BikeTallahassee.com

When your city and county go together to launch a pro-cycling Web site, you know something is right with the world.

So it is in Tallahassee and Leon County … and the new BikeTallahassee.com. The Web site is designed to show cyclists (and pedestrians, too) good options for travel.

This is excellent work by the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department and by the Tallahassee-Leon County Geographic Information Systems staff, which put together an interactive map of all cycling facilities now in existence.

Thanks to all who had a hand in this effort. Give it a look — http://biketallahassee.com/.

The art of the possible — Portland, Oregon, shows what Tallahassee could do

Portland, Oregon, has a good head start on other cities when it comes to managing its grid of streets and roads for the use of bicycle commuters.

But Portland has not done the impossible — our town, Tallahassee, Florida, could do the same, and the Committee for a Bikeable Community is committed to helping Tallahassee and Leon County take the right steps in this direction.

Here’s a video that gives a good look at what Portland has accomplished.

Portland’s Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways

We could do this, and we can take advantage of the two decades of development, successes and errors that Portland has gone through.

Think of this video, and what it demonstrates, as a shortcut to Tallahassee’s Bikeable future.

3 Feet, Please — the No. 1 advocate

Joe Mizereck of Tallahassee is the leader is raising awareness about Florida’s law on the minimum — 3 Feet — drivers must give cyclists when passing.

First with his 3 Feet Please jerseys, then with his backpacks and Web site and now with his 3 Feet Please bumper stickers and PLEASE LOOK mirror stickers, Mizereck has done more than anyone to educate drivers about this responsibility.

Good thing — because the State of Florida passed the law and quickly forgot all about it — there has been no effort of any kind to make this law known, and no enforcement.

It falls to the cycling community to do this — and Joe Mizereck has done more than anyone.

Joe Mizereck and Amber McKee, the campaign coordinator for 3 Feet Please, tell members of the Leon County Commission of the need to get the word out about Florida’s 3 Feet law.

Joe’s latest work — an appearance before the Leon County Commission this week, explaining the 3 Feet Please law and his effort and requesting that Leon County put 3 Feet Please bumper stickers and PLEASE LOOK mirror stickers on all county vehicles.

Joe offered to provide the stickers for free — and he will do the same for any private company that has a vehicle fleet.

His request was well-received, and he expects to get the go-ahead from Leon County soon.

Hey, Joe — excellent work!

Visit Joe’s Web site at http://www.3feetplease.com/.

Lake Ella to Tallahassee Community College — exploring the options

By Dr. Joe Barnett — November 2, 2010

Tharpe Street and its bike lanes — a nice connector from Monroe Street to Ocala Road.

A couple riding across the United States recently complained that they found Tallahassee to be very difficult to bicycle through. Really?

With that in mind, three long-time bicycle commuters — Roger Holdener, Bill Edmonds and I — met Monday at Joe’s Bicycle Shop on Lake Ella.  From this central location, we planned our “exploration” to find a safe bicycle passage west to Tallahassee Community College and back to Lake Ella.

First we headed across Monroe Street, which has five busy lanes of traffic and no bike lanes. We have heard plans are to provide a badly needed pedestrian-controlled light. We made it across to the left turn lane and entered the very large parking lot of the Publix shopping center. Few drivers there use turn signals but usually are driving slow.  We exited right onto Martin Luther King Blvd for a short ride to Tharpe Street.  One driver did block “our” bike lane waiting for a light.

We turned left on to Tharpe, which surprised me with very nice bike lanes. We stopped for a short repair at Milano’s Pizzeria. We passed two school ball fields, Godby High School, a few restaurants and mostly residential community. We crossed Old Bainbridge Road, then High Road, where a long line of cars was in the right turn lane. I counted two of seven drivers using turn signals. I was surprised and pleased there were many big live oaks along this good bicycle road for shade and beauty.

At Ocala Road, the bike lanes on Tharpe ended and the lanes narrowed as they climbed a big hill, and drivers were traveling fast — all this made it dangerous to continue on Tharpe, the most direct route.

So, we turned left onto Ocala Road, which had nice bike lanes and smooth pavement.  There were some hills and a closed entrance to Mission San Luis.  We debated contacting the Florida Park Service for possible opening of this closed entrance (the old Mission Road) to cyclists as a safe way further west.  A block further, the Ocala Road bike lane ended near Tennessee Street.

There is an old off road bike path or wide sidewalk running along Tennessee. But every one of the many driveways made it too bumpy for road bicycles. Near White Street, I just missed being injured by a car turning left from Tennessee.  The walk sign was flashing but the driver gave me a look like it was my fault.

