Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kick'n It Suburban Style

Last weekend Bike Jax reader, commenter and suburban car-free living cyclist "Shek" invited me to see how the other half lives and join him to see the film Slumdog Millionaire.

He has described to me on numerous occasions the routes he takes on his bike to get to the places he needs to get to for work, shopping, recreation and relaxation. But never having traveled through the routes he describes any other way than from the drivers seat of my car. I accepted his invitation and left the comfort of the urban cores gridded streets to see what it was like to ride the culdesac hell that is suburbia.

Our ride seems pretty simple looking at the above map. Get from Shek's Apartment off the Southside Blvd. Service Rd. to Tinseltown Theater about 2.5 miles north on Southside Blvd.

However, to ride on Southside Blvd. is tantamount to turning an armadillo loose in a crowded bowling alley. You'll have trust me on this one, either way it's going to be ugly.

The only safe way was to take the long road around weaving our way through a mix of office parks, condos, and shopping centers.

Who says Jacksonville is flat?

Leaving the end of the service road for a short jaunt on the sidewalk to the redlight to cross Southside Blvd.

Sitting on AC Skinner Parkway to cross Southside Blvd. onto Deerwood Park Blvd.. Is it just me, or does Jacksonville have a massive amount of roads that suddenly change names without you ever making a turn? That is a sure sign of an excellent infrastructure master plan.

You have to sit at this light until a car pulls onto the sensors in the other lane since a bike is too light to trip it. Or your other option is to run it once the left turning cars clear the intersection. The Green cycle to cross this intersection was just enough time for us to reach the median. I don't have any idea how a pedestrian would ever make it across.

Pulling up to Gate Parkway. This is where we should have turned left. But Shek was taking me on slight detour to show me a path that was recently installed that runs behind his work place. Notice how we are controlling the the very narrow lane. Ride your bike like you would drive a car.

On the path (sidewalk) that takes you from the south side of J. Turner Butler (JTB) to the north side via an old feed tunnel. What's a feed tunnel? Back in the day all this land that make up Deerwood Park, Gate Parkway, Tinseltown and St. Johns Town Center was pastureland belonging to Skinners Dairy. (Boy, do I wish I had been a lot nicer to that Skinner girl back in school) When JTB was built, it sliced right through the middle of Skinners property. So they had to allow for passage of the dairy cows and feed tractors to get to and from each section of pasture. So they built tunnels under JTB. Several of which are still unused are sitting fenced up.

In the tunnel which brings you out into the Cosco and Best Buy shopping center.

Detour over and back on Gate Parkway for finally leg to Tinseltown.

Overall the ride to the theater and back was pleasant and uneventful. Traffic moves faster and is heavier in suburbia since there are only a few through roads with lots of feeder roads. There is very little bike infrastructure with bike lines only on the newest of roads. But what there is nicely done. The bottom line is you can live in suburbia car-free and not have to do without. Our ride was a lot more enjoyable for us than the drive was for many drivers along the way. We were constantly amused by some driver that was sitting at an intersection and upset because traffic was not moving the way that he/she would have preferred it. While we rode ride through all the congestion with not a worry in the world.

The film Slumdog Millionaire however was outstanding and worth riding a bike though any type of hell to see. And it's even more enjoyable when you see it with someone from Mumbai aka Bombay.


Anonymous said...

I ride my bike everyday to UNF, publix, the library, and a ton of other places on beach blvd out in the suburbs. It sucks compared to riding downtown, but it anit that bad and it definitely improves your riding skills pretty quickly lol

welshcyclist said...

Great post and pics, thanks for sharing them with us

Anonymous said...

Wow, I ride that area all the time, but never went east of the Shell station on that corner and just made the made dash of hell in front of Costco and the Town Center until I was able to get back to the bike lanes. Will definitely be checking out the tunnel under JTB into the Town Center for sure.

By the way, I ride Southside Blvd between Baymeadows and Tinseltown on occasion and it's not that bad. The shoulder is still wider than the normal bike lane and I have never had any issues.