Messenger Archive: Fall/Winter 2000
Amelia Earhart Park Opens Trails on Three-month Trial Basis
by Rob DeGraaf
What do air-potato fields, paint-ball war zones, great singletrack, and incredible Cuban cuisine have in common?
Amelia Earhart Park in Miami-Dade County, Hialeah.
I started riding the trails here in ’94, back when there were just a few trails in south Florida. Then the main use of these trails was for the annual Sandblaster Race Series. Only during the race and shortly before, were cyclists “legally” permitted to ride Amelia’s trails.
Many different folks for many years have lobbied for legal mountain-bike trails at Amelia Earhart Park.
What would it take? It seemed almost every approach to the county was destined to failure.
Around the end of this summer, the county finally acquiesced and decided to allow trails to be constructed and ridden on a three-month trial basis, beginning September 1.
The main reason the county decided to permit mountain-biking is among the most interesting trail success stories I have heard.
Cross-country running was added to Dade’s public school curriculum this year. That created a problem: there was no safe place for kids to run in the area. Kids were running in parking lots and along busy streets.
Amelia Earhart Park is one of the last sizeable chunks of green space in NW Dade. The county decided that prospective trails there could be shared by mountain-bikers and runners.
It is also likely that this “need” for running terrain combined with Oleta River’s big mountain-biking success to further convince the county that money could be made and volunteers would contribute their time on the trails.
In September, several weeks of torrential, daily rainstorms, delayed trail work progress. Willie Perez, owner of American Cycle, Hialeah, and others waited for the rain to cease and the resultant flood waters to subside.
Things finally began to dry out, just in time for my planned trip south! On Sunday morning I connected with several volunteers including Willie, Carl of Club Mud, and FBA member Lorraine Tappen. We began hiking the 7 ½ mile long trail, picking up paint-balls and other trash along the way. Paint-ball users will not be permitted to use the woods here in the future.
I recognized most of the sections of trail from years past, but several other sections were new to me. Terrain is mixed, consisting of loose limerock, hardpack dirt, lots of roots and rocks, tight turns and scrappy climbs and descents.
Much of the necessary trail work includes removing items brought into one section that looks like a paint-ball war zone with giant wood spools, picnic benches, construction signs and other human detritus. Other debris includes plant pots, remnants of an old nursery.
This place is so full of exotic plants! One species brought back bad memories of a crash here, into the thick trail side growth.
Whatever it was made me itch so bad I had to run down to the lake for a swim. Be careful what you get into at Amelia.
Several native plants push their way through the air-potato and Brazilian Pepper jungle to make their presence known: I saw dahoon holly, beauty berry, lantana, ficus trees, and a few remaining slash pines.
The park needs more volunteers. To help out contact Willie Perez at American Cycle: 305-817-1888 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Or call Chris Marshal at Broken Spoke Bikeshop: 305-758-3045.
Look for Amelia Earhart Park to appear in the 3rd edition of the Guide to South Florida Off-Road Bicycling. Contact me for more information regarding this. E-mail: Rdegraaf@gateway.net or phone 813-986-2128.
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FBA Annual Awards Honor State’s Active Bicycle Program Supporters
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
Janet Vicks and Tom Larson
Tom Larson began the Bicycle Safety Program over four years ago with the help of Tina Russo, FBA president, and Hillsborough County's Park and Recreation Department trails manager. Tom raised over $5,000 dollars a year from the community for putting on rodeos and over the last four years has given away some 16,000 bicycle helmets to children in the Gibsonton area. In addition, 800 safety tail-lights for bikes are given as "rewards" to children wearing their bike helmets correctly.
Janet Vicks works with bike safety , hosts two rodeos a year in the Apollo Beach area and assists with many more in surrounding areas. She, too, is a fund-raiser for bike safety projects and recently completed the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Regional Trainers and Effective Cycling course.
Division of Parks and Recreation
Florida's DEP Division of Parks and Recreation has become a major supporter of the bicycling initiate in Florida, both for on-road, rail-trail riding and off-road trail development. Its outstanding national reputation has attracted visitors to Florida's parks and recreation areas, often in prime bicycling locations or with trails connecting to surrounding communities.
This year, the Florida Division of Parks and Recreation co-sponsored two major Florida cycling events. In April, Bike Florida's "Springs Training Ride" took over 600 bicyclists (from all over the nation and as far as Canada) through a five-day camping and cycling tour of North Central Florida. In June, Bike Florida was part of the Bike South 2000 mile bike ride linking the six Southern States' rides. Again, the Division of Parks and Recreation came aboard to co-sponsor our week-long camping cycle tour in the Panhandle region.
Tallahassee-Leon County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Dwight Kingsbury, chairman of the Tallahassee-Leon County BPAC.
The BPAC has been instrumental in guiding county and state officials toward roads designed for safer bicycling. They continue to press for additional funding for Tallahassee's backlog of bicycle and pedestrian projects.
The BPAC has worked with the Planning and Growth Management Departments to improve bicycle parking at offices and stores in Tallahassee and is exploring with the state the feasibility of a shared-use path along the I-10 corridor.
FDOT Level of Service Multi-Modal Research Team
Martin Guttenplan, Linda Dixon, Mighk Wilson.
FDOT, under the direction of Martin Guttenplan of the Systems Planning Office, has embarked on a research project leading to development of "tools" that give bicycling a chance to "be at the table" in roadway planning and transportation decisions.
Assisting Martin at the local planning level are Linda Dixon, Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator and Senior Transportation Planning Analyst for Gainesville and Mighk Wilson, Metroplan Orlando's Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator and FBA member. Mighk and Linda have contributed greatly toward forwarding the initiative that was spearheaded by Martin Guttenplan, an FBA advisory board member.
SWAMP - South West Association of Mountain Pedalers.
