Orange Avenue Bridge over St Marks trail to be replaced in summer of 2014

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Orange Avenue Bridge over St Marks trail to be replaced in summer of 2014

Limited to 15 ton vehicles since May of this year, the bridge over the St Marks trail at Orange Avenue is in a bad enough state for an accelerated replacement. Not much of a surprise to those of us that ride under it:  the combination of wooden pilings and termite mounds doesn’t seem a good sign. As firetrucks now are forced to make a large detour, it also affects the emergency response times for some neighborhoods.

At the Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency board meeting Sept 16th, the Florida Department of Transportation proposed a very fast replacement with concrete block piling and prefabricated concrete slabs, during the 2014 school summer break, essentially aiming to get it done in 9 weeks starting June 2nd 2014. Both Orange Avenue and the St Marks trail will be closed during that time, and the trail probably being closed there from mid May to the beginning of September. The resurfacing of Orange Avenue that was planned for this fall will be postponed until next year.

The bridge design includes two 12′ traffic lanes, 4′ bike lanes, and a sidewalk on the south side. It will still stay a bridge. Proposals for eliminating the bridge with an at level crossing, a bicycle/pedestrian tunnel, or a bike-ped overpass had been eliminated already. The passage will be slightly more tunnel-like in comparison with the current configuration, as the passage under Orange Ave will be longer, narrower, and lower. In spite of that, with the addition of bikelanes on Orange, this is probably the best achievable outcome for cyclists. This part of the trail will be more heavily used in the future with the connection to the Capital Cascade Trail and the downtown area, and (hopefully) a connection to the FSU campus and the northern part of the St Marks trail to Ocala Rd. What is still missing is a way to get to the trail from Orange Avenue.            – Hans van Tol-

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Kids on Bikes: Planting Seeds for our Future

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Kids on Bikes: Planting Seeds for our Future

 

By: Edward Nabong

In 1972, Eddy Merckx set a world record at the time by riding 30.7 miles in one hour. In March of 2013, a young girl named her bike “Mustard” and fell over before she even rode 20 feet. Though there may not be any world champion cyclists in the Kids on Bikes program, it has been hugely rewarding to participate in. In my time working for Kids on Bikes, I’ve had the opportunity to teach children important cycling safety skills, and have hopefully helped to foster a love for sports and the outdoors by introducing them to cycling.

Some of my students do not have bicycles of their own at home and are thrilled every day they get to ride bikes at school. Many of these kids would have seen cycling as something others do, instead of a sport or mode of transportation that they could use. For all of the students, the most exciting part of the whole program is the 5th grade ride through the local neighborhood. The ability to spend time on bikes out of school and to see their community from a new perspective is a great was to help develop a passion for cycling.

Of course, the most important aspect of the Kids on Bikes program is to teach the students bicycle safety. It is always concerning to see cyclists around town without helmets, unable to signal and unaware of their surroundings. But because my students are proficient in bicycle safety, it is easier to feel confident in the student’s ability to navigate the streets safely. Recently I was lucky enough to see my effort truly pay off. I was on my way home from school, walking through my neighborhood when I noticed a child on a bike. This child was on the right side of the road, wearing a helmet, and paying attention to what she was doing. Just before she came to a turn, she looked behind her for cars. This is when I noticed that this child was one of my former students!

 

I am no teacher, but it is a truly satisfying experience to know that I was able to pass on a love of cycling. This program keeps kids safe when cycling, gets kids excited to exercise outside, plants the seeds for our future cycling communities, and is worth every minute of my time.

 


Edward Nabong was the 2013 Spring Kids on Bikes intern that taught the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program to 3rd-5th graders in Leon County Elementary School every day and  a FSU student that just graduated with a degree is Psychology and a member of the FSU Triathlon Club.

Learn more about the Kids on Bikes Program
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National Bike Month Calendar – Tallahassee

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Download the National Bike Month Calendar of Events (PDF)

National Bike Challenge Starting May 1st

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2013 National Bike Challenge Banner

Also this year the Leaque of American Bicyclists and Kimberley Clark are hostiing the National Bike Challenge, a fun program to get more people on the bike for both recreation and transportation. And as we would like to get more people peddling around Tallahassee, the Capital City Cyclists also have set up their own local website within the challenge. There are nice prices to win, and its great to see how you and your workplace or team is doing with respect to the rest of Tallahassee and the rest of the country. Just go to nationalbikechallenge.org and sign up.

The challenge runs from May to the end of September, and each month there are prices to win. The rules are simple, 20 point for each day you ride, and one point for each mile you ride. You can log your miles manually, or use your smartphone or Garmin GPS device to upload your rides. While all rides count towards points, miles, and calories burnt, miles you ride instead or using your car for transportation count towards dollars and CO2 saved. The Endomondo sports community is hosting the challenge on their website.

