Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bike Jax Is Seeking Commuter Mentors

How many times have you heard, "I'd bike to work but...(insert excuse here)?" There are a lot of reasons people give for not riding their bike to work. But the root problem for whatever reason they don't ride is fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of how society will view them, fear of traffic, fear of weather and most importantly fear of being alone.

In the hope of eliminating the fears of the new commuter and along with the hope of building a community for the new and experienced bike commuter alike for questions and support.  Bike Jax is happy to announce as the first part of our Bike Commuter Services.** The Bike Commuter Mentors program. A program designed to pair up new riders with established cyclists that will help ease the uncertainties of the less experienced.

Become a Bike Commuter Mentor!

We encourage all experienced Bicycle Commuters in the Jacksonville and surrounding areas to join our pool of available Mentors. There is no required level of time for involvement. When a Bike Commuter Coordinator informs you of a new mentoring opportunity. You will decide whether it's right for you before your name is given to the prospective bike commuter. Bike Jax will make every effort to match you with other riders that live and commute within close proximity.

Mentors should be:
  • Somewhat experienced in using the bicycle for transportation.
  • Comfortable in urban cycling and riding in traffic.
  • Familiar with the roadways and geographical area they will mentor in.
  • Capable of effectively communicating with new commuters.
  • Able to recognize when a new commuter's bicycle is in need of maintenance or repair.*
  • If this sounds like you and you are willing to help others join our ranks, please contact us at [email protected]

What Will I Have To Do As A Bike Mentor?

When you commit to mentor a new commuter, we expect that you will:
  • Respond promptly to the request for your assistance and be punctual in participation.
  • Know and abide by applicable traffic laws.
  • Always wears a helmet.
  • Be patient working with the new commuter, and respect a new commuter's decision to terminate a ride because of unacceptable risk or difficulty and work with them in finding an alternative or returning to their starting point.
  • Most mentoring engagements will extend over 2-4 weeks and progress through the following steps:
  1. An introductory conversation over the phone or in person to learn or establish the new commuters route, level of cycling experience and needs along with tips on how to prepare.
  2. As the new commuter prepares for their first ride, you'll answer their questions on equipment, clothing, supplies, and other "tricks of the trade".
  3. Agreement on time and route for the new commuter's first ride to work and upon their ongoing commuting goal.
  4. Accompany the new commuter on one actual commute during the new commuter’s normal commuting time.
  5. Set realistic goals with the new commuter.
  6. Be available for follow-up questions and suggestions as the new commuter gains experience.
  7. Of course, we hope you and the entire mentor group will be able to maintain contact with most new commuters via the Bike Jax Commuter Support Group.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or have additional questions. Please email [email protected]

*Note: The Mentor is not required to perform any physical repairs to a new commuter’s bicycle.

** The Bike Jax Commuter Services is part of one of the many new programs Bike Jax will be offering once the website is up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ciclovia Hits North America

Back in February I posted a film about Ciclovia in Bogotá, Colombia. I wrote that several US cities were in the planning stages for their own car-free parkdays activity. Well, the first of those cities has launched their Ciclovia. Of course Portland, OR was the first US city up and running. Vancouver, BC had a car-free event that took place on Fathers Day. And New York City has announced that it will be closing streets starting August. Read about the NYC plan here, here and here.

Car-Free Vancouver

Car-Free Portland

Start Your Own Pedicab Service

Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about Jax Bike Taxi starting up service in Jacksonville. Now on Craig's List I find someone in Orlando selling a couple of pedicabs. Can Jacksonville support more than one pedicab service?

Click on the image for full size.

Craig's List Pedicab Link

Monday, June 23, 2008

You are Here.

As I trolled through youtube I came across this is a video of traffic on Greenland Rd. at Sunset. As I watched this little clip I wondered if this was some kind of a metaphor for the end of car culture and suburbia. This is a very good example of where we in Jacksonville are in the way of multi-modal transportation or shared spaces. In this video you can make out the silhouette of construction barrels. As anyone who bikes, walks or drives, it is near impossible to travel anywhere within Jacksonville not have to deal with road construction and these barrels. You however will not see any cyclist, pedestrians or facilities for either in this video. Which is typical for Jacksonville and the reference, "You Are Here."

The below video of bike friendly cities is where we need to go. It is fairly long at 16 minutes. Take the time to give it a view. It has some great images and quotes like these listed below.

"If you can make a city move by bicycle, it will be more human."
"While cars separate people, bicycles bring us together. Bicycles help build up a much more integrated and friendly socitey."

