Saturday's opening of the first section of the East Central Regional Rail Trail (ECRRT) in Volusia County, Fla., was a great opportunity to witness firsthand the growing enthusiasm for walking and biking in that state.
Consistently ranked as the most dangerous state in America for pedestrians, a number of counties in Florida have recently begun concerted efforts to improve their bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, inspired by the example of municipalities across the nation that have shown such investment returns a marked improvement in lifestyle and business activity.
Volusia County is a leader in this movement, and Saturday's ribbon-cutting was the result of a combined energy for trails, biking and walking in the county, from a proactive council, a business community focused on tourism and providing a favorable working environment, and local residents eager to bike and walk for recreation and commuting.
Elsewhere in Florida, the grassroots nature of this demand is evident.
In Orange City, a volunteer community organization installed a light tower along a key pedestrian route to enable students to walk safely to school.
According to an article in the Daytona Beach News Journal, when students begin their trek to one of the three schools clustered on Orange City's west side each morning, they walk in darkness.
"Because seven students from University High and River Springs Middle schools in Orange City have been among the 17 involved in crashes coming or going from school this year, the community has been looking for ways to make pedestrian and bicycle routes to school safer," the article states.
So earlier this month, the Manatee Festival Committee installed a 30-foot light tower at one of the key intersections in the hope that it will improve safety conditions until a permanent solution could be found. The group is also looking into a way the city might provide a similar temporary light for another dark intersection nearby.