Where we’re going

Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Plan for the future.

Those sentiments might well have been the central themes of this year’s Share The Road Celebration of Cycling event, held in Gainesville on Oct. 28-29. It was a time to remember those who came before us, to recognize those who continue to work on behalf of safe cycling and to set the stage for a more prominent role for cycling in Florida – to transform Florida into The Cycling State.

Honoring The past:

Saturday, Oct. 29 dawned a clear, crisp autumn morning. Dozens of cyclists assembled on the campus of the University of Florida to embark on a two-mile Ride of Silence.

With a Gainesville Police Department escort in the lead and Bike Florida’s own Share The Road van bringing up the rear, the cyclists made their way to downtown Gainesville’s newly opened Depot Park.

Anchoring the northeast corner of the park are six “rammed-earth” sculptures – memorials created in 1997 by friends and family members of a group of cyclists who left Gainesville the morning after Christmas in 1996 on a ride to St. Augustine.

Two of the cyclists would not return.

At about noon on that day, on a lonely rural road in Clay County, while riding in a pace line, all six cyclists were run down from behind by a distracted driver in a pickup truck. The driver was not tested for alcohol use and was never charged for his deadly act of negligence.

Two cyclists were killed and the others were severely injured. Among the dead were Margaret Raynal – one of Florida’s most respected safe cycling advocates – and Doug Hill, manager of a Gainesville bike shop. The accident, and the failure of police to charge the offending driver, sent waves of shock and outrage throughout Florida’s cycling community.

Bike Florida recently raised $16,000 to restore the sculptures, and the Oct. 29 dedication was a time to remember the victims of that crash – and to resolve anew our collective determination to make Florida roadways safe for all users. At the suggestion of the sculptures’ artist, Eric Amundson, the site was renamed the Share The Road Memorial. And newly installed signage asks visitors to take the Share The Road Pledge to “CONSIDER THE SAFETY OF BICYCLES, PEDESTRIANS AND MOTORISTS ALIKE WHEN USING THE PUBLIC ROADWAYS….”

Celebrating the Present:

At our Oct. 28 award luncheon Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association presented this year’s Share The Road awards to those organizations and advocates that continue to work to make Florida a more bike-ped friendly state. Among this year’s honorees:

Leadership Award: To Ft. Lauderdale, for being the first city in Florida – indeed, in the entire southeast United States – to adopt a Vision Zero plan. The City’s ambitious goal is to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and injuries by employing a range of enforcement, engineering, education, encouragement and evaluation strategies.

Visionary Award: To Ryan and Jamie Altman, founders of Gainesville’s Freewheel Project, a non-profit bicycle collective established to help make cycling safer, more accessible and more affordable for low income residents, children and others.

Founder’s Award: To B. Kraig McClain, director of the St. Johns River To Sea Loop Alliance, for his years long championship of rail-trail development and expansion.

Advocate’s Award: To Erica Bea Pucket, founder of Tallahassee’s Joyride Bicycle Collective, an organization dedicated to making cycling a more family-friendly and inclusive activity in Florida’s Capital City.

Volunteer Award: To Earle and Lois Richards, for their years-long work in support of numerous cycling events throughout Florida. Earle Richards passed away this year and his contributions to cycling will not soon be forgotten.

Media Award: Dedicated to Wayne Ezell, a longtime Florida newspaper journalist who, since his retirement, had become a key member of the North Florida Bicycle Club’s leadership team. Wayne was killed this year in a crash while riding in Iowa’s RAGBRAI tour.

President’s Award: To Ron Cunningham, who is retiring after four years as executive director of Bike Florida.

Planning for the Future:

One key to making Florida safer for all cyclists is to get more people on bicycles. The more cyclists on the roads, the more aware motorists are of the need to pay attention and drive responsibly. Moreover, getting large numbers of cyclists on the road – especially non-Floridians – not only makes cycling safer for everyone, but holds an economic bonus as well.

The theme of this year’s Share The Road Celebration of Cycling was “Cycling Is The New Golf: Can Florida Be A Major Destination For Cycle Tourism?” A series of speakers and panel discussions fleshed out the economic implications of marketing Florida as a cycling destination.

