How the Share the Road Specialty License Plate Came to Be
by Henry Lawrence and T.J. Juskiewicz
In 1992, Michael Koenig, then vice president of the first FBA, had a revelation. The thought of a bumper sticker to encourage drivers to share the road turned into thoughts of producing a specialty license plate—something more permanent and purposeful, something to help raise money to get the word out to share the road with bicyclists. The tag initiative got off to an enthusiastic start, but soon went into hibernation.
Then in December 1996 [then FBA president] Linda Crider’s friend and coworker, Margaret Raynal, was killed while riding near Gainesville. Doug Hill also died that day and four other cyclists were critically injured. The driver of a pick up had run down their paceline; Margaret and Doug bringing up the rear took the brunt of the hit.
Anger, frustration, loss, misery, sadness and, worst of all, no conviction of the motorist were the “call to arms” to help bring about change.
A group of bicycle advocates met in Mt. Dora in March of 1997 in conjunction with LAB’s (League of American Bicyclists) Winter Gear. With the help of League president June Thaden and moderator Dan Schaller, participants set six goals for a new and improved FBA. One was to create a specialty license plate to raise funding for bicycle safety education and to empower bicycle advocates statewide to create more bicycle friendly communities in Florida.
Henry Lawrence took the job as chairman of the Share the Road campaign.
There would be hurdles: 10,000 signatures, $30,000 up front, a marketing plan, and state’s blessing in the form of a new law. Artwork was designed, petitions were drawn up and the campaign began.
The December 1997 deadline for the 1998 legislative session passed. The December 1, 1998, cutoff was drawing near for the 1999 session when Linda Crider, having become Bike Florida’s president, and Jimmy Carnes, executive director of the now defunct Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, stepped in to help the campaign over the top.
In the final weeks Jimmy Carnes directed the push for the final 3,000 signatures needed to reach 10,000, worked with the Florida Dept. of Transportation to secure $30,000 funding as part of a larger statewide Share the Road campaign, and oversaw garnering the necessary legislative support.
At last a breakthrough!
Orlando’s 700+ Florida Freewheelers, were the first to send in petitions. Executive director George Cheney had started the ball rolling. Kathy Holt, a former racer and bike shop owner and one of FBA’s founding board members, collected over 700 signatures with husband Dave and friend Elizabeth. Henry Lawrence, Linda Crider, Dave Marshall and Charlie Leibold gathered hundreds of signatures. Thousands of bicyclists statewide sent in individual petitions.
Rep. Bob Casey (Gainesville) and Senator Donald Sullivan (St. Petersburg) agreed to sponsor bills in the House and Senate. The “Share The Road” specialty license plate was introduced in the 1999 legislative session and passed. In the House: 113 to 4. In the Senate: 38 to 1. On June 8, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the bill into law.
The battle was won! Actually it was only the beginning of another chapter in the tag’s history. The new challenge: marketing the tag so it is widely purchased by motorists.
In fall of 1999, Henry Lawrence moved on as chairman of the Share The Road campaign and Bike Florida hired T.J. Juskiewicz, formerly of the Florida Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, to head the campaign. T.J.’s responsibilities included seeing the tag through its final legislative processes, promoting the tag and administrating annual Bike Florida events.
In the spring of 2000, the tag began to appear on the Florida roadways! The tags could be purchased at any license tag agency for $17 above the normal tag fees. Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association would split the proceeds from the specialty tags to promote safe cycling throughout Florida.
In the first full year of the Share the Road tag’s availability, over 3,000 tags were sold, raising over $50,000 of funding for bicycle safety education to create more bicycle friendly communities in Florida.
Through the sale of the Share the Road specialty license plates, Bike Florida and FBA established mini-grant programs to provide funds to organizations throughout the state who are promoting bicycle and pedestrian safety programs. The mini-grants provide assistance to purchase equipment (such as trail signage, bike parts to repair educational bikes, etc.), printed materials (printing of safety information, trail maps, etc.) or other safety related projects.
Florida was the first state in the nation to have a specialty license plate earmarked to promote bicycle safety. Together we can make Florida a safer place for cyclists sharing the roadways with motorists and pedestrians.