So if we are to achieve becoming a cycling friendly city. How do we go about it? How do we even start given how ingrained our society and culture is in the car?


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jacksonville's Biking Past

During a late night/early morning conclusion to a Springfield Walking Cocktail Party while sitting on the porch of the Klutho House with other Riverside, Springfield and Downtown dwellers. The talked turned to why we choose to live where we do and why we work so hard to restore and maintain our homes. It was then that someone replied, "We do it because, whether we know it or it or not. We are the keepers of Jacksonville's history."

With permission from the the fantastic folks over at the Jacksonville Historical Society I would like to share a few pictures of our city's past. All these images can found within the pages of the Jacksonville Family Album. Click on the images for full size viewing.


While we of the urban core may indeed be the keepers of Jacksonville's history. Many of those same people have also taken on the role of instigator for Jacksonville's present and future. Visit the many forums and blogs listed on the left hand side of this blog and get to know and join the caretakers of our great city's past, present and future.

All of these images are copyright material of the Jacksonville Historical Society and may only be used with permission.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Commuter Profile - Casey Welch

Casey makes the the second Welch we have profiled. He is the spouse of Laurel Lee that was previously profiled here. Casey was sent the questionnaire in January and was to be the first commuter profile featured in Bike Jax. But due to his robust schedule as a professor of Sociology and Criminology at the University of North Florida and his being the Chairperson of BPAC. He is just now finding the time to respond. Better late than never.

What do you use your bike for?
I use my bike principally for transportation, to get from A to B. I go to work, to friends, to stores, etc. on it. Though I do very little recreational riding per se, bicycling does have the latent benefit, or use, of being profoundly relaxing (drivers permitting).

How often do you ride?
Most of the time I'm on it 5-7 times per week.

How long have you been commuting by bicycle?
I began in 1984, and have been full time since 1988.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to go for it?
It's more relaxing than sitting in traffic jams, if it breaks down you can push or carry it, it's healthy, you can eat carelessly if you're biking all the time, your range of options is spatially constrained which is pleasant because you don't spend as much time driving 25 miles across town for a beer ("Hey man, I'm on bike, how about if we meet at a bar closer to my house."), it's easier to repair than a car, it's cheaper to repair than a car, you will be representing a more logical way of living, you will be promoting change in that logical direction (the ambassador role), some people may even think more highly of you, you in fact may even feel more righteous, less pollution, less wear on the infrastructure, no gas pump blues, it's relaxing (if I didn't write that already), I've read that bicyclists, on average, are exposed to less air pollution than are automobile drivers, you are more likely to connect with other people than you are while in a car,
you will develop an intimate relationship with your bike, which is cool and comforting. Ride on, comrades.