What implications? Well according to Adventure Cycling Association – whose executive director Jim Sayer was a key speaker at our event – bicycle tourism generates: $400 million a year in Oregon, $924 million annually in Wisconsin, $427 million in Minnesota, $88 million in Arizona.

Oh yes, and $57 billion a year in Europe.

Florida, with a great climate and cycle-friendly terrain, should indeed be a major destination for cyclists from all over the world. The good news is that Visit Florida – the state’s tourism promotion agency – was a major sponsor of and active participant in this year’s Share The Road Celebration of Cycling discussions. With strong marketing support from Visit Florida in partnership with touring organizations like Bike Florida, a boom in cycle tourism could indeed help transform Florida into The Cycling State.





Join us on Oct. 29

Bike Florida is inviting all cyclists to join us in Gainesville on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, for a Ride of Silence from the University of Florida to Depot Park, where we will have a the formal dedication of the Florida Share The Road Memorial.

The story of the Share The Road Memorial is a compelling one. Twenty years ago, on the day after Christmas in 1996, a group of six cyclists were riding from Gainesville to St. Augustine. They were traveling in a pace line on a rural road in Clay county when a distracted driver in a pickup truck slammed into all six cyclists.

Two of the riders, Margaret Raynal and Doug Hill, were killed instantly. The other four, Lauri Triulzi, Charles Hinson, Eric Finan, and Jessica Green all suffered various injuries. The driver was never charged for his deadly moment of distraction. And the crash sent shock waves through the Florida cycling community.

Months later, friends, relatives and supporters gathered next to the rail-trail on Gainesville’s Depot Avenue to erect six sculptures as a memorial to the cyclists. Designed by artist Eric Amundson, the rammed-earth structures contained parts of the smashed and ruined bicycles retrieved from the crash site. Over the years however, the sculptures fell into neglect. An informational kiosk was dismantled. The rail-trail was rerouted. Weeds and overgrown landscaping eventually obscured the structures from public view.

Over the past two years Bike Florida has raised and pledged $16,000 for restoration of the sculptures and their surroundings. In partnership with the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency the grounds surrounding the sculptures have been completely renovated and relandscaped.

On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 29, the sculptures, which now anchor the northeast corner of Gainesville’s new Depot Park, will be formally dedicated and renamed the Share The Road Memorial.

All are invited to the dedication ceremony. Cyclists are encouraged to gather at 9 a.m. on the campus of the University of Florida for a Ride of Silence to Depot Park in honor of Margaret and Doug. The starting point for the Ride of Silence will be the site of the Kermit Sigmon/Margaret Raynal Memorial located between LIttle Hall and the College of Architecture building. Riders will proceed east on NE 2nd Avenue and then south on Main Street on a two mile ride to Depot Park.

At 10 a.m. the dedication ceremony will begin. This will include comments by Bike Florida President Leigh Matuick, sculptor Eric Amundson, Linda Crider – a Bike Florida founder and close friend to Margaret – and others who were involved in the creation of the sculptures. We also hope as many of the surviving cyclists as possible will be in attendance, as well as friends and family members of cyclists who were killed. Linda Crider will read a poem she wrote in memory of the victims.

The dedication ceremony will conclude with the unveiling of a large, concrete three-panel sign that has been erected next to the sculptures. The signage will tell the story of the crash and the creation of the sculptures, and will issue a “call to action” asking all users, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike, to take the Share The Road Pledge to use the public roadways safely and responsibly.

Please join us on Saturday, Oct. 29, for this very special renewal and dedication. For further information contact Ron Cunningham at ron@bikeflorida.org or 352-262-5798.

What a year

This is turning out to be an extraordinary year for Bike Florida. Our little 22-year-old nonprofit has been growing; expanding its education and safety mission, diversifying its tour offerings, and looking for new opportunities.

Bike Florida is, above all, an entrepreneurial organization. Our small but enthusiastic staff spends a lot of time talking about what can be, what we can do differently, what can be done tomorrow, next week, next month and next year to take Bike Florida to the next level.

