Bike Florida helps the Greenway sidle ahead

by Herb Hiller
Southeast Region Program Consultant

My nom de plume Cancer the Crab sidled nicely onward last week, advancing the Greenway by speaking to the Bike Florida board of directors in favor of having that not-for-profit extend its tour program. After probing discussion, the board decided not just to continue but also to expand its program of St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop tours.

The Greenway best gains ground when respected not-for-profits like Bike Florida act as surrogates for advancing our Alliance agenda.

You may remember that for a week around the Loop last November, Bike Florida led the annual Closing the Gaps Tour for major donors of the Alliance. That tour drew not just praise but also additional donations to Greenway coffers.

If you’re ever wondering what motivates people of any means to donate money to charities, consider the importance of institutions, like Bike Florida, that demonstrate their own commitment in a public way.

Until 2008, BF operated chiefly as a transportation safety research program at the University of Florida and largely funded by Florida Department of Transportation. It ran one tour a year. That was its annual spring Bike Florida (as the tour is also known), a camping excursion that year to year followed a different route and drew up to 1,000 cyclists at a time.

The 15th edition of that perennial takes place March 27-April 2 this year. For details, log onto www.bikeflorida.org.

Bike Florida’s decisions to expand its higher end offerings will likely result in October, November, December and January tours. The price will compare with last November’s Closing the Gaps price, around $1,700 fully supported except for only lunches.

Two aspects of the Bike Florida board’s decision bode well for the Greenway.

One, Bike Florida’s growing affiliation with the Loop backs up our view in the Alliance that the Loop is a powerfully attractive touring choice while also serving variously as spine route and as alternate route for the Greenway.

The other is that Bike Florida’s continuing focus on the Loop will result in that trail’s quickening completion. Recent good news is that $13.1 million has been allocated between 2011 and 2015 for design and construction of the portion of proposed trail between Enterprise and Titusville that runs west across prairie and wetlands, then by the canopied shore of big Lake Monroe. In autumns of relatively low rainfall when floodplain of the St. Johns River remains above water, the eastern section of the Loop bursts super-abundantly with wildflowers.

Bike Florida is also a participant in planning for the Visit Florida trails website that will launch during National Trails Month in October and that’s expected to make Florida potentially as well known for trails as the state already is for its beaches, golf and theme parks. Bike Florida is riding – as well as leading — a surge of interest in Florida trails, and the Alliance is benefiting in tandem.

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