Thursday, September 18, 2008

MPO Bicycle Pedestrian Workshop Recap

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.


North Florida Randonneurs said...

I don't believe the entire NFBC membership was there, they number over 500, however it was an impressive turnout never the less.

I share your opinions on how the evening went though. This city is carcentric and no one is looking at cycling as a valid means of transportation. Bike trails out at the beaches are not a solution nor is soliciting the bike riders in this city to brainstorm funding ideas for the MPO's wish list of campaigns and bike trails to no where. So the city has bike racks on the buses. So what. Is that supposed to be a solution or a work around to keep us off the city streets? When someone comes up with a valid plan for me to be able to ride my bike from the airport to A1A out at the beaches with out getting killed or maimed in the process, I'll be impressed. Until then it's all just fluff to justify someones salary and make it look there their making an effort.

J. Douglas said...

Came across this review because I'm a blogger and I read blogs as part of my research.

Couple of things:
A. I've been working on this safety campaign. And B. I'm not a staff member of the MPO so I can speak freely.

Although I'm not a bike commuter, I do love mountain biking, hiking and the outdoors in general. I have friends who are avid cyclists. I would prefer they be safer on the roads.

From my perspective, the folks at the MPO are genuinely concerned about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. We've been working on this campaign for several months and are trying hard to develop strategy and ideas that are relevant, creative and effective.

We can discuss the merits of a creative execution all day. Maybe it's brilliant, maybe it's swill. I'm not offended by criticism, it comes with the territory. Changing a person's perception, much less moving a person to action is challenging and takes a prolonged effort. A single campaign, bike lane or facility will not solve this problem. But it's a start.

No one I know takes this issue lightly. We may differ on the means to achieve our goals but they and I do care.

Feel free to share your ideas and suggestions and I will do my best to make sure they are addressed so long as you are nice about it.

9a is my backyard said...

Thanks for the post Matt. I appreciate your update and think your comments are right on the mark. I'm also glad j. douglas posted a comment - it shows that those on the planning side are reaching out. I agree that those at the MPO (and those helping them) are trying to make a positive difference - however they don't seem to fully understand the issues.

I know this point has already been made, but I want to add a little to it. I think that emphasizing safety aspects like wearing a helmet and having lights on at night is the wrong way to go. I think that everyone should wear a helmet and have lights on (at night) when they ride, however I have seen many bikers out already that don't use either and I don't think a safety campaign, regardless of how it's packaged, is going to change that - nor do I think it will encourage people to use their bikes as transportation. I understand why the people in charge have chosen to go in this direction, however I don't think the strategy is at all effective.

I agree that the trails targeted at rec cyclists should be moved down on the priority list, however I do think they have a place on the list. If there were more trails, there would be (hopefully) more people bike on the trails or to the trails, and that should help increase the visibility of biking as a viable transportation method, which should be the goal of the MPO.

I was talking to someone the other day about biking and after I told them I biked on the road, as I am legally required to do, they responded, "I had when bikers do that." The point was made earlier, however I think if the safety campaign hightlighted that bikes are supposed to be ridden on the street, it would encourage more people to do it, and remind drivers of the law. This way, the can only complain to local/state government officials to change the situation by putting in bike lanes or logical bike paths.

J. Douglas said...

In deference to commenter #3.

"I think that emphasizing safety aspects like wearing a helmet and having lights on at night is the wrong way to go."

I agree that teaching cyclists and pedestrians how to ride safer is important, but it's not all the point of the MPO's campaign. There are lot resources already available for that.

The challenge is changing the perception and behavior of motorists. This will not be easy, because they are apathetic at best. Our best shot is pointing out the absurd links cyclists and pedestrians must go to just to cross the road or ride to the park. Hence the ridiculous home-made bumpers or the chic with hazard lights on her rear.

If you can make a motorist more aware of bike/peds while driving then half the battle is won. Some of our alternate taglines were "Steer Clear" and "Two feet. Two wheels. Two Vunerable."

You have to gain the empathy of the audience before you can win them to your cause. If you can make them laugh at the same time you've changed their perception.

Are we on the same page now?

Shek said...

@ Matt
Amen brother...

@ Jeff
I think your illustrations were great and a good step towards a direction that has not seen much effort lately. Kudos to you for that.
Having said that, I think the campaign is a little too mellow for the bicycle commuter. You see, bicycle commuters ride in rush hour traffic. We take every effort to avoid major roads for our safety, but sometimes, there is no other way. Hence, we have to deal with a lot of frustration of motorists than that recreational rider on his/her 18 lb road bike at non-peak hours. Motorists that are getting late for work and getting late for that lunch appointment and finally getting late to go home are not very accommodating to a slow commuter on a bike.

