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Thursday, August 21, 2014

BikeWalkLee Column: Safe cycling is high on radar of riders

This week's BikeWalkLee column focuses on the moving parts in making our area safer for cycling:  better facilities, better bikers, better drivers, better enforcement, and better awareness.
News-Press "Go Coastal" section:  BikeWalkLee column
Aug. 21, 2014

In the wake of recent incidents resulting in injury to area cyclists, safe cycling has been high on riders' radar — and for good reason. The threat of serious bodily harm dulls the allure of doing something that's supposed to be all about fun and fitness.

But safety isn't a magic-wand kind of issue. There are too many moving parts for safety just to happen overnight. So what does it take? Well, let's start with:

Better facilities: A lot of the safety issues come from having streets designed for all forms of transportation; from having paths that make cycling feasible (such as actually going places people need to go) while allowing them to be shared comfortably with walkers and runners; and with having currently facilities maintained and repaired in a safe manner.

  •  Better bikers: Safety takes skills and sanity, which for cyclists means knowing how to ride comfortably with other traffic (both faster and slower — or bigger and smaller — than you). It means understanding and respecting the rules of the road, again for interacting with all kinds of traffic. And it means taking some simple precautions to stay safe, such as wearing a helmet and not doing stupid stuff.
Better drivers: We can't ignore the elephant in the room. A number of the recent cycling incidents have been completely due to a motorist's inability to control either his/her vehicle or emotions while interacting with otherwise competent and cautious cyclists. Some of that is ignorance, some is accidental — and some of it is simply people not paying attention to other road users. That means that, frankly if these drivers are that immature or immobile, they should be dealt with for the sakes of all road users.

Better enforcement: And how do you deal with bad drivers? Give them consequences for their actions… which means using the letter of the law to prosecute or prohibit motorists who make our roads unsafe for cyclists, pedestrians and other motorists. There are laws now on the books that could make our roads safer, but only if they are enthusiastically and consistently enforced.

Better awareness: If you go someplace where cycling is popular, common and integrated into the transportation network, you see more cyclists of course. But you also see more awareness of cyclists by other transportation users, and more awareness of those other users by cyclists. Motorists don't stop in bike lanes or crosswalks, and look before they open doors. Cyclists signal their intentions for all to see, watch for pedestrians and abide by the normal traffic flow. It's a simple but subtle step.

Ultimately, safety can't be something you rail about only when a cyclist is injured or killed. It has to be something that's on our minds all the time.

— 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
Saturday: North Collier Regional Rampage 5K. North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. Registration $28, students $21, race day $35. (eliteevents.org/north-collier-regional-rampage-5k.html)

Saturday, Aug. 30: Dr. Piper Center Annual 5K Legacy Run/Walk, Dunbar Middle School, 4750 Winkler Ave. Ext., Fort Myers. Race starts at 7:30 a.m. Registration up to Aug. 26. $20 adult, $15 youth; Aug. 27-29 $25/$15, day of $300 all. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)

Cycling and 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. 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: 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. All slots are filled, and remember that the road on to the island will closed at 6:45 a.m. Sunday. 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)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Moser Column: School’s open: Let them walk and bike

If you're a parent of school-age children, please read Dan's column about the importance of letting kids find their own way to school vs. chauffeuring them.  Walking and bicycling are practical options that have physical, social and confidence-building benefits.  He also highlights Lakes Park, a local gem.
Florida Weekly, Outdoors Section
Dan Moser Column, Aug. 20, 2014

Dan Moser bikepedmoser@gmail.com
The party’s over for students as school buses are back on the road, which means kids can be expected everywhere on and along our streets, beginning at pre-dawn. And, like buses, so too are parent-chauffeurs, adding to the traffic congestion and chaos around schools and bus stops.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record and reigniting the ire of those who believe they need to be their child’s personal driver, I will again make the case for letting kids find their own way to school and as many other places they can and should be able to get to on their own (soccer practice, library, neighborhood park, friend’s house…). Walking and bicycling are practical options that have physical, social and confidence-building benefits. It gives kids a level of independence that grows as they get older and their range expands. Ideally, these transportation-independent kids become young adults who have mobility options, sometimes even delaying obtaining their driver’s licenses and saving a bundle of money by doing so.

