Speak Up for People Who Bike, Walk

The Florida Department of Transportation’s attack on active transportation funding demands a strong response from all of us.

The South Florida Bike Coalition and partners ask you to write a letter to Congressman John Mica of Florida’s 7th District who is also Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. E-mail it, Fax it, Post it; Call his DC or District Offices; Tell your friends, write a letter to your editor of your local paper; Blog about this. But please, tell Congress that the most dangerous state for walking or bicycling in the Country needs more sidewalks and bike facilities, not less. Here’s our letter Continue reading

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New Face of FDOT Officially Anti-Bike Funding

The Florida Department of Transportation isn’t just anti-bicycling and walking road safety programs in Florida, they are against funding them anywhere.

On March 14, just days after bicycling advocates went to Congress asking them to not cut funding for bicycling programs (Bike Coalition Director and members among over 20 others from Florida, 600 countrywide) the State of Florida sent its own representative to tell Congress to do just the opposite.

Ananth Prasad, FDOT

Mr. Ananth Prasad is one of the three candidates up for Governor Rick Scott’s consideration as the new State Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation. He currently holds the title of Assistant Secretary for Engineering & Operations, making him the only ‘in-house’ option. (The other two are Gordon Goodin, owner of Bayside Development, and Thomas Conrecode, VP at Collier Enterprise).

Mr. Prasad spoke on behalf of FDOT/ Governor Scott’s interests at a special hearing before the United States House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The Committee, chaired by Florida’s own Rep. John Mica, is drafting a new transportation bill and thus seeking input from stakeholders across the country. What did our own FDOT representative say? Read the full text of his speech here[PDF].

Some of the items Prasad touched on were clearly positive for Florida, such as his request for more transportation money for Florida, a ‘donor’ state that sends out more gas tax money than it gets back from the federal government. He called for increased investment in public-private partnerships , citing the I-595 Express project and the Port of Miami Tunnel as examples. While that may support Rick Scott’s call for more private sector jobs, there was no mention of the innovative public-private partnerships that would have come about from High Speed Rail or bikeshare.

Other requests clearly reflected Governor Scott’s agenda. Prasad supported Scott’s push for fewer regulations by calling for removal of some regulations that he called unnecessary for Florida and by requesting that states be allowed to skip the federal environmental review process and substitute their own. In the midst of calling for a reduction in the number of federal transportation programs, Prasad proclaimed:

We must give serious consideration to whether—when resources and dollars are at a premium—spending money on sidewalks, bike trails, beautification, and other projects like this is the most prudent use of taxpayer money.

Wow. Forget about the “Complete Streets” mandate embedded in Florida Statute that FDOT has to include pedestrian and bicycle facilities into their projects. Nevermind that new bicycling facilities create twice as many jobs as standard road repair work and make streets safer for ALL road users.The way to fuel the economy, according to FDOT, is to move cars faster:

“The faster we can move people and goods to their destination, the faster our economy will grow … We must be viligent to ensure that we invest only where taxpayers’ money will be put to use on critically-needed projects that will ultimately grow our economy.”

Prasad’s message is clear: Times are tough, so let’s forget about multimodal transportation and focus on automobile capacity. Congress needs to be reminded that as gas prices head toward $4 for the second time in three years, more people are choosing to bike or walk. This makes it critical to invest transportation dollars in safer roads for everyone, rather than just faster highways. (You will remember that FDOT considers Miami’s densest residential street and it’s busiest downtown avenue, highways.)

Florida: we cannot build our way out of congestion. We need a versatile transportation system that embraces intercity rail, urban transit, bicycling, and walking as well as the currently privileged modes.