Our Rules Of The Road are simple. Collaboration. Innovation. Building partnerships. Expanding our horizons. Remaining relevant in an ever-changing state.

We don’t always get it right. Flats happen even on the smoothest of roads. But we will keep on cycling.

The year 2016 isn’t even over yet and here’s what we’ve done.

This year Bike Florida awarded its inaugural $25,000 matching Challenge Grant. We wanted to challenge communities to come up with innovative ideas to improve cycling at the local level. Nine grant applications came in – from Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, Miami and elsewhere. Ultimately we decided that our first Challenge Grant would go to the City of Key West. Key West is a marvelous place to ride a bicycle, but because of the daily massive influx of tourists and other factors, it also has one of Florida’s highest bicycle accident rates. Key West has recently hired its first bike-ped coordinator and Bike Florida is proud to partner with that island city on its plan to become a safer and more enjoyable community for cyclists.

We will keep tabs on Key West’s progress and, hopefully, some of its initiatives will be applicable to other Florida communities.

For the first time ever, Bike Florida held its annual spring tour in Southwest Florida. The 2016 Surf & Turf tour took 500-plus riders from the rural roads of Arcadia to the beaches and cultural attractions of Sarasota and Englewood. We visited St. Armand’s, Siesta, Casey and Manasota keys, cycled to the post seaside resort town of Boca Grande and explored the wetlands and subtropical forests of Myakka River State Park.

We also launched Bike Florida’s newest and perhaps most scenic small group luxury tour. Our Forgotten Coast Tour is a five day trek along the lightly-developed and little-traveled upper Florida Gulf Coast from Port St. Joe to Tallahassee via Apalachicola, Wakulla Springs State Park, St. Marks and points in between. The Forgotten Coast Tour is a journey through time and nature and an opportunity to enjoy the region’s rich culture and culinary delights. We will be offering it again and again. Check it out on our web page.

We continue to work with our partner, the Florida Bicycle Association, on the 4th annual Share The Road Celebration of Cycling. The heart of this yearly event is a day long series of speakers and panel discussions about bicycle-related issues. The dominant theme of this year’s gathering is titled “Cycling Is The New Golf: Can Florida Be A Major Destination For Cycle Tourism?” We are bringing in speakers from around the country to talk about this important economic development issue and our participating partners include Visit Florida and the University of Florida’s Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management. In the afternoon the FBA will wrap up the day’s events with the 2016 Florida Trails and Streets Summit. For more details and registration information go to sharetheroad.org.

And please make plans to join us on Friday, Oct. 28, in Gainesville, for this important discussion about the future of bicycle tourism in Florida.

The following day, October 29, will see the culmination of a two year Bike Florida campaign to restore six bicycle sculptures that were raised in 1997 to memorialize a horrific crash the year before, when a distracted driver plowed into six cyclists who were riding from Gainesville to St. Augustine – killing two and injuring the other four. Bike Florida raised or otherwise pledged $16,000 for the restoration effort. On Saturday, Oct. 29, following Celebration of Cycling, there will be a Ride of Silence from the University of Florida campus to Depot Avenue Park, where the sculptures are located. The ride will be followed by a formal dedication of the renamed Share The Road Memorial.

Oh, yes, and we’ve just opened a new Bike Florida headquarters. We are sharing our new Gainesville digs, at 101 North Main Street, with another nonprofit, the Florida Community Design Center. If you are in town, drop by and visit with us. We love to talk about who we are and what we do.

That’s just the short list of Bike Florida’s 2016 initiatives. And there is more to come.

In 2017 we will be experimenting with a new format for our annual spring tour. The Gullah-Geechee Tour, March 19-24, will be Bike Florida’s first “wagon-wheel” tour. Instead of moving from host community to host community – packing up your tents and moving your luggage every other day – our tour will stay in in one place, the St. John’s County Fairgrounds, for six days. Each day riders will set out in a different direction to different destinations; St. Augustine, Crescent Beach, Palm Coast, Palatka, Welaka, the upper reaches of the St. John’s River and elsewhere. Check our web page, www.bikeflorida.org for registration details.