Later, we spoke with a Tallahassee Community College student from Fort Lauderdale. He said it was too dangerous to use the crosswalks, and he, too, was almost “clobbered” once.  We all agreed sidewalks should not be recommended for cycling, unless there are no crossing roads or driveways. Tharpe Street eventually had five lanes on our side of the road going west.

We saw the signs to TCC, so we crossed Appleyard Drive and waited for the light to cross scary-wide Tennessee going south.  Four- to six-lane Appleyard had bike lanes. Most bicyclists feel bike lanes are the safest situation for commuting. Cars respect the bike lane most of the time. And cars leaving side roads and driveways are much more likely to stop for us than when on sidewalks. We do have to watch our mirrors for cell-phone drifters, drivers blocking the bike lane at intersections and drivers passing us then turning right into us. Cyclists must always be alert.

We saw lots of students bicycling. Most were not wearing helmets and several were listening to iPods through ear buds — can’t hear traffic that way. And many rode on the sidewalk against traffic, all of which all considered dangerous. One student practicing all three unsafe habits said he’d never had any close calls. Then we turned back east onto Pensacola.

Pensacola was a busy stretch. The speed was listed 45 mph. There were no bike lanes. We tried the sidewalk but it was too narrow and bumpy.  We tried riding on the street but quickly were yelled at by a young couple who told us to get off the road.  There were many shops and exiting drivers to be wary of.

So we turned right onto Ocala Road for a short ride to residential and two-laned Belle Vue, where we again headed east. Belle Vue was pretty with shade trees but poorly maintained, no shoulders, significant traffic and faster drivers than expected.   At Hayden, we turned left, which led us to an underpass tunnel to the Florida State University’s Doak Campbell Stadium and planned end of the St Marks Trail.

Jackson Bluff Road — is there room for bike lanes? Appears so.

From Stadium Drive we took Hendry Street, a short link to Jackson Bluff Road. We saw lots of students bicycling and walking in the area.  I watched a student take a risky move to cross Jackson Bluff by running between two cars that refused to slow down.  Jackson Bluff had sharrows, Share the Road signs and wide outside lanes. It is a good candidate for an east-west route from Florida State to TCC, once it has bike lanes and other safety improvements. This connector is in great need, especially for students, and will be an important asset to Tallahassee’s safe cycling routes.

We turned back north onto Lake Bradford Road near the stadium.  We passed numerous old and new businesses, as we rode West St. Augustine Street, South Woodward Avenue and West Madison Street to cross Railroad Avenue. Past the Civic Center, at the newly revitalized Doug Barnett Park, we turned north onto South Boulevard Street, which quickly named-changed to Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Cyclists should keep MLK in mind — this was a nice neighborhood street with lots of great shade trees and brick intersections, all in sight of our city’s trademark state buildings, with little traffic, and what was there was traveling at slow speed. Excellent!

MLK dead-ended at Oakland Cemetery. We chose to take a short cut through the peaceful and pleasant burial ground, which would be worth revisiting sometime. At the other side of Oakland Cemetery we regained MLK and continued to 10th Avenue, which quickly turned us back to the Publix parking lot near Lake Ella. Some fast work across busy North Monroe and we completed our 13-mile exploration from Lake Ella to Tallahassee Community College and back.

Over refreshments at the Black Dog Café, we considered what we’d found.

Things we liked:

  • Tharpe Street and Ocala Road their bike lanes.
  • Smooth pavement.
  • Shade trees.
  • Safe drivers.
  • Drivers who used their signals.

Things we didn’t like:

  • Fast roads without shoulders or bike lanes.
  • Disappearing bike lanes.
  • Making many detours to get to TCC and back.
  • Inattentive drivers.
  • Bumpy roads.
  • Drivers on cell phones (some texting!).

Conclusions:

  • Bike lanes work.
  • Tallahassee and Leon County should put bike lanes everywhere possible.
  • Tallahassee and Leon County need to connect the dots — fill in the stretches that have no bike lanes.

Tallahassee has beautiful neighborhoods. They are not very far to get to but completing safe biked routes is critical. We rode a lot out of our way to make it to TCC and back.

Intersections can be trouble, especially if using a sidewalk. Many drivers fail to look or respect people in crosswalks.

Students could save a LOT of money if they could safely use bicycles instead of cars (saving $7,000+/year, says AAA).  Tourists may “flock” to Tallahassee if we make our town a bicycle destination.

