Friday, October 10, 2008

City Cycle visit

Drew at City Cycle sent an email to our mayor asking for additional resources to be put toward bicycle network construction and a general increased promotion of bikes in these times of high gas prices. Even Jacksonville has seen an increase in the number of commuters who use bikes to get to their destination, an almost unheard of turn of events in a town in love with its King Ranch F350 Powerstrokes.

I took it upon myself to stop by to talk to Drew personally about the state of Bike Ped stuff. Drew had a couple very good ideas, and we brandied them about over vintage Deore LX cantilevers and old chain rings for about an hour and a half, and I think we can work some of his ideas and current efforts as a shop owner into the evolving grand scheme for Jacksonville's bike future. I let him know some of the things that I see as the next big steps for Jacksonville in our quest to truly become more bike friendly.

We need consolidation of effort from the stakeholders in the policy decision process. Each agency related to transportation and development seems to have their own master plan or model, and I'm not sure that the individual arms and legs of this beast know what the other limbs are doing. Teamwork in Policy is a good thing. Good work is all around, and we need to tell each other about it.

We need to recognize our strengths and successes and feel rejuvenated in our efforts to get to what we as cyclists would like or city to be. Jacksonville has a bit of an inferiority complex. We have a hard time getting past the nasty intersections that sit right at the start of our own commutes, and seeing the successes around our city and metropolitan area that are very real. Multiple Recreation paths coming on line in the last 5 or so years, additional links on the board for the near future, and policies in effect for requiring additional bike lanes to be added to new road projects and reconstruction projects where right-of-way changes are necessary. I think we get distracted by the 840 square miles and miss the seemingly diluted successes which are so much more readily apparent to cities not working under the designs of consolidated government.

We need people. Jacksonville has a good many cyclists, and there is a reasonably big bike club, but the inactivity of the residents in the processes of government as a whole (admittedly, an issue in many communities across the country) is a liability to promoting increased bike use and facility construction. At our Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, we've struggled for the 8 years I've been involved in the organization, to get and keep people interested in assisting in general manpower issues related to initiatives for improvement. Folks just can't seem to get to a meeting after work. Much like my mom who struggled when I was a kid to get me to little league on time on a work night...people who work for a living have a hard time finding the time to volunteer. I get it, and I know its real, but people have to get more involved, and they need to stay involved for a period of a few years to keep the ball of change rolling. Volunteers expect to have an opportunity to change the city in a meeting or two, but real change takes two years or more of pressing an issue, not two months.

From an existing facility perspective, we as Planners need to understand our city better. The data sets for existing sidewalks and bike lanes need to be more accurate, such that they can be used to truly project and identify immediate needs for additional pedestrian links. We've had the mandatory bike lane policy on the books for a good long time, and now its time to get an accurate picture of where the existing is, and where the future connections need to be.

That's it! Seems simple enough. Now I'm off to clone myself 3 times and petition God to add an 8th and 9th day to the week. Whew! Get busy people!

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