More importantly, our Gullah-Geechee Tour is an opportunity to raise money for the small community of Armstrong. Located on the rail-trail that goes from Palatka to St. Augustine, Armstrong is a rural African-American community that has ambitions to develop its economy around cycle tourism. Armstrong has been a great partner to Bike Florida, frequently hosting our riders to community brunches and otherwise welcoming cyclists. And we want to dedicate our spring tour, the Gullah-Geechee Tour, to helping Armstrong achieve its dream of becoming a “trail town.” Click here for ways you can help the Armstrong Community.

Look for other Bike Florida initiatives and innovations this coming year. We intend to continue to expand our small group tour offerings (right now we’re exploring the prospect of a woman’s only tour in the Fernandina Beach-St. Augustine areas. And other new tour ideas are also simmering. As Florida continues its initiative to connect and expand its system of regional rail-trails, Bike Florida will poised to offer trail-to-trail exclusive tours for riders who don’t feel comfortable sharing the road with cars. We will continue to experiment with ways to attract younger riders and a more diverse ridership. And we intend to keep expanding our Share The Road education and safety mission.

Got any suggestions for us? We’re always looking for constructive collaboration. Contact me at ron@bikeflorida.org or give me a call at 352-262-5798. And keep an eye on our Bike Florida and Share The Road web sites, Facebook pages and other social media outlets for the latest news about our little 22-years-young nonprofit.

And please, come ride with us. If you haven’t done one of our tours yet, you are missing out on something special.

Nomination time

Who are your bicycle champions?

That state legislator who has led the charge for safer cycling laws. That Mayor or County Commissioner who has pushed for alternative transportation, infrastructure improvements and other Complete Streets solutions.

That local bicycle advocate who works tirelessly, year after year, for the Share The Road cause.

That visionary who always seems to come up with innovative ideas to make cycling more accessible and safer.

Or perhaps it is your own bicycle club that has, without fanfare, worked to make cycling safer in your community.

It is time once again to honor the champions and advocates among us who never stop working for the cause of safe cycling in The Sunshine State.

Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association are calling for nominations for our annual Share The Road Awards. The awards will be presented at our Share The Road Celebration of Cycling event, in Gainesville, on Friday, Oct. 28. (See sharetheroad.org for details). Honorees will be invited to join us to receive the recognition they richly deserve.

Award categories include:

Leadership: For a public official, elected or appointed, who has supported safe cycling legislation, policy or physical infrastructure improvements.

Founders. For cycling champions who have for years been on the front lines of cycling advocacy in Florida.

Visionary: For creative bike advocates who think outside the bike box.

Bike Club: For a club that is involved at a local level to build positive relationships in the interest of safe cycling.

Volunteer: For the dedicated and passionate individual who can be counted upon to work at cycling events without compensation

Media: For a newspaper, TV or radio station or other news outlet that has done substantial reporting about bicycle safety issues in Florida.

Please send your nominations to Ron Cunningham at Bike Florida (ron@bikeflorida.org) or Becky Afonso at the Florida Bicycle Association (becky@floridabicycle.org). For more information contact Ron Cunningham at 352-262-5798. Information about the Oct. 28 Share The Road Celebration of Cycling can be found at www.sharethroad.org.


Almost ready

Almost ready

The overgrown foliage that obscured them from public view is gone. A new walkway has been laid down. Signage to tell their story is in production.

Pretty soon it will be time for an unveiling and a dedication.

The newly restored Share The Road Memorial is almost complete.

Cyclists who live in Gainesville may be familiar with the seven rammed earth sculptures all in a row on Depot Avenue just north of Main Street. They are memorials to six Gainesville cyclists who were killed or injured in a horrific accident on the day after Christmas in 1996. The Gainesville Cycling Club group was on its way from Gainesville to St. Augustine when a distracted driver in a pickup truck ran all six of them down from behind on a lonely rural road in Clay County. Two of the cyclists, Margaret Raynal and Doug Hill, were killed instantly. The other four were all injured in the crash. The driver was never charged nor even tested for DUI.