A Canadian race team scouted our area several years ago but concluded the drivers were hostile. We don’t agree, but we see the need for greater traffic enforcement and education of drivers on how to safely negotiate an environment of commuters on bikes, on foot, on buses and in trucks and autos.

Sharrows — a nice addition to Miccosukee Road; and some perspective from Dave Moulton


Sharrows are something new — the first ones were laid down on a street in San Francisco in 2004, and most communities have yet to adopt them. There are only a few in Tallahassee — on Call Street downtown, on Killarney Way in Killearn Estates, on Velda Dairy Road, on Jackson Bluff Road and now on Miccosukee Road, by Kate Sullivan Elementary (that’s the school across the street).

Sharrows are designed to communicate. They tell cyclists where they should position themselves on the roadway (although in this case, maybe not — kind of close to the door zone). More importantly, they tell drivers to expect cyclists to be riding big in the lane.

Sharrows are cheaper to put down than bike lanes, and easier to accomplish — very little engineering required. In a situation similar to this one, where the road is wide and the traffic slow (there are three schools within the same block) sharrows work well, and a bike lane would be overkill.

The Committee for a Bikeable Community hopes to see more sharrows in Tallahassee and Leon County, to help drivers come to understand what “Share the Road” really means.

Good work by the Leon County public works staff.  The placement of these sharrows make Miccosukee Road a better place for cyclists and help drivers accommodate other road users.

So share the love of sharrows with the Leon County Commission HERE.

December 12, 2010

Dave Moulton used to weld frames, and some fine ones, too. Now he blogs on cycling from his home in South Carolina (a long way from his native grounds in the U.K.).

Here’s an excerpt from his latest post, on sharrows:

“Bike lanes are a good idea on roads leading into a city center, where automobile speeds are high, and there are no parked cars.

But once you get into a business district where there are parked cars, speed limits need to be lowered and enforced, and cyclists’ sharing the lane is, in my opinion, safer.”

Read more at Dave’s page, http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/.

Finding room for cyclists —a redesign of Tallahassee’s West Tennessee Street

Welcome to West Tennessee Street — a most unfriendly environment for cyclists — but that could soon change.

The Tallahassee City Commission recently approved a plan to take the outside lanes and convert them to bus-and-bike lanes.

This is a pilot project, and there are still a few hoops the plan must hop through before this becomes a reality early next year. It has a lot of promise, and is a good sign that the planning department, the city staff and the city’s leadership have the right idea about our community’s multimodal traffic future.

West Tennessee Street is busy, but not so busy that requires six lanes of traffic, which is what it has between North Monroe Street and Ocala Road. This is the stretch that will, under this pilot project, be transformed to four lanes of auto and truck traffic — that’s plenty — and two lanes of bus-and-bike travel.

This is an excellent test case. West Tennessee Street, for a mile or so, runs through part of the campus of Florida State University. Plus, it is the bar-and-burger center for students, so there is a lot of foot traffic. A tough cross, with six lanes. The 4-plus-2 redesign should make life less hazardous for pedestrians.

It also is a danger zone for cyclists. As the photo above shows, the lanes are narrow — you can’t share a lane. There just isn’t room. That makes drivers testy if they get behind a cyclist (even though there are plenty of other lanes for drivers to use). It is, in many ways, a downright ugly stretch. Not recommended, even for experienced bicycle commuters.

Yet it serves a very large — 40,000 — student community of Florida State University, as well as faculty and staff and others who could cycle, and perhaps would cycle, West Tennessee if conditions were different.

Well, conditions will soon be different — a huge improvement.

One big question is how a bus-and-bike lane will work. Can they share a lane? Well, they have to share a lane now, whenever an ambitious cyclists ventures out on the road. So it can only be better than what’s in place now. And though this is something new to Tallahassee, it works in other communities. Will it work here? We’ll have to see — that’s why this is a pilot project.

Let the Tallahassee City Commission know of your support. Send an e-mail to the mayor and commissioners HERE.

Bikeable — for a community that rides

 

Bikeable encourages citizens and their communities to create policies and build infrastructure that fosters cycling as transportation — a way to get to work, a way to go to the store, a way to enjoy a better life.

We are based in Tallahassee, Florida — the capital of the Sunshine State, and a good place to ride and use your bicycle. Our goal is to take our city beyond good to great.

We are developing bike routes and other changes, and we are building relationships with elected officials, community leaders and transportation planners to put improvements in place.