Messenger Archive: Winter 2003
Bikes for Kids program puts wheels under deserving 3rd graders
In mid-December, 37 third-graders at Orlando's Fern Creek Elementary School rode home on new bicycles they got the old way—they earned them.
The pre-holidays distribution, which included BMX bicycles, helmets and locks, was part of a pilot program called Bikes for Kids organized by Gary Landwirth and fellow bicyclist Scott Levitt.
"Some of these kids have never even sat on a bicycle before," says Landwirth, who launched the program under the Orlando-based "A Gift for Teaching." Landwirth is president of the non-profit organization, which provides free school supplies to needy students. Fern Creek Elementary was chosen as the pilot school.
Seed money for the project came from the Track Shack Foundation and other local charities. The bikes were made available at cost from Orange Cycle of Orlando. Landwirth hopes to expand the program to other schools as fund raising allows, with a goal of giving every child a chance to earn a bicycle.
Organizers presented bikes and a certificate of accomplishment to students who earned a preset number of points in their classrooms. Students earned points through a combination of academic improvement, good citizenship, behavior, attendance and reading achievement.
According to Landwirth the incentive paid dividends. In just a few weeks many students were working harder in the classroom. And those who earned bicycles learned that hard work can pay off.
The ceremony included safety instructions and a high-wheeler demonstration by bicycle historian and mechanic Diane Blake. Other volunteers helped fit bikes and helmets to each child and worked with those who didn't know how to ride.
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Swamp Romp Chomp
by Rudy Miller
Two hares speed from the parking lot while more than 100 alligators straddle their bikes awaiting final instructions before giving chase.
Diverging from the “Hound and Hare” and the British “Hash” idea, the Tampa Bay SWAMP Club is hosting its first Swamp Romp Chomp.
Somebody had talked Eddie O’Day and Steve Rickert into being the two hares, complete with pink and white rabbit ears jutting out from their helmets and a white cotton tail ball about 8 inches in diameter dangling from below their Camelbaks.
Becky Alfonzo, event director, gives last minute instructions to us gators as we tie on just-received green and black event bandannas complete with an alligator on a mountain bike, chasing a rabbit.
Becky says there will be trail markings, some for the true trail, others pure bogus just to waste our time and get us lost.
Some intersections will have no markings (turns out there was even a marking that told gators to turn around and go back several trail intersections).
Occasionally, Becky says, there will be a “true trail confirmation” marking to give you the opportunity to holler “On! On!” so that other gators in the woods near by will know someone has found the true trail.
Four check stations and a “gator pool” will make the chase even more interesting.
To be eligible for prizes at the BBQ dinner, Becky says you need one item from each check station and you need to retrieve one item from the “gator pool.”
We’re not sure what that is, but we suspect it has something to do with getting wet.
There is a special prize if you catch a hare before it reaches the BBQ spot, a top secret location.
The hares have been given a 10 to 15 minute lead, allowing them time to mark trail and stay well ahead of the pack.
We’re chomping at the bit...so to speak.
Finally it’s time.
We all gain speed rapidly in hot pursuit. At the first trail crossing some go left, some go right and some go straight ahead.
The confusion and hilarity is also gaining speed. I follow the group that goes straight. From Trout Creek we cross the highway and rumble onto Morris Bridge single track.
We’re 15 minutes out from the start before I see my first trail marking. It was just a marking—no proof of trail confirmation.
If you don’t know where you are going and you don’t know how you are suppose to get there, there seem to be only two rules: ride fast and have fun. Later we learn about such things as turn around, ride fast and have more fun.
After about five miles of riding I spot my first true trail confirmation and yell “On! On!” twice. A chorus of “On! On!” responds from behind me. Within a minute, three green and black bandanna gators approach me from the opposite direction.
I say, “Turn around, the trail is this way.” As they pass they shout back, “No, we’re going the right way! You turn around and come with us.”
As the chase continues, so do these types of encounters. We all increasingly begin to question our certainty and sometimes our sanity.
I round a corner and there is Wes Eubank with a handful of red popsicle sticks: check point one. I slip one under my shorts on my right thigh then take off, completing two wrong trail attempts and returns before finding the almost-hidden trail to the left, behind Wes.
Some time after the second check point, the green popsicle stick, I spot a group of riders. They are at the “gator pool,” an inflated pool with various floating objects including small balls, more popsicle sticks, an inflated, pink flamingo and a small plastic alligator.
I’m thankful that retrieval of an item does not involve a gator pool baptism.
