Why Celebration of Cycling?
Today’s guest blogger is Ron Cunningham of Bike Florida:
Last year I attended the national Pro Walk, Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh. More than a thousand bike-ped advocates, transportation officials, local, state and national policy makers and others assembled in common cause to talk about issues close to their hearts. For instance:
Can American’s too often mean streets be redesigned to slow down traffic and give cyclists and pedestrians a fighting chance?
Is Bike Share the next wave of public transit?
Are there measurable economic benefits to getting people out of their cars and onto bicycles or into walking?
Must the quick and efficient movement of automobiles always be the prime objective of transportation planning in AutoAmerica?
The short answers to all of the above, by the way, are yes, yes, yes and a resounding NO!
I came away from Pittsburgh energized, better informed and more determined than ever that Bike Florida will do its part – and more – to help make Florida a more bike-ped friendly state. That’s not an easy challenge: Year after year Florida and Florida cities show up in national rankings as among the most dangerous places in America to walk or cycle. But if change comes slowly, it does come. There has been a discernible change of attitude at the Florida Department of Transportation. Under the leadership of visionary leaders like Dist. 1 Sec. Billy Hattaway, FDOT is slowly eschewing its former “cars first” mindset in favor of traffic calming and bike-ped safety. Orlando, last year named the most dangerous city in America for walking, is these days adopting Complete Streets policies designed to erase its reputation. And across Florida, officials in community after community are building trails and greenways, installing bike lanes, cracking down on motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians, adopting bike share programs and taking other actions intended to make Share The Road something more than a catch phrase.
There is change in the air and we at Bike Florida aspire to be among the change agents. That’s why we will host our third annual Share The Road Celebration of Cycling event, Nov. 13-15, in the City of Clermont.
The heart of the weekend will be a day-long series of presentations, panel discussions and forums on Friday, Nov. 13 – all of them with the common objective of transforming The Sunshine State into the “Bike-Ped State.”
We ultimately intend for STR Celebration of Cycling to be Florida’s version of Pro Bike, Pro Walk, Pro Place: A periodic gathering of policy makers, bike-ped advocates and other stakeholders to talk about issues crucial to improving bike-ped safety in Florida. [A hat tip, if you will, to the Florida Pro Bike/Pro Walk conferences sponsored by Florida Bicycle Association from 2005-2010.] What are the best practices being embraced by Complete Streets communities? What bike lane designs work best? Or are the “take your lane” advocates right when they insist that riding with traffic is safer?
Celebration of Cycling started small two years go in DeLand, when we partnered with the League of American Bicyclists to sponsor a workshop on how to be a bike-friendly community. Last year, in Gainesville, we gained momentum with a morning-long session on the economic benefits of cycling and an afternoon Florida Bike-Ped Safety Summit that drew nearly 90 participants.
This year we chose Clermont because it is a city that already “gets it.” Clermont is a popular destination for cyclists, and the city’s “Choice of Champions” motto is indicative of its commitment to making Clermont a prime training ground for tri-athletes, runners and, of course, cyclists. This year will be our most ambitious Celebration of Cycling program yet. Among the issues our presenters will talk about: Is your city ready for Bike Share? So you want to be a trail town. How good design can turn a dangerous urban highway into a national Complete Streets model. The latest FDOT traffic calming standards. Take your lane vs. bike lanes. How to organize a safe mass ride for your favorite cause. How to lobby at the state and local level for better bicycle safety laws. Can Florida’s 3-foot passing law be enforced? And more.
Oh yes, and we will continue to offer an afternoon Florida Bike-Ped Safety Summit. This year the focus will be on law enforcement’s role in improving bike-ped safety.
We’re excited about this year’s Share The Road Celebration of Cycling program. Sec. Hattaway will be back to highlight the latest FDOT safety standards. And Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner will be on hand to talk about his just passed legislation to expand Florida’s greenways and trails system.
If you are a city planner, a transportation professional, a city or county commissioner, a bike club president, a bike-ped advocate – or simply someone who cares about safer streets – please join us in Clermont on Nov. 13 in common cause: Share The Road Florida.
Ron Cunningham is Executive Director of Bike Florida. Prior to that, he was in the newspaper business for 40 years and served as Tallahassee Bureau Chief, higher education reporter and editorial page editor of the Gainesville Sun.
Editor’s note: Bike Florida and Florida Bicycle Association share a common cause in bicycle education for residents and visitors to the Sunshine “Bike-Ped” State. Share the Road license plate proceeds benefit Bike Florida and Florida Bicycle Association to further these bicycle educational efforts.
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