Fight underway to save Jacksonville from itself

If you care about Jacksonville ever having safe bike lanes and sidewalks, this message from the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) highlights why time is of essence in saving what's left of the City of Jacksonville's 2030 Mobility Plan and Fee.

Published February 4, 2014 in Opinion -

In 2011, the Jacksonville City Council passed the 2030 Mobility Plan.  The plan was excellently researched and written.  It received an award from the American Planning Association (APA) of Florida.  The plan was designed in part to solve a huge problem.  Jacksonville had few bike facilities on existing roads and had patchwork sidewalks.  While new roads, by local regulations, are supposed to have 6' sidewalks and 4' bike lanes, EXISTING ROADS lacked bike lanes and sidewalks.  When new roads were built with sidewalks and bike lanes, they went to "nowhere".  They would connect to existing roads without any.  New bike lanes and sidewalks often became a "dead end".  This caused lots of problems:

*  The roads were DANGEROUS FOR CYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS. Pedestrians and cyclists would suddenly find themselves on a dangerous road without accommodation for them.

*  Jacksonville suffered from urban sprawl.  Developments sprung up far apart from one another, and existing roads between then were poor.  Because of urban sprawl, motorists drove long distances in their vehicles, contributing to greenhouse gases, and our residents lacked regular exercise, and could not commute by biking or walking.

THE MOBILITY PLAN WAS PASSED WITH GREAT FANFARE TO HELP SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.  The Mobility Plan called for the City to collect "mobility fees" from developers, and the fees would be used to bring existing roads up to standard - including bike and pedestrian facilities.  Connectivity of new roads to existing roads would be accomplished.  Roads would be SAFER. Because the roads would be safe and appealing, more developers would be incentivized to build projects.  Residents would want to live in these areas because of having "complete streets" - roads with safe travel for vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, and public transportation.

But since passage of the Mobility Plan, individual developers have tried to convince our City Council to repeal it, pass a moratorium on the collection of fees, etc.  What they have requested in simple terms - developers want to put more money in their pockets and don't care if Jacksonville roads are safe and connected to each other, so long as the roads within their development are satisfactory for motor vehicles.

NOW, A BILL HAS BEEN PROPOSED TO GRANT EXCEPTIONS TO CERTAIN HUGE DEVELOPERS, SO THE CITY WON'T BE ABLE TO COLLECT MOBILITY FEES FROM THEM.  This is Ordinance 2013-761.  THE ORDINANCE IS FAST TRACKED, meaning it is being considered by the City Council on a very expedited schedule.  I understand IT IS BEING URGED BY THE DAVIS (WINN-DIXIE) FAMILY, who intends to develop a large residential community on the southeast side of Jacksonville.  It appears the Davis family does not want to pay mobility fees which they would currently be required to pay for this project.  I must assume the Davis family only wants to spend money on roads within THEIR development, and does not want to pay mobility fees to bring surrounding, existing roads up to standard, so roads are connected safely.  The Ordinance is also being urged by the Sleimans, local developers, who I understand don't want to pay mobility fees relating to a project at Kernan and Atlantic Blvd.  

If their Ordinance passes, more money will go in the pockets of the Davis family and Sleiman family.  Existing roads will stay the same - no bike lanes, no sidewalks.  The funding source for these facilities is lost.  In my opinion, passage of the amendment will undo a great vision for Jacksonville - the 2030 Mobility Plan.


Image by Sharon Bensing. Photo Editor, Ana Kamiar, MFA

Jacksonville is currently one of the worst cities in the U.S. for deaths and injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians.  This conclusion is reached by independent nationwide studies by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, and by Transportation For America:  

1. In 2005-2007, Jacksonville had the worst bicyclist/pedestrian fatality rate of the 51 biggest cities in the US.  (2010 Alliance for Biking and Walking Benchmarking Report, page 14).  This was because Jacksonville had the worst pedestrian fatality rate and 5th worst bicycle fatality rate.