There are also great brownies and water at this stop.
Up to this point the trails have been dry and fast. Ahead, however we run into sections of deep mud and standing water to cross.
By luck I end up with all the check point items and see the marking, “BN,” which, of course, means “BBQ Near.”
Less than two hours total from start to finish I find the BBQ dinner location after more than 18 miles of fast, fun riding and lots of laughs.
Along with the BBQ chicken, there is a great variety of pot luck dishes and all I try are marvelous. Becky calls numbers for prizes, with the first winners getting first choice. My number is picked next to last and I go home with a dash board gator whose head bobs up and down and some wonderful memories.
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Suwannee Fat Tire Festival had rides for all skill levels
by Carol & Mighk Wilson
After missing last year's Florida Fat Tire Festival, we made sure to register early this year. (Right now, go mark your calendar for Fat Tire 2003, normally the first weekend in November!)
As if on queue, the rain cleared out from the first cold front of the year to bring gorgeous skies and cool air to north Florida just in time for the weekend.
Light attendance combined with plenty of experienced ride leaders combined to assure plenty of rides for all, from very short beginner "see" rides to advanced fast-paced rides.
Just when I thought the highlight of the day was a great ride on the area's trails, the evening activities and antics began.
Friday evening's reception at the Adams House Bed & Breakfast was a wonderful way to ease into the weekend. Live music, free dessert and dramatic lighting turned the grounds of the historic house on the high banks of the Suwannee into a magical setting. The reception was a time to catch up with old friends and make new friends as well.
Saturday evening's entertainment included a "Huffy Toss" contest (I didn't realize how well those bikes could fly) and fantastic live entertainment by Dr. Hector & The Blues Injectors. To ward off the chilly night there was a huge bonfire in the empty lot across from Suwannee Bicycle Association headquarters.
I was happy to see quite a few children at the event this year. One lady came from Jacksonville with her granddaughter, and both had a great time on the trails. (How cool to have a mountain biking grandma!)
Always attentive and professional, the ride leaders gave even the most novice riders confidence.
Potential problems were deftly handled on the spot, as when it was discovered at the last minute that hunting would not allow the planned Big Shoals ride. All A & B riders were redirected to Anderson Springs.
Ride leaders did a great job of organizing the group, from parking at the site to grouping the riders into similar abilities before sending them out by small groups onto the trails.
Thanks go to Lys Burden, too, for all her behind-the-scenes hard work to organize the event.
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Riding over logs and saplings
by Rudy Miller
For us mountain bikers—except a few who are very skilled—leaping a bike over a log that is more than 10 inches in diameter becomes a very risky experiment.
This is because the cogs of the middle chain ring are rarely more than 10 inches above the ground. So while one may lift the front wheel enough to clear a large log, if the large chain ring beneath the pedals hits the log, it tends to stop the bike immediately.
Forward momentum carries the rider, not bolted to the bike frame, past the log, creating what is commonly called an “endo.”
Very skilled riders have learned to approach large logs at slow speeds and to pedal through the entire “log over” experience.
This engages the teeth of the largest chain ring in the log itself and uses pedal power to lift the bike over and keep you moving.
By timing the pedaling perfectly, one pedal can actually be used to “step” on the log, assisting balance during this maneuver.
A common method of trail builders to avoid log-caused endos is to build small ramps on both sides of large logs that riders wish to ride over. These ramps are usually made of a stack of smaller logs.
The ride is a bit bumpy but the height of the smaller logs prevents the largest chain ring from catching on the biggest log, which is usually in the center of this pile.
A sapling that is bent over near the ground on the trail can be as hazardous as a large log. While the sapling may bend to the ground when hit by the front wheel, it tends to snap back up between the front wheel and the chain rings.
This often puts it in an appropriate position to stop the bike while the rider experiences an endo.
You may have witnessed the rider in front of you lift their front wheel, push a sapling to the ground and continue to ride over it without a problem but when it is your turn, this mean little sapling throws you to the ground.
What happened? It is possible that the previous rider had more ground clearance with their chain ring; more likely, the previous rider continued to pedal throughout the maneuver.
The sapling did contact their large chain ring, but pedaling power quickly pushed the sapling down allowing the bike to continue its forward motion.
If you ceased pedaling before the sapling hit your chain ring, the sapling probably stopped your bike (see the rider-not-bolted-to-the-bike effect, above).
Does all this mean you should dismount before crossing such obstacles? Not necessarily, but it might be a good idea until you become more proficient at such maneuvers.
