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Posted by on Oct 22, 2009 in Uncategorized | 13 comments

My trip to the grocery store gets better!

lakesusannah

Some of you may recall my grocery store route in Casselberry — around the block on arterial roads. When I moved to Audubon Park, there were so many options! I tried several routes and settled on one that included Cady Way Trail and Lake Baldwin Lane. I found Lake Baldwin Lane to be somewhat problematic at high traffic times. Avoiding door zone bike lanes isn’t a whole lot of fun in heavy traffic, since 99% of motorists have no idea why you won’t just ride in the space provided. (Fortunately, most don’t fuss, but I still find it uncomfortable.)

It wasn’t until Mighk took John Allen and me for a facilities tour last spring that I realized there is a trail extension that goes to within 2 blocks of Publix. And it’s not just some utilitarian trail. No sir, it’s a scenic lakefront interlude.

I’m not sure why, but it still took me a few months to incorporate this trail into my grocery run (route map). Perhaps I’m just too accustomed to using the road, perhaps it was resistance to using the short stretch of side path (which looks just exactly like a sidewalk) along Lake Baldwin Lane. Silly in retrospect, when there’s a lot of traffic, the sidepath is better than this:

lake baldwin lane

But now, even when the spaces are empty and the road is free of traffic, I take the scenic route. I just like it so much! Who wouldn’t?

IMG_1447

IMG_1448

flowers

(This one’s for Chandra)

Quality experience… a good concept

beachstThis is an example of the quality experience bikeways can provide. But it still has some typical components that are not thought through. The side path section is not bad, but it is not ideal and not suited for speed. Fortunately, it only has one driveway and one road intersection to contend with. Beach Blvd. requires some vigilance. On street parking (often occupied by large contractor vehicles) makes it difficult to see traffic approaching on Beach Blvd. Those motorists often drive straight through the crosswalk before stopping. I always do a shoulder check for turning traffic (left or right). The shoulder check and caution has paid off a number of times. Side path conflicts are real, no matter how benign the neighborhood. PnP advocates underestimate the competence, skill and patience required to deal with them. I doubt I’d have the patience to deal with that at 3 or 4 intersections. One is no problem because I’m not in a hurry and the next section of trail is well worth it.

IMG_1451Once the trail veers off from the roadside it becomes an oasis. The land to the left sits empty, construction stalled by the flailing housing market. The native grasses and wildflowers along the lakefront stand alone there. They create a peaceful, albeit odd, juxtaposition to the Stepford houses beyond. That 1/4 mile is one eighth of my trip and yet it defines the entire thing… and that trip to the grocery store enhances my  quality of life and how I feel about where I live. It has nothing to do with being away from cars, it has to do with being in nature. If my shortest route was a stark empty road, I’d go this way anyway.

Bicycles are vehicles, even when they aren’t on the road

IMG_0453The connection for Meeting Pl. involves two fancy arched sidewalks making what appears to be high speed exits from the trail. Unfortunately, the one on my approach dead ends. The one on the other side is angled for oncoming traffic. The grass is grooved with bicycle tracks (including mine) cutting across the sharp corner. Google maps shows a satellite view from when this community was still under construction, but you can see the configuration. A better design would be like the photo below.

IMG_0455Because only one side can be accessed right now, many cyclists are inclined to ride the wrong way into the circle at the end of Meeting Pl. It’s not dangerous since there’s no traffic, but any facility that encourages non-vehicular behavior to access it, is not designed properly or with a the right mindset.

If paths were built to enhance the transportation system, they would integrate with fluidity for easy vehicular operation, rather than turn cyclists into rolling pedestrians picking their way through an obstacle course. It’s not hard to engineer this stuff to meet the vehicular characteristics of bicycles. You just have to care to close the gap between the symbolic gesture and true utility.

Decisions made on empty land

baldwinplanThe bikeways in Baldwin Park exist because they were planned on an empty drawing board (a chunk of urban land that was formerly a Navy training center). Lakefront land was given to the commons, rather than being carved out exclusively for private homeowners. As much as I gripe about the inexcusable nuisance facilities in Baldwin Park, I do like the concept behind the public spaces and trail infrastructure.

This kind of scenic trail cannot be retrofitted into most of our existing developments. We may be able to retrofit bikeways into ugly power easements, and in some places that could be beneficial for facilitating connections to pleasant road routes. It would be nice to see a larger-scale change in thinking about common areas, green space and alternative transportation in future land use. But that’s a dream. A worthy dream, nonetheless.

