Pedaling in Polk County
Today we welcome guest blogger Xiomara Meeks:
I recently watched a Tedx Talks presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX8zZdLw7cs) by Mikael Colville-Andersen on Bicycle Culture by Design. Mikael is an urban mobility expert from Copenhagen. In the video, at 7:20, he talks about his frustration with planners and engineers who haven’t even tried to bike their city. He continues to say that it is all office work and computer models. So, as a Transportation Planner for the Polk Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), I took his advice and rode my bike around the Lakeland downtown area. Here’s what I heard one June morning:
8:15 I met Archie, a retired gentleman who rides his bike daily. He also owns a car, but prefers to use his bicycle for the health benefits that come from regular exercise. That day he was headed to meet some friends in downtown Lakeland.
8:30 On my way to downtown from the bus station, I met Erubin at the post office parking lot. Erubin, a disadvantaged, 52 year-old man, was on his way to the doctor. He does not own a vehicle and said he rides his bike daily to run errands. He would rather ride his bike than depend on people to give him a ride. According to him, he lives near the bus terminal and rides his bike to places like Publix and Taco Bell. He also enjoys the physical benefits of riding a bike.
9:00 Another man I met, a 55-year-old, was riding his bike to run errands in the Lakeland area. He said he does not own a car, so biking is his only method of transportation. The day I spoke with him he was headed to work.
9:15 Henry, who lives in Lakeland, is a retired gentleman. I spotted Henry on a sidewalk near Munn Park in downtown Lakeland. He is unable to drive because of a cataract, so bicycling is his means of transportation.
9:30 I then ran into Donald, a 69-year-old man who was riding his electric bicycle down Missouri Ave. He was headed to the hospital to visit his roommate. Donald does not own a vehicle and said he uses the bike racks when he rides the bus.
While I spoke with Donald, two younger men passed by riding on the sidewalk. A third man passed by, riding a recombinant bicycle down the road.
9:45 Renee, 50 year old woman was headed to work on her bike when I caught up with her. She was also riding on the sidewalk. She said bicycling is her only mode of transportation.
9:50 A few minutes later, I met a man in his mid-40s. He owns a car, but prefers to ride his bike to run errands.
10:15 Shortly after, I spotted a 25-year-old woman named Jennifer. She was riding along the Fort Fraser Trail on US 98. She said she uses the Fort Fraser Trail for biking twice a week. She lives in Lakeland about 10 minutes away from the trail. She said she enjoys the Fort Fraser Trail because it offers a safe place to exercise that’s close to the highway in case of an emergency, but it also has a scenic view.
10:20 The last pedestrian I ran into was Michael. He is a 61 year-young, retired man who was walking with his family who was riding bikes. They were enjoying some fishing along ide the Fort Fraser Trail. He said they enjoy the trail because it offers recreational opportunities as well as a connection to work and friends. Michael said the Fort Fraser Trail is a safe and quiet facility.
While my informal survey doesn’t address all of the needs of all cyclists in Polk County, it was quite obvious that safety is a concern for the residents of Lakeland. It reiterated some of what I learned on May 22, when the Polk TPO held a Multi-Use Community Forum meeting at the Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland. Our staff conducted a survey to gather public input on what people liked about our trail network and what areas needed improvement. Comments about safety and the overall connectivity of trails were the most recurrent. If you’d like to see all of the public comments, you can follow this link: http://bit.ly/1xImE0P.
Public participation is the fuel in the government process and enjoying some of Polk County’s finest bike facilities, was a terrific reminder of just who we work for – the people. At the Polk TPO we greatly value the input of people from our own backyard, as well as the surrounding region that includes Orlando to the north and Tampa to the south. With more than 375 miles of multi-use trails – and growing – people are using alternative modes of transportation, like bikes, to get to work, hang out with friends, or run errands.
My adventure into the steamy Polk summer was great, but if multi-use trails, development or transportation are your passion, I encourage you to join our Adviser Network by visiting our website, www.PolkTPO.com.
The Adviser Network is the way we engage with citizens, via surveys, multimedia and online tools and through Community Forums. There is no set time commitment and we encourage people to come as they are – whether it be to our quarterly Community Forums or by simply hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter.
As a side note, there were a couple of bikers out there who were just too fast for me to catch up to! After today’s exercise, my legs feel like Jello and I hope we continue this conversation. You can find me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/polktpo) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/polktpo).
Xiomara Meeks is a Senior Transportation Planner, blogger, and a mom of two. She started mountain biking during her college years at the University of Florida. Now you can find her riding a Yuba Cargo bike on the weekends with her kids. She blogs here: www.parkesdale.com/blog/
Want to be our next guest blogger? Send an email to: becky “at” floridabicycle.org