SWAMP maintains over 100 miles of trails in Wilderness Park and Boyette Park and hosts a monthly beginner's mountain bike class. The club hosts several events every year, including the SWAMP Romp and the Fat Tire Festival, and is involved in a new trail system just being developed at the Alafia State Recreation Area.
The club organizes SWAMP socials every month and hosts a ride-guide program with three to six guides at every Sunday ride.
Florida Congressman Dr. Bob Casey of Gainesville is a medical doctor whose witness of childhood brain injury led him to champion Florida’s bicycle helmet bill that became law in 1998. He continued supporting this safety initiative by securing helmets for free distribution to children whose families could not afford them.
Bob Casey co-sponsored with Senator Sullivan, the "Share the Road" specialty license tag.
Carol Pulley is the Bicycle Pedestrian coordinator for all of the West Panhandle section of Florida. She serves as staff to the Pensacola area and Panama City BPACs traveling some 500 miles a month to cover her territory. She is also the Transportation Planner for the West Florida Regional Planning Council.
Carol serves as a bike safety educator with the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program regional training team. In this role, she puts on training sessions for teachers, law enforcement officers and community volunteers who in turn teach their children the skills of safe cycling.
Carol spearheaded two projects this year in her region: the Safe Ways to School pilot program at Gulf Breeze Elementary School and a very significant research project, the "Walk for Science," part of the pedestrian model validation in the multi-modal Level of Service Project for the FDOT.
West Palm Beach Bicycle Club
One of the oldest cycling clubs in Florida, the WPBBC was formed in 1963 by the City of West Palm Beach Recreation Department. Later it became an independent organization and is affiliated with LAB, FBA, the US Cycling Federation, Adventure Cycling, IMBA and the National Off Road Bicycle Association.
The club distributes bicycles to migrant children and other disadvantaged adults and children. They donate bicycle helmets to needy children. They intend to publish a county-wide bicycle registration information form for distribution to all 130,000 children in Palm Beach County public schools.
Chandler is active with the Gainesville Cycling Club and in local government. He was appointed to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board in 1987 and has been active in transportation issues ever since. He has also been on committees on Greenways, Railtrails and other roadways.
September to Christmas, Chandler spends one day a week in State Prison, teaching prisoners to repair bikes for distribution to kids and low income adults.
Jon is a native Floridian, born and raised in Southeast Florida. He has been with the Florida Park Service for 14 years.
Jon began his park service career with the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary and then moved ashore to work at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site. He left the Keys in 1989 to take on the role of Assistant Park Manager at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach and in 1998, he took on the many challenges of the Oleta River State Recreation Area, a national gold medal winner.
As a long time bicyclist, both on and off-road, it was the newly developed Mountain Bike Trail system that drew Jon back to South Florida. The Mountain Bike Trail was developed as a volunteer effort with 5 miles of trails. Under Jon's leadership and support, the trail has grown to over 10 miles and currently has approximately 100,000 visitors per year. The park also hosts several events and a state and national race series including the Hi Tec Adventure Race, the Sports Authority Adventure Race, the Cactus Cup/State Series Race and the South Florida Fat Tire Festival.
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Bike Trail at Fort Desoto Park Provides a Taste of History and Barrier Island Terrain
by Chip Haynes
There's this really great bike trail here in Pinellas County (not the one you think) and you should know about it. I recently built a fixed-gear bicycle, and took it to Fort DeSoto County Park, at the southern tip of Pinellas County, to give it a try.
The bike is a replica of the bicycles of a hundred years ago, inspired by a photo I was given of a soldier/cyclist stationed at Fort DeSoto during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
He had just such a bike, and the perfect place to ride it. It's even better down there now—the trails are paved!
The actual bike trail is not all that long— maybe four miles or so, tops. Unless you live within cycling distance, you probably will have to drive to get there. (Seems somehow self-defeating, doesn't it?) Nevertheless, give it a go and you'll be glad you did.
Bright blue water, sandy beaches, swaying palms, swooping gulls—and that's just the start of it. The park offers a tropical view of Florida not often seen in the over-built asphalt jungles where most of us live.
Don’t go expecting a long distance work out. It's too nice down there to pedal all that fast. Slow down. Take your time. Breath in that salt air, stop and relax in the shade. Let the world pass you by for a change. Aaaahhhhhh.
For history buffs, there's the fort. Although soldiers there never fired a shot in combat, many of the huge artillery pieces are still in place, and darned impressive.
A tour of the fort is a must-do if you haven't seen it. (It's also free and self-guided, so it's easy.) I like winding my way through the labyrinth of rooms between the gun placements. It's a great way to dodge the heat of the sun and pick up a bit of history along the way.
For the view, you've got to do that stair-climber thing to the top. Trust me, it's worth it. The view from the top of the fort is a wonderful look at true Florida— or at least what we thought it would look like when we moved down here. Wow!
To me, though, the real gem in this park is the snack bar and gift shop just north of the fort. Built back in the 1960's, it hasn't changed a bit. No, really: some of that gift shop stuff has been there that long!
If you're a big fan of pre-Mouse Florida, this may be a more important stop than the fort itself. Stop, look around, get a bite to eat and a cool drink.
Relax in that UFO-inspired seating area out back and revel in the hip antiquity of a time when station wagons had fake wood trim, Schwinn Varsities were cool and all the good music was on the AM dial.
Don't remember? Trust me, it was way cool. Even in the heat of summer.
Although the T-shaped bike trail at Fort DeSoto covers a good portion of the island, feel free to get out there on the one and only road and really see the whole park.
The southeast end of the island offers a great view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, while the north end of the island, well, doesn't. But it's still worth the pedal up there to the north end.
Want the inside scoop on the secret side of the island? Try the road to the Arrowhead Family Picnic Area. It looks like an off-limits service road, but isn't.
Over all, Fort DeSoto offers more of what we came to Florida for—and why we brought our bicycles down here in the first place.
Chip Haynes lives, rides and, once in a while, builds a bike in Clearwater.
