Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fresh Blood in Jax Bicycle Advocacy.

I was once told the definition of insanity is beating ones head against a wall and enjoying it. For four years now I have been plugging away with Bike Jax. 40% of the time I find it very satisfying, those are the times I deal directly with the public and others that use their bicycles for transportation and utilitarian reasons.

The other 60% of time is sitting in meetings about planning and infrastructure along with dealing with planners and politics. Those times are like the insanity definition described above. The meetings and conversations take a lot out of a person and frankly I can only beat my head on the preverbal wall for so long before I gotta stop and reassess what and why I'm doing what it is I'm doing. That's what has happen to me and bike Jax over the last year or so. I just got tired and burned out. I have begged and pleaded with other cyclists to help and get involved and with the exception of one guy who after two years of his own head banging called it quits completely repulsed by city and state officials and the system within which they work. It is impossible for me to put into words how frustrating and isolating it is to live in city of a million people and to be made to feel like you're the only who gives a shit. The only one that is willing to put in the time and effort it takes to make this city a better place for a specific group. So instead of blogging, I continued my focus on the Bike Valet program where I could physically see and enjoy the difference we were making for cycling in the city. Each year I saw more bikes parking, more bikes with panniers, baskets and trailers. More people telling me how they are now using their bike full time or for those little trips they were once conditioned to use their cars for.

My attitude towards bicycle advocacy has slowly been changed towards the positive again with the start of this years Bike Valet at Riverside Arts Market. Since Day one outstanding people have been showing up and giving of their time to help park bikes. And it hasn't stopped there, within the last couple of months when the core group of a Riverside social cycling group that call themselves The Skidmarks along with those new Bike Valet Volunteers came to me and asked what they could to do to get more involved. I nearly cried right there and then. My answer was a simple one, Go to the meetings and get involved. Make your voice heard. Well you should have seen the faces on the 8 or so people that make the board of local BPAC (Bicycle Pedestrian Action Committee) as around 25 new faces filed into the meeting that first month and 40 something at the next.

Since then things have moved fast within that new energized group which quickly formed a Facebook group, and just as quick a Website. I am happy to announce the formation of Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition (JBC). They have their mission and seem to be moving with a full head of steam toward the wall of insanity that is bicycle advocacy in Jacksonville with every intent of breaking through.

Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition meets twice a month and all meetings are open to the public and welcoming of anyone that wants to get involved.

Sunday directly prior to the 1st Thursday of Each Month
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Three Layers Coffee House

3rd Saturday Of the Month
Time: 12:00 pm
Location: At Bike Valet during the Riverside Arts Market

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Main St. Bridge Sports New Signs For Cyclists

I just noticed this new signage added to the sidewalk approaches on both ends of the west side of the Main St. Bridge.

The Main St. Bridge opened in July of 1941, officially the John T Alsop Jr. Bridge is one of only two bridges in Jacksonville that provide Bicycle and Pedestrian traffic across the St. Johns River. Jacksonville has 7 Bridges total spanning approximately a 22 mile length of the St. Johns River.

Jacksonville is not a progressive city; it is now and has always been a reactive city. It does nothing until enough complaints pile up to warrant action. And that action is usually swift and without regard as to what is best for all parties. It normally results in a restriction or banishment of whatever entity is causing the complaints.

The sidewalk area on the Main St. Bridge at it widest is 5 feet on the North approach (The Landing), narrows to 4 feet for the length of the bridge, and finally narrows to just 3 feet at the base of the south approach. Barely enough room for two people to walk by each other. Now imagine being a pedestrian in that already tight corridor and a cyclist is coming towards you, bombing down the bridge with speeds of 20+ MPH. I would imagine it would be more than a little unsettling. Now think about how frightening it would be to have that same cyclist blow by you from behind. You never hear a sound, you just suddenly feel the presence of someone or something moving very fast over your shoulder. I've seen both scenarios played out in front of me more times than I care to count.

Most cyclists are either not aware or don't care that when they ride on a sidewalk or multi-use path they are required by law to yield to pedistrians. In fact they are also bound by the same laws as a pedestrian.

FS 316.2065

(10)A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

(11)A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

What's the solution? The ideal would be to pull bicycles off the sidewalks, reduce the speed on the bridge and make room for them in the traffic lanes with a road diet. A full lane in each direction dedicated to bicycles would be paradise. But since the Main St Bridge feeds traffic primarily on to and off I-95, this is not likely to happen. The next best solution would be the use of Sharrows. Of course both of the above options would require a portion of if not an entire lane of the grating on the span of the bridge to be covered or filled to make a safer and more stable surface for cyclists to travel.

Until then we are stuck with the sidewalk option over the Main St. Bridge and all of us cyclists have to remember to be more respectful of the pedestrians. Slow down and use your bell, or give a polite verbal warning well back and prior to passing. Follow up with a thank you as pass. We expect drivers to respect our space and place on the roads. We cyclists should provide the same to those on foot. Also keep in mind that your actions reflect on and effect all of us that choose a bicycle as transportation.