It was announced at the last B/PAC meeting that Jacksonville had been rejected for the status of "Bicycle Friendly City" by the League of American Bicyclists. At the announcement, I not so discretely chuckled only to receive a few dirty looks and the distain of some of the board members. Sure, I was in the wrong, but come on. How out of touch with reality do you have to be to harbor any thoughts that Jacksonville is in anyway a friendly place for cyclists? Just applying for the distinction is putting the cart way before horse in my not so very humble opinion. We have done very little here to improve or for matter enforce the laws already in place for the addition of cycling infrastructure.
Think I'm exaggerating about how bike unfriendly Jacksonville currently is? Ride a bike from Mandarin to Orange Park. Try Downtown to Arlington or from anywhere to the beaches. Take a trip around the city and look at any of the multiple and massive road improvement projects going on currently. Even though state law mandates "Bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full consideration."**
How many of these projects in Jacksonville are actually adding bike ways or lanes? I have found only one, St. Augustine Rd. Not Main St., not St. Johns Bluff, not any of the many others. Who has oversight? Who and where is our watch dog that hold these projects accountable?
So yes, I chuckled and later after the meeting I laughed out loud at the thought of Jacksonville currently being thought of as a cycling friendly city. Will Jacksonville ever be a cycling friendly city? I have to believe it will, if simply because there are so many very committed people working hard everyday to make it happen. There also wouldn't be much of point to Bike Jax if I didn't fully believe in Jacksonville's cycling future.
So how do we go about making Jax a bike friendly city? That is the question isn't it. Unfortunately there is no single answer or silver bullet to solve this issue. It's going to take years of effort and a lot of hard work by people in every area of city, state, federal government and yes, you the cycling and non-cycling public to make the changes needed to make Jax more cycling friendly. You, the public are the most important part of the equation however. I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this, but you are the city, state and federal government. Those aforementioned entities are there to work for you. But they only work for you if you speak up and tell them what you want done.
The first thing needed for any cycling or transportation infrastructure is a plan. Most cities have a Master Plan that lay out how all transportation options (car, bus, bike, walk, train) would traverse the city and how each works with the other. That apparently is way to much effort and requires to much thought and dedication for our beloved city leaders. So we will just focus on the plan for cycling.
Jacksonville's bike future currently lies with what is known as the 2035 Plan. It details and prioritizes current and future cycling paths, bike lanes and greenways. Those of you who attended this B/PAC meeting already know just how ass backwards the current list of priorities are. For those of you who didn't attend that meeting, below is the bike ways listed in their respective priority. You will need to click on the images to enlarge enough to read.
Luckily for all of us this plan comes up for reevaluation every five years. And guess what the beginning of 2009 happens to be? That's right my fellow peddle happy hooligans, year five and time to let our voices be heard. It's time to let the powers that be that priority bike paths should move people from home to work and past your children's schools and those projects along lonely stretches road that benefit no one should be at the bottom of the list and not the top..
Over the next couple of weeks Public Workshops for the Long Range Transportation Plan will held around Jacksonville along with Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties. These meetings are dealing exclusively with Envision 2035.
If you don't show up and speak up and the meetings only hear the voices of developers, their lawyers and engineers. What kind of future do you think bikes as transportation have in North Florida?
There is a meeting somewhere near you. Please make plans to attend and please let your voice be heard.
Northwest St. Johns County
Tuesday, Jan. 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Switzerland Point Middle School
777 Greenbriar Road
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Ramona Boulevard Elementary
5540 Ramona Boulevard
Thursday, Jan. 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
David Yulee Room
FCCJ Nassau Center
76346 William Burgess Boulevard
Monday, Jan. 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Highlands Regional Library
1826 Dunn Avenue
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
The Meeting Room
Ponce de Leon Mall
2121 US 1 South
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Regency Square Library
9900 Regency Square Boulevard
Thursday, Jan. 29, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Fleming Island High School
Teacher Training Center
2233 Village Square Parkway
Southeast Duval County
Monday, Feb. 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
9911 Old Baymeadows Road
Section 335.065, F.S., “Bicycle and pedestrian ways along state roads and transportation facilities”
(1)(a) Bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full consideration in the planning and development of transportation facilities, including the incorporation of such ways into state, regional, and local transportation plans and programs. Bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be established in conjunction with the construction, reconstruction, or other change of any state transportation facility, and special emphasis shall be given to projects in or within 1 mile of an urban area.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a), bicycle and pedestrian ways are not required to be established:
1. Where their establishment would be contrary to public safety;
2. When the cost would be excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use;
3. Where other available means or factors indicate an absence of need.
(2) The department shall establish construction standards and a uniform system of signing for bicycle and pedestrian ways.
(3) The department, in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Protection, shall establish a statewide integrated system of bicycle and pedestrian ways in such a manner as to take full advantage of any such ways which are maintained by any governmental entity. For the purposes of this section, bicycle facilities may be established as part of or separate from the actual roadway and may utilize existing road rights-of-way or other rights-of-way or easements acquired for public use.