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Two-wheel Drama on the Streets of Philadelphia
by Dwight Kingsbury
Although Peter Tannen assured me that he had already been to Eastern State Penitentiary and that we could easily reach it from the University of Pennsylvania campus, it was difficult to believe that a former prison could be so close to an Ivy League campus.
This, the “original” penitentiary (where the prisoners were supposed to repent in solitude) was, I gathered, on the north side of Center City somewhere, on the other side of the Schuylkill River.
If this town is supposed to be so similar to San Francisco, I thought, shouldn't we start now? San Francisco is huge. What if we got to the Light of the Moving Bikes ride after it started? We'd never find it.
But San Francisco's Bicycle Program Manager just flipped through his Philadelphia architecture guide and found more quoins and pediments for us to inspect.
Without Peter and his book, I might not have noticed a gargoyle (on Penn's Jacobean Revival undergraduate dormitory) that appears to be scratching his butt.
At a modern medical research building, I wouldn't have realized that the bricks are laid in Flemish bond like that used on the facades of Society Hill's 18th century Georgian Colonial mansions.
At the Fine Arts Library, I wouldn't have bothered to lock my Bike Friday to one of Penn's ubiquitous bike racks and go inside. I wouldn't have stood hesitantly at the turnstile of the reading room until the girl at the reserve desk looked up and buzzed us through with a smile.
Just before 6, Peter decided the time had finally come for us to head out. We cruised down Chestnut Street, past Drexel University, and turned north. Maneuvering through heavy rush hour traffic, we made it to the doors of 30th Street Station, where Peter said I should go in to take a peek while he stayed outside to watch our bikes.
We crossed the Schuylkill on JFK Boulevard and turned left on 22nd. In a few minutes, we found a swarm of cyclists gathering in front of the fortress-like ruin of the penitentiary, built in 1829.
Mighk Wilson and Mary Anne Koos were there. I also noticed many of the Philadelphia area engineers, planners, advocates, and cyclists who had figured prominently at Pro Bike Pro Walk conference events. I registered and paid the fee (the ride benefitted Philadelphia's Neighborhood Bike Works project).
Sue McNamara of the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley explained to the crowd that we would have to do the annual nighttime tour of architectural landmarks as a critical mass ride.
Unless we stayed together as a group while riding through intersections, the traffic signals would fission us into smaller and smaller platoons in an ever-lengthening column. And then we would miss her prepared commentary on the historic structures we were passing.
Along the Schuylkill, the lights of Boathouse Row came on as we rode along West River Drive. Suburb-bound motorists didn't seem too annoyed by the minor delays we were causing.
A few honked impatiently as volunteers (including locals as well as visitors) guarded our crossings, soothingly reassured them it would be just a few moments longer.
The real risk, I discovered, was my own failure to avoid following too closely. When the cyclist ahead of me stopped suddenly (to avoid a piece of debris, he told me later), I was caught next to the curb.
I pitched over onto the sidewalk, adroitly saving my bicycle at the expense of some skin on my right knee.
We serpentined along the roads of Fairmont Park, a mass of red taillights in the deepening twilight, while Sue clued us in to the memorials and mansions that dotted the woodlands and meadows.
Back in the city, women were visiting on townhouse front stoops and teenage boys were talking at street corners.
Now and then a car (38 percent of Philadelphia households manage without them) negotiated its way along the traffic lane. Bystanders smiled, cheered, or just watched as we passed by.
Here and there, we traveled along some of the 300 miles of bicycle lanes and "bicycle friendly streets" the streets department is organizing into its "Philadelphia bicycle route network." So far $3.7 million of CMAQ funds have been invested.
In Chinatown, we passed through an arch (where, next day, Mary Anne, Pat Pieratte, Joy Riddell and I were caught in a parade behind a dragon and the dragon's drum corps).
As we approached Market Street, a motorist trying to exit a parking garage threateningly denounced half a dozen riders who had stopped to guard our flank. They stood their ground.
On South Street, where restaurants, bars, and curious shops were throbbing with activity, no one seemed to regard a multi-block mass of illuminated cyclists riding past as anything particularly remarkable.
Sue's learned descriptions of the sights, amplified by the battery-powered PA system strapped on her bike rack, boomed through the neighborhoods.
"Everyone should have their own PA system," Sue mused.
About 9:30, we reached the commercial district in Philadelphia's heart and ascended to our rooms in the PSFS building. I dressed my wound and prepared to turn in.
Mighk and Mary Anne changed and went to the Thunderhead Alliance party at Fergie's Pub.
There was live music, Mary Anne told me later. People pushed all the tables and chairs up against the walls and danced.
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Nation’s First Land Bridge Spans I-75 to Connect East and West Cross Florida Greenway Sections
The Office of Greenways & Trails announced on September 30 the grand opening of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge.
Fourteen months from groundbreaking to grand opening, the $3.4 million project was federally funded with transportation enhancement money to provide safe passage over Interstate 75 for hikers, equestrians, off-road cyclists and wildlife.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways & Trails and the Florida Department of Transportation combined resources to build the shared-use trail connector, located in Marion County, south of Ocala.
The idea for the design came from the Netherlands, where similar wildlife overpasses are called ecoducts.
The opening of America’s first land bridge comes almost a decade after congress de-authorized the Cross Florida Barge Canal. November marks the 10th anniversary of the bill that cancelled the initial groundbreaking legislation.
The cross state Greenways lands have passed through many hands. The corridor was first conceived in the mid 1800s as a deep water shipping channel. Congress authorized construction in 1933 and work began in 1935, only to halt a year later when the project ran out of money. Redesigned as a shallow draft barge canal to save costs, the project resumed in 1942. President Nixon halted it almost 30 years later due to environmental concerns. Had construction continued, the Florida aquifer would have been ruptured.
In November 1990 President Bush signed the barge canal de-authorization into law.