If we can put aside the political agendas and focus on effective investment, we would see that non-highway options, like high speed rail and bikeshare, provide what Prasad says DOTs want: public-private partnerships. The Tampa-Orlando high speed rail was expected to turn a $10.2 million profit, a lucrative opportunity for private investment in infrastructure. DecoBike, a private enterprise which seems to have gotten off to a good start, has not cost the city of Miami Beach a dime and is even sharing revenue with them. B-Cycle‘s proposed system for Broward County won’t cost taxpayers any money once it’s up and running, and their business model depends on turning a profit from the system as well. FDOT is already involved in this public-private partnership, fronting the capital through a grant to the county, then leaving the private vendor to run the system. Florida can support systems such as these by providing both capital investment to get the systems started and by providing proper infrastructure to encourage more system users. Check out the Sun-Sentinel article for more details on both programs.

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Your Members of Congress, Governor Scott, FDOT need to hear from you that you want cost-effective solutions to Florida’s #1 ranking as the Country’s most dangerous place to walk or ride a bicycle.

Also: Please take a moment to contact Rep. Mica — his staff on transportation — or his office via phone at (202) 225-4035. Let him know that you want Complete Streets in the next transportation bill and that you support federal mandates that ensure investments in our roads will make them safer and better for EVERYone, whether they travel by bicycle, train, bus, car, truck or on foot.

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This will be a cross-post with our member blog, TransitMiami.com

1,000 Miami Residents for Safer Streets?

Today, tell FDOT that you deserve safer streets where you live and do business.

Brickell Avenue, one of Florida’s premier residential and business streets, will soon be upgraded as a priority project of the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT can make this street safer and they need to know that this is YOUR priority.

The South Florida Bike Coalition joins our neighbors on Brickell in asking for a speed limit that reflects the character and the reality of life in Downtown Miami. Sign your name today and we will deliver this letter to FDOT District Secretary Gus Pego a week from today (Monday, September 20th). Leave your name in the comment section or email us (Subject- FDOT letter).

Dear Gus Pego,

As people who live, work and play in the Brickell Corridor of the City of Miami, we are passionate about this place and we would like you to consider how important the Avenue is as you consider its speed limit in the FDOT Redesign project, currently scheduled to break ground in 2011.

As you know, most residential and business streets in the State of Florida enjoy speed limits between 20-30mph. We are more than 29,000 people – families and professionals who live along Brickell – and we walk to Mary Brickell Village, Simpson Park, our waterfront and Downtown from our homes along streets with traffic moving well over a posted speed of 40mph.

I-95 serves those (including ourselves, when we need it) who wish to get through our neighborhood quickly.  The speed limit on Brickell Avenue should be no more than 25mph.

We hope you will agree that we deserve safer streets because you can make this happen. We deserve more crosswalks, a residential/business area speed limit and consistent law enforcement practices that make walking an inviting activity rather than an extreme sport.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing how FDOT will help our community be a safer place to live, work and visit.

The South Florida Bike Coalition

TransitMiami.com Editorial Staff

Green Mobility Network

Brickell Homeowner’s Association (representing thousands of residents in over 31 condominiums)

_____your name here_______

Cyclefest: An Official City Event?

The South Florida Bike Coalition wants to bring back Cyclefest a free, family-friendly festival of bicycling to the City of West Palm Beach – and we think the city should join us as a hosting partner, co-planner and co-producer. The volunteer planning team already includes local icons (Jack the Bike Man), multiple local business representatives and individuals. We have received support from the Downtown Development Authority and interest from the Mayor herself, Mayor Lois J. Frankel.

Today, we’re asking you to take a minute and email Mayor Lois Frankel, let her know you think the City would do a great service to our community and the city’s world class reputation by bringing back Cyclefest. We will be meeting with the Mayor this week and we want her to understand the full support that bicycling and free, family-friendly events enjoy in our communities. We don’t just want the City of West Palm Beach to let us bring back Cyclefest; we want Mayor Frankel and her administration to make sure that Cyclefest returns to stay!