First learn the technique of lifting your front wheel by simultaneously pulling up on the handlebars while exerting a very powerful pedal stroke. Then master the timing of when to exert this power depending on the height of the obstacle and the speed of the bike.
Finally, never underrate the value of caution.
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San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park’s mountain bike trails
A trip to San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park's mountain bike trails may be just the cure for your winter bicycling doldrums.
The 6,900-acre park just north of Gainesville, according to park sources, is “one of the finest examples of climax mesic hammocks remaining in Florida.”
To off-road enthusiasts that means a mixture of grassy woodland, cool, canopied old-growth forest and terrain sculptured by ravines and sinkholes.
The southern two-thirds of the park is reserved for hiking only, but the northern 2,000 acres are designated multiple-use.
About 17 miles of bicycle trails—almost all single-track—wind their way through a variety of terrain. Plans are eventually to develop about 40 miles of trail for bicycling.
Cooperation between the park service and The Friends of San Felasco, Inc., a Citizen Support Organization for San Felasco and Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park, led to trail construction.
Friends of San Felasco is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, founded to assist with the preservation, educational and interpretive mission of the parks. Membership includes a diversity of park users, equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers, runners, birders and park neighbors.
Due to procedural and budgetary constraints of state agencies it is easier for the CSO to accomplish goals through the efforts of volunteers and funds raised by the organization.
The park could never have done this with their limited manpower and budget.
Dedicated volunteers have contributed over 3,000 hours of labor to plan and develop the bicycle trails. Working closely with the park manager and biologist, the trails were planned with preservation, minimal impact and sustainability as the guiding principals.
Bike Event Sold Out
On January 11 the Friends of Felasco sponsored a 50-mile off-road tour of the park that opened previously off-limits areas to bicycling.
Registrations reached the 300 limit by December, an indication of the growing popularity of organized off-road events.
San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is
just south of the city of Alachua, off US 441, behind Progress Corporate Park, at the end of Progress Boulevard.
Take I-75 to U.S. 441 (Milepost Exit 399 - Old Exit 78) and drive south 2.8 miles (through the city of Alachua). Turn right onto Progress Blvd. Drive 0.7 miles to the park entrance. (Continue past the end of the pavement and onto the grade road.)
Day Entry Fee for use of the mountain bike trails is $2.00 per car payable to the iron ranger at the gate. Annual Florida State Park passes are honored if valid and displayed properly.
Trails are open from 8:00 am to sunset every day.
Trails range from beginning level of fitness and skill to those requiring fitness, stamina and more advanced riding skill.
The San Felasco web site describes one of the park’s longer trails, the Tung Nut Loop as “an eight-mile advanced trail off the back of the Cellon Creek Trail that involves strenuous hill climbing, steep switchbacks and many log bridges,” and affords riders “breathtaking views of the north rim of the Sanchez Prairie.”
Be sure to take plenty of water and nutrition with you. The only potable water is at the entrance. You will expend lots of energy as you ride the more distant trails.
Park officials recommend you carry basic repair tools, especially in the more remote areas.
Sharing the Trail
Some bicycle trails cross or share treadway with equestrian traffic. Mixing bicycles and horses is always dicey since neither group knows what the other is going to do.
Proper etiquette—and common sense—always requires bicyclists to yield the right of way to equestrians. This will not only help prevent injury to all riders and horses but also help ensure goodwill between the two groups.
For More Information...
Visit www.sanfelasco.net or www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/district2/sanfelasco for more information about San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park.
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Executive Director's Report...
Elections are over; our job begins anew
In 2003 Congress will pass a new federal transportation bill that will determine bicycling appropriations for the next six years.
FBA is working with other state, local and national advocacy organizations in support of a new organization—America Bikes—to make sure that bicycling and walking are strong components of this new transportation bill.
America Bikes will be the major lobbying force ensuring that the federal transportation bill maintains and expands existing programs geared toward bicycle transportation and recreation.
In addition to preserving key funding programs, America Bikes will work to expand nationally a program called Safe Routes to School and will help ensure that new roads are safe for bicycling and walking.
The Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program administered by former FBA president Linda Crider, promotes this program on the state level.
You can help to preserve and expand all of these programs by endorsing the America Bikes agenda at www.americabikes.org.
So, how can you get further involved to make things happen? With the 2002 elections behind us, now is the time to make yourself known to your state and federal legislators, some of whom are new to office.
