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Posted by on Nov 21, 2008 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

Oh Mount Dora! Why?

I love cycling in Mount Dora. It’s a wonderful, sleepy town with shady, quiet streets and rolling hills. It’s a great destination for a day ride because the downtown offers a number of nice places to have coffee, pastries or brunch. In fact, the easiest part of cycling to Mount Dora is cycling IN Mount Dora… especially if you enjoy riding slow and taking in the scenery. But apparently, what makes the cycling so easy is lost on the city council.

From the Orlando Sentinel: Trail moves closer to reality

“MOUNT DORA – City leaders this week agreed to hire an engineering firm to draw up plans for a proposed recreational trail running along Lincoln Avenue, linking Mount Dora’s sports complex to Tremain Street.”

It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to build segregated infrastructure in a quiet little hamlet.

This is Lincoln Ave. First of all, why is this street not adequate for riding a bike? Second, look at all the parallel streets in the grid. Mount Dora has a wonderfully bike-friendly grid of quiet, residential streets providing numerous options for someone to ride around town on a bicycle. Building separated facilities in such an easily bike-able environment is not only a waste of public resources, it sends a message that bicycles are not vehicles with an equal right to the road. It encourages the corrosive expectation that cyclists should be out of the way. It fosters the incorrect belief that cyclists are safer on sidepaths/sidewalks —  they are not. It creates dependency on a limited network of unnecessary infrastructure when, for a lot less money, we could empower cyclists by helping them learn how easy it is to share the road with other vehicles.

Children can be taught the skills to ride safely on residential roads. And when we don’t teach our children these skills, we leave them without the ability to use a bike safely as they grow up. I know this sounds harsh, but that is why we have an adult population of incompetent cyclists in this country — riding the wrong way, skimming parked cars and curbs, swooping across from the right edge of the road to make left turns, cutting bizarre and unpredictable patterns across streets and parking lots, etc. If we were able to eliminate unsafe behavior through education, the bicycle crash rates would decrease to the point where no one could deny cycling is the safest mode of transportation! It is these behaviors that tip the scales and make cycling appear dangerous.

The article does have a piece of good news about proposed infrastructure:

“City officials also want to see a paved recreational trail heading across U.S. Highway 441 from downtown Mount Dora, running along the State Road 46 corridor and eventually linking with the Seminole-Wekiva Trail, just west of Sanford.”

This would be a good use of resources! SR 46 is a horrible road to ride on. It has a shoulder, but the traffic speeds are often in excess of 65mph. There is nothing pleasant about being buffeted by speeding trucks. Only the hard-core are willing to tolerate it (and they don’t stop for lunch because their legs might get cold). Many of us use Wolf Branch to avoid 46, but it can also be a hellhole of intolerant, speeding motorists. A trail would be a nice way to bring cyclists from the northern Orlando Metro area into Mount Dora for lunch or shopping… even the street festivals.

Be smart! Spend money on things that really benefit cyclists and the community. Don’t just throw it mindlessly at gratuitous facilities where superior options already exist.

Help people get into town by offering an alternative to the high-speed state highways, then expect a minimum amount of competence to operate on the streets (as you would any other vehcile driver) once they are there. Encouraging integration and cooperation in town creates an environment that benefits everyone. And I betcha it would cost less than the preliminary design phase of one trail on one stretch of road. Heck, you could probably put sharrows on every road in town for less than that.

3 Comments

  1. Remember, the recreational trail may not be exclusively for cyclists. Roller-skaters, joggers, dog-walkers, etc. will probably use the trail as well. So maybe it’s not ideal for cyclists, but still good for the community …..

  2. Andrew, that will be true on the near-town ends of the trail. The longer, semi-rural trails tend to have a lot less foot traffic between towns. Cyclists who want to ride fast still have the option of using a number of different road routes.

  3. You would have to know a bit about the taxing rates, a national bicycle organization’s awards, some history about Lincoln Avenue, how redevelopment agencies are run and how wishing for things outside their jurisdiction to understand this. It is just something to point at and say, “See? We are doing something for you.” “You” being different population groups in the city.

    The most appealing part, to the city commission, is that the cost will be minimal since the funds are coming from CRA and Federal (they hope) funds. And if the hoped for funds never materialize, or the County ignores the little project, there is the ready-made scapegoat.