E-mail: lfrankel@wpb.org

Here’s some inspiration in writing your email to Mayor Frankel (lfrankel@wpb.org)

Dear Mayor Frankel,

My name is ___ and I’m a lifelong/2 year/new resident of South Florida/Palm Beach County/West Palm Beach. I am writing to you today to ask you for your support of bicycling and Cyclefest 2011.

Riding bicycles is a great way to spend time with family, be healthy and get around any city. It’s fun, good for the environment and positive for the community. The South Florida Bike Coalition, Jack the Bike Man and the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority are just some of the local non profit groups working to bring back the International bicycle festival known as Cyclefest to the City of West Palm Beach. Cyclefest would bring thousands of local as well as people from around the world to celebrate West Palm Beach by bicycle. It would be completely FREE, entirely family-friendly and 100% positive for local business and the international reputation of your city.

The truth is, Cyclefest could go to any city so I am asking you to help us bring Cyclefest to West Palm Beach by supporting it as an official City event. I think this is a special opportunity to bring our community together and make a sustainable impact on our future. I support Cyclefest and I hope you will consider supporting it as Mayor.

Thank you.

J. Doe, family man/business owner/bicycle commuter/PTA member…

We hope you’ll take a moment to send a quick email to the Mayor and that you‘ll consider supporting Cyclefest through Facebook, events like last Friday and perhaps by joining our volunteer planning committee, as well.

If you want to bring an event like this to your city, the South Florida Bike Coalition can help with that, too. We are helping to bring back Bike Miami Days on October 10th, 2010 (and again in November, stay tuned); we are meeting with leaders in Broward regularly to plan a ciclovia connecting their Downtowns and we are open to your suggestions. No matter where you love to ride, we hope you’ll support Cyclefest 2011 for West Palm Beach. This will be a 3-day event of everything bicycle – bike rodeos and professional criterium races, vintage bicycle shows and a freak bike parade, bicycle design contests and much more. We think it will inspire support from cities across our region for improving and promoting bicycling.

Thank you!

FL Active Transportation Funds on the Chopping Block

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is leading the response to FDOT’s decisions to disproportionately cut nearly $25million in Transportation Enhancement dollars from their budget in a response to a federal mandate to spend less. We understand that this is a rough time for government agencies and, well, everyone’s budgets – but while TE and other bicycle/walking project money represents less than 3% of Florida’s transportation budget, FDOT wants to take almost 22% of their budget cuts from where we need it most. The South Florida Bike Coalition believes the the State of Florida should be spending more money to promote active transportation, not less.
SFBC joins Rails-to-Trails, the Florida Bicycle Association and local partners in asking you to defend our state funding for bicycling and other active transportation projects. Take a moment to reach out to the policymakers who can keep our planned bicycle and pedestrian projects off the chopping block.
You can email Governor Crist, candidates Alex Sink and Rick Scott, Florida State Transportation Development Administrator Brad Thoburn and FDOT Assistant Secretary for Intermodal Systems Development Debbie Hunt all at once through the Rails-to-Trails website or individually by clicking on their names.
A few things to know:
  1. Transportation Enhancements are federally funded and require investment in projects that expand mobilitiy options.
  2. Together with the Recreational Trail Program (RTP), they represent LESS than 3% of Florida’s transportation budget but are now facing MORE than 21% of cuts.
  3. Active transportation projects SAVE Floridians money, EMPOWER those who do not drive (for choice/age/cost or other reasons), improves SAFETY by relieving traffic congestion, increasing ‘eyes on the street’ and providing better facilities for all road users.
What we are asking our policymakers:
“Please direct FDOT to meet Florida’s critical unmet needs for safe and convenient active transportation and trail facilities by fully obligating TE and RTP funds each year, and compensating for past neglect by using funding flexibility to shift additional funds into these programs over time.”
Bottom Line:
We want you (Governor/Candidate/FDOT leader) to protect Floridians who walk, bicycle and use our trails.