Following this senseless tragedy friends and relatives of the cyclists got together to create the six sculptures. The rammed earth structures are embedded with parts of the smashed and ruined bicycles retrieved after the crash. It was backbreaking work that helped those who knew Margaret and Doug best get through the grieving process.

Nearly two decades later the sculptures were showing signs of deterioration and neglect. Weeds and overgrowth had sprung up around them. An information kiosk that once told their story had been dismantled. A rail-trail that once ran alongside the sculptures had been rerouted.

Two years ago, in our 20th anniversary year, Bike Florida undertook a fund-raising initiative to restore the sculptures. Ultimately we raised or otherwise committed $16,000 for the effort. Working with the City of Gainesville and Oelrich Construction the sculpture restoration process has nearly been completed. Even better, the newly renamed Share The Road Memorial now anchors the northwest corner of Gainesville’s exciting new Depot Park, which officially opens this month. Among other things, Depot Park will become the nexus of Gainesville’s ever expanding system of bike-ped trails. Cyclists and others who visit there will be able to view and reflect on the sculptures, learn their story and, we hope, take the “Share The Road Pledge.” The memorial is above all a sobering reminder that we all have a duty to share the public roads in a safe and responsible manner.

On Saturday, August 29, Bike Florida and the Gainesville Cycling Club will host a formal dedication of the Share The Road Memorial. The day will begin with a Ride of Silence from the University of Florida campus to Depot Avenue, followed by comments, remembrances, an unveiling and good fellowship. Details will be announced later. The dedication will take place the day after Bike Florida’s annual Share The Road Celebration of Cycling – a daylong series of speakers and panel discussions about bike-related issues – which will also take place in Gainesville, on Friday, Oct. 28. For information about both events go to www.sharetheroad.org.

Bike Florida is proud to have played a part in the restoration and rebranding of the Share The Road Memorial. Please make plans to join us on Saturday, August 29, for a short tide, a few moments of reflection and a call to action – to Share The Road.

Parallel lives

IMG_0169The last time I saw Wayne Ezell it was maybe three years ago in a Jacksonville restaurant. I was there to talk to members of the North Florida Bicycle Club about Bike Florida. Wayne and I exchanged a few quiet words and a smile or two. We had much more in common than our mutual love of cycling. 

I had come to Bike Florida after 4 decades in the newspaper business and nearly 30 years as editorial page editor for The Gainesville Sun. Journalism was my life, but when I retired nearly four years ago and took this new bike touring gig I felt like I was stepping out of one dream job and into another.

Likewise, Wayne had retired after a stint as editorial writer for the Jacksonville Times-Union. Prior to that he had served in various reporter-editor capacities at the Winter Haven News Chief, the Boca Raton News, the Tallahassee Democrat and other papers. We were both Tallahassee bureau chiefs at one time or another – Wayne with Gannett’s Florida newspapers, while I wrote for New York Times Florida properties.

We were both Ink stained wretches who had acquired a passion for cycling. It was like we were living parallel lives.

On Monday I learned that Wayne had gone to RAGBRAI to take part in the world’s largest and best known mass cycling event. He was going to start with the traditional ritual – dipping his rear wheel in the Missouri River. I had done precisely the same thing three years earlier on my RAGBRAI pilgrimage. 

But Wayne never reached the river. Early Sunday morning, on his way to the Missouri, he was hit from behind by the driver of a pickup truck and killed. That day RAGBRAI would begin with a “Mile Of Silence” to remember those who have been injured and killed while cycling.

It is the ultimate irony,” RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz later told reporters. “Here we are putting together an event to remember those that have fallen, and to start off while people were probably riding the Mile of Silence, there was a cyclist struck and killed by a vehicle.”

Wayne would not get to dip his front wheel in the Mississippi at rides end. Those who knew him will not again enjoy his good company, quiet smile and soft-spoken mannerisms. We have not only lost an advocate who worked with his local bicycle club to help spread the Share The Road ethic and make cycling safer for everyone, but Florida has lost a talented journalist possessed of a wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge about how things worked – and how they really ought to work – in his community and his state. 

