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Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Bicycle Culture, General, Transit | 18 comments

Colonial Bike Club Proposed Trail

Where you ride your bike is a civil rights issue–fifty years ago, people were asked to move to the other side of the road because they were different. The same thing is happening now. The law states that we’re supposed to ride as close to the right hand side of the road as is practicable. I am sure that this is meant for protection of cyclists, for consolidating space, for ease of traffic flow. But the result is that bike riders feel they need to move out of the way, and cars ride right past them in the same lane at the same speed they were going before they saw the bike—which is scary!

So a lot of people don’t ride their bikes in the road. But the road isn’t patently bad or scary. Those same people would stand next to a car that was broken down—even on, say, State Road 436 (a 50mph 6+ lane highway from the Orlando International Airport and spanning two counties of urban sprawl). The reason these people would stand next to this car (even in traffic), I believe, is because there is an understanding that the other cars will simply go around them. They will completely change lanes. So there is no risk (or no perceived risk).

I do believe that people are mostly good. And I think that one day equitable use of the government roads will exist in our country, just as equitable access to government programs such as school is now afforded to all people (some, however, sadly restricted to those who have a piece of paper proving that they are citizens). But until that point, I think it is important to recognize that taking these spaces on the road is an act nonviolent of protest.

Although nonviolent protest is at its core nonviolent, there will be violent results. I have been harassed, yelled at, called obscenities and had my intelligence questioned (even when I had my daughter who was three-years-old sitting directly behind me). On separate occasions, I and my wife have been told that we are not cars, as if it was an insult. This seems like a sort of epithet then. But I am not a car, and neither are the people who are yelling. Sadly, it seems that they have begun to view themselves as something other than a person. This dehumanization, this loneliness in a vehicle locked away from the world, seems to cause people to shut off. I have heard stories of students whose bicycling has made them invisible to cars, who were then right-hooked, students who were hit by cars and then sent to the hospital before going to school simply because they were not recognized on our busy roads. This is from both traveling in the road and on the sidewalks. So this violence comes directly and indirectly as a result of using our roads.

Obviously, as a teacher, I will not ask minors to participate in these protests. But as a parent, I want to bequeath a just world to my children. And as good little Catholics, I hope that they truly own and meditate on the fact that all their little brothers and sisters in this world are as their REAL brothers and sisters. So I can’t deny my or these children equity. They need transportation. They deserve equality. This is a dilemma, I know. But it makes me look not at myself, nor at the users of the roads, nor at my children or their peers. It causes me to look NOT at the monster, but to look at Doctor Frankenstein. It causes me to look at the builders of the roads.

There is a government trail that has been approved to run from the Colonial High School Ninth-Grade Center to Colonial High School. This will also lead to the Little Econ Trail. A lot of us bicycling advocates have friendly debates about whether we should use trails (away from cars) or roads (with the cars). Obviously, there are issues with connectivity. And with civil rights. I think I betray my stance here. But it should also be understood that, for those inside of cars, automobile accidents are the number 10 cause of death in the United States. Considering this and that the work ahead of us is very strong, I propose to embrace both trails and nonviolent protests on the road.

This is a road that cars are not allowed on. I think it’s a great step in prioritizing bicycling as traffic. It paves the way—so to speak. So if you live in Orange County, Florida, please contact your County Commissioner here: http://www.orangecountyfl.net/BoardofCommissioners.aspx and ask them to prioritize the building of this trail. This is not a nature trail, but a firm move towards bicycling as transportation, and a resounding of the voice of the people calling for new ways to get around.

18 Comments

  1. Cycling should not only be safe, it should be pleasant. Trails in independent rights-of-way, like the one Jesse mentions, do not compromise the cyclist’s right to the roadway; they simply provide more pleasant alternatives to the roads. But when paths are placed adjacent to roadways they send a message to motorists that bicyclists don’t belong on the roadways.

  2. Exactly. Having two water fountains, side by side, for two different kinds of people isn’t okay. And neither is letting one community go thirsty while another one gluts on water!

