Linda Crider, founder and executive director of Bike Florida, Inc.
Writing music, spending summers in her
Alaska home, and boating are some of
Crider's other favorite pursuits.
Trail Voices: Linda Crider
"Trail Voices" highlights the work of rail-trail supporters around the country. Our interview subjects are anyone from high-level urban planners to local volunteers, and no contribution to the trails, hiking and bicycling movement is too big or too small—dedication comes in all sizes. We could never tell all the personal stories that make rail-trails a success, but we can share a few of the voices behind the movement.
For August, we chatted with Linda Crider, executive director of Bike Florida, Inc., a nonprofit group she founded in 1994 to promote safe cycling across the Sunshine State. Through Bike Florida and other efforts, Crider continues adding to a long list of accomplishments that have helped cement her as a guru of cycling safety.
In 1996 she bicycled across the country with her 12-year-old son. While working under former Florida Governor Bill Graham, she helped create the Florida Bicycle Program within the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). For the 18 years she worked for the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida (UF), Crider helped engineer several projects to develop safer means of transportation for school children, including the 1997-98 Safe Ways to School program that has since expanded nationally into Safe Routes to School (SRTS).
These days, when Crider gets a bit of free time from her professional responsibilities, she enjoys boating, playing music and spending summers at her new home in Cordova, Alaska.
At what point in your life did you develop your passion for bicycling safety and education?
There were three points, really. The first was when I was working in the governor's office for the state of Florida. While there, I had the opportunity to meet Herbert Hiller, and he invited me to join a "cycling workshop on wheels" in 1978. That's when I became involved in helping to create the Florida Bicycle Program for FDOT.
The second point was in 1989, when I was a single mom living in Gainesville. I was driving my seven-year-old daughter to catch her bus and pulling out of a side street. There was a high retaining wall along the street and a young child cyclist was coming down behind it, whom I could not see. Fortunately, he only had to get a few stitches. But I was shaken up and called Dan Burden's office and asked what I might do to help promote bicycle safety. Soon thereafter I became the FDOT statewide bicycle safety education program coordinator on a grant to the University of Florida.
The third time was the day after Christmas in 1996, when my best friend and program assistant Margaret Raynal was killed on her bicycle by an inattentive truck driver. We began the Florida Bicycle Association to create more awareness for sharing the roadway and made a specialty license plate tag for Florida that now brings in $160,000 a year for cycling and motorist education.
Can you think of ways to improve the current safety of people riding bicycles in this country?
There has to be lots more education in the schools, for young children first as pedestrians, then as young bicyclists and then as young drivers; maybe requirements for a bicycle driver's license as part of a middle school education program that becomes a prerequisite to getting a driver's license.
And there also have to be safer facilities, like more trails that connect to other on-road facilities, bike parking and greater public awareness and support for cycling. When cyclists are rewarded for saving gas, getting parking space in downtown, and not polluting the environment, and when they get recognized for their contributions, they will recognize riding a bicycle as being a good thing to do, not just for ourselves and our own health, but for our communities.
How do you envision the future of cycling in the United States?
We've only just begun! It's really taking off more and more across this country as gas prices increase and health becomes such a prevalent issue. It's our time as bicyclists and advocates and educators.
What do you think rail-trails have offered and will continue to offer the world of biking?
I've always believed in trails because I see them as the training ground for new and young cyclists, where they can learn or relearn to ride in an environment away from cars where they feel safer. From there they can begin to venture out onto roads, but only after they have mastered the skills and feel comfortable. I also see trails as a wonderfully peaceful and safe-feeling place for all to cycle, regardless of age, skill, race, economic status, etc. They're the grand equalizer and are closer to nature and all the beauty that it has to offer.
More broadly, how do you think rail-trails can improve the communities they run through?
They really tie the community together. They are also a wonderful catalyst for joining neighborhoods and doing revitalization projects. People love trails, and if given good, safe places to walk and ride, they will do so.
Do you have a personal favorite rail-trail or two?
One is in my hometown, Florida's Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail, just because I can get to it every morning and watch eagles flying on it. And also the many trails in Washington, D.C., because they are such a great big-city asset.