Making multi-modal transportation a priority

Making multi-modal transportation a priority

Florida is known for a lot of good things – citrus, beaches, amusement parks, Dave Barry…. In the yearbook of states, however, it’s also known by an unfortunate superlative: (“One of the) most likely to incur bicycle and pedestrian fatalities!” Ugh. It’s a known problem that’s not going to get any better without a good, hard look at the way our communities are organized around cars and not people. That was the idea behind a regional transportation summit held last week, brought to you in part by our friends at Streets Alive. A Realtors group was also behind the project. That makes sense. Those engaged in selling Southwest Florida as a wonderful place to live aren’t limited by grapefruit trees and Gulf views. Dangerous streets can be a real deal breaker, though.

Walking and biking should be a healthy activity, not one in which you feel you’re taking your life in your own hands every time you hit the pavement.

As our friend Tessa LeSage of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation said on Gulf Coast Live last week in advance of the summit, the freedom to choose from various modes of transportation means greater accessibility, economic development, social equity and sustainability. No one’s advocating that we leave the automobile behind, which wouldn’t be practical anyway. (LeSage used one of our favorite expressions when she said, “It’s tough to get the toothpaste back in the tube.”) Although wouldn’t it be nice sometimes to choose to walk, bike or take public transit instead? Options=good.

Plus, great connectivity makes healthier, more vibrant communities that can take advantage of infill development strategies and begin to tackle sprawl.

What is it going to take? The post-World War 2 sprawl development model is often held up as an unsurmountable barrier. It isn’t. As Streets Alive’s Ann Pierce said during that same radio segment, if Colorado can do it, we can, too. It takes a community that’s engaged in designing its future. It takes political will. We’re encouraged that Mayor Henderson put together that Walkability Summit last year, and that multiple elected officials, plus the Lee Memorial wellness director, took part in the Transportation Summit.

We’ve got the conversation starting. Let’s walk the walk.

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