Friday, April 13, 2007

Why this blog

Less than half a century after our country's first bikeway was dedicated in Homestead, the farm town now being enveloped by Miami's suburbs, bicyclists find the surrounding county to be singularly inhospitable.

South Florida, endowed with year-round sunshine and flat terrain, would seem to be an ideal place for bicycle commuting and recreation. Yet most of the roads here were built and are maintained with little thought to pedestrians or bicyclists, and local decision- makers are long accustomed to shaping the community to fit the automobile first and foremost. (See footnote.)

At a meeting of the county's Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee in the fall of 2005, two bicyclists rose to lament the sad state of bicycle paths and the paucity of signage or street lanes dedicated to cycling. The committee chairman, Ted Silver, replied with a statement of political reality: Bicyclists seldom spoke up about these things, and their scattered efforts lacked impact because any given cyclist was unlikely to know what the others were doing. Until cyclists were better informed about each other, Silver said, they could never bring a coherent message to the seats of power.

I was one of the two bicyclists who stood up that night, and I went home and starting exploring how to launch a blog. Spokes 'n' Folks was the result, and I've tried to make this space a chatty, good-natured resource for South Florida bicyclists of all kinds. My emphasis is on advocacy -- getting more people to ride, helping riders stay safe, pressing for more and safer facilities for bicycling. The blog tells when, where and how riders can make our needs known, and illustrates with maps and photos the progress or lack thereof.

This is certainly timely. Cities across the land are awakening to the costs of petroleum dependency, urban sprawl and sedentary lifestyles. Can this blog be an instrument of urban reform? That's the idea. What remains is to keep writing, asking questions and spreading the word. And, for you to join in the conversation. The road ahead is clear. Just click "Comments."

NOTE: What I've said here is not to criticize the Miami-Dade Bicycle- Pedestrian Advisory Committee, whose members and staff are sincere and able advocates for a transportation system that serves foot and two-wheeled travel as well as the dominant modes. Still they merely advise, not direct, and in this flatland they often seem to be the only ones traveling uphill. They could use your help.

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