Tuesday night was by far the best attended MPO meeting I have seen. I think the entire North Florida Bicycle Club was in attendance along with the owners of Cycle City and Open Road bike shops. I finally got to meet Shek, a regular commenter on Bike Jax. and it was also great that Zombie Bike Coop was represented.
When I saw the amount of people that were filing into the banquet room at the Riverwalk Wyndham I was pleasantly optimistic about this workshop. That optimism faded soon after the start of the meeting however. Why? When the head of the MPO openly scoffs at the suggestion of 20% as a target number for bike commuters. You know it's going to be an up hill battle.
The workshop consisted of three basic parts:
A presentation of the 25 corridors selected for future development in the Greenways and Trails Plan. Followed with questions and no real answers to those questions.
Presentation of a new "cutting edge" safety campaign with the focus being how they were "thinking outside of the box".
And Finally I guess what was to be considered the workshop portion of the evening.
Let's start with the new "out of the box thinking" safety campaign. I was asked not to take pictures so I don't really have visuals I can share with you. But imagine if you will, every watch for cyclist and/or pedestrian ad you have ever seen. Same thing here, just different graphics. Nothing really new. I don't want to take anything away from the creative team that designed the ads. They were and are very well done. They are however, just the same old message repackaged.
If you want something cutting edge. Something that is "out of the box thinking". Maybe we should completely change the message. Instead of "watch for bikes", lets go with "ride a bike".
People are willing to get on bikes and ride them. But we keep telling them how dangerous it is with all of our "safety campaigns." Yep, you read that right. All of those supposed positive reinforcement awareness ads have a very negative side effect. They tell people that riding a bike is inherently dangerous, and at a time when we should in fact, be encouraging people to get on a bike and ride.
We should be highlighting the fun and health benefits instead of telling them cars don't see them or they will die if they don't wear a helmet. We should focus all of our attention on getting the numbers of bike riders up. There is safety in numbers as was proven in this recent study.
The beauty of this plan is the domino effect it will cause. If we get more people on the road with bikes. More drivers complain about all the additional cyclists they have to share the road with. Those new cyclist in turn complain about the drivers and the lack of biking infrastructure. Now once you have a critical mass of both sides complaining. How long before local, state and federal governments start paying attention and redirecting funding to road and cycling infrastructure? I'm going with, not very.
Now that's thinking outside of the box.
Let's jump to the third section of the evening. The workshop. It consisted of each individual table brain storming ways to fund the above safety campaign for 15 minutes. While there were some very good ideas thrown out for such a brief period of time. It wasn't really the type of workshop I think the people who attended expected. Enough said about that, let's move on to the first topic of the evening.
The greenways and trails plan.
"It's about transportation stupid." While that should be the mantra of the MPO, nothing could be farther from reality when it comes to prioritizing of the bike paths in our region. In the below map and list you can see the top 25 corridors and their priorities as listed. A side note here: My scanner crapped out on me so I had to take pictures to load them here. Sorry for the lack of quality.
Click on the images for full size.
You can clearly see that moving people from home to work, shopping or schools is not factored into the priority of this list. The majority of the prioritized trails don't even come close in helping creating transportation corridors. Look at number one on the list. Vilano Bridge to Mickler's Landing. There are no grocery stores, no schools, and other than landscaping for the wealthy no work to be found in the majority of that section. Move it to the bottom of the list.
We really need to find ways to move people from Mandarin to South Point. From South Point to the Beach. From the Beaches to Downtown. We don't need to focus our very limited funds on paths that only benefit the recreational cyclist. And where is the master plan? How do these trails tie in with bus and rail transit? I know I seem to be bagging on the MPO here. I'm not. I'm bagging the priority of the list of trails. The ladies I have worked with within the MPO are busting their humps to make Jacksonville and the surrounding counties more livable and I take my hat off to them for the work they do.
But, while we're on the subject of the MPO. I would like to take this opportunity to say a little something to the head of MPO. Just because you've "been doing it 16 years" does not validate the condescending tone you repeatedly used to address this group. It does not validate the open scoffing of the groups suggestion of 20% as a target number for bike trips. Why not 20% as a target? There was no time frame suggested. I think 20% is a very reasonable number to shoot for in whatever time frame. And if for some reason we should fall short of 20%. The percentage we do attain will be far better than the current less than one percent.
After 16 years Mr. MPO, maybe it's time for you to start thinking outside of the box. Or get out of it completely and find another box.