Those that participated last year had great fun with the challenge. Give it a try yourself and spread the word among you colleagues and friends! Go to www.nationalbikechallenge.org and sign up!

Tallahassee is Getting a “Bike Box”

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Tallahassee is Getting a “Bike Box”

CITY OF TALLAHASSEE NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2012

CONTACT:  Megan Doherty, Transportation Planning, 891-6400; or Misi Tuttle, Communications Department, 891-8533

Bike Box: Get Behind It

New Traffic Control Measure Aims to Protect Cyclists
 
Next week, the City of Tallahassee will install a new cyclist friendly traffic control measure on Call Street at the intersection of Call Street and Stadium Drive. Bike boxes will be installed at both the eastbound and westbound approaches.

 
The goal of a Bike Box is to create a safe location for cyclists on the road at intersections in an effort to prevent bike and car collisions. The life-saving benefits of awareness and safety for cyclists in our community is the driving force behind this project.

 
“Tallahassee is the first city in the Panhandle and one of the first cities in the state of Florida to install bike boxes,” said City Commissioner Mark Mustian, lead commissioner on cycling issues and co-creator of the new joint City-County Bicycling Workgroup. “As a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community, we continually strive to make our roads safer and our city more cyclist friendly. Both motorists and cyclists need to be aware of one another and share the road in a safe, responsible manner.”

 
The Bike Box is highly visible when installed. It consists of a green area with a white bicycle symbol inside placed between the white stop bar and the pedestrian crosswalk. Additionally, a portion of the existing bike lane leading up to the intersection is painted green with white bicycle symbols to indicate to motorists they are approaching an intersection with a Bike Box.

 
Bike boxes are easy to use for both cyclists and motorists. You can learn how quickly and easily by watching the City’s How Do I? video online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeLhfd15zhw. Whether you’re in a car or on a bike, we all have a responsibility to share the road.

 
Don’t have time to watch the video? Here’s the even shorter version:

  • If you are driving and come to an intersection with a Bike Box, all you need to do is stop behind the white line and be aware of any cyclists on the road. You cannot turn right on red at an intersection with a Bike Box, unless there is a designated right turn lane.
  • If you are riding, where you stop depends on which direction you wish to travel. For straight through travel or right turns, you can stay in the right side of the box or in the bike lane. For left turns, you move into the left side of the Bike Box in front of the left turn lane. Be sure to use proper hand signals to let motorists know where you are heading.

 

Statistical data from progressive, cycling friendly communities, like Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, show that bike boxes reduce the number of collisions between motorists turning right and cyclists going straight or turning right, better known as “right hook” collisions.

 

The Bike Box concept was introduced and supported by the cycling community during community meetings regarding Moving Tallahassee: Cars Optional plan, which was discussed with the community during the past year. The city plans to work with the cycling community to potentially identify other intersections for future locations of bike boxes.

 
The Bike Box will be installed overnight from Monday, October 29, to Tuesday, October 30. Work will take place from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. W. Call Street will be closed to through traffic. Eastbound traffic will be detoured at Conradi Street to Tennessee Street to Stadium Drive. Westbound traffic will be detoured at Murphee Street to Tennessee Street. Stadium Drive will remain open.

 
The Bike Box program is being coordinated by the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department and City of Tallahassee Public Works Department. For more information on bike boxes, please visit Talgov.com.

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Help Shape Florida’s Greenways and Trails Vision Tallahassee 9/12

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Help Shape Florida’s Greenways and Trails Vision Tallahassee 9/12

Help Shape Florida’s Greenways and Trails Vision

Provide input on the new Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is seeking your input regarding the new vision for the Florida Greenways and Trails System (FGTS). A new FGTS Plan is being developed to establish priorities and define the role of the FGTS in advancing Florida’s economy, tourism, health, alternative transportation, recreation, conservation and quality of life. This is the first new FGTS Plan since adoption of the original in 1999 by the Florida Legislature.

 

The draft Plan and Maps are now available for your comments on the Office of Greenways and Trails website. In addition, attend one of the open houses listed below to comment on the FGTS Plan, as well as the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) and the U.S. Forest Service’s Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) Route Designation.

 

Join us at one of these Open Houses

For more information about the FGTS Plan and Maps, contact Samantha Browne by email Samantha.Browne@dep.state.fl.us or phone at (850) 245-2052.