We editorial writers are an odd breed. We insist on telling people what we think about things whether they want to hear it or not…and Wayne and I we’re lucky enough to get paid for it. We wrote about politics and government and issues of the day and the crisis of the moment. About…well, pretty much about life, the universe and everything. 

One of his colleagues at the Times-Union this week called Wayne Ezell “the ultimate journalist” for the impact he made in his profession and on his community. It is not surprising that, in his retirement, he would continue his calling by editing the North Florida Bicycle Club’s newsletter.

He will be missed.

Most of us who spend a lot of our time Sharing The Road on self-propelled two-wheeled legal vehicles know someone – or more likely several someones – who have been killed or seriously injured while cycling. We know it could happen to any of us at any time but we choose to continue to ride because it is in our very marrow. 

Oh, we take all the precautions we can take. We are careful to ride in a responsible manner. And we try to avoid the obvious danger spots. But even so we know that life is not without risks and a cyclist’s life is risky by its very nature.

All we can do is everything we can to improve the odds. And so we go to cycling events and hand out safe cycling materials. We work with our local, state and federal officials to improve road conditions, promote Complete Street policies and get tougher laws to crack down on distracted driving and better protect vulnerable road users. Wayne will have done most of those things because he was an advocate by profession and a cyclist by choice. 

I didn’t know Wayne Ezell as well as I would have liked. But I knew him by reputation as a talented and capable journalist, and I came to know him to be a responsible and enthusiastic cyclist. 

Those of us who choose to Share The Road despite its risks will honor his memory by continuing to be advocates for bicycle safety, safer streets and saner laws governing all users of the public roadways. That’s what Wayne Ezell would have done.


Directors needed

Bike Florida is looking for a few good men and women to help us take the state’s premier cycle touring and Share The Road education and safety organization to the next level. If you think you might be interested in serving on Bike Florida’s Board of Directors, read on.

 We are a non-profit 501c3 organization founded in 1994 with dual missions. One of our missions is to create economic opportunity to Florida via cycle tourism. Since our inception, we have brought thousands of cyclists from around the nation and around the world to Florida communities with our annual mass spring tours and our growing menu of small group boutique tours. For all of that, Bike Florida is just getting started. Our intention is to continue to grow and expand our cycle touring options. And on Oct. 28, in the City of Gainesville, we will be sponsoring a major conference in partnership with Visit Florida and the University of Florida Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management: The theme of the conference: Cycling Is The New Golf: Can Florida Be A Major Destination for Cycle Tourism?

 Our other mission is to promote bicycle safety and education. Along with your sister organization, The Florida Bicycle Association, Bike Florida benefits from the sale of Share The Road state license tags for that purpose of serving this mission. This year Bike Florida awarded our first-ever $25,000 Share The Road Challenge Grant to the City of Key West for its cycle safety initiative. We also sponsor the annual Share The Road Celebration of Cycling event, a day-long series of speakers, panels and forums that focus on bicycle-related issues and concerns.

 Bike Florida has a small but enthusiastic staff and we are currently in the process of writing a new 5-year Strategic Business Plan to sharpen the organization’s focus on both its touring and its Share The Road missions. We also have a dedicated Board of Directors, but one of our longtime board members has recently stepped down and at least one other director will be leaving later this year.

 To help Bike Florida reach its full potential we are looking to recruit a few new members for our Board of Directors. We are looking for candidates who share our commitment to making Florida The Cycling State. Ideally prospective board members should be forward-thinking individuals, preferably with experience in financing, policy making, business development, strategic planning, cycling advocacy or other skills that may benefit our organization. Our board meets once a quarter in Gainesville, but we are Bike Florida, and we would like our board membership to reflect a broader state geographic representation.

 If you have an interest in applying for a Bike Florida Board position please send an email to Ron Cunningham, executive director, at ron@bikeflorida.org. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and why you would like to serve.

Business is good

Jim Sayer is executive director of the Montana-based Adventure Cycling, America’s oldest and largest cycle touring organization. He is also something of an evangelist, preaching the virtues of seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle to anyone who will listen.

“It is the freedom to go as far as you want to and to go when you want to,” he says. “There is no better way to connect with people.”

