Going Car Free in Florida

Last month, my neighbor got drunk, got behind the wheel and got into a crash. He blew .08. His driver’s license was suspended for 6 months. His lawyer told him that driver’s license restoration getting his license back was off the table, that the county prosecutor throws the book hard at anyone who blows a .08.

Dude’s a wreck. He has to go car-free until January and has no idea how to do it.  Naturally, he turned to me for help. He thought he could carpool with me or something.

I told him that I hardly ever use my car. In fact I only use it for trips that are more than 50 miles. I told him if he wanted my help, he was going to have to learn to live car-free. Readers, you should have seen his face. It was the same mixture of shock and terror that a kid gets when you tell him he has to eat liver for dinner or go to school on a Saturday.

To be fair, I couldn’t blame him — this is Florida, after all. It’s not built for car-free living. We have a lot of work ahead of us if we’re going to retrofit our cities to make them bikeable and walkable. Sprawl makes biking a daunting task. But it’s not impossible. I gave him my tips for going car free in Florida. And here they are:

  • Suck it up: Relying on a bike in Florida often means biking over long distances. Biking 30 or 40 miles in a day is a lot for people who aren’t used to biking. But the sooner you accept it and start pedaling, the better off you’ll be.
  • Ride a little slower: Yes, this means you’ll have to add extra time to your commute. But it also helps prevent you from being sweat-drenched once you reach your destination.
  • Get good gear: When you have to ride for long stretches, you need decent bike shorts. Bike shorts help prevent saddle sores, which are no fun at all — and common to people who ride a lot. Also, being that this is Florida, you will definitely want a good water bottle and a mounted bottle cage.
  • Get creative with routes: Ride around. Do test runs. Find the streets that you’re most comfortable biking on. Figure out how to connect to trails. Avoiding busy/dangerous roads might make your commute take longer, but it’s worth it to spend extra time, especially if you’re not confident in traffic.
  • Learn to love it: Car-free ain’t easy. If you want to make a go of it — especially in Jacksonville – you’re going to have to embrace everything about it.

As far as I can tell, my neighbor hasn’t started biking. I think he conned one of the other neighbors on our block into letting him hitch rides.

Gee. Do you suppose my tips for biking in Florida scared him off?


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