In 1993 a 110 mile corridor stretching across the state from the mouth of the Withlacoochee River on the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River was turned over to the Florida Department of Natural Resources, and finally to the Office of Greenways & Trails.
The corridor, named in honor of Marjorie Harris Carr, a Micanopy resident who led the fight against the canal, has become a link in the OGT’s statewide system of greenways and trails that the office hopes someday will connect communities statewide.
For several years the OGT worked to find a way to connect the east and west sides of the greenway where it is bisected by the formidable obstacle created by Interstate 75.
Through a partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation, and financing through the federal Transportation Enhancement Program the office found a solution.
The shared-use trail connector will allow OGT to extend its system of trails on the Greenway.
Thanks to local volunteers, some of Florida’s most outstanding trails are located within the Greenway. The land bridge makes it possible to connect trails on the east and west sides.
In remarks at the formal opening of the land bridge, Debbie Parrish, OGT’s director, gave credit to the partnerships that made the project possible.
“We should remember that partnerships are the most valuable and practical method for establishing a statewide system of greenways and trails,” she said.
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National Mountain Bike Patrol Volunteers Educate,
Assist and Inform
by Tina Russo
The International Mountain Bike Association has sponsored a national mountain bike patrol program (NMBP) for four years.
I recently attended their fourth instructors’ conference in California. It is truly exciting to see such a great program succeed in a short amount of time. IMBA took over the program that was founded first by NORBA the off-road bicycling racing national governing body, whose philosophy did not fit the program objectives nearly as well as IMBA's.
IMBA is all about "keeping trails open," from the patrol, to advocacy and the trail care crew that deals with trail design and maintenance.
NMBP is modeled after the ski patrol, and uses volunteers to help keep trails open. NMBP volunteers provide information, education and assistance, to trail users. Training includes first aid and CPR.
IMBA provides an instructor’s course that teaches trainers the core skills needed to teach to volunteer patrollers. It is the instructors’ choice to develop these skills to fit the needs of the area.
The success of IMBA’s bike patrol program has been in the flexibility of its instructors to fit the core skills to the needs of their areas and environment.
At the first instructors’ conference I attended (Colorado Springs in 1997), the majority of the instructor trainees were riders. The majority of attendees at last year’s instructors’ course were land managers. It is obvious that the two groups need to work together to keep trails open for all users.
The core skills taught during the course include:
- The land management component (who is the boss)
- First aid/emergency care guidelines -first aid and CPR recertification required
- Communication skills -radios, cell phones, contacting help, feed back from the field, log sheets
- Trail User Interaction-making contact on the trail
- Riding Skills-Conditioning, Technical Skills, Local trail knowledge, responsible riding
- Map Reading/orienteering
- Trailside Bike Repair
- Trail and Environmental Issues and minimum impact riding
IMBA Rules of the Trail.
Using IMBA’s NMBP core guidelines I developed a volunteer trail steward/national mountain bike patrol program in Hillsborough County almost four years ago. To help keep the county’s network of trails open, volunteers practice the skills in ways best suited to the needs of land managers and land owners.
Trails all over the country have different environmental issues but see many of the same problems. The NMBP helps land managers/owners with some of those problems by educating, assisting and informing trail users.
Visit IMBA’s web site and the national mountain bike patrol section for more information about the program.
If you want more details on starting a volunteer trail patrol, contact me at (813)264-8511 or IMBA at (303)545-9011.
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Orlando’s Orange Ave. Bows to Bike Lanes
by Mighk Wilson
Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, METROPLAN ORLANDO
Policies, policies, policies…we all have ’em. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has a policy to include bike lanes wherever and whenever feasible.
Orange County and the City of Orlando have similar ones. But sometimes that’s not enough, and sometimes policies conflict.
In the spring of 1998 I got word that FDOT was planning to resurface five miles of South Orange Ave. (State Road 527) from Gore Street (just south of downtown Orlando) to Sand Lake Road (near Orlando International Airport). The road traverses the jurisdictions of the City of Orlando, the adjacent Town of Edgewood and unincorporated Orange County
Most of Orange Ave. is four lanes wide with a center turn lane (no raised median) and parallel on-street parking. For a mile-long section in Edgewood and the county it splits into one-way pairs with parking on both sides of each pair.
In most areas the general use lanes are only 10 feet wide.
South Orange Ave. is the only remaining opportunity for continuous north/south bike lanes in this part of Orange County due to four large lakes and two parallel road projects that do not adequately accommodate cyclists. South Orange Blossom Trail (US 441), one mile to the west, was recently reconstructed to six 12-foot-wide lanes and no median. Traffic there moves at about 50 mph. Conway Road (SR 15), three miles east, is being built with 11-foot wide lanes and no bike lanes.
The county and some residents convinced FDOT to ignore their professional judgement and provide eight-foot wide sidewalks along Conway as “bicycle facilities.”
The street parking is very lightly used for most of the length of this project, but increases as you approach downtown Orlando and the Orlando Regional Medical Center. South of Orlando’s limits the use is nearly non-existent and there is ample off-street capacity.
FDOT asked the Orange County Community Traffic Safety Team (CTST) if they would support removal of the on-street parking so FDOT could replace it with designated bike lanes. CTST agreed.
The Town Council of Edgewood had already passed and sent a resolution to FDOT requesting the removal of the on-street parking and the installation of designated bike lanes.
Remember I said sometimes policies conflict? While FDOT has full jurisdiction over design and operation of state roads, it wants to maintain good relations with local governments. So FDOT’s policy is to not remove on-street parking without approval of local elected officials.
That May, an FDOT engineer expressed frustration that Orange County staff had turned down the request to ask the county commission to remove on-street parking. A county engineer had asked that district’s commissioner how he felt about it and got a negative response.
An important distinction in all of this is that the county was not really being asked to vote on whether or not to include bike lanes, but to remove parking lanes.
If there were sufficient width but no parking lanes on the roadway, FDOT would have included bike lanes without requesting the county’s support.