  3. What Mighk said.

    It’s not either or. Where we can build trails as a pleasant alternative, I’m first in line to support it (and with me are many advocates for roadway equality). There is a contingent of infrastructure advocates who have created a false dichotomy about that, so let me set the record straight. I don’t believe advocating for trails and pleasant routes conflicts at all with the vision of making bicyclists expected and respected as a normal and equal part of traffic on every road.

    Don’t confuse our desire to have and use trails with us pointing out the reality of what’s possible or likely (due to funding and available right of way). It takes years to get these things done — lots of worthy projects are vying for a small pot of money. Attend some BPAC meetings, or read meeting minutes, and you’ll discover how long some of these projects wait in the queue to be funded.

    • Next year, CHS will officially be a Title I school, which demonstrates the need of our students. Come on…what other connection stands to benefit under-served children better? :) Seriously, though, I was recently told about this special trail. As a joke, I said it would be great to see this–in ten years+! I was then told by this reputable source that to move it up in priority, we need to advocate and speak up.

      I hope that if other sections are important to other people, they will be contacting their representatives too because it seems to me that anybody raising their voices about which sections should be put in would simply demonstrate that as a people we demand equal access. And as far as our desire for trails interfering with what’s possible, I wish it was a non-issue. There are tons and tons of roads built for cars (with bikes as an after thought, if that). Building more unfriendly and unequal roads doesn’t seem to make people scale back on their expectations of cars!

      You know, I wish I could attend the BPAC meetings. Or more events, like rides, for that matter. It has and will probably continue to be a source of guilt and hypocrisy for me.

      • Help your students understand they can make a difference. The Orange County commissioners will be approving the updated trail plan soon. It’d be very persuasive if a number of high school students — especially from more than one school — spoke at the meeting to support trails. Perhaps present a proclamation with numerous student signatures. They can point out that they’ll be the ones using our transportation system for the next 50 years. Maybe the Colonial High bike bus video cold be shown. It’s also important that commissioners understand that not all “trails” are created equal; that sidepaths usually contribute to the problems, not the solutions.

        • When are they approving this plan? Students are interested in this.

          • They’re not approving the trail; they’re approving the county-wide trail plan (of which that trail is a component). The best strategy to get the trail built is to ensure there is significant funding in place to build the plan, then work with staff, the community and your district commissioner to make your trail a high priority.

          • You might even be able to get Bikes Belong funding to help promote the trail project.

          • Jesse: go to the Bikes belong website; they’ll explain what they’re looking for in grant proposals.

        • That’s an awesome idea!

          • I think it is, too! Especially if, as we’ve talked about, there is an ability to gain sponsorships for parts of the trail. Mighk, it seems easier to get a grant with in-kind funding–am I right?

  4. the lack of through roads in that area means this trail would not only be a pleasant alternative to cycling on the road, but may actually offer a time/convenience advantage to those who would normally drive a car. if even a small percentage of people blessed with the ability to think critically realize the advantages of cycling a pleasant, direct route over motoring in a maze of congestion and bullshit, that means fewer car trips. that, in my opinion is a good thing. although that leaves a higher concentration of morons driving cars that the rest of us who cycle on the road have to deal with. i’ll take it though.

  5. Make sure you send this along with correspondence to the commission or bikes belong:

    • I definitely will. Thank you!

    • Wow! Great Video! Very Cool!

      • Being there to shoot that was a profound, powerful experience. I was in the back (there’s one clip showing me at the back, pulling the trailer with Robert’s camera equipment). I got really emotional riding behind them on Curry Ford road. When we got to the school, Robert’s eyes were full of tears.

        I took Lisa, Rodney and Courtney (from rethink) out there a few months later for Bike to Work day:
        http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2010/05/22/bike-to-work-day-adventures/
        They had the same emotional experience. Silly adults.

    • I have to check to be sure, but I think the section connecting the two schools is the Orange County Drainage R.O.W. coming from near Valencia College Lane and going south (before going to the East/West).