaugh is a member of the Sanibel Bicycle Club and the BikeWalkLee steering committee. 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 www.BikeWalkLee.org.

Upcoming events
Saturday, July 26: 7th Annual Race for Grace. Race starts at 7 a.m. at Oasis Elementary School, 3415 Oasis Boulevard, Cape Coral. 5k or 10K walk or run, registration from $15 (youth) to $25 (adult). (active.com)
Saturday, July 26: Eagle Lakes 5K, Eagle Lakes Community Park, 11565 Tamiami Trail East, Naples. Entry $28 before, $35 day of, $21 students. Race starts 7 a.m. (eliteevents.org/eagle-lakes-extreme-5k.html)
· Saturday, Aug. 9: Cape 5K, Jaycee Park, Cape Coral. Entry $20 adult, $15 youth, $25 day of. Race starts at 7 a.m. (3dracinginc.com/races.asp)
· Saturday, Aug. 23: North Collier Regional Rampage 5K. North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Pre-registration $28, students $21, race day $35. (eliteevents.org/north-collier-regional-rampage-5k.html)
· 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. (ftmyerstrackclub.com/Sanibel10k/13FIsh.html)

Cycling & other events
Saturday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 1: 32nd annual Tour of Sebring, based at Kenilworth Lodge, 1610 Lakeview Drive, Sebring. This Labor Day weekend, enjoy one, two or three days of cycling in the gently rolling hills of Highlands County, excellent buffet lunch meals, ice cream socials, door prizes, etc. Riders will especially appreciate our lightly traveled back roads, friendly motorists, citrus groves, cattle ranches, and small towns typical of rural Central Florida. Fully supported routes with cue sheets and maps, on-road route marks, excellent rest stops, bicycle mechanic, and dispatched SAG service vehicles. Daily rides ranging from 11 to 62 miles plus our Sunday Bok Tour Century (100 miles). Early registration deadline Aug. 22, prices for 1-, 2- or 3-day rides, (highlandspedalers.com/tos.php)

Sept. 13-14: Registration is now open for the fourth annual Galloway Captiva Tri weekend. Saturday is the kids’ day with three age groups (6-8, 9-10 and 11-13) enjoying the fun of multisports. Sunday, the adults take to the water and roadways in a sprint triathlon (swim/bike/run) covering all of Captiva Island. Spaces are limited for all events, so register now – no waiting lists this year. Information at captivatri.org.
Sunday, Sept. 14: Paradise Coast International Triathlon, Duathlon, and 10k Run, Sugden Regional Park, 4284 Avalon Drive, Naples. Triathlon is 1,500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run; Duathlon is 5K run, 40K bike, 10K run. (eliteevents.org)
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 (thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)

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, July 23, 2014

Moser Column: You need FBA and FBA needs you

Dan Moser's column this week announces his departure as Florida Bicycle Association's Program Director. Thanks to Dan for his hard work on statewide bike/ped safety issues on behalf of FBA over the past 16 years!  He will continue to be involved on the state level as a member of FBA's advisory board, and he encourages everyone to join FBA.

