Livability Solutions

Engaging a Community for Walkable, Bikeable Streets: Lee County, FL

May 2013

   Host: 

Lee County

Source: 

Challenge

Lee County has some of the deadliest roads in the United States for pedestrians and bicyclists. The County requested assistance from Livability Solutions to improve active transportation planning and create a broader base of support for those efforts. Frustrating previous attempts at a more inclusive planning process were language barriers, and segregation amongst key constituencies which included elderly white homeowners, small business owners, and younger, lower income African Americans and Hispanics, many of whom were renters.

Lee County, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance providers (Local Government Commission and Walkable and Livable Communities Institute), devised the following objectives for technical assistance:

  1. Engaging the Spanish-speaking population in Lee County to provide input to the County's Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.
  2. Creating opportunities for residents, staff and other stakeholders to provide input through meetings, walkability audit(s) and a workshop in English and Spanish.
  3. Increasing the knowledge of stakeholders on the range of tools available for improving walking and bicycling.
  4. Building support for changes to streets, sidewalks and trails that make it easier and safer to walk and bicycle.

Process

The Local Government Commission (LGC) and the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) worked with Lee County during a two-day workshop focused on techniques to engage local citizens. The Florida Department of Transportation, an important stakeholder, used the occasion to launch its "Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow" road safety campaign.

Numerous strategies were employed to engage the Spanish-speaking population, the most effective of which was to hold the workshop at Tice Elementary School, where many residents were already engaged as parents of students. Fourth and fifth graders from the school also participated in the workshop, sharing their concerns and wishes for walking and biking improvements. Workshops were conducted in English and Spanish. Local churches were another avenue for making the technical assistance more inclusive. Prior to the workshop local churches talked to parishioners about the value of complete streets.

All workshop participants, including the elementary students, were given the opportunity to identify local improvements such as additional sidewalks, pedestrian signals, and crosswalks. Their wish list helped inform the drafting of the Lee County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Outcomes

"The work in our community helped us overcome barriers to engaging the Spanish-speaking residents of the Tice Historic Community, which has extremely high rates of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities.  This was an invaluable experience for the community and for the County and City staff moving forward.  We developed recommendations that will have positive impacts on the community in perpetuity and skills that can be used in this and other communities moving forward." Source: local technical assistance coordinator, Lee County, FL.

The technical assistance proved to be catalytic for the County -- leading to chain of developments and initiatives the culmination of which was the award of a $10.5M TIGER grant for Complete Streets improvements. Other planning efforts that were catalyzed include the Lee County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan; a neighborhood Connectivity Plan; and a Safe Routes to School application for Tice Elementary.