Sara Petyk is the owner of Bike The GAP, which provides support services for people who ride the 141-mile Great Allegheny Passage, stretching from Pittsburgh, Pa to Cumberland, Md. Business is good on the GAP, and not just for Petyk but for several rust-belt towns and cities that are experiencing economic revitalization along that former railroad line turned recreational trail.

One study shows more than 800,000 trips a year on the GAP. Trail users collectively spend about $40 million annually, and their presence generate $7.5 million in regional wages.

Nelson Mongiovi is Director of Marketing for Visit Florida. His job is to attract tourists by any and all means of transport. But an avid cyclists himself, Mongiovi is intrigued by the economic potential of bicycle tourism in The Sunshine State.

Sayer, Petyk and Mongiovi live in different parts of the country. But all three will be in Gainesville on Oct. 28 at the Wyndham Garden Hotel as featured speakers at the 4th annual Share The Road Celebration of Cycling, sponsored by Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association in partnership with the University of Florida’s Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management.

The theme of this year’s Celebration: “Cycling Is The New Golf: Will Florida Be A Major Destination For Cycle Tourism?”

The objective of this year’s Celebration of Cycling is to measure Florida’s success in promoting and attracting cycle tourists against those of other states – like Colorado, Oregon, Iowa – and other nations. In Europe, for instance, cycle tourism is a $57 billion per year business. Across the U.S., bicycling contributes an estimated $133 billion a year to the nation’s economy. To what extent Florida is, or could be, benefitting from cycling will be the subject of much discussion.

In addition to the featured speakers, the program will include three panel discussions. One panel will be made up of bike tour operators who will talk about what they need by way of community support when they bring cyclists to town. Another panel will highlight communities in Florida – Clermont, Madison and Palatka among them – that already have strategies for attracting cycle tourists. And a third panel will focus on the academic research being done on the benefits of cycle tourism.

Other Share The Road Celebration of Cycling events include the annual Share The Road Awards lunch. Later in the afternoon, the Florida Bicycle Association will convene the 2016 Trails and Streets Bicycle Summit.

Registration for “Cycling Is The New Golf” is $40, which includes a light breakfast and lunch. Admission to the Bicycle Summit is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, go to www.sharetheroad.org. Or contact Ron Cunningham, Executive Director of Bike Florida, at 352-262-5798 or ron@bikeflorida.org


We’re good company

Boca Grande is one of those toney Florida island resorts where the rich and famous go to play. So naturally we wanted to take our riders there during our recent Surf & Turf Tour.

As it turned out, news of our planned visit got an interesting reaction.

“Approximately 500 cyclists will be spinning down Gasparilla Road..,” reported the Boca Beacon. “But don’t be alarmed – precautions have been well planned out…”

Alarmed? Precautions?

What? They thought The Son’s of Anarchy would come roaring over their bridge on our Harleys?

That’s not us.

Here’s a few fun facts you might not know about the cyclists who typically ride with Bike Florida.

Average age: 60

Gender: Male, 58 percent. Female, 43 percent.

Household income: Ranging from $30,000 to $169,000.

Education: Most have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Total local economic impact of an annual Bike Florida spring tour: $723,885

The above figures are from our 2015 Caverns to the Coast Tour, which drew about 600 riders to Blountstown, Marianna and Port St. Joe. The economic impact from our Surf & Turf Tour is still being calculated, and I expect it will, if anything, be even higher.

The point being that there is very little to be “alarmed” about when Bike Florida comes calling. On the whole our cyclists tend to be affluent, well educated and predisposed to dispose of their disposable income.

Not to mention well behaved.

I do not normally brag about our riders/customers but I’ll make an exception in this case because Bike Florida is looking for a few good sponsors.

Or a lot of good sponsors.

As many as we can get, actually.

And sponsoring a Bike Florida event is good for your business. Our sponsors get great exposure to our (did I mention affluent and well-educated?) customers: Through our web pages, our Facebook pages, our electronics newsletters, our Google ads and our other promotional outlets.

If your company signs on to sponsor one of our rides, or one of our educational and safety events, we will show our appreciation by singing your praises far and wide.