We need that out of the box thinking for these motorists.

That is the reason why I endorse Matt's post. The only way to get more people to accept bicycles on the roads is to encourage more people to get their butts on their bicycles. They can be encouraged by building safe bicycle routes and bicycle highways on major corridors. How about a 5 foot bike lane all the way on Beach Blvd, Atlantic, Kernan and somewhere along JTB? A seven to ten mile ride is easy if the infrastructure is present. Cyclists have been campaigning for their rights for a long time and it has not really achieved much. Doing the same thing again and expecing a different result is insane by definition. The aim should be to enable motorists to embrace bicycling as a part of everyday life, not just to make them aware of bicycles.

Proactive cities like Washington DC, Portland OR, San Fransisco, Boulder CO and Boston MA have begun to look at bicycling as a mode of commute, not only recreation. It is this change in mindset that is needed in this economy and for the next decade.

Anonymous said...

Wow, there is so much work ahead. Are any of the members of MPO counted among the bike commuters in Jacksonville? Are they recreational riders? Who are they serving by pushing the agenda they have come up with? What effect do their plans have on surrounding property values in the area? Who are the people really benefiting from their proposals?

Maybe challenge members of the MPO who are in positions to make decisions to commute to work for a week. Have an experienced rider go along with them, then ask them for a re-evaluation of their thinking and priorities.

I am like Shek in that I am looking to possibly sell my car. I'm not sure what led Shek to the decision, but mine will be out of financial necessity, if it happens. My "regular" job of a nearly a decade at Merrill Lynch was outsourced to India. I've been overseas for the last six months and with no immediate job to return to, I can't see how continuing to pay the absurd amounts of money for gas, insurance, maintenance, etc makes any kind of pragmatic sense. Biking is free and is our right.

Jacksonville has wanted to be seen as a progressive and forward thinking city in the past, but the way they are going, they are being left behind not just other US cities, but the rest of the world.


Shek said...

@ thartley
I will be putting up a detailed post on why I am selling my car. Financial reasons are major, but there are others too.

Shek said...

@ thartley
The only people who raised their voice about bicycle commuters were Matt and Sarah (from Zombie bikes [i am not too good with names but I think her name is Sarah]).
Matt questioned the prioritization of trails and greenways over commuting facilities. Sarah spoke about the ads being too subtle or something of that nature. Thats it. Everyone else was concerned about the three foot law. So, if I were to guess, maybe two more people at the meeting were bike commuters because they had their bikes parked in the room.

9a is my backyard said...

In response to j. douglas' response:

I agree wholeheartedly that the goal, or at least part of it, should be to change the perception and behavior of motorists. As you said, they are an apathetic bunch and it's not an easy task. I understand why motorists aren't always comfortable with having bikes on roads without bike lanes.

I like the "Two feet. Two wheels. Two Vunerable." slogan, but it has that negative connotation that Matt was talking about in his post. I saw a sticker the other day on someone's bike that said "Same Road. Same Rules. Same Rights." It conveys a similar message, but with a much different tone. I agree that campaigns like this are needed, but I think they would be more effective if they were combined with another form of public outreach. It could be partnered with a monthly/yearly/regular get out and bike event where the entire city, not just the downtown or the beaches, is encouraged to get on their bikes for the day, have events, maybe work with local businesses to get a discount to biking customers. Again, words are important, but if people could see billboards with biking messages along with bikers, in large numbers, I think the message would be much more effective.

I don't mean to knock the people who are working for/at/with the MPO. I think they're heart is in the right place and if I'm coming across as too critical or negative, I apologize. I appreciate any effort to promote cycling, but given the lack of attention and money the cause gets, feel that efforts to promote it should be as effective as possible and work with cyclists AND motorists (and pedestrians).

I didn't get the chance to go to the meeting, so I am an admittedly less-than-well informed commenter on the subject, but from Matt's post it didn't seem like the officials there fully understood the problem. I'm not trying to say they aren't addressing the problem in the best way they think they can, I'm saying it doesn't seem like they understand the issue enough to really tackle it. And there's nothing wrong with that, as I don't expect someone/persons who don't bike to understand all the issues of a cyclist, just as I don't fully grasp how frustrating it must be to sit in a car in traffic commuting to and from in Jax everyday. That said, and again I wasn't at the meeting and haven't met anyone from the MPO, it seems like the proper attitude just isn't there. For instance, Matt said the head of the MPO 'scoffed' at the idea of the 20% cyclist commuter target; I agree this target is probably unrealistically high, but instead of scoff, why not counter with a 'let's be realistic and shoot for 10, or 5%' or offer a positive/constructive comment. I realize this may have been an isolated case, but that attitude coupled with rec trails taking priority over 'transit' trails makes it seem like the MPO isn't looking in the most effective direction.

