Equality vs. Equity

Michelle Avola
Ex Director of NPC

by Michelle Avola, Naples Pathways Coalition

Equality is the belief that individuals are of equal value and that they should be treated impartially and fairly by society. Equality is definitely important, but I think equity takes it a step further and is truly what we need to make our community great.

Look at the illustration below: The left side gives each person the same box to stand on to see over the same fence.

That’s equality and it does not consider the needs of the individuals.

Equity is represented by giving each person what is needed to help see over the fence, and nothing if it is not needed.

Being of rather diminutive stature myself, I can see the benefit of equity, and that equality misses the mark.

To help everyone live their best life and safely enjoy Naples, giving everyone exactly the same thing is not what we need. Take this example to our roadways, where motor vehicle drivers, people on bikes, and pedestrians are all sharing space with the goal of safely getting to their destination in a reasonable amount of time without unnecessary stress or danger.

Equality would say that motorists should be given a ten to twelve-foot-wide lane in either direction, and that bicyclists would be given the same width travel lane of their own, and that pedestrians would also be given the same width travel lane of their own. Rather excessive!

What members of groups like Naples Pathways Coalition desire is for the roadways to be made equitable for all road users. This simply means that accommodations specifically needed for each type of road user are equally important and no one group should benefit to the point that it endangers another.

When roadways are planned or improved, the needs and safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle drivers must all be provided for. Roadways with a standard separated 10 foot wide multiuse pathway on either side to safely accommodate people on bikes and scooters, and all types of pedestrians is equitable.

Roadways with buffered bike lanes and wide sidewalks on both sides of the road to allow for people walking, running, pushing strollers, using wheelchairs, and walking dogs are equitable.

Roadways with narrow shoulders, a share the road sign, and a narrow sidewalk on one side of the road are not equitable.

Unfortunately, because of poor planning and local government failing those who elected them, too many of our roadways are not equitable.

Does having equitable roadways really matter? Well, Florida has the highest number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, so yes, equitable roadways do matter.

In a recent survey of residents, the number one amenity cited as missing in Naples is safe pathways for biking, running, and walking. This was also listed as the amenity most important to us, after beaches.

A project that pedestrians, people on bikes, and people in cars can all support is the Paradise Coast Trail (PCT). Put forth by Naples Pathways Coalition, we envision the PCT to be a premier 70+ mile trail built exclusively for safe and enjoyable walking, running, and biking, separated from roadways to minimize conflict with vehicles.

Across the country and across the state, places like Dunedin, Winter Garden and Inverness, enjoy extensive, connected multimodal pathways, but shockingly, Naples does not.

The Gordon River Greenway and the Rich King Memorial Greenway are heavily used and very popular with residents and visitors to the area, but they are 4 miles in length or less and are not connected to other safe pathways. The project provides a safe network of multimodal pathways, making Southwest Florida safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

To find out more and support the project, visit NaplesPathways.org/PCTrail.

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