Got a logo? We will give it prominent play via, well, all of the above-mentioned outlets.

Right now we’re looking for sponsors for our annual Share The Road Celebration of Cycling, which will take place on Friday, Oct. 28 in the City of Gainesville.

This isn’t a ride, but rather a day-long series of speakers and panel discussions about bicycle-related issues. As it happens, the theme for this year’s event is “Cycling Is The New Golf: Will Florida Be A Major Destination for Cycle Tourism?” We will be bringing in speakers from around the nation, taking a look at the research on the economics of cycle tourism and hosting panel discussions about how Florida can cash in on the growing popularity of self-propelled mobility.

Following our program, our sister organization, the Florida Bicycle Association, will be hosting the 2016 Trails and Streets Summit – an opportunity to discuss a wide range of bicycle-related issues.

For more information about Celebration of Cycling, and to find out how you can be a sponsor, check out this link, https://sharetheroad.org/celebration-of-cycling-2016/

And if you are interested in sponsoring one of Bike Florida’s mass spring or small group boutique tours, contact me, Ron Cunningham, at ron@bikeflorida.org or at 352-262-5798.

Please don’t be “alarmed” when you hear Bike Florida is headed your way. Ours is a wholesome, good health-promoting and economically rewarding business. And we’re looking for like-minded businesses and organization’s to support our bicycle safety, education and touring missions.

Share The Road with us as a Bike Florida sponsor. You won’t be sorry.

Just ask us

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege to participate in Clermont’s annual Ride of Silence. It was just one of 357 Rides of Silence that took occurred on that day, May 18th, in 49 states and in 20 countries on 7 continents around the world.

Clermont’s Ride of Silence was an early-evening, 8-mile route loop around a sunset-illuminated Lake Minneola. It was a solemn event – the 100 or more cyclists who participated uttered not a word throughout the ride – the whole idea being to reflect on, to remember and to honor those who have been killed or injured while riding their bicycles.

“I’m sure you all know someone who has been hurt of killed” while exercising their freedom to Share The Road, the assembled riders were told by Lacey Nickell, who co-chaired the event with Sara McLarty. Lacey spoke from sad personal experience. Both she and Sara lost their fathers in bicycle accidents.

Like Ride of Silence organizations, Bike Florida is committed to spreading the Share The Road message. Promoting bicycle safety and education are two of our core organizational missions. We also promote the sale of Share The Road license tags – the proceeds from which help support safe cycling in Florida.

Indeed, we at Bike Florida consider ourselves to be Share The Road evangelists, ever ready to help spread the word. Whenever we can. Wherever we can. Toward that end, Bike Florida frequently makes appearances and offers support services at organized cycling events around the Sunshine State. Prior to Clermont’s Ride of Silence, a Bike Florida Ambassador was in attendance at Jacksonville’s Tour de Cure and, before that, St. Augustine’s Tour de Forts.

Our Share The Road Hospitality Tent dispenses cool water, snacks and Gatorade, cycling safety materials, safety lights, yellow safety vests and other Share The Road promotional items – or simply affords riders an opportunity to come in out of the sun and relax for a few minutes. Our strikingly designed Share The Road Quest makes for a wonderful SAG or other ride-support vehicle. As the year progresses you will find us in attendance at the Gainesville Cycling Festival, the Horrible Hundred, the Pink Pumpkin Pedal-Off and many other events.

In short, we want to make our presence felt at as many cycling events as possible in 2016. If you are in need of a SAG vehicle at your cycling event, if you would like us to staff a watering station, if you have room for us to set up our Hospitality Tent, please let us know. If we don’t have a scheduling conflict we will make every effort to attend and to help you make your cycling event a success.

Florida is fortunate to host many well-organized and well-attended cycling events that support a variety of worthy causes, Our cause is simply this: To spread the Share The Road message and to do everything in our power to help make cycling a safer and more enjoyable experience. We want to make the Sunshine State the Cycling State. If we can help support your ride, we will.

To schedule a Share The Road presence at your event contact Ron Cunningham at 352-262-5798, or email me at ron@bikeflorida.

tentBe safe out there. And let’s all Share The Road responsibly