Sorry, I know I'm all over the place, but do you understand what I'm saying?

Shek said...

@ 9a is my backyard

Do you commute on a bike or use it for recreation and fitness or both?

20% is not an unrealistic goal if the right infrastructure is in place. Boulder CO is at 14%.
We can be very sure that even 2% will not be achievable if we concentrate on projects like the S-line trail. Put that money to develop a trail that goes along a road like southside and see how the percentage increases.

9a is my backyard said...


I commute as much as possible by bike (granted, my daily commute is only 4 miles r/t). I only drive if there isn't enough time for me to bike where I need to be.

Do you really think we could get 20% of Jacksonville on their bikes on a daily basis? I applaud your optimism, and I would LOVE to see that, but I just don't see it happening here. I think it's more realistic to start with a goal of 2-5%, and once we get there then let's start dreaming big. I'm curious - 1) what makes you think we could get to 20% [because I'd like to feel the same way :)]? and 2) do you think this could/would be achieve solely with infrastructure improvements?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to jump in here and say if the infrastructure was there, I firmly believe 20% is achievable. I believe there are MANY people who would choose to drastically reduce their use of automobiles if they could feel safer on bikes and had a real place on the roads. It simply would open up alternatives to them that right now, they just wont consider because of safety concerns. At least that is what I believe.


Shek said...

@ 9A

The 20% target is achievable because most residential areas are in clusters and most business areas are in clusters. Connecting these two clusters by bike highways, mass transit and street cars will automatically make more people leave their cars home.

The economic ramifications of high fuel prices and the problem of peak oil without forgetting global warming almost dictate us to use less. Less of everything! I think we should all be downsizing. This makes the 20% number almost necessary.

Bicycle infrastructures alone are not sufficient. There should be complimentary street car and mass transit systems.

Bogota has done it with Ciclorruta and TransMilenio integrated together ( We need to take inspiration from the leaders like Bogota and Amsterdam and benchmark them. (disclaimer: by no way am I promoting BRT)

Honestly, I barely have an ounce of optimism for Jacksonville's bicycling future. I am neutral for most of the time and pessimistic for the remainder.

Shek said...

@ thartley
I agree that lack of safety is a major concern. Most people I work with are physically fit enough to ride 7 to 10 miles to work. They wont because of the lack of safety and because the culture isint there yet.
I also dont think bike lanes are the answer to safety. Atleast not in a sprawl-infested city.

Anonymous said...

There is no single answer, but having adequate bike lanes is a big part of it. If we want more people to get out and ride, they have to have a place to do that. If we want the culture to grow, they need a place to do that. We can't be very visible if there isnt a proper place to be seen. Sprawl, well...yeah, that's a big problem, but not an unbeatable one.

I would think if co-workers saw how much their potential savings could be by biking vs driving, it would set a good example for some.


Shek said...

I monitor my savings in gas here (
and I encourage my friends to have a look. There always seems to be a barrier.
A friend who owns a big truck had started to bike but stopped due to rains and since then has not gotten back on the saddle. His gas savings are upwards of $200 a month.

Bicycle commuting will enormously help less privileged people who spend a considerable part of their income towards a used car, gas and its maintenance problems.

9a is my backyard said...

@ Shek

I agree that building some really good bike lanes would go a long way to increasing the number of people who bike, but I still don't see it going up to 20%. Maybe I'm just too pessimistic, but I still think the 'little things' will still keep people away. Things like the heat, possibility of rain, wind, etc, having to bring a change of clothes if you're going to work, having to bike all the way back home if you forget something. That said, the reaction I get from people when they find out I commute by bike is usually positive, and I think more than half the time I hear "I wish I could do that too."

Thanks for posting the link about Bogota's bike paths.

@ thartley and Shek

Interesting point about the financial savings. I've never been in a situation where I have had to do city driving regularly, so I have no idea what my gas savings would be, however they're probably fairly substantial. I think pointing out how much money could be saved would go a lot way in convincing people to ride their bikes.

Anonymous said...

I think an untapped potential riding community is also those people who perhaps do not want to give up the car for getting to and from work, but could very easily use their bike for most other things. Typically, people grocery shop, bank, see movies, visit friends, and go out to eat in their own general neighborhood or at least relatively close to it. If they parked their cars and used bikes for the majority of their other errands and travel needs, its a big plus and savings for the bigger picture.


Shek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shek said...

yes, going car light is very easy. I know some people who walk about 2 miles to Tinseltown on the weekends.

Their range and possibilities would increase a lot if there was a decent bicycling infrastructure.

I was watching a movie on youtube by a billion bicycles. They spoke about what Copehnagen does to promote bikes in terms of administration, not just building bike lanes. I should write about it. Watch out for a post.