Just for fun

I waited all day for Fedex to bring my helmet camera. It arrived late this afternoon. Within 30 minutes I had it out of the box and strapped to my helmet. I couldn’t resist riding up to Baldwin Park and back. Keeping in mind this is me playing with my new toy, if you have 8 more minutes to waste, here’s a video of my route:

13 Comments

  1. Don’t sneer at those ugly power easements too much. Mostly thyr’re better than nothing which is the other choice. Good to see you have a nice route.

  2. Great post and video! I especially love this:

    “That 1/4 mile is one eighth of my trip and yet it defines the entire thing… and that trip to the grocery store enhances my quality of life and how I feel about where I live. It has nothing to do with being away from cars, it has to do with being in nature.”

    When the trails are done right, they are so beautiful. What a gift to be able to complete the most mundane of tasks not only by bicycle but through such gorgeous bits of nature! You’re so right that it actually improves your quality of life. I don’t expect, or even want, to be able to spend every moment on a bike trail. But how wonderful it would be to have a useable network of trails that allow you to enjoy a ride through nature and then use smaller “regular” roads to get to your destination. Sigh.

    Even though the brick is completely unpleasant, I really liked riding “downtown” Baldwin Park in the evening. When we rode through there to get to B3, there was live music and people dining outdoors – though the forced effort at “small town” gets to me, I was really digging that part of it.

  3. Yes, it is a nice ride …. sometimes on a Saturday, I can talk my wife into a bike ride from our house to Baldwin Park for lunch. We use Cady Way trail to get there, and then ride around the lake to and from lunch.

    Most enjoyable!! :)

  4. Baldwin Park has become one of my favorite places to eat out because there are now so many outdoor, lake-front dining options. And that whole public space there at the end of New Broad Street is really sweet… always alive with kids playing, cyclists passing by and people just hanging out.

    In this town full of lakes, it’s sad how few lakefront spaces (with outdoor dining) like that there are.

    • This is where the philosophy of Traditional Neighborhood Design/Neo-traditional Design gets it right. The idea that the natural resources are part of the collective ‘community’ rather than something to be ‘privately owned’. Lake Nona is designed in a similar way. The lakefronts are public and no housing or businesses have exclusive rights to the lakefronts. It’s the difference between building/desiging a community vs building/designing exclusivity. As a community grows, it’s added to (like in Baldwin Park – each new business/restaurant adds to the sense of place rather than takes away, whereas when a new development is predicated upon privacy and exclusivity as surrounding areas are developed, that exclusivity and privacy is taken away). I’m paraphrasing Randy Lyons (the developer of Lake Nona) from a workshop where he was a presenter and it’s stuck with me ever since.

      So, yeah, it may feel like a ‘forced small town’ but it’s really more of the creation of a neighborhood within a larger city. Orlando is really just a big small town in many ways. We are extremely fortunate to have such great neighborhoods with their own synergy of mini ‘main streets’ (think College Park) surrounding our larger dense downtown.

      I’m also a HUGE fan of urban open spaces and pocket parks, they make city living great.

  5. The Cross Seminole and Cady Way Trails are a welcome respite from the busy arterial roads I travel on my commute to work. I’d much prefer ending my day with a ride past wildflowers instead of the barrage of noise, dirt and commotion I endure on SR 436, Michigan, Crystal Lake and McGuire. Sometimes, just to change things up, I bypass SR 436 and make my way north via Belle Isle. It adds about 15 minutes to my commute, but the peace of mind is sometimes worth it.

  6. I’m continually amazed at the picture quality of tiny digital cameras these days.

    I like your route. For some reason in this day and age, I’m focused on one or the other: I’m either riding on the street, or riding a path. Your video takes me back to my my youth, when my rides would often take me on streets, paths, trails, back yards, you name it, all in one trip. I need to figure out what’s causing that mental block for me because that versatility is a large part of what makes bike travel so nice.

    • In the 90s, I bought one of the early hybrid bikes. That was before they morphed into clunky comfort bikes. My Marin Sausalito was light and aggressive with narrow, knobby tires.

      I had several routes with dirt cut-through paths. There was one I used all the time that went from Rollins to Dinky Dock (there’s a road there now). There’s another one that goes through Kraft Azalea park. Maitland Community Park has dirt paths that lead from the parking lot to a boardwalk, it connects two neighborhoods that don’t have road connection (there are 2 other sidewalk connectors up there, but they’re a trick to find). I’ll be doing a post on that. I collected photos, but want to go get some video, too.

  7. Nice. I wish I had a helmet cam! ;-)

    Actually, our MPO is looking into purchasing one, partially at my suggestion. Perhaps I’ll get to use it on occasion.

  8. thanks for the nice flowers, keri.
    what helmet cam did you buy?
    peace :)

    • I promise a post about the camera soon. It’s a VIO POV.

  9. Holy Spokes, Keri! That’s a really nice one. Good for you!
    Peace :)