Dan Moser
Change is often difficult, even when necessary and appropriate. It’s more so when the change involves something that’s been so much a part of one’s life. I’m dealing with such a change now, both on a personal level and for the organization I’ve been part of for many years.
In 1998 I was invited to join the Florida Bicycle Association board of directors, an easy decision for what I considered a logical progression of my local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy work. The organization that represents all of Florida’s cyclists — including the many visitors to our state — had just reorganized after disbanding in 1995. It was a reincarnation that, unfortunately, came about because of a tragedy in which a distracted driver ran down six cyclists, resulting in two deaths and forever changing the lives of the others. This tragic event and ensuing miscarriage of justice generated enough outrage and energy to bring back some of the original organizers along with new faces, myself included.
After a decade of serving on the board I moved into the staff position of programs director, a role that eventually expanded to include membership management. As of the end of this month I’ll be leaving my position but will join the advisory board. It’s a decision that was difficult, but necessary and appropriate. It’s sometimes been quite challenging but always exceptionally rewarding being so deeply involved with this nonprofit organization. I encourage everyone to join FBA (www.fbamembership.org) in order to help support the hard and expensive work of educating the public and advocating for so many people. It’s an understatement to say that it’s an uphill battle for this relatively small group of dedicated individuals and the members who support the cause.
Besides my resignation, two other key people have recently made the decision to move on. Mighk Wilson, one of the best minds in the bicycle/pedestrian world (and by “world” I do mean internationally), has resigned from FBA’s board to take the helm of the newly formed American Bicycling Education Association (abea.bike) which is also the new home of CyclingSavvy (cyclingsavvy.org), a bike education program I consider the best out there that was born from the FBA. Also, Executive Director Tim Bustos, a good friend and true professional who FBA was fortunate to have as its leader for three years, has retired. But this isn’t a mass abandonment of FBA. Rather, it was coincidental that it was time for each of us to move on. Look for Becky Afonso, the new executive director who’s also a good friend and a longtime bike professional who ran Bike Florida and has a hand in many other major bike events, to take the organization to another level with fresh ideas and new energy. Laura Hallam, a former FBA executive director will stay on as operations director, a role she loves and excels at.
Why will Becky’s fresh ideas and new energy be necessary? It’s no secret that we have a major problem throughout the state because there appears to be little political will to provide a better, safer environment for non-motorized users of our roads, as is evidenced by the fact that we’ve had the worst bike/ped safety record in the U.S. for decades. Ironically, in a state where weather, terrain and natural environment are so bike-friendly, too many political and business leaders continue to miss the opportunity to capitalize on this fact, thereby doing a major disservice to both residents and tourists alike. The state’s economy suffers because of this, but that aspect of inaction and counterproductive decisions pales in comparison to the lives lost and forever ruined. FBA is one of the only organizations fighting this ongoing battle and will continue to do so long after the departure of Mighk, Tim and me. I’m confident that Becky, Laura and the board of directors will do just that. And I’ll remain FBA’s ambassador in Southwest Florida, as can you by joining us at  www.fbamembership.org.
In my last column about Cape Coral Hospital’s Pathways Project I used the wrong email address for Cristin Collins from Lee Memorial’s Foundation. To contact Cristin you can reach her at christin.collins@leememorial.org or 343-6062.
Advocacy update
Road Safety Audits focusing on pedestrians and cyclists are taking place around Lee County. Results and recommendations are in for some and being worked on for others. Pine Island Rd, U.S. 41, and Colonial Boulevard are among those included in these intensive studies. Check BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee.blogspot.com) for reports and updates on these and other bike/ped matters.
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 for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at bikepedmoser@gmail.com and 334- 6417.
Upcoming Events
 FMTC 2-Mile Fun Run - Run Florida,
Thursday, July 31, 13101 McGregor
Blvd., www.ftmyerstrackclub.com 
 Cape 5K, Saturday, Aug. 9, Jaycee
Park, Cape Coral, www.3dracinginc.com 
 FMTC 2-Mile Fun Run, Thursday,
Aug. 14, Fort Myers Brewing Company,
12811 Commerce Lakes Drive,
Fast Cat Cross Country 5K,Saturday,
Aug. 16, Estero HS,
 FMTC 2-Mile Fun Run, Thursday,
Aug. 28, Run Florida,
13101 McGregor Blvd.,
Cycling and other events: 
 Galloway Captiva Triathlon, Saturday
and Sunday, Sept. 13-14, South Seas
Resort, Captiva, www.captivatri.org

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Commission candidates respond to Lee Public Voice Questionnaire

Candidates for BoCC have responded to Lee Public Voice's questionnaire.  Click here to read what the candidates are saying about issues we care about, and don't forget to vote in the August 26th primary.

Lee Public Voice (LPV) is a network of civic, community planning and environmental organizations whose goal is to ensure that Lee County government pursues policies that contribute to the long-term benefit of the citizens of Lee County and that those policies are decided in an open and accountable manner.  BikeWalkLee is an active participant in this network of organizations.

Rather than preparing a BikeWalkLee-specific candidate questionnaire as we did in 2010 and 2012, we have participated in the development of this broader questionnaire.  While there are no specific questions about complete streets, the questions posed reflect BikeWalkLee's overarching goals of good governance and high quality of life standards.

Lee Public Voice developed a Candidate Questionnaire that focused on the following important issues:

  • impact fees 
  • land conservation
  • budget decisions and priorities
  • community planning
  • Lee Plan/2035 Horizon/land use
  • transparency and citizen input 
  • the County's big picture.

All six candidates completed the questionnaire. The candidate responses are organized so that you can easily compare the positions of the competing candidates on each of the important issues that were raised with them. (Click here)

This year, two of the county commission seats are up for election, with multiple candidates for each seat in the August 26th primary election. Specifically, in District 2, a seat currently held by Cecil Pendergrass, there is no general election opponent so whoever wins the primary will become the commissioner from District 2.  In District 4, a seat currently held by Brian Hamman, there are three primary opponents and the winner of the Republican primary will compete against the one Democratic candidate in the general election in November. 

Don't forget to register to vote by July 28th, request your vote by mail ballot, and then VOTE!!

Click here for the responses from all six candidates.

Voting Details

  • In order to vote in this important primary election all Florida residents must be registered no later than July 28th. (click here for an application) 

  • If you're already registered to vote, you can now request a "vote by mail" ballot (call-239-533-8683 or click here)

  • If you've already requested an vote by mail ballot, look for it in your mail this week.

  • Early voting will be held from August 16-23rd.  To vote in person on August 26th, check here to identify your voting location.