2. In 2007-2009, Jacksonville was 50th out of 51 cities in bicycle/pedestrian fatality rate.  It was the 2nd worst place to walk, and the 3rd worst place to bike.  Thus, its bicycle safety rating actually got even worse.  (2012 Alliance for Biking and Walking Benchmarking Report)  

3. In the last 10 years, Jacksonville was the 3rd most dangerous city in the U.S. for pedestrians.  (“Dangerous By Design 2011 – Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths” by Transportation for America)

Yet, as bad as the above statistics are, JACKSONVILLE HAS BECOME EVEN WORSE IN THE PAST 2 YEARS.  Consider the statistics recently announced by Sheriff Rutherford:

4. From 2011 to 2012, bicycle fatalities in Jacksonville increased 80%.  (March 1, 2013 T-U article quoting Sheriff Rutherford)

5. From 2011 to 2012, pedestrian fatalities increased 39%. (March 1, 2013 T-U article quoting Sheriff Rutherford.)

This problem is disproportionately worse for minorities.  Hispanics and African-Americans, on average, driver less and walk more.  Nearly 20% of African Americans and 14% of Hispanic families live without a car.  (Dangerous By Design 2011, page 17-18)  By comparison, from 2000-2009, overall U.S. fatalities to motor vehicle occupants were lower by 27%.

Bicycling and walking levels are on the rise.  The total number of bike trips in the US tripled between 1977 and 2009. (“Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large North American Cities: Lessons for New York”, by John Pucher, Rutgers University & Ralph Beuhler, Virginia Tech, 2011).  Between 1990 and 2009, the number of bike commuters rose 64% in large cities in the U.S.  (“Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large North American Cities: Lessons for New York”, by John Pucher, Rutgers University & Ralph Beuhler, Virginia Tech, 2011).  In 2001, 43% of trips were for utilitarian cycling to 54% in 2009.  (“Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large North American Cities: Lessons for New York”, by John Pucher, Rutgers University & Ralph Beuhler, Virginia Tech, 2011).

US Department of Transportation (1994, 2004) has set a goal of increasing the percentage of trips by bicycle while improving safety.  The rationale for promoting cycling is that it would shift some trips from the car, thus reducing roadway congestion, parking problems, air pollution, noise, and energy use.  Both the US DOT and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control advocate active transport such as bicycling for physical activity that would help combat the worsening obesity epidemic.

In 2010, “Bicycling” Magazine ranked Jacksonville as one of the three worst cities in the U.S. for cycling.

Nationwide, deaths and injuries to bicycle riders spiked upward from 2010 to 2011 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  This is the reversal of a trend which saw bicycling deaths dropping in the United States over the past 20 years. Just released statistics from the National Highway Transportation Association (NHTSA) prove that bicycling injuries and deaths have increased. In April 2013, NHTSA released statistics about bicycling deaths and injuries occurring in 2011. Bicycling deaths have increased by almost 9% from 2010 to 2011, while pedestrian deaths increased about 3%. By comparison, deaths to occupants of vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) decreased by more than 7,500 between 2010 and 2011.

What state had the highest number of bicycling deaths in the U.S.?  Florida.  Bicycling deaths totaled more than 5% of all traffic fatalities – 125 cycling fatalities.  In Florida, both the total number of cycling deaths and the percentage of bicycle deaths, compared to vehicle deaths, are the highest of any state.  This is compared to Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia – they had zero bicycling deaths!


Image by Sharon Bensing. Photo Editor, Ana Kamiar, MFA

Jacksonville City Council Members need to hear from you IMMEDIATELY.  You can do this in two ways:

1.  We need you to attend the Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) at City Council Chambers on TUESDAY, FEB 4 at 5 P.M. to voice your opposition and concern for the bill - and to oppose it being fast-tracked without adequate time for honest and thorough discussion.

2.  We need you to write to your City Council members and express your opposition to the Ordinance."  If you will write to City Council members, you may use these email addresses (cut and paste):;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Guest editorial by the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC)

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Metro Jacksonville