The furthest a child needs to travel to get to school or a bus stop is two miles (1.5-miles to a bus stop). For most, it’s much less than that. But far too many parents feel compelled to drive their kids to either location, which, in turn, makes conditions around campuses and certain street corners less than ideal for those on foot or bike, thanks to the presence of so many vehicles. Thus, parents come to the conclusion that it’s too dangerous for their child to be out there without the protection of their family motor vehicle. Besides, this should be quality time spent with each other, right? Well, not exactly.
One visit to the student drop-off line or bus stop where parents sit in the car with their kids is all it takes confirm that this almost daily task is a time to make phone calls and conduct other “business” on handheld devices. Not quite quality parent-child time. Rather than the child interacting with fellow students at bus stops or while walking or biking together, kids get to hear “blah-blah-blah” or “tap tap tap” as their parents engage others electronically in order to use this time for something productive. Of course, parents being role models, the kids do the same.

If you can’t let go, why not get involved in heading up or at least being part of a walking or biking school bus? For more information about this and other options that allow kids to be kids, visit walkingschoolbus.org and saferoutespartnership.org.
Lakes Park
Now’s the time to enjoy one of our most popular parks, while kids are in school and tourists and snowbirds are few and far between. Lakes Park (leeparks.org) is a gem that’s only getting better as its trees and other landscape upgrades that were part of the post-Charley master plan mature. Newer features, such as state-of-the-art fitness stations, additional unpaved trails, and a community garden add to the lure of this former quarry that’s now one of the best examples of a top-notch urban regional park in Southwest Florida.

Yes, it’s hot and rainy, but Lakes Park has plenty of shade and water that keeps temperatures significantly more comfortable than surrounding areas. It still gets very busy on weekends but it’s a different story on weekdays, especially now that summer camps are finished. You may not have the place to yourself but you’ll enjoy a level of solitude and quiet that makes it worth bearing the heat and humidity. Thanks to the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation (lakesparkenrichmentfoundation.org), the park will only continue to thrive.

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. Contact him at bikepedmoser@gmail.com and 334- 6417.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Aug. 18th: Upcoming running/biking/tri events

It's Monday and here are some area running/walking/biking/tri events to consider.  Let us know if you hear of any events we should include next week.

Upcoming events
  • 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, Aug. 30: Dr. Piper Center Annual 5K Legacy Run/Walk, Dunbar Middle School, 4750 Winkler Ave. Ext., Fort Myers. Race starts at 7:30 a.m. Registration up to Aug. 26 $20 adult, $15 youth; Aug. 27-29 $25/$15, day of $300 all. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
  • Saturday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 1: 32nd annual Tour of Sebring, based at Kenilworth Lodge, 1610 Lakeview Drive, Sebring. Early registration deadline Aug. 22, prices for 1-, 2- or 3-day rides, (highlandspedalers.com/tos.php)
  • 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)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

BikeWalkLee supports LeeTran fare increases provided revenues used to enhance transit services


BikeWalkLee supports the proposed LeeTran fare increases, provided that all the additional revenues are dedicated to improving and expanding LeeTran services.  In its Aug. 14th letter to BoCC, it also stated its support for the three bus route improvements proposed by the disability groups, as well as in support of the MPO Local Coordinating Board's Good Wheels funding request.  

BoCC holds a public hearing on the proposed fare increases on Aug. 19th at 5 p.m. and public comment is invited and encouraged. See our earlier action alert.  

Aug. 21st:  News-Press editorial in support of fare increase IF improved transit services included in budget. 

Aug. 20th: News-Press story from Aug. 19th public hearing.
Quote:  Michael Pierce (Center for Independent Living):  "Public transportation is the life's blood of any growing community, but especially Lee County as so many of our residents do not drive, due to aging, disabilities, and economic challenges."

August 14, 2014
Dear Commissioners:

On August 19th, you will hold a public hearing on LeeTran's proposed fare increase.  BikeWalkLee would like to communicate its position with you in advance of the hearing and have it incorporated into the public hearing record. For the reasons outlined below, BikeWalkLee supports the proposed fare increase, provided that all the revenues coming in from the fare increase are dedicated to improving and expanding LeeTran services. 

BikeWalkLee advocates for complete streets and a balanced multi-modal transportation system, including a healthy transit system which increases economic attractiveness, reduces overall transportation costs, and increases quality of life.