Share the Road: Truck Driver Stabs Cyclists in Jacksonville

A weekend group ride in Jacksonville, Florida ended with three men in the hospital after a motorist got out of his truck and stabbed two cyclists finishing up their regular route. The aggravated assault has sent shock waves through the American bicycling community, inciting fear, anger, exasperation and calls for a strong, unified response to the special kind of road rage that cyclists face. Since it occurred on a college campus, it has been covered by national media, as well. Our friends at zMotion have already reached out to media in Jacksonville with information about their Right Ride/ Drive Right campaign.

Clearly, there is a need for motorist/cyclist civility. Because of the literal assault that took place, this incident does not call for specific cyclist-safety laws, or does it? If it was against the law to hit a cyclist even if it were the cyclist’s fault, as in Scotland, would the driver have just driven off? What was the man doing with a knife in hand, anyway? Where does all of this road rage come from?

As advocates for better, safer bicycling, it is our responsibility to talk about what happened. I urge you to share the Right Right/Drive Right PSA with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, through email and just in everyday conversation. One of the many reasons that the State of Florida has a ‘3 feet law’ is to prevent this physical contact that leads to these sorts of events. Here at the South Florida Bike Coalition, we are considering our next steps in response. We are eager to support a ride hosted by any of the clubs or fellow organizations in our counties because we remain true to our goal of empowering bicyclists to take action and encouraging our communities to advocate together as one.

Email us at SFBikeCoalition@yahoo.com – we’ll keep you updated here.

Floridian’s Rights to the Road In Doubt? *Urgent Action Alert*

HB971: Could Make Safe Cycling Illegal!?

Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere are up in arms about Florida State House Bill 971, the “Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Bill“, for a little, last-minute added reference to bike lanes that seemed to come out of nowhere. The bill also has the potential of taking sidewalks away from pedestrians. What’s the story?

Today and Every Day?

HB 917 HB 971* includes a mandatory provision that requires bicyclists to use a bike lane when present, except under certain conditions. In reality, that is pretty much what we are required to do now. People on bikes (any vehicles, really) have to stay as far to the right as ‘practicable’. It’s about civility and traffic flow- let faster moving traffic pass. However, what cars don’t see and rarely consider, is that a person on a bicycle riding to the right has to contend with broken glass, poorly designed drainage, potholes and other road hazards. If you ride too far to the right, you increase the risk that a motorist won’t see you or will clip you when making a right turn. Riding in a bike lane is all well and good when conditions make it safe and convenient and I agree that a person on a bike should use them when it makes sense – but what happens when it doesn’t? The new provision under HB 971 says that we ‘must’ use the bike lane unless we are making a left at an intersection. So… are we supposed to make a left from the right-most lane? And what about roadways where bike lanes come and go, dissolve into ‘undesignated shoulders’ or disappear altogether. The language of HB 971 puts fear in any bicyclist’s heart – by rewriting our rights to the road, the Florida state legislature begs us to ask, what is next? Also, the bill would allow cities to force golf carts onto sidewalks. What!? Yes, people driving golf carts up to 15mph would be told to ride on the sidewalk or bike path. Where are people supposed to walk? And if traffic is moving on sidewalks at 15mph, what does that mean for those of us who ride in the road at under 15mph?

The South Florida Bike Coalition joins the Florida Bicycle Association in asking you to call Governor Crist (850.488.7146) and urge him to veto HB971, the ‘Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles Bill”. It’s bad for people who walk and could be even worse for those who bicycle.

We need all of our voices united on this. The bill could still pass – it is filled with other legislation that is fine and not in conflict to road safety – but we need you to tell the Governor and everyone in Tallahassee that we will not accept legislation that actually makes Florida’s roads less safe. Governor Crist does not have the right of a line-item veto, but even if he signs this bill, his office can direct changes that are positive for all of us. That said, what are you waiting for? Please call now!

Where is the room for a golf cart?!

* Our thanks to reader Joseph Abromowitz for correcting my typo! Have you called/emailed today?