City of Orlando staff supported removing the on-street parking, but only at the southern end of the city. They were also planning to put bike lanes on Rosalind Ave., the northbound continuation of Orange Ave. through downtown. (Orange Ave. is one-way southbound through the downtown area.)
At the southernmost end of the project Orange Ave. has paved shoulders, which would be widened and resurfaced. Lack of county cooperation would result in four segments with bike lanes or paved shoulders and three segments with on-street parking.
Since Orange Ave. holds high priority in METROPLAN ORLANDO’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, I went right to work getting the attention of the appropriate committees and boards.
First I brought the matter to the Orange County Bikeways Advisory Board (BAB), which advises the county commission on cycling matters. The BAB voted unanimously to recommend to the county commission that on-street parking be removed so the FDOT could provide the bike lanes.
However, staff dragged their feet in getting that recommendation to the at-tention of the county chairman. It wasn’t until late 1999 that the issue finally came to the chairman’s attention.
We were running out of time, as FDOT was getting closer and closer to its deadline to get the pavement markings designed.
It was, as Broward County Bike Coordinator Mark Horowitz says, time to “call out the dogs.”
It didn’t take much convincing to get the members of Central Florida Bicycle Advocates (CFBA), the energetic new group started as a direct result of FBA’s Bike Action Orlando workshop, to call and write the county commissioners and chairman about Orange Ave.
Roy and Sandy Walters organized and held a small but effective protest ride on South Orange, taking the entire right lane for a few miles during an evening rush hour. This got the attention of the Orlando Sentinel. Orange Ave. was now on everybody’s “radar screen.”
The county’s reason for not supporting parking removal and bike lanes alternated between “businesses need the parking” and “it’s not safe.”
I already had the data to show that bike lanes would improve safety on Orange Ave. The parking issue was another matter. Fortunately, I had the help of a new advocate, John Gable.
Retired from the Federal Aviation Administration John had recently moved from the Washington, D.C. area where he was involved with the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) and many of the various bicycle advisory boards and committees.
John and I worked together to develop a data collection form to record how many on- and off-street parking spaces were used. John then did the field work, spending many hours cruising up and down Orange Ave. counting cars.
The numbers were clear: only a handful of cars were seen on the street in the Orange County segments, and only half the off-street spaces were occupied.
In March 2000 the county commission finally addressed the matter at a board meeting. CFBA members kept up the pressure, repeatedly contacting commissioners as the meeting approached.
While it looked as though four of the seven commissioners were willing to support the parking removal, they decided at the last minute to put off the decision until after a community meeting to assess the support for either parking or bike lanes.
The City of Orlando studied parking along Orange Ave. and found that a few small businesses would be seriously hurt by the removal of the on-street spaces.
As properties redevelop along that stretch of Orange they will be required to accommodate all of their parking needs off-street. This will eventually allow the city to replace the on-street parking with bike lanes.
Unfortunately, county staff and commissioners used the city’s reluctance to remove its parking to question the wisdom of removing the county’s. They worried that cyclists would have “nowhere to go” if bike lanes ended at Michigan.
Using that argument one should never start building a bikeway system, since the first pieces “would not connect to anything.”
The community meeting was held in late April and was hosted by district commissioner Clarence Hoenstine. County staff hand-delivered invitations to every business owner along the route.
CFBA also got the word out and at least 25 cyclists came to the meeting. There were only two business owners in the room, and neither was concerned about parking.
Discussion focused on how to best provide a comfortable, continuous route all the way into downtown Orlando. The city promised to sign an alternate route along Delaney Ave. and the signs went up within a couple weeks.
At its May meeting the matter was brought back before the board of commissioners. With overwhelming support for the bike lanes shown at the community meeting, the decision was an easy one for the commissioners.
Since it was in his district, Commis-sioner Hoenstine was invited to move to approve the parking removal.
The motion passed unanimously, but with some reluctance expressed by Chairman Mel Martinez. He was uncomfortable with the idea of bicyclists on a major thoroughfare, but yielded to the greater experience of the FDOT, local engineers, the county Bikeways Advisory Board and the advocates.
The lesson for advocates? Patience and tenacity! CFBA chairman Gene Randall was surprised that “the process took much longer than expected.”
“The long timeline did work in our favor,” Gene said, “because, as a fledgling organization, we had to learn how to get our message out and who to direct it to.
“An important point to remember during a campaign like this is to continuously keep something flowing to the decision makers. One letter probably didn't make much difference. Many letters, from a diverse group of people, over a long period, were most likely very powerful.
“Couple the letter writing campaigns with attendance at various meetings and personal visits with the county staff and commissioners and we have a success story.”
John Gable checked off a laundry list of tactics CFBA used to spread the word about the issue and strengthen political support.
“We wrote up and printed a ‘Bicyclist Alert,’ took a stack of them and a sign-up sheet to Orange Cycle’s Super Sale so people could receive future notices, and sent notices to 270 local cyclists, including FBA’s list of local members and Orlando neighborhood associations.
“Edgewood mayor, Jim Muszynski, came to a CFBA meeting and strategy session where we developed a ‘Myth vs. Fact’ sheet. This fact sheet was useful in defeating a movement coming from Commissioner Hoenstine supporters in Edgewood’s city council to rescind the pro-bike lane resolution.”
The FDOT will resurface South Orange Ave. in early 2001; on-street parking will be replaced by bike lanes.
There will be a gap between Michigan St and Lucerne Circle for the foreseeable future, but cyclists can detour this segment by using Delaney Ave.
Advocates desiring a packet of the letters, resolutions, fact sheets and other documents related to this victory can send a self-addressed stamped envelope ($.55 postage) to Mr. John L. Gable, 1140 S. Orlando Ave., Apt. B-7, Maitland, FL 32751-6430.
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FDOT’s Bike/Ped Policies Available on Website
If your club or group is launching a campaign to protect your interests in a local transportation project, you’ll find valuable bicycle-pedestrian safety documents readily available from the Florida Dept. of Transportation’s Website.