 

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Capital City Cyclists members help to improve Florida Driver’s Handbook

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Capital City Cyclists members help to improve Florida Driver’s Handbook

The new 2012 edition of the Florida Driver’s Handbook is here and we are happy to report that it brings with it added attention to bicyclists and pedestrians thanks to the work of local (Tallahassee) cyclists! Last year (2011) the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) had the handbook text reviewed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Safety Office, and in particular Dennis Scott, the (now retired) State Pedestrian/Bicycle Coordinator. He and his colleague Dwight Kingsbury made many useful edits, and they in turn provided the opportunity for several members of the Capital City Cyclists advocacy committee (Committee for a Bikeable Community) to make suggestions as well. To their great credit, the FDHSMV included all our suggestions in the final 2012 driver’s handbook!

 
So what changed? In many places throughout the Handbook motorists are asked to pay attention to bicycles and pedestrians. And this new version finally explains what sharrows (shared roadway markings) are – they have been present for years on several of our roadways, but the driver’s handbook had yet to mentioned them. The table below provides a nice statistical baseline on how awareness of bicycle and pedestrian information has increased significantly throughout the handbook:

 

Wordcount of Bicycle/Pedestrian related terms in 2011 and 2012 editions of the Florida Driver’s Handbook
2011 2012
Bicycle 28 40
Pedestrian 46 71
Cyclist 45 62
Sharrow 0 2
Bike lane 7 14

 

So what was specifically updated with regard to bicyclists? You can review our updates in the 2012 Florida Driver’s Handbook:

  • Section 5.17 – Bicyclists: Added Share the Road image and multiple text additions
  • Section 5.27 – Traffic Lanes: Added last sentence text on bicycle lanes
  • Section 6.5 – Pavement Markings: Added text and images for Bicycle Lanes and Sharrows

 

 
Per the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles website over 800,000 new drivers licenses are issued every year. By increasing awareness of bicycles and pedestrians in the drivers handbook, we will increase driver’s knowledge of traffic rules with regard to bicyclists and pedestrians on the road. Increased awareness leads to improved interactions between motorists and cyclists and a safer more enjoyable environment for us all.

 
With the success of this effort, we look forward to working with the FDHSMV and the FDOT in the future to continue an increase awareness of bicyclists within the Florida Driver’s Handbook. Great job Dennis, Dwight, Zach, and others!

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Tell your representatives not to eliminate federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects

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Sunset with cyclist

Sunset (by Jamie Brookland (AR), Alliance Photo Library)

You might be thinking “Again?”, but it is important to contact your representatives to preserve federal funding for bike and pedestrian transportation projects. We are still operating under the previous transportation act which expired in 2009, but has been extended many times as no agreement could be reached for a new plan. That is also the reason action was needed many times, especially this last year. Now House and Senate are negotiating a compromise from bills passed in both houses. The senate version preserves funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects under the Cardin-Cochran amendment, while the house version does away with most federal funding for bike-ped projects. Please follow the links below to contact your senators and representative. It is important and has proven to be effective !

The standard letter on the League of American Bicyclists action site talks mostly about popular support for bikeped projects and stresses also that the Cardin Cochran agreement enhances local government control with respect to requests for bicycle and pedestrian funding.

It might be helpful, especially for Sen Rubio and Rep Southerland, to add something concerning the economic benefit of investments in active transportation, e.g.:

  • Health care costs related to diabetes is now about 150 B$/year. Adding in other costs related to lack of physical activity like Cardio-vascular Deceases and Obesity we spend around 500B$/year (or 3% of GDP) in increased health care costs. This is about a factor of ten more than the federal transportation budget and 600 times more than investments in bike-ped facilities. A recent study for the upper midwest metropolitan areas (total population 31M) estimated that the costs savings related to reduced air-pollution and increased exercise by doing half of the short (<2.5 mile) trips by bicycle instead of the car would exceed 8 B$/year. Extrapolated to the rest of the country that corresponds to an amount larger than the transportation budget itself.
  • The North Carolina DOT estimated the ANNUAL economic impact of cyclists to be Nine time the ONE TIME cost to build bicycle facilities. The Annual income due to bicycle tourism is estimated to be 193 M$ in Colorado and 278 M$ in Wisconsin, many times the annual investment in bicycle facilities. In Florida the Pinellas trail was an economic engine for the local economies. Occupancy rates for private business in downtown Dunedin increased from 30% to 95% after establishment of the trail.
  • About 16% of household income goes towards transportation. Most of this money leaves the state, and a substantial part leaves the country. A increased use of alternative transportation means that more Florida income is spent locally.

Anyway, please contact your representatives, either by using the Take Action website of the League, or via the websites of the representatives themselves, (https://southerland.house.gov/index.cfm/email-me , http://billnelson.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm, http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact) or give their offices a call. It’s important!

Thank you !!

