Cycle Safe

by FAITH BENNETT
In April many people in our fair city are just dusting off their beach cruisers for the spring and summer, making it a very opportune time for both motorists and seasonal riders to pay attention to the the biking community that exists year-round. In last May’s issue of Bicycling Magazine, Jacksonville ranked in the top three of worst cities in which to bike, but that has hardly deterred the citizens of Jacksonville, who have since started even more group rides and founded the Jax Bike Coalition.

The Florida Department of Transportation has apparently taken note of cyclists’ needs, as evidenced by the newly implemented “sharrows” on Riverside Avenue. Riverside cyclist Joe Gaskin says that the sharrows are easily misinterpreted by motorists who watch the news and see what are sometimes very inaccurate definitions of sharrows taken from writers on the internet. They remain mysterious to many motorists, but the symbolism is fairly simple, and the definition www.BikeJax.org offers is probably the most easily understood: “A sharrow is a shared lane marking consisting of a bicycle symbol with two chevron markings above the bicycle. A sharrow is used to indicate a cyclist’s lateral position on lanes of substandard width that will not allow an automobile and bicycle to safely travel within the same lane and also have a maximum speed limits of 35 mph.” The addition of the sharrows on Riverside Avenue should help motorists and cyclists better coexist, though making an effort to understand each other is also entirely necessary. Gaskin also says, “Anything that makes motorists more aware is a positive thing. Even if they are just thinking, ‘I wish bikes didn’t have that extra space in the lane,’ they’re still aware that we’re there.”
Joshua Anthony, a bike enthusiast from Jacksonville Beach, says, “One common misconception is that we’re some sort of hipsters on bikes trying to angrily assert ourselves in traffic, when a lot of the time we’re just trying to get to work.” It’s true that road bikes and, more specifically, fixed-gear bikes have become a trend, but that doesn’t mean that the average rider isn’t using his or her bike for utilitarian purposes. Many cyclists actually depend on their bicycles for transportation, which can make it frustrating when motorists treat them like pesky kids. Anthony also mentions that cyclists have to take some responsibility for this and behave accordingly in order to be treated fairly. “Some bikers play tit for tat with traffic and shouldn’t. We’re trying to win people over and make them aware; you’re never going to win anyone over with the same negative mentality. If someone cuts you off, instead of flipping them off, throw them a peace sign or something; otherwise, all you’re doing is reinforcing negative stereotypes.” Anthony plays a large part in the Beaches cycling community, doing a lot of design work for bike events, bike shops and biking organizations as well as often acting as “road captain” on one of Jacksonville’s largest group rides, TuNiBiRi.
TuNiBiRi, or Tuesday Night Bike Rides, was started last spring by Building Bicycles’ founder Shaun Wilson to fill a void in the local biking community. The ride, which averages about 45 riders a week, offers a fun and free way to socialize around the Beaches. As Anthony puts it, “There’s nothing to do [around the Beaches] other than go to the bars. This is another way to socialize without spending all your money and getting wasted.” TuNiBiRi encourages a larger portion of the community to take an interest in cycling with its slower pace and insistence that “nobody gets left behind.” As far as safety goes, TuNiBiRi is great and always enforces the usage of road calls, which Anthony even linked to the TuNiBiRi Facebook page for easy internet access. “It’s safe. It’s not anarchy on wheels,” he says. The Riverside Arts Market ride is another great weekly ride that meets at 9 am on Saturdays and goes about 10 miles at a moderate speed, making it the most family-friendly group ride currently offered in Jacksonville.
In addition to the slower rides, our city has long offered Midnight Mass every Thursday in Riverside as well as Critical Mass, which rides with traffic the last Friday of every month. Also, for riders looking to get rowdy, there are events like the Duval Dirty Bike Olympics and frequent Bike Polo events, which Gaskin says offers cyclists a “good opportunity to get out and do something fun with their bikes rather than just see it as a chore or workout. Events like this turn it into fun.” Gaskin and Anthony both see having fun as important for cyclists, but at the same time both recognize the importance of and advocate safe and lawful riding.
So dust off that two-wheeler and pump some air into the tires; the road to exercise and adventure is yours. Just remember, you have to share it with 2,000-pound bullets. Cycle safe!

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