Due to redistricting, your state representatives may have changed so go to www.myflorida.com to be sure.
You can also obtain contact and background information on all members of congress.
At the federal level, Florida has five freshman representative in districts 5, 13, 17 and new districts 24 and 25. Go to page nine to get acquainted with our Florida federal legislators.
Additional information can be found at www.congress.org. This is a very critical time to make contact with all 25 districts, plus our two senators to gain their support of TEA-3 legislation. More information on TEA-3 can be found in the American Bikes campaign update also on page nine.
With very little effort, you can help improve bicycling in Florida simply by contacting your legislators and letting them know you are a bicyclist.
This works just as well on the local level with city, town and county elected officials. Your voice is much more important to an elected official if you reside in their district.
Here are five easy ways to contact your state and federal legislators:
- Call legislators at their home district. If they recently ran and won, congratulate them on their win. Tell them you are a constituent, a member of FBA and if they have any questions concerning bicycle issues, that you would be happy to give them your experienced opinions to help them.
- Write them a thank you note for talking to you (mail it to their home if possible) and in the middle of the note ask them once again to use you as an “expert” on bicycling issues. Our goal is to develop relationships. Make sure the note includes your phone number.
- Contact the legislator’s Legislative Assistant (LA) in Tallahassee for state legislators or Washington for federal legislators. Tell them you would like to be on the legislator’s mailing list, particularly for any issue dealing with Transportation or Bicycles. The LAs do 99 percent of the work like this so if the legislator forgets to tell the LA that you want to be included on the mailing list, this should make it happen.
- Contact the legislator during early February and ask them to send you a listing of any Senate or House bills filed dealing with Transportation or Bicycles. Once again, mention that you are a member of FBA and that you’d be happy to help.
- If you want to go above and beyond the call of duty, invite the legislator on a bike ride or encourage them to participate in a local bicycle event. Seeing their constituents on bicycles could make a lasting impression on the legislator that could affect their vote on bicycle issues in the future.
Every voice counts towards making Florida a bicycle-friendly community. Thanks for your help.
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Message from the president...
Getting around to the cause of the problem
December 26, 2002—Six years ago today I lost a friend who was riding her bike, doing all the right things.
She was not the only one hit; she was not the only one killed.
Six riders on their way to St Augustine for an organized ride from Gainesville were hit by a motorist, who drove off the road at a high rate of speed.
Why am I bringing this up? Because after being at the six memorials in Gainesville on the anniversary of Margaret’s death, I was thinking, “what have I done to keep this from happening again?”
Each time I hear of a similar fatality, I feel sick and saddened: the Ray Holland’s, the Jim Wormanski’s—cyclists doing what they love, and doing all the right things and following the law.
I have spent the last six years trying to figure out if there is anything magical that can be done about these horrible losses.
In the case of Margaret and Doug, I really don’t think so.
Some think that bike lanes or shoulders on every road would be the solution. I think they would help, but there would still be crashes with fatalities, although maybe fewer.
But one is still too many.
That “one” is someone’s friend or family.
What about the drivers? What was the cause for this driver to do whatever he did?
In Margaret’s, Doug’s, Ray’s and Jim’s case, it makes no sense that the motorists for no apparent reason left the roadway to run over a cyclist.
But there has to be a reason.
The answer to the above questions is not easy to come by—and don’t look to the courts to figure it out.
My big concerns come from the crash investigation; nothing can be done without evidence properly collected at the scene. In Margaret and Doug’s case, as in most bicycle crash investigations, it was totally a screw up (this holds true for vehicle crashes also).
So one of the first big projects that FBA took on was the creation of a booklet to help law enforcement better understand and enforce bicycle-related issues.
In fact, Margaret’s and Doug’s death and the crash involving six cyclists, without criminal prosecution, was the reason for FBA to be revitalized.
Over 44 thousand people are killed on our roadways annually and we really don’t know why—in many cases—or how to prevent this needless carnage.
It’s a war out there on Florida’s and the nation’s roadways. If we’re going to fight this battle successfully, we need to be instrumental in getting to the root of a problem that law enforcement and legislation have yet to address adequately.
Don’t think it’s just about bicycles. And don’t wait until a friend or family member becomes a statistic.
Do something now to help us prevent these fatalities and injuries of cyclists and others.
How can you help?
Join FBA and/or get others to join FBA.
Support your local BPAC and government by GETTING INVOLVED!
Support America Bikes, the League of American Bicyclists and TEA-3 initiative.
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