Another Extension – No Transportation Vision on Capitol Hill

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Another Extension – No Transportation Vision on Capitol Hill

The extensions to the transportation bill are getting shorter and shorter. We are now close to 1000 days of extension of the current highway bill. Typically these bills cover 5 years and have broad bipartisan support. This time the US Senate managed to produce a 2 year bill, so-called MAP-21. This bill was passed with the Cochran-Cardin amendment, which provided continued funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, after a lot of pressure from pedestrians and cyclists. The 5 year bill that was discussed in the House did not get sufficient support even within the GOP to bring it to a vote. This to the great relief of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, as this proposed bill really turned the clock back and provided money for not much else than building new roads. In this age of increasing gas prices, global warming, less miles driven, and an increasing demand for livability and transportation alternatives, that does not seem to make much sense. It is clear that there is a lack of vision with respect to our transportation system, at least at the political level. It does not help that federal gas taxes have not increased since 1993, as opposed to road building costs. Currently less than half of our road costs are paid for by gas taxes. In the absence of agreement on a new bill, the House passed another extension of the current transportation bill, this time for three months. This will enable the government to continue to collect gas taxes. Bicyclists advocacy organizations would rather have had the House vote for the bill that was passed in the Senate. Now the fight is dragging on. The representative if our region, Steve Southerland II, has so far not been very responsive to any urging of retaining funds for bicycles and pedestrians and the Safe Routes to School program (adding up to only 1.6% of current federal transportation spending) in the transportation bill. This in spite of it becoming more and more clear that  investment in bicycle and pedestrian facilities improve real-estate prices, create more jobs, attract tourism, and lead to more dollars spent within the state. Currently on average 16% of family budgets goes to transportation. Most of that money leaves the state, as Florida has no significant oil extraction industry, no oil refineries, and very little car manufacturing industry. Giving Floridians more transportation options means more money will be spent in Florida. This does not even take into account the reduced health care costs. Did you know that diabetes-related costs comprise about $150 Billion/year? This is about three times the federal transportation budget. Did you know that on average regular cyclists have a 20% lower risk of death than non-cyclists ?  This would be a good time to tell your representative that bicycle/pedestrian funding is important. Simply because it is good for Florida and for Floridians.

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Proposed House and Senate Transportation Bills Leave Cyclists by the Side of the Road

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Currently about 1.6% of federal transportation dollars is spent on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects ($2.16 per capita/year), even though walking and bicycling make up about 11% of our trips nationwide. Most of these projects are funded through the Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School programs, which are part of the current 5-year transportation bill. This bill has been extended for several years, as lawmakers have a hard time agreeing on a new bill. This year the House GOP finally drafted a new transportation bill (HB-7), but one that does kill both the transportation enhancements and the safe routes to school programs. A more complete list of reasons why this proposed bill is bad for cyclists can be found here.

 photo is by Frank Chan from San Francisco, CA and is curtesy of  the Alliance Photo Library

 

In our state bike and pedestrian fatalities make up about 20% of total traffic fatalities, and programs like Safe Routes to School are sorely needed. No wonder that organizations like the League of American Bicyclists, Rails-To-Trails, Bikes Belong, America Bikes, and the Alliance for Biking and Walking have asked their members to contact their representatives to protest against this proposed bill. It certainly looks like these calls have helped, as the proposed bill has been abandoned because of lack of support within the GOP.  However, this week the GOP is working hard on a new version which will probably be  a 1.5-2 year bill, and which will likely restore funding for transit, but not for biking and pedestrians.  Bicycling organizations are pushing hard to win votes for the bi-partisan Petri amendment, which aims to partially restore funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.  It is not clear whether the House will vote on the new bill before the extension of the new bill runs out the end of March.

 

In the Senate things are moving along a little faster, but the situation is not a lot better. Instead of federally mandated funding for bike/ped projects, it is left to the states how they want to spend the funds. Here bicycle organizations are strongly fighting for support of the Cardin Cochran amendment, which will shift spending priorities from the state level to the local MPOs. Local organizations (like our CRTPA)  tend to support bicycle-pedestrian projects to a much higher degree than the state.

 

Of course the main reason for the problems is due to the fact that gas taxes have not been raised for years, and they now make up only 2/3 of the proposed federal transportation spending. It seems, however, that nobody has the political courage to raise gas taxes at the moment. If only 10% of the non gas tax dollars would be spend on bike/ped projects we would do well. And of course, you don’t have to be a cyclists to want to spend on bicycle infrastructure. Bike/ped projects create 1.5-2 times more jobs per dollar than road projects, and the benefits in terms of reduced health care costs, reduced air pollution, increased real estate values provide a return of about $3 per for each $1 spend on bike/ped infrastructure projects.

So what can you do?  The most urgent thing is to ask senators Bill Nelson and especially Marco Rubio to support the Cardin-Cochran amendment. An easy way to do this is via the America Bikes website.  In the House the situation is less clear, but check back here for updates as the new draft bill becomes available.

 

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