Bike trails blooming in Gainesville
The future for bicycle transportation in Gainesville has never looked better, and now especially is the time for citizen activists to join in making this future a reality. Slow progress in winning over the State Department of Transportation has resulted in bike lanes being added to roadways when resurfacing is done. The rails to trails concept is delighting community after community, as anyone who has ridden any part of the new Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail Trail can attest. Many more bike racks are being added in the community and around the UF campus. And almost every time you see an RTS bus, there is at least one bike on board.
As an event held March 3 shows, these achievements are just a start on further bicycle-friendly projects. This workshop (called a "charette") used the talents of UF students in recreation and urban planning to take on different aspects of bicycle transportation. These teams' projects featured a number of design ideas for providing connections to the Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail Trail to the central part of Gainesville and expanded bike trails for Gainesville. For those who haven't noticed, the railroad tracks which paralleled 6th Street from NW 23rd Avenue south toward Depot Road have been removed. That will soon be a rail trail. The connecting trails are in motion, too, both to the Waldo Road bikeway and to the Gainesville-Hawthorne trail.
More ambitious is a proposal for an east west bicycle connector which will go across the UF campus from the bike trail at the SW 13th Street overpass west to Hull Road, north of the Performing Arts Center and west to a new connector road which will lighten the load on the horrible SW 20th Avenue area. That same bicycle link may also connect to the trail proposed for the southwest which will stretch south from NW 16th Avenue at Ring Park past the Loblolly Nature Center, and on to Lake Kanapaha along the Hogtown Creek Greenway. This project will provide a corridor accessible to bicycles, pedestrians, wheelchairs, and rollerblades without exhaust fumes, the sound of motors, or the danger that the mixing of speeding motor vehicles with slower, human-powered conveyances creates.
Citizen support of these initiatives at commission meetings is important. While the City Commission is bicycle-friendly, we're heading toward a crucial County Commission election in the fall, with a definite chance for getting a more bicycle-friendly (and ecologically sensible in general) commission elected--dumping incumbent Bobby Summers for more environmentally-friendly Dave Newport, and electing someone greener than incumbent Leveda Brown, who's stepping down.
The Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Board will have its next meeting on March 31. For info call 377-1728.
The Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (MTPO) meets March 19th at 1:30 and April 16th at 1:30 at the county building. For info call 955-2200.
Last month the Iguana ran an article about the monthly Critical Mass bike rides (held on the last Friday of the month beginning at UF's Plaza of the Americas at 5pm). A couple of bicycling enthusiasts expressed displeasure at the Iguana promoting this "illegal" activity which they felt could jeopardize the good will the cycling community has been working so hard to develop. Well, having taken part in the last ride at the end of February, I found the spirit positive, and lots of favorable response from cars, too. The Critical Mass riders who covered about five or six miles that afternoon, rather than making enemies, communicated the simple message that "We're not blocking traffic--we are traffic."
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