Monday, July 21, 2014

SW Florida earning bad cycling reputation

Today's News-Press has another article in its ongoing series focusing on bike/ped safety in Southwest Florida.  Today's article focuses on the string of recent cycling crashes with serious injuries, including the 4 cyclists that were injured on the Fort Myers Beach bridge on July 12th. 
Note that the News-Press has a new Facebook page called "Share the Road Florida" (www.facebook.com/sharetheroadflorida) to cover the good, bad and ugly about riding a bike in Southwest Florida. Be sure to "friend" it and share your thoughts.  Thanks to Janine Zeitlin for her excellent work on this News-Press project.

Rich Crouse spotted a white sedan barreling toward him on a recent Saturday morning in Fort Myers Beach.
I’m going to die, he thought.
The driver had already weaved in and out of a line of 10 cyclists, downing other riders coming from Naples this month. Crouse pedaled even closer to the concrete barrier on the shoulder. The 56-year-old couldn’t fathom why the car wasn’t stopping or moving to an open lane.
He bounced from the hood as the 84-year-old driver’s car shoved him along the pavement before braking.
Crouse felt lucky to walk away with severe road rash and soreness, but the most seriously injured of the four riders remained at a Lee Memorial hospital Friday afternoon. His condition had improved from critical to fair.
Gone are the swarms of tourists and snowbirds, but serious crashes involving bicycles show no signs of abating in Lee County. Along with the July 12 Fort Myers Beach crash, an elderly cyclist in Bonita Springs suffered trauma after being hit by a driver Thursday who fled the scene. Earlier this month, a rider suffered serious injuries in Cape Coral after crashing with a pickup, as did a cyclist in Alva who blew a stop sign and was struck, according to initial reports.
There have been 112 bicycle-crash injuries in Lee this year, according to preliminary data provided by the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization. At this pace, the count could surpass last year’s 175 injuries, a 13-year high.
“We’ve got to get the crash numbers down,” said Dan Moser of the BikeWalkLee coalition and a longtime advocate for safer roads. “The lucky thing is that not as many of them are fatalities, but it’s hard to say what kind of life-altering injuries these are.”
Moser plans to focus on preventing people from riding in the road against traffic, which is illegal and more dangerous. He’s also joining law enforcement for targeted outreach to walkers and bikers. Florida Department of Transportation has ranked Lee No. 9 among the top focus areas in the state because of high number of bike and pedestrian crashes and fatalities. This lousy ranking comes in the most lethal state for cyclists.
Some of the cyclists injured on Fort Myers Beach are working with Naples attorney Ted Zelman to try to cover the costs of medical bills and their damaged bikes. Zelman, an avid cyclist, sits on the board of the 800-member Naples Velo cycling club.
The crash could have been classified as reckless driving, Zelman said, a criminal charge which would have required a court appearance. The driver, Lee Luenser, was cited for careless driving and operating a vehicle with an expired tag, tickets that carry a total of $272 in fines in Lee County. The lawyer would like to see enhanced penalties for striking road users, who are not protected by 4,000 pounds of metal.
Lee Luenser, 84-yr. old driver
“We need better and stronger laws and better and stronger enforcement,” Zelman said. “This type of incident shows the need for doing that to hold people responsible for the consequences of their actions.”
The News-Press was unable to get a response from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that investigated the crash, as it has a policy against answering questions from this media organization. Last week, the crash and enforcement came up at a county bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee meeting. Steve Jansen, a traffic engineer with the county’s transportation department, defended law enforcement.
“They don’t give out tickets because the judges do not support them,” Jansen said. “The judge will say, ‘Did you see it happen?’”
The crash report says Luenser was treated for a neurological issue and may have had a medical event while driving. Luenser could not be reached Friday, but his license remained valid. A woman who identified herself as his daughter said her father was unavailable and was receiving rehabilitation but declined to speak further.
In the accident report, the deputy indicated Luenser should be re-tested for his license. Moser has also submitted a package to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which may spur a medical review of the driver. The process could take more than two months for action. Crouse plans to discuss safety concerns at an upcoming Naples Velo meeting, but the crashes have renewed calls for more and wider bike lanes and shifts in attitude about sharing roads. But the battle can feel uphill.
On the return ride after the July 12 Fort Myers Beach crash, Dirk van Rossum, who was not injured, was heckled by a motorist who yelled, ‘Get the ... off the road,’ he recalled. “It will take a lot of extraordinary effort to raise awareness for the safety and legal rights of cyclists and other disadvantaged road users.”
Staff writer Melissa Montoya contributed to this report.
Share The Road Florida Facebook page
The News-Press has a new Facebook page www.facebook.com/sharetheroadflorida to cover the good, bad and ugly about riding a bike in Southwest Florida. Florida is consistently ranked the most lethal state for cyclists and statistics put Collier and Lee among the worst in the state. At the same time, there are so many great things about cycling in the Sunshine State. Please like and share ways to make our area more bike-friendly.