The county should be planning now for future transit needs that will enable it to proactively prepare for demand. This demand will be driven by a growing population accompanied by drastically shrinking transportation funding for roads.  The vision for dealing with demand was envisioned in the Lee MPO's 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and was further enhanced by the MPO Board's recent unanimous vote in support of a compact growth and transit land use scenario for the 2040 LRTP.

Last year's budget cuts to LeeTran services were a step backwards. BikeWalkLee hopes that the BoCC will support the widespread community sentiment to restore these services in the FY 14-15 budget.  As you know, BikeWalkLee along with many other organizations, particularly the disability groups, have been communicating with you throughout the year about the impact these cuts have had. These cuts have negatively impacted the individual lives of our citizens who rely on transit to get to work and lead independent and productive lives, put at risk the health of the overall transit system, and resulted in declining ridership.  Your willingness to listen to the citizens and to take action to rectify this problem is greatly appreciated and we welcome the restoration of these important transit services this Fall.

With respect to the proposed fare increase, we have reviewed the background materials prepared by LeeTran and believe they have demonstrated that the fare increases are both fair and reasonable.  It's important to remember that the fare box revenues cover only a fraction of the operating expenses of any transit system.  Nationally, the average revenue contributions from the fare box is 32.5% (APTA report, June 2014). Currently, LeeTran fares cover 16.5% of its operating costs, and LeeTran's long-term goal is to achieve a 20% fare box contribution to expenses.  This proposed fare increase is part of the plan to reach that goal.  In looking at how the actual fare levels in Lee County compare with other Florida communities, LeeTran's table demonstrates that our current fares are lower than our peers.  Raising the regular fares by 25 cents (from $1.25 to $1.50) brings us in line with the norm throughout the state.  Finally, it's been seven years since LeeTran raised its rates.  Based on these facts, we believe that the proposed fare increases are justified and reasonable.

According to information from LeeTran, these proposed fare increases will produce $750,000/year in increased revenues (or $500,000 in FY2014-15 since the fare increases are scheduled to start on Jan. 1st, one-quarter into the fiscal year).  It is essential that these increased revenues be used exclusively to improve and expand the current LeeTran services.  There are significant needs out there to improve and expand several bus routes and to reduce wait times (headways).  It is unreasonable to expect to have a viable transit system if the headways are 2 hours or more, as is currently the case for many of our routes and schedules.  

The disability groups have proposed three bus route improvements (2 in Lehigh and 1 in Cape Coral) that both reduce wait times between buses and add or expand weekend services, costing an estimated $250,000.  The Board has now scheduled a budget workshop to consider implementing these improvement proposals as part of the FY 2014-2015, assuming that the fare increase is approved on Aug. 19th.  BikeWalkLee supports using some of these increased fare revenues to implement these three bus improvement projects and urges the Board to begin these improvements as soon as possible.  For the remaining $500,000 of the increased revenues, we support an in-depth look at implementing the Transit Development Plan.

Finally, although it is not related to the fare increase proposal before you, we wanted to communicate our support for the Good Wheels proposal made by Councilman Alan Mandel at your Aug. 12th budget workshop.  Councilman Mandel serves as the chair of Lee MPO's Local Coordinating Board (LCB) which coordinates services to the transportation disadvantaged in Lee County. It is most unfortunate that the State Legislature made changes to Medicaid in 2011, which is now creating devastating funding losses at the local level for the provision of vital transportation services to the medically-needy, including in Lee County.  We support Councilman Mandel's request for the Board to provide $250,000 in its FY 14-15 budget for this Good Wheel program and hope that it is a one-time expense, as we understand that the State Legislature is looking at ways to change the law to deal with the unintended consequences of their 2011 statute.  In the meantime, the citizens of Lee County who need transportation for vital medical care should not be put at risk.

Your continued leadership is needed to expand and improve the transit system, which is both smart and fiscally responsible.

We ask that the Board's motion to adopt the proposed fare increase explicitly state that the increased revenues from these fare increases will only be used for improved and expanded LeeTran services.  Thank you for considering our views and your continued support for LeeTran services.