J. Douglas said...

@ 9A

Aah, now that is something to chew on. My friend Tony A. was suggesting something like a BikeJax day. (Certain the owner of this blog would endorse that)

IMO, I'd like to see collaboration from other Transy gov't orgs and media outlets as these events require massive effort. The MPO is small (10 FT employees). That's it. The region really needs a Bike Czar to coordinate the overall effort. (only half-kidding)

We are shooting to launch this campaign in March, which may or may not give us enough time to sync.

As we develop the Web site, perhaps we add a forum to build interest in a big event for the fall of 2009. I'll talk with Tony and Joey Marchy.

In regards to encouraging bike commuting - more can and should be done. Even if 20% of our region were bike commuters, that still leaves the remaining 80% who needs to pay attention.

I'll leave the question of infrastructure and facilities to a more qualified respondent. I'm just a branding guy.

Well, off to ride my 18 lb mountain bike around Jax Beach. ;-)

Feel free to email me directly: jeff [at]

Anonymous said...

I know I am dealing with a big time shift being overseas, but I THINK on channel 4 news tonight there in Jax (the 10:00pm newscast) they are having a segment on cyclists and drivers sharing the road. There was a brief blurb on the frontpage about the 10:00pm newscast. It mentioned that since gas prices are so high, more people are biking. However, the cyclists are frustrating drivers and cyclists may be taking unnecessary risks due to not knowing adequate safety measures and rules of the road. Can someone maybe tune in to this and post a summary here so I have an idea what the story communicated? Please?


Shek said...

it is almost 10 am now. I dont see any news on the website. Send me a link and I will watch out for it at tonight's 10 pm news.
I usually watch the 10 pm news on channel 4 but skipped last night.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shek. Yeah, it is the 10:00pm broadcast tonight. Here is a link to the sidebar on the homepage from earlier:

Hopefully, you can copy/paste that into your browser. The blurb is still on on the roght hand side of the frontpage right under the "Featured Video". It is in a box headed "What's On".

*note--I looked for an email on your profile, but everything comes up in Thai script which is a problem for me over here. heh!


Shek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It's so great to hear about others that have the same feelings that I do. I stumbled upon this while doing some fixed gear research.

Anyway, I have been wanting to commute to work for a while now but I have been held back by the fact that my route will not be bike friendly to say the least. A good portion of the route doesn't have ANY shoulder at all - white line at edge of lane and then dirt. So I'd have to drive part of the way probably, park and ride the rest.

I've even tried to map out a JTA route that would help to no avail.

I just got back from a business trip from Boston which was really cool - I took the subway all over the place and visited some really cool bike shops..

I think more emphasis should definitely be on commuter routes and alternate methods of transport. I've even considered moving due to this challenge....


Shek said...


I dont mind helping you out on your route if you live and commute reasonable close to where I live. I am sure Matt(BikeJax Owner) knows people that can mentor you.

I have a bad stretch on my route too. Confidence and lane control goes a long way in being safe.

There are some videos, particularly this one that helps bringing your confidence up:

Anonymous said...


Thanks. I'm not scared or anything. I've been riding for a while (mostly mountain bikes). It's mostly the hastle more than anything.

If you know Jax/St. Augie very well. I am out by WGV and work at Deerwood area. My commute would be 28 miles oneway w/o any driving.

I think that is one of the big challenges we face with trying to get people to commute. Jacksonville is sooo spreadout.

Seems like we are spending so much to improve the driving infrastructure but not the mass transit, etc...


Shek said...

@ Dbbled

I didnt mean to imply that you were scared. Just that commuting by bike in car infested roads takes confidence and motorists respect that. It makes it safe.

You could try to car pool with a folding bike. I know there are some shuttles between the Avenues Mall and the St. Augustine Outlet Malls:

I have never used it, so I dont know how they are.

I work at Deerwood too, at the end of Deerwood past Gate Pkwy.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we are in the same area. I work at Taleo at the dead end of centurion pkwy...

Shek said...

I work at CEVA. I have never been to that stretch of Centurion. I do go to the ADP building ocassionally for lunch at Mike's Deli.

I am the guy slowing down traffic on Deerwood going towards Southside between 5 pm and 5:30 pm.

Burro Bags said...

Well I was upset I had obligations the night this happened, but I feel better now that I may be making more progress on the road.

Was there time for any dialogue? I sent Cherri from Zombie with pictures of desperation on Main St.: shots of the construction, lack of shoulders and sidewalks, and a posted placard on 8th and Main that reads "No bicycle riding on sidewalk".

Can we hold a meeting where the MPO attends and not us?


Burro Bags said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhishek said...

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