I finally took the time to visit the new somewhat controversial S-Line Urban Greenway, Jacksonville's first dedicated urban bike path. Yes, I know we have had the Northbank Riverwalk for sometime now. But the Riverwalk is not designed as a cycling specific path.
I had planned on doing this nice little photo essay post on the S-Line. But to be completely honest, once I got on the trail. I wasn't comfortable enough with my surroundings that I felt I could stop and take pictures. Let me clarify what I'm trying to write here. The area that the S-Line travels through is one of the most violent crime areas within the city and while I was never directly threatened. The looks I received from those I encountered along and in the surrounding homes and apartments made sure that I knew I wasn't welcome there.
The S-line trail has a planned finished length of just under 5 miles at 4.8. It will run from Myrtle Ave. just north of Beaver St. to just north of 44th St. and Northwood Plaza. The completed 1.5 mile section of the S-Line is from Myrtle Ave. to Boulevard just north of 12th St.
The trailhead at Myrtle Ave. is well done and well marked. It starts out weaving its way through the industrial businesses between Beaver St. and Kings Rd. giving you a new and somewhat pleasing perspective of that area.
The trail was very nicely signed with popular destinations at each intersection. Like this one directing you to the Kings Rd. Post Office. I really thought this was a very nice additional feature to the trail.
However, the second you cross Kings Rd. the look and the feel of the trail changes. And not for the better. The first thing you notice the is trash. The next thing you'll notice is the little camps were the homeless apparently spend their nighttime hours. It was at that same time I first noticed was how unwanted I was on that trail. It took me less than two minutes to stop my bike and pull my camera out for the first picture below. In that time I had three different people ride by giving me very hard looks only to turn around after passing me and riding back the way they just came giving me hard looks a second time just to get their point across. One of which is pictured below just after he passed me the first time.
It wasn't until I reached the Emmett Reed Community Center that felt comfortable enough to stop my bike and grab a picture or two. While I was stopped in front of the community center I noticed 3 kids that looked to be around 10 or 11 riding bikes towards me. I thought it would be great to get a shot of kids using the trail. I snaped one shot of them in the distance. I then waited for them to get a little closer to fill the frame a little more. That's when I noticed something odd. Two of the kids started falling back and were making every attempt to make sure their faces were not visible. Now I ask you, what 10 year old kid doesn't mug for a camera? What ten year old is not inquisitive enough to ask why someone is taking their picture?
It was soon after the above pictures that I ran into the officers pictured below. They both knew me through Bike Jax and we stopped and chatted for few minutes. I asked about the trail and if there had been any bike related incidents reported. They didn't know of any, but did suggest that in the future I ride the trail in a group and to try keep the stopping at the minimum.
My take on the S-line as a recreation source is a complete fail due to the constant road crossings and an unfriendly environment. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how it could be used as a transportation corridor. Other than providing people in Springfield a small short cut to the Farmers Market on Beaver or maybe the Post Office on Kings Rd. I really don't see much of a use on this trail for them. The urban core (Downtown, Riverside, Springfield) has nice rideable gridded streets which make moving within and throughout each district really effortless.
I think the money spent on the S-Line would have been much better spent on any trail project on the Southside, Mandarin or the Beaches. As a cycling transportation corridor I have to give the S-Line another fail.