You can’t assume that local officials know Florida’s standards for roadway improvement. If you don’t tell them, who will?
For example, the following recommendations for shared-use pathways are found in chapter five of FDOT’s Florida Bicycle Facilities Planning and Design Handbook, one of the several comprehensive documents downloadable from the Website:
The main points of the chapter are: The minimum recommended width for a shared use path is 10 feet. The new edition of the Florida GreenBook [available at the Website] specifies 10 feet as the minimum width of a path. This edition, currently in the state rule-making process, will probably be adopted by the state by the end of 2000.
In any case, AASHTO, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, also recommends a 10-foot minimum width.
AASHTO recommends that a shared use path and a curbed roadway be kept at least five feet apart. Otherwise, a suitable physical barrier is recommended.
Paths placed adjacent to roadways ("sidepaths") have a number of disadvantages for cyclists, relative to bicycle lanes, e.g., conflicts with pedestrians and skaters, difficulty of accessing destinations on the opposite side of the road, and conflicts at driveways or crossing paths.
As the FDOT bicycle handbook ex-plains, "bicyclists using the roadway are often subjected in harassment by motorists who feel that, in all cases, bicyclists should be on the trail instead. Many bicyclists will use the roadway instead of the shared use path because they have found the roadway to be safer, less congested, more convenient, or better maintained."
AASHTO recommends a design speed of 20 mph for paths, so that faster cyclists are not forced to ride at less than their preferred speed. This would be difficult on an 8' path. As an example, the old section of the St. Marks Trail [a Rail-Trail near Tallahassee] is only 8' wide, and can be very congested on week-ends; the newer additions have been built to the 12' FDOT standard.
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‘Smart Choices for Smart Growth and Sustainable Neighborhoods’ Was Theme of ProBike/ProWalk Conference 2000
by Dan Moser
ProBike/ProWalk 2000: Smart Choices for Smart Growth and Sustainable Neighborhoods was held Sept. 5-9, 2000, in Philadelphia – home of soft pretzels, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and more transportation options than most cities in America.
In fact, operating a private passenger vehicle there is one of the least efficient alternatives compared to walking, cycling, and public transportation.
Busses, trains, subways and trolleys make up a comprehensive transit network that saturates the city and reaches into the surrounding area, from suburban Pennsylvania to New Jersey.
In recent years such bicycle provisions as lanes and parking have been integrated into the infrastructure throughout the city.
But as is the case in many places, were it not for motorists who ignore traffic laws and common courtesy, as well as a relatively low level of traffic-law enforcement, Philadelphia would be an even more desirable place for those who prefer combining transit, walking, and cycling over driving to their destinations.
The conference itself was everything we anticipated and then some. With a combination of indoor sessions and activities, outdoor/mobile lessons and workshops and walking/cycling tours, ProBike/ProWalk 2000 was an event to remember (the weather was great, too!).
Over 500 people from 48 states, four Canadian provinces, and four or five other countries attended to learn, teach and connect with others who understand the value of bicycle and pedestrian activities.
From the pre-conference training sessions and meetings to the post-conference workshops, it was quite apparent that there is a high level of awareness and energy among established bicycle, pedestrian and smart growth advocates as well as among parties not necessarily thought of as being bike/ped supporters.
Stories were related about developers, whole communities and others who had formerly considered non-motorized modes as either irrelevant or an obstacle to the almighty motor vehicle finally becoming convinced of the benefits associated with accommodating and even encouraging their use.
So even though most of those in attendance were already believers, it was encouraging to find that the principles our arguments are built upon are becoming more widely accepted and actually acted upon in many cases.
Bottom line: Providing for bicyclists and pedestrians is becoming less of a radical concept and more mainstream.
Another important trend confirmed at the conference should be of particular interest to advocates and professionals alike.
Public health organizations were represented at the conference in large numbers, clearly signifying this sector’s intention to be considered as much a part of things as such customary players as transportation planners/engineers, law enforcement and emergency services.
This is due primarily to the fact that the major public health interests such as state departments of health and the Center for Disease Control have gone beyond the “helmet use is the one and only answer” mentality and have come to realize that there is much more involved.
Because we all have a vested interest in encouraging safe cycling and pedestrian activities (health and fitness, reduced congestion, pollution, and energy consumption, etc.) a working relationship between all parties is vital.
By examining the larger picture and expanding the scope of its involvement to coincide accordingly, the public health sector has gained acceptance as a serious partner with much to offer.
This being the case, we can look forward to our resources increasing and our influence expanding within mainstream America.
How much these increased resources will equate to improved conditions and increased cycling, walking, and running will, I hope, be apparent by the time of the next ProBike/ProWalk in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2002.
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‘Safe Ways to School’ Project Teaches Schools to Encourage More Walking, Biking
by Linda Crider and Jodi Burden
According to the FDOT 1992 Home-to-School Transportation Study, only one out of six children in Florida walk or bike to school.
The rest are transported by bus or by private motor vehicle, often creating severe traffic congestion at school sites and unsafe conditions for children who are or would want to walk or bicycle to school.
Children have become captives of a car-dominated society, and parents, out of fear for their children's safety, are compelled to transport them wherever they want to go.
Parents and children are fearful of conditions related to both traffic and crime in their neighborhoods and community.
The Safe Ways to School program was initiated to beg the question…can we really do anything to change this picture and give children back the independence of their own mobility?
Modeled after the award-winning project, “Safe School Routes” which originated in the city of Melville, Australia, its goal is to improve conditions that affect children walking and bicycling to and from school, thereby increasing their number.
Safe School Routes combines traffic calming techniques with other school initiatives (Walking School Bus, Safe House programs) and education to foster a safer environment for children.
The program, administered by the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, developed a set of tools to help schools assess and improve hazardous conditions that exist around school sites and in surrounding neighborhoods.