What could the City do to make biking better?
Our goals should be both short term and long term.
Immediate Policies, starting with simple, low-cost but substantial efforts:
• Educate police on the existing laws regarding motorists operating near bicyclists and rights of bicyclists as vehicles. Most police are probably aware of the gist of these rules, and though they have many other things they have to learn, adding a few bike laws will not be a burden.
• Enforce existing laws regarding automobiles and bicycles, esp. the three foot law and yield right-of-way laws. In other words, police should ticket motorists who endanger bicyclists
• Advertise the stepped up enforcement. For instance, JSO could do a "Day of Enforcement" or the "Day of Education and Enforcement" that targets several areas in town, e.g. the west end of Beach Blvd. This could be advertised to the media in advance: police to enforce 3-foot law and other traffic laws that motorists must abide in relation to bicyclists. On the day of enforcement, with media present, officers in plain clothes could bicycle back and forth on the roads. When motorists violate the law, such ride within 6 inches of them or throw things at them, they could radio ahead to officers in vehicles who then pull over the drivers and issue citations. Police power is not something we should readily turn to for solving social problems, but in a situation such as this, where law violation is very hazardous and where most people don't know the law, police enforcement can be effective. One of the most effective stages in deterrence is
informing people of laws when they previously had not known about them. (This same type of advertising-enforcement blitz has been used with seat belts, DUI, speeding in construction zones, etc.) On that same day, the city could also step up enforcement of the child helmet law. The city/JSO may even be able to have a diversionary program for the kids: bicycle safety education, and their fine is cancelled...and we can even throw in a free light or helmet.
Taken together, these enforcement efforts will benefit bicyclists, the JSO, and the city.
• It will increase the deterrent effect of the law by notifying/educating the public of the laws.
• It will make the roads safer for bicyclists.
• It will sensitize police to bicycle laws and engender empathy in them for what bicyclists experience on a daily basis.
• It will advance the cause of bicycling by increasing media coverage, public awareness, police awareness, and political will.
• It will generate money for the JSO.
• It may increase good will for JSO, esp. the kids helmet enforcement and education.
• It will enhance the reputation of the city as a place that is progressive on the issue of bicycling.
• Increase signage on existing bike lanes and bike routes, both with markings on the road and vertical signs. This will specify that it is a bike lane or that motorists should "share the road." As it is now, many drivers probably assume the bike lane is "their" shoulder. In most of my accidents and near misses, I don't assume malice, just ignorance of the law and a general disregard for bicyclists. The government including "bicycle" in our roadway signs will prompt drivers to think more about them.
• Include bike lanes on all new road construction and major re-pavements, which is a federal and state policy that seems to have been subverted by both a lack of enforcement and The Better Jacksonville Plan.
• Government-bicyclists partnerships should be encouraged. Government officials could reach out to the bike community. Councilman Redman has already done this, and Mayor Peyton supported him on this (for instance, the Bicycle to Work Day). Other government officials could easily work in this same direction.
o The government could increase funding of Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), as well as increase its prominence in the city government, e.g. through a web presence (currently it is not even mentioned on the city government web page even though it is part of the Northeast Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional government organization charged with improving and integrating transportation in NE Florida) and through agenda topics at committee meetings.
o Educate the public with a bicycle awareness campaign. Among many issues, people need to see bicycles as a means of transportation, not just recreation. The Day of Education and Enforcement can be part of a larger, and relatively cost-effective, campaign that propounds simple and direct messages, such as: bicyclists have rights and obligations the same as vehicles, they can ride on almost all roads in Florida, and the law requires that drivers move over for them.
o The government could support financially and normatively bicycle education programs, where people are taught the law, taught proper helmet usage.
• Existing efforts need to be applauded and supported. For instance,
o The work of BPAC needs to be recognized.
o CooltoPool carpooling effort can be endorsed and supported.
o The city's ranking as a bicycle city needs to be announced and praised repeatedly and efforts need to be made to increase the ranking.
o JTA adding more bike racks should be commended and the effort expanded, such as allowing bikes on the Skyway.
o Indeed, politicians should have a presence in great blogs like this one.

Over the course of the upcoming years:
• Normative and Political Goals
o Move the local government toward a pro-bicycle normative position, such that the mayors and council members, year-after-year, address bicycle issues as part of their platform and treat bicycling as a real transportation option. This is not just hollow positive rhetoric. On the contrary, if it's handled seriously it will lead to serious debates, controversial positions will be advanced, people will be angered. This shift will include pressure from the voting populace and rational conduct on the part of politicians.
o Designate one paid city employee to advocate for non-motorist transportation, including bicyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities, and the elderly. This bicycle representative could serve on pertinent committees, such as the transportation, urban planning, and zoning committees. This would not be an advisor, but a voting member. He or she would have the sole job of monitoring and advancing the development of non-motorized transportation systems. This is common in other large cities, and it prevents the issue of bicycle transportation from getting lost in the maze of government activities.
o Strengthen BPAC, which could create and distribute PSAs, lobby, host education and recreational events, organize rallies, etc.
• Infrastructure Goals
o Create more bicycle lanes and designate more roadways as bicycle routes. First, assure that all new road and bridge construction, and all major modifications, such as on Main Street, include bicycle lanes and other bicycle- and pedestrian- friendly designs. Second, where the addition of bike lanes is not feasible, designate viable bicycle routes. Sometimes it is too costly or logistically difficult to add bicycle lanes to existing roads. In such areas, some of the roads should be identified with signs as bike paths so that drivers are made aware that bicyclists frequently travel those streets. This may require minor adjustments, e.g. removing on-street parking or repairing potholes.
o Construct commuter bike routes. The various rails-to-trails are great but are used primarily for recreational riding. We expand those trails even though we have no safe East-West bike route for commuters. For instance, we could take a lane from Beach/Atlantic Blvd in order to create bike lanes in both directions (Certainly taking a lane from cars may seem unthinkable to some, but it is done in many other cities, and drivers still make it safely to work. The difference is that then bicyclists do, as well.)
o Enact zoning that requires that bike racks be put into place with all new building construction. This will allow bicyclists to safely and legally secure their vehicle.
o Build toward the future of urban living and transportation, don't build toward obsolescence. Car travel will decrease in the coming decades, and we are already seeing indicators of that. Yet our city is investing nearly all its transportation money into road construction. That's shortsighted, and we will suffer in 20 years because of this. More construction money needs to be invested in what will benefit the city in decades to come: bike lanes, pedestrian resources, rails, improved bus systems, etc.
o Create and update maps of bicycle lanes and routes. These will direct bicyclists to these paths, which will be safer and more convenient to all travelers.