Margaret E. Banyan

Dr. Margaret Banyan
on behalf of BikeWalkLee

Monday, August 11, 2014

FMPD Conducts Operations Targeting Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety

The Fort Myers Police Department is also focusing on bicycle and pedestrian safety.  Below is their Aug. 11th press release. Kudos to the FMPD!
August 11, 2014
In June and July the Fort Myers Police Department’s traffic unit along with patrol officers conducted 11 operations which focused on bicycle and pedestrian safety. The operations were conducted to enforce traffic laws designed to protect our bicyclists and pedestrians along with raising awareness and overall education to those who travel in the City of Fort Myers.
The 11 operations spread out over a two-month period resulted in officers writing 224 citations to both bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles for the following offenses:
·         Improper crossing
·         Riding against traffic
·         Wearing headphones while operating (motor vehicles)
·         Faulty/no safety equipment 
The educational phase of the operations involved officers handing out free front and back lights for bicyclists and educational pamphlets detailing various safety reminders. Funding for the operations, equipment and literature were provided by the Florida Department of Transportation. The following are a few keys to pedestrian, bicycle and motor vehicle safety:
Ø  Pedestrians and bicyclists traveling at night should cross the street in a well-lit area and/or in designated crosswalks.

Ø  Pedestrians and bicyclists should wear bright/light and/or reflective clothing, making themselves visible to drivers.

Ø  Bicyclists operating on the roadway are subject to obeying all traffic control devices to include stop signs and lighted traffic signals.

Ø  Bicyclists should have their bicycle equipped with a white light on the front visible from a distance of 500 feet and a red light visible from a distance of 600 feet, between sunset and sunrise during operation.

Ø  Drivers should always be cognizant of pedestrians and bicyclists utilizing sidewalks, crosswalks and roadways.  Drivers should exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or bicyclists, as they share rights on the roadway.

“The hope is to raise awareness through education and enforcement in order to reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with the pedestrians and bicyclists who navigate our city streets,” said Special Operations Lieutenant Jay Rodriguez.

Florida Highway Patrol focuses this week on bicycle and pedestrian safety during Child Safety Awareness Month

 Believe it or not, school starts next week and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has launched a Child Safety Awareness Month to remind everyone to watch out for children.  Each week this month, there is a different theme.  This week's focus is on bicycle and pedestrian safety!  Last week's focus was on being alert while backing out.  Next week's focus is on school bus stop safety.

Please assist with providing these tips to others in your networks/organizations/circles. Watch the video and share it with your "friends" on Facebook.    This is part of BikeWalkLee's ongoing campaign to make our streets safer for everyone, including and especially children.  Thanks!

 If any additional information or an FHP interview is needed, please get in touch with Greg Bueno:

Action Alert: Commissioners hold public hearing Aug. 19th on proposed LeeTran fare increases

If you're a LeeTran bus rider or interested citizen, here's your chance to weigh in the county commissioners about their proposed fare increase at the Aug. 19th public hearing. 
LeeTran Proposed Fare Increase:
LeeTran's fares cover less than 20% of the cost of its service. As part of its effort to balance the budget, the county is considering raising the base cash fare as well as the prices of tickets and passes. Below is a chart that shows current and proposed fares.

LeeTran is gathering public input before a decision is made. You may email your comments to rideleetran@leegov.com; complete a survey on the topic at LeeCountyTownHall.com. LeeTran held  five outreach meetings around the county during June and July.
The public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at a 5:00 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers at the Old County Courthouse, 2120 Main Street, Fort Myers.

Adult Fares Current Proposed
Cash Fare $1.25 $1.50
All-Day Pass $3.50 $4.00
12-Trip Pass $12.50 $13.50
7-Day Pass $12.50 $15.00
31-Day Pass $35.00 $40.00
Cash Fare, Trolley $0.50 $0.75
All-Day Trolley Pass $1.50 $2.00
3-Day Trolley Pass $3.00 $4.00
Discount Fares Current Proposed
Student Cash Fare $0.60 $0.75
Senior/Disabled Cash Fare $0.60 $0.75
Student 12-Trip Pass $6.00 $6.75
Senior/Disabled 12-Trip Pass $6.00 $6.75
Student 7-Day Pass $10.00 $12.00
Senior/Disabled 7-Day Pass $10.00 $12.00
Student 31-Day Pass $20.00 $25.00
Senior/Disabled 31-Day Pass $20.00 $25.00
Student Cash Fare, Trolley $0.25 $0.35
Senior/Disabled Cash Fare, Trolley $0.25 $0.35

ADA Fare Current Proposed
Single Trip $2.50 $3.00

For guidelines on how to testify or submit comments in writing, check out BikeWalkLee's General Guidelines.