The project is implemented by creating school-based safety teams that work with parents, students, school staff and city/county officials to carry out various assessments, surveys, and an on-going educational component.
Components of the Project:
- Each school forms a School Traffic Safety Team.
- A bicycle/pedestrian safety component is written into the “School Improvement Plan” dealing with safe routes, a safety committee, and a safety education curriculum.
- A school-wide travel survey is conducted at the beginning of the project to assess the various transportation modes students use to go to and from school.
- A school site design analysis and a neighborhood site assessment are conducted to determine the conditions of street traffic, parent and bus drop-off locations, sidewalks, crossings, and the overall safety of existing routes to school.
- Attitudinal surveys are administered to parents and students, identifying their concerns.
- A list of planned improvements are generated and presented to the appropriate government entity for consideration and funding using a variety of monetary sources, including state/federal “safety” dollars and sidewalk “enhancement” funds.
- Traffic Safety Training is given to physical education teachers, school resource officers, and crossing guards.
- A Traffic Safety Education curriculum is implemented for students. Parents are encouraged to participate through “walking school bus” programs and other “safe” neighborhood initiatives.
- A follow-up travel survey is administered and an on-going process established to continue to assess traffic hazards.
Tool Kit Available for Schools
The Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program used the information obtained from a two year pilot program to create a “tool kit” that can be used by schools throughout the state and nation to create a safer bicycling and walking environment for children.
The tool kit includes a student travel survey, a school site design assessment, a neighborhood site assessment, parent and student attitudinal surveys, a video, “How To” manual, clipboard, pen and file folders, all in a schoolhouse box carrying case.
For more information, or to receive a copy of the Tool Kit, please contact: FTBSEP, University of Florida - Dept of Urban & Regional Planning, PO Box 115706, Gainesville, FL 32611. 352-392-8192, 352-846-0404(FAX)
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Appointment in Oseola...
Orlando to Kissimmee Trek Underscores Challenges
of Alternative Transportation
by Dwight Kingsbury
Due to an unexplained delay in Ocala, and heavy traffic on 441 most of the way to Orlando (but isn’t traffic always heavy on 441 most of the way to Orlando?), my bus didn’t get in to the Greyhound terminal until 3:20 p.m.—an hour and 20 minutes late.
No problem. I still had four hours to get to the meeting I was supposed to attend in Kissimmee.
I towed my Bike Friday suitcase out the front door and scanned the John Young Parkway sidewalk. It was too busy.
“Bike Friday attracts attention almost everywhere, “ advised the instructions. “If you feel tired from traveling, you may want to find an area where you won’t draw a crowd.”
Around the corner I found a quiet shaded sidewalk where a transportation mode conversion operation seemed unlikely to draw a crowd. Lightning crackled in the sky.
The bike went together in about half an hour. I did attract the attention of a man who came riding by on his bicycle on the sidewalk. He guessed what I was doing, expressed his approval, and asked if I needed help. I assured him I had everything under control.
I set to work on the trailer, pulling the tubes out of their orange sleeves and staring blankly at the instructions. The video Bike Friday had sent me had explained the process step by step.
The written instructions show a blow-up diagram of the assembled carriage, including the wheels (which the video doesn’t add until the T-assembly has been attached to the suitcase).
Finally I realized that the reason the assembly wasn’t holding together was that I hadn’t attached it to the suitcase, which is actually a structural component as well as a luggage compartment.
Stuffing my camping gear into the suitcase, I applied the same principles I use when packing my Bike Friday in it—keep adding things until everything is in, then keep adjusting them until they almost fit, then mash the lid down and close the snap locks.
I took a test spin around the back streets, stopped at a gas station for a sport drink and pulled onto the John Young Parkway at 4:25.
Although I had studied maps and knew the Parkway went south to Osceola County, dark cloud masses obscured much of the sky, making it difficult to tell where the sun was.
Business parks, hotels, strip malls and walled residential complexes lined the road, dumping their traffic into John Young’s six lanes. South of Orlando, it was hard to tell whether I was approaching or leaving a city; in places, stretches of pine woodland appeared on the west side, invariably posted with For Sale signs, with phone numbers.
I rode on the paved shoulder where possible. At intersections and commercial driveways, where turning and acceleration lanes join the roadway, I generally rode in the rightmost through lane. Traffic was so heavy, though, that at some intersections, after the light turned green, I only just reached the intersection when the light turned red again.
I recalled from the map I had studied in Tallahassee that, as I approached Osceola County, I needed to make my way onto highways with numbers like 17, or 92 (or 1792?), or 441, or with a name like “Orange Blossom Trail,” so I kept looking for these designations on directional signs. I didn’t see any signs for Kissimmee, although it seemed I would have no problem accessing Disney World.
At one intersection, three separate poles bore signs for 17, 92, and 441, but the poles were not all facing the same direction, which confused me. I rode through and turned right onto Old Dixie Highway.
In the evening light a kid was riding his bike down a quiet side street. I considered sprinting after him to ask for directions.
Nah. Never ask for directions.
I turned around and went back to the intersection. This time, I saw a sign for Kissimmee, which explained that 17, 92, and 441 were all the same highway, and I needed to turn left.
Finally, I came to a busy arterial intersection over whose far side arched a great steelwork sign announcing “Historic Downtown Kissimmee.”
This was the place, or at least the gateway to the place where my meeting was. But first things first. I turned left onto Vine Street, which heads east out to the Turnpike. To reach my campground on Boggy Creek Road, I had to get into the left turn lanes at a T-intersection, waiting a minute for a suitable gap.
Amidst the high-density settlement of the Ponderosa RV Park’s snowbird set, a cyclist was pitching her tent in the fading light on a grassy site next to the Turnpike’s fence.
She’d pulled her BOB trailer from DeLand, she said. Further on, I spotted [FBA membership director] Deb DeVoe’s tent and [West Palm Beach Bicycle Club member] Linda Leeds’ big green van, identifiable by its rear array of bumper stickers.
