Multi-use Trails Enhance Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety
Protected trail greenways provide a safe mode of transportation for everyone. They also can enhance the overall quality of life, providing a reliable way for children to safely walk or bike to a neighbor’s home, to school, or to a park. Adults also benefit from safe trails for recreation as well as providing transportation to commerce or employment. Trails promote livability in communities and reduce injury by providing safe spaces for people to play and exercise. Physically separated from roads, multi-use trails are accessible two-way paths designated for use by both bicyclists and pedestrians.
Typically, these shared-use paths are found along waterway zones, utility corridors, unused or abandoned rail lines or other linear park facilities outside of a road’s right-of-way. Sidepaths are a specific type of shared-use path that are within a road’s right-of-way are certainly more desirable than riding or walking on streets without them but are less desirable than paths that are separate from roadways, particularly when the sidepaths traverse a high frequency of intersections and driveways.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of living or visiting the state of Florida is the number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths occurring nearly every day resulting from collisions with vehicles. The Florida ranks number one in the United States for the total number of deaths at 6.2 per 100,000 people, almost double the second most deadly state. Florida holds eight of the top ten most deadly metropolitan areas in the U.S., three of which are within SWFL. In Lee County in 2022, there were 33 deaths from 344 crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians, the highest in the past 5 years. Many of us who live in SWFL know someone who has been injured or killed by a vehicle while walking, running or riding along a roadway and/or has certainly seen the tragic stories on the local news on an all too frequent occurrence.
Enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety is one or two of top reasons Friends of BERT members cite when describing why they support of the Bonita Estero Rail Trail. One of our newest members to join brought it home by sharing with us why he supports the trail:
I live in San Carlos Park community. My vehicle is an adult trike. I ride it on Hwy 41 street bike path to get to the Bonita Springs area 2 times a week to get to the dispensary to get my medicine. How awesome and safe it would be for this trail to be built! I don’t know how much longer it may be before I get in an accident. SAFTEY is a must in my community and area of Lee county Florida.
The good news is that the safety situation in Florida is improving in areas where multi-use trails are opening across the state. In the case of the Bonita Estero Rail Trail, it does not take a leap of faith to accept the fact that a nearly 15-mile dedicated multi-use trail that parallels Hwy-41 and Old Hwy-41 would provide a much safer pedestrian and cycling alternative. In fact, most people intuitively know that to be true. And what better reason do the Friends of BERT members and leadership have in supporting our cause, knowing that many lives will be saved and tragedies averted by the trail’s creation. This is destined to be Friends of BERT legacy, YOUR legacy, and provides a major motivation all of us to work hard to make that happen as soon as possible.