Two important points on all this. First, we don't have to invent these things. It's all being done in other cities like Portland and NYC. Second, even though this question focused on what the government can do, we also need to be part of the change. The bicycle organizations that do exist need to work together and become more political. The bicyclists need to become more political. We need to write to the papers to encourage them to cover bicycling issues. And so on.

What reaction do you get from co-workers?

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle?
Not being in car.

Can you give a brief description of your route?
To work, Springfield to UNF: South through downtown and over the Main Street Bridge, Left on Prudential, Right on Kings. That takes me to Atlantic, and that's where it gets hairy, and sometimes, literally, so frightening that I'll be agitated for the rest of the day: 60 blocks east with no bike lane. Then Atlantic merges into Beach Blvd (which merges into Atlantic Blvd. at the West end near Bishop Kenney High School). At Parental Road (I believe this is the name), the bike lane appears and I continue east to St. John's Bluff. R, or South on SJB, L on Center, and onto campus through the northern entrance. Takes about 1 hour.

Where are your favorite places to bike in Jacksonville? Least favorite?
Favorite: West from Springfield, esp. Springfield to Riverside via the Riverwalk.
Least favorite: Beach Blvd. or any major road with no bike lane and no alternative route.

What do you like about biking in Jacksonville? And dislike?
Like: I guess being part of the few, the brave, but really, compared to other cities, Jax is an unpleasant place to bicycle. In a round-about way, though, I do find pleasure in being part of the vanguard of change in the city. This blog, BPAC, certain politicians, these few voices will have a great impact on the near-future changes in this city.
Dislike: Motorists who are hostile, motorists who are ignorant of the law, police who don't enforce the law, politicians who don't advance this logical addition to the transportation system.

Have you ever combined transit and biking or used a bus bike rack?
Yes, often. It works wonderfully.

What’s your favorite piece of cycling clothing?
My elastic visor that stretches over the helmet. Less squinting in both the sun and rain.

Any bike gadget/gear cyclists should not go out without?
Wheels, and bright lights. And I really like my rack and panniers and mirror.

Do you commute in cycling or street clothing? And if cycling
clothing, how to handle the change to street?

Street clothes.

Are you a member of any cycling organizations/clubs? If so, which ones?
BPAC (Chairperson)

Favorite bike stories?
One that pops into mind is an occasional event of stopping to help a broken down car--change tire, push off road, etc. Just a little irony, a bit of the oppressed protecting the children and estate of the oppressor (though I recognize that no particular driver holds any animus toward bicyclists). Another one was when I bet someone I could ride between two poles with no hands on the handle bar. Not only did I not make it, but I had to pick myself off the ground and pay Jeff.

Scary bike stories?
Being hit, about once per month. Almost always on Beach Blvd.

Anything else?
Thanks for your work, Matt. You've expanded this thing so rapidly and intelligently that it really has become a heartening site. I hope you can keep being the bullhorn for bike events, the bridge between bike organization, and a staunch advocate for sane transportation.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Are You a Cycling Scofflaw?

Do you roll up to stop signs and treat them like yield signs? You know, slow just enough to make sure the way is clear. Do you stop at a red light only long enough to see if there is cross traffic? Treating it like a stop sign and as soon as you know the way is clear take off through the intersection. If you do then you, like me, are a scofflaw.

That is unless you live Idaho.  Yep, in Idaho it's ok to do what is illegal everywhere else. 

With more and more bikes taking to the roads. Intersections are becoming more congested for larger cities. San Francisco is just one of the many places looking to adopt Idaho's biking laws.

I have to admit that I love the thought of seeing these laws put in place for Florida someday. I'm going to assume everyone at one time or another (or all the time) has operated thier bikes in this manor. We all hate stopping and there seems to be good science behind why. I know if I'm riding through downtown on Sundays. I don't see any need for sitting at empty intersection after empty intersection.

What are your thoughts?