It was after 7:00. As the sky darkened, the long threatened rain began coming down. My tent has severe leaks, I noticed, as I struggled to stow gear inside in a non-existent dry place.
Deb’s car was gone, and so were Deb and Linda.
Oh well. Who needs women when a bicycle needs a fish? Actually, it occurred to me, the interior environment of my bicycle shoes could be supporting fish life right now. I pulled my helmet over my matted hair and flicked on my bike’s lights. I had an appointment in Historic Downtown Kissimmee.
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Bicyclists' Value to Society Often Underrated
by Mighk Wilson
At work I’m a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, but I've been a passionate and committed cyclist for over 25 years.
This essay comes to you from that life-long cyclist, but with some knowledge gained as a professional.
Every healthy community exhibits a good measure of altruism as well as positive reinforcement for such beneficial behavior. Communities that do not are fractious, unpleasant and eventually doomed to violence and despair.
When they drive a bicycle (even when improperly) people impart valuable resources and acts to the community and should be rewarded. These benefits also are provided by walkers and, to an extent, transit users. They may be tangible, intangible, intended or unintended.
Cyclists provide their communities with numerous tangible benefits. Many of Florida's cities are struggling to maintain air quality. Each bicycle trip made in lieu of a motor vehicle trip keeps a certain amount of lung-damaging, volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides from entering the atmosphere.
Automobile use also contributes to the majority of the toxins and nutrients that pollute our waters.
It is estimated that each new motor vehicle brought into an urban area will require seven new parking spaces. These seven spaces add up to about 1,680 square feet.
If an urban area receives 100 new cars per week (as many Florida cities do) its parking requirements would cover an additional one-third of a square mile each year. Automobiles require at least three times as much area as their owners. In areas where auto parking is scarce, as in many central business districts, a person who arrives by bicycle frees up valuable space for another.
Even though our health care system is basically market-driven, healthy people still subsidize unhealthy people to some degree. Bicyclists are healthier than average and help to lower health care costs for the population at large. (While bicycling-related injuries and fatalities are negatives in this regard, the overall health benefits of cycling outweigh this disadvantage according the British Medical Journal.)
Obesity has become a major health concern in the U.S., and exercise such as cycling is an ideal treatment.
A major component of this nation's foreign debt is due to our tremendous use of Middle Eastern oil, used predominantly for gasoline. Our effort to protect our access to this fuel source has cost us billions in military expenditures.
Cleaner air and water, easier parking, less paving of fragile land, lower health care costs, a better balance of trade, less money spent on military excursions–all are of significant, measurable value. These impacts can be reduced by use of bicycles for transportation or fitness.
Intangible benefits of bicycling cannot be measured, but can be just as valuable. Bicyclists have better connections with their surroundings and see more of what is happening in a neighborhood (hundreds of law enforcement agencies use bicycles as an integral policing tool).
Cyclists are more likely to have chance encounters that enrich their life and the life of others. Positive spontaneous encounters are threads in a fabric; the more they weave together, the stronger and more interesting the cloth.
Chance encounters among motorists are normally unpleasant and often involve exchanges of license numbers and insurance accounts and trips to repair shops and hospitals.
Whether a person bikes to make the world better or merely to serve personal needs is irrelevant when considering the validity of rewarding the act.
In Central Florida we value tourists for the money and jobs they bring to our economy. We strive to make them feel wanted, liked, happy and comfortable. Tourists bring value to our community and we give them value in return. This has resulted in one of the most successful tourism markets in the world.
There is no reason why this principle couldn't be applied to bicyclists, but more often than not–it’s not.
Anyone who's been to Key West knows how many bikes are parked all over Old Town, and that car parking spaces are at a premium. The city's own consultant found that 14 to 20 percent of all trips on the island are by bike. To replace those bike trips with automobile trips would be a social and commercial disaster.
Instead of recognizing this value, Key West's attitude toward bicyclists seems to be that they are nuisances to be controlled. This was the feeling expressed by many local cyclists at a Key West Bike Action workshop.
Cyclists as a group are often withheld support due to actions of those who bike irresponsibly, but this rationale is very weak. People who operate their bikes illegally are a threat mostly to themselves, while motorists who drive carelessly or recklessly pose a serious threat to all.
In spite of the thousands of traffic deaths each year in Florida due to speeding and other dangerous motoring behavior (about 700 are pedestrians and cyclists), the state and most counties reward motorists by widening highways and following the recommendation of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to "use as high a design speed [the highest "safe" speed at which the roadway can be used] as practicable."
Speeding is generally not perceived as a wrong in this society unless it results in a crash. Cyclists who behave no less irresponsibly are accorded poorer treatment. Motorists are routinely rewarded and encouraged for destructive, unnecessary behavior, while cyclists are often treated as some "special interest."
The accommodations bicyclists are asking for barely account for one percent of our total surface transportation funding, yet we are told by some that they cost too much.
Too many of our peers, our elected representatives and our government employees think it's perfectly OK to encourage us to drive motor vehicles and to discourage us from driving bicycles.
So what do we do about this problem? If people are to react to something, they must first perceive it. Not enough people perceive the value that cyclists give the community. We must help them to see.
FBA board member Art Ackerman told of a brilliant example he was a part of years ago when he was a member of a motorcycle club. The officials of New York City thought they could get more parking revenue by making each motorcyclist use a single space. The clubs first tried to reason with the city, and then came up with a plan.
One workday, nearly every motorcycle club member in the metropolitan area rode into the city early in the morning while parking spaces were still plentiful. Each took a single parking space. The ensuing parking and traffic chaos convinced city officials that perhaps it would be OK if motorcyclists continued their practice of sharing spaces.
Let's use our strengths and our creativity to show our cities and towns that we count and we contribute and we deserve respect. Clipping this essay and giving it to your local elected representatives could be a start.
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