Florida Game-Changers Raise Bike Awareness, Community Pride

Posted 01/24/14 by Amy Kapp in Success Stories, Building Trails

Photo of the 2012 Forgotten Coast Tour © Bike Florida

Share the Road

As RTC continues to highlight all things Florida trail-biking-walking-hiking-outdoor- friendly this month, we couldn’t do so without mentioning the interesting history of the Share the Road campaign.

In 1999, due to efforts led by former Florida Bicycle Association (FBA)and Bike Florida President Linda Crider and many others, Florida became the first state in the Union to create a specialty plate dedicated to bike safety.

After getting off to an enthusiastic start in 1992 by then-FBA Vice President Michael Koenig, the idea would slide into hibernation until 1996 when Crider’s friend and another gentleman were tragically killed near Gainesville in a riding accident involving a pickup truck. But through tragedy came a call to action, and in 1999, the Share the Road license plate would be officially adopted by the State of Florida.

In honor of the Share the Road campaign, RTC wants to take this opportunity to highlight three organizations, and the unique and impactful ways they are creating bike-safe and bike-friendly communities across the state.

Bike Florida’s Spring Tour

Of course, we have to mention Bike Florida, which has a twofold mission of promoting safe and responsible cycling and making a positive economic impact in local communities through events like its Spring Tour, now in its 20th year.

“When you have 600 or 700 people in a town and you are spending $10,000 a day on food and lodging…the communities really notice you. They say ‘Wow! Please come back!’” says Ken Foster, a former bike shop owner and current spring tour ride director and Share the Road coordinator for Bike Florida.

Photo of the 2012 Forgotten Coast Tour © Bike Florida

Foster mentions the 2012 Forgotten Coast Tour (pictured top and left)  in which the group toured areas devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. “We stopped in Wewahitchka [made famous by the filmUlee’s Gold], and we doubled the population for the day,” he states. “We put [thousands] in the pockets of the local search and rescue club and spent a few thousand that benefited the local high school’s Project Graduation program. We helped that community out, and they were really glad to see us.”

The cyclists go back to these places after the tours are over, Foster affirms; they remember where they’ve been.

University of Florida’s Bike Safety Program

The University of Florida’s Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program (FTBSEP)has been training teachers and other professionals to teach bike safety in elementary gym classes for 20 years. According to Associate Director John Egberts, the “train-the-trainers” program reaches between 200 and 300 teachers annually in Florida. Multiply that by the number of students in the average elementary classroom these days, and that’s an incredible reach.

Check out the cool van they travel in (pictured bottom right) donated by Bike Florida. Makes a statement, don’t you think?

Capital City Cyclists’ Kids on Bikes

Tallahassee-based Capital City Cyclists’ Kids on Bikes program has helped foster a love of bicycling and proper riding skills in approximately 5,000 children per year through FTBSEP programming.

“One of our goals goes beyond just the elementary education,” says President Zach Finn. “We don’t just want to put them on a bike for the four weeks of the program. We want to help them change their lifestyle.”

To that end, through their Trips for Kids program, the 490-member nonprofit regularly connects with local groups like Boys and Girls Clubs and Boys Town North Florida—a foster-care program for at-risk youth—to organize fun and educational biking trips around Munson Hills.

What’s really cool: In 2013, they trained 19 Boys Town kids to take part in The Ride for Hope, an event that raises funds each year for the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center.

That’s paying it forward.

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