Friday, February 17, 2012

Local TV Station Attempts to Create Controversy Over New Sharrows

We reported last week about the new Sharrows going down on Riverside Ave. and even provided a how to guide in a previous post. Frankly, despite the substantial readership Bike Jax enjoys, we in no way come close to having the ability reach the majority of Jacksonville's drivers or I'm sad to say, cyclists. We also have a number of readers compliments of the Times-Union website that links to what is posted here. The Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition also created a sharrow awareness poster and a number of Facebook postings which leave us preaching to choir for the most part and still leaves us woefully short on reaching a majority of locals. So what else can we do to get the word out to about these weird sharrow things? Oh, I know, lets send press releases to the mainstream media outlets. They have way more reach than this site does and we can provide all the information they need to properly inform the public about these new lane markings. While I'm fully aware that there is no way of educating every driver and/or cyclist overnight of what sharrows mean and how to use them and that lack of understanding will change with time as more sharrows are put into use on Jacksonville and surrounding counties roads.

As things stand now most drivers don't have any idea if laws provide for cyclists to be on the road let alone have the ability to take a full lane. The majority of cyclists on the other hand know they have rights to be on the road, but believe those rights end just left of the gutter. These unknowing bicyclists can somehow live their entire cycling life never knowing that cyclists have always had the rights and the far safer practice to take and control the lanes of "substandard width" roads in the state of Florida. So what more perfect an opportunity for local media to actually inform and educated its viewers? One can hope, right? Only one local TV station, WJXT bothered to do any coverage of the new sharrows, and despite a surplus of resources and information via this website, press release, FDOT and JSO, not to mention that our websites logs showing that someone from WJXT visited and spent time on the how to post they still  presented this drivel to the unknowing public.

(click picture below to view video)

I have grown accustomed to any and all media finding someway to place blame on the cyclist in reporting a accident or death. I am now numb to the the phrases, "suddenly veered", was or was not "wearing a helmet" and "wearing dark clothing" coming from media outlets. Never once have I read or heard a reporter question how fast a vehicle would have be traveling to knock a human being 600 feet from point of impact. But this segment is so badly presented and misinforming it is beyond my comprehension as to how anyone involved with this continues to hold onto a job within the news industry.
  • Ok First, "Debate", what debate? Who's debating? What are they debating? Was there a town hall where this debate took place? 
  • "Sharrows give cyclists too much freedom on the road" The Sharrows are new and have been down for a week. The State of Florida gives bicyclists the "freedom" to use the whole lane (*see below), not the sharrows. The sharrows simply point out to unknowing drivers and cyclists where they (the cyclists) should be positioned in the travel lane. I along with many others have been using & taking the lane along that stretch of Riverside Ave. since 1995, long before anyone ever heard of a sharrow.
  • The bike shop partner: I don't really know this Scott (1) well, but his partner also Scott (2) is one of only two local bike shop owners that are in attendance and active in all things related to bicycle planning. I don't know why Scott (2) was not the default of the two since he is fully aware and versed of the whys and how to's of sharrows. I'm going skip his responses and simple say that they just confuse the whole issue.
  • The reporter talked with 2 "drivers", neither of which was in or near a car and I'm actually not totally certain was of driving age. The 1st of which stated, "I personally wouldn't like it if I had a bike riding right in front of my car and I couldn't go around it." and then followed with, "I like it when they stay to the side, but I guess pedestrians have the right of way." So my question is how do you handle it when you have other slow moving traffic in front of you? I.E. tractors, other heavy road equipment or street sweepers. On the second of his statements he is correct that in certain situations pedestrians do have the right of way. Too bad that that isn't the topic. Driver number 2 states, "I personally think it might be a little too big because there a lot more cars than bikers, Giving them what looks like a whole lane, I don't necessarily think that's a good idea. You've got people texting and driving." I can't help but wondering how these two "drivers" might have responded had they had a proper explanation of what and how the sharrow work and how cyclist have always had rights to the full lane. If you watched the video above then we already know that explanation didn't happen do to the reporter having no idea what the sharrows are, how to use them, or even what Florida law stipulates.

I'm not a journalist, hell I barely have a basic understanding of the english language and I'm sure regular follows of Bike Jax are acutely aware of my grammatical shortcomings. I also struggle mightily with writing posts, putting what I have lodged in my warped little brain into written word is a difficult thing for me. I do have a secret weapon at my beckon call to help me out before and while I'm writing post. It's called Google, and with it I have the capability to research what it is I'm writing about which also includes the definition of "news." There are a wide variety of online dictionaries and  each of them had slightly different interpretation of "news." But the one thing everyone of them had in common was the phrase "to inform." While I am and will always be a grammar teachers worst nightmare, I have taken the time to learn what the basics of journalism which is; who, what, where, when and why. Channel 4 failed on every one of these points and should be ashamed of this segment. They have not only done a disservice to the cycling community, but to the community as a whole.

(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or substandard-width lane, that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.


Jenny said...

Unfortunately, you couldn't be more right on about how loosely the definition of news is used. Yesterday's Good Morning Jacksonville coverage of the Bike to School Day was pretty piss poor as well - The reporter said (paraphrasing here) "Jacksonville is one of the worst cities in the AREA for bicycling"... NOT worst cities in the NATION... worst cities in the AREA. *sigh. Anyway, here's the link to that flop:

Abhishek said...

Sensationalism and laziness provides the correct amount of controversy for news viewership.

On a brighter note, this morning, I saw someone riding along that stretch of Riverside while controlling the lane. It made me happy.

Kirk said...


JohnnyK said...

Also I find it odd that no one has mentioned the 3 feet law here in Florida. Not only do we have the same privileges as motorist do, motorist by law must give 3 feet clearance while passing. This means that on parts of Riverside where these markings are located motorist would not be able to properly pass a cyclist due to the medium. The reason for the medium is to slow automobiles however it just causes more trouble for other types of vehicles as can be seen here.
On the point of this article however I already posted my thoughts on the news web site and I cannot believe how ignorant motorist are to the laws of Florida. This is not new people bicycles have always been considered a vehicle and no we are not pedestrians we are vehicles and should be treated as such. As a matter of fact it is not just Florida it is all 50 states. The only place a bicycle would not be able to go is on Interstate Highways such as I95 and I295 and if I could change that I would.
Also this city needs to lower their speed limits in heavy trafficked areas. Riverside Ave. should be only 25MPH or less there are just too many pleople using that road for more than driving a car on. Actually most of the roads in this area of town are too busy to have any speed above 30MPH.