Gas Savings Calculator

Have you ever wondered how much money you are saving by not driving your car? Thanks to the gang over at Commute By Bike you can now calculate your current or potential gas savings.

Look on the left hand side for the Gas Savings Calculator. Put in your numbers.
Calculate your savings and proudly wave it in your friends, family and coworkers faces and loudly vocalize, "Nana-Nana, Nu, Nu."


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why You Should Buy From Your Local Bike Shop.

You know that saying, "you get what you pay for"? While local bike shops may be a little arrogant and condescending. They just may have every reason to be judging by this photo for the Huffy Lakota on the Toys-R-Us website.

Yes, a bike from your local bike shop will cost you more than $74. But you can rest assured that it won't be disposable in it's design or features. And most importantly, a bike from your LBS will be correctly assembled and througly checked for your safety. (Click Image Above For Larger View)

(Click For Larger)

I have had this Toy-R-Us page open in a tap on my browser for about a week now. I've been referring back to it on occasion trying to figure out why it bothers me so much. Then it finally hit me what exactly it is that has me so upset about this bike setup.

Having spent a number of years in the advertising industry. I have a fair idea of how many different peoples hands this bike or images of it went through to get published on their website. It all starts with the buffoon that put it together. Then you have in no particular order, a product manager, graphic and or web designers, product photographer and however many assistants he/she may have, webmaster, and countless others that handled the bike or images/layout of above bike. And not one of this people has apparently ever seen a bike before. You would think somewhere along the line, someone would have to question this bike.

I'm reminded of a tag line from another commercial for automotive oil and air filters. It featured an auto mechanic holding the company's filter while some calamity took place in the background to a vehicle owner that supposedly chose the cheaper filters. He shows the filter and espouse "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."

How much is the safety of you and your family worth? I'm going to guess its, considerably more than $74. Support you local bike shops or the terrorist win. A list of bike shops can found on the left side of this blog.

And if you've read this far and are still not sure what is so wrong with pictured bike. The front fork is on backwards.

Link to Toys-R-Us page.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jax Bike Taxi Arrives This Weekend

Jax bike culture is getting a booster shot starting this weekend. The pedicabs of Jax Bike Taxi will be providing service at special events around downtown and the beaches. 

David Rodgers is an active military transplant from San Diego  and he enjoyed driving pedicabs while in San Diego during his off duty hours. Once transfered here and not finding any pedicab service in Jacksonville. David saw an opportunity to not only start a business but to also continue doing something he enjoyed.

Jax Bike Taxi will be kicking off rides at this weekends beaches Putt N' Crawl.

To see where you can find the Bike Taxi's for future events check out their calendar.

Like most pedicab services throughout the US. The rides are free and drivers work for tips. If you see these guys peddling around. Hop on board and show some support for bike culture in Jacksonville.


Lesbian Haircuts & Bike Shop

(Click for Larger View)

The sign reads: Lesbian Haircuts!!! (or Anyone) $15 (And Bike Store)

I have no idea where this picture was taken. But here is the scenario that is now playing on an endless loop in my head after seeing this image.

Lesbian #1: returning from mail box. "Hey Hon! Our stypen checks arrived!"

Lesbian #2: "Great! Now we can rent that little place downtown and do lesbian haircuts."

A couple of weeks after renting the space.
Lesbian #1 to Lesbian #2: I really thought we were on to something with doing lesbian haircuts.
Lesbian #2: I know. Maybe we should do more than just haircuts for lesbians.
Lesbian #1: Ok, we'll open it up to anyone. I'll add it to the sign.

A couple more weeks pass.
Lesbian #1: Damn! We're still not getting the traffic I thought we would. What else do we need to do? I mean come on. We got a sign and everything.
Lesbian #2: We should diversify like the big companies do. We got all this extra space. Oooo, We should do a bike shop!
Lesbian #1: That's a great idea! I'll add it to the sign.

Monday, June 2, 2008

This Is What a Cycling Nightmare Looks Like.

At least two people were killed Sunday morning when Jesse Lopez, 29, drove a 1989 Gran Marquis into a group of cyclists racing the Bike Tour Matamoros-Playa Bagdad in Mexico. One of the two men killed was Alejandro Alvarez, 34, of Brownsville, Texas. The other name was not released. Lopez was driving drunk and under the influence of drugs, Matamoros newspapers reported in their Monday editions. Read the full story at the Brownsville Herald.

[Photo is a still from video via AP]
Story Via: Spoke-N-word