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Saying Goodbye: A JBC original moves on to greener pastures and greener streets.

March 15, 2013

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There was this kind of fantastic, organic dynamism to my initial encounters with each original JBC co-founder. It’s the kind of thing you don’t see everyday in well-established, large, deep-rooted communities within other metropolises, to find “your people” so quickly with the use of one simple yet surprisingly sovereign word: Bike.

While other big cities have already long ago embraced bike culture, the word “bike” no more special than the word “car” (*shudder*), Jacksonville is just now coming into its own with the acceptance of our beloved pedal-pushers, making bikes a still charmingly misunderstood lifestyle to the typical motorist… for better or worse. And though it comes with many faults concerning pedestrians and cyclists, I do fully appreciate the advantage of this blank canvas of a city we call Jacksonville; you can really leave your mark any way you wish, and find your scene if you’re clever enough and set astir to do so.

So the grand departure of yet another great advocate and JBC member, Katie Smith, leaves another bittersweet residue as we farewell our fair maiden to greener pastures and, hopefully, friendlier faces behind the wheels of her soon-to-be Colorado car counterparts.

I actually met Katie in a creative setting, not at all bike-related, some two years ago, at one of my first Sketch Up gatherings at the Starbucks on San Jose.

I soon discovered Katie as one of those multifaceted members within our community with certainly no shortage of that canny quick wit and mover shaker mindset needed to be the incredible advocate that she is. Our conversations were limited during the first couple Sketch Up gatherings, that is, until we started talking bikes. We connected then, immediately, both hungry to explore our ideals regarding cycling issues in this city, and driven to seek out others who also felt that distinct pang within the pits of their own voracious bellies.

Katie and I entered the Jacksonville bike scene right around the same juncture. She was still just borrowing her roommate’s bike at the time, her bruised legs a testimony of her relationship with what she lovingly referred to as Bike Turner, a mish-moshed cruiser type of sorts with a mercilessly short temper, and pitifully short frame for Katie’s leggy needs. I had just purchased my first road bike, a great departure from my old Trek mountain bike which was solely used for commuting around St. Augustine and certainly not for seeking out or connecting with any Old City bike culture. Admittedly, we were noobs, clever enough on an individual basis, but just barely dumb enough to take on Jacksonville’s politics. Just barely.

Since then, Katie’s cycling repertoire has increased tenfold. She bought herself a respectable road bike, some serious tires, a rack, panniers, stylish-yet-functional commuter threads, a helmet, amongst a slew of other goodies, and of course her fair share of tire tubes, naturally. As for her advocacy repertoire, what would this community have done these past two years without Katie Smith serving the cycling movement?

A revolutionary, in both senses, this dynamo of dirty Duval brought the smack down on antiquated habits of the bureaucratic kind while simultaneously swaddling the babe of  Bold New City bike culture.

Katie helped create a comprehensive cycling survey for the city, which included video testimonials. The results of the survey were included with the proposal, that she helped to research for and write, for the City Council, pleading they consider placing cycling and pedestrian needs further up on their list of priorities.

She attended countless Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meetings and also attended several City Council hearings whenever there arose issues related to cyclist and pedestrian needs and urban sprawl concerns. Despite her naturally demure tendencies, she mustered up enough gumption to approach the podium during the Mobility Fee Moratorium hearing, giving her two biting cents to the City Council: To paraphrase a quip from her speech, referring to last year’s failed attempt at implementing a moratorium on mobility fees, “The definition of insanity, in short, is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”. Way to stick it to ‘em, Katie!

She played her part in implementing a proposal to the State to install those sharrows we all know and enjoy on Riverside Avenue.

Katie was also a major key composer in the Mayor Bicycle event which took place during 2012’s Bike Month in May. Her contribution as an easy-on-the-eyes and heavy-on-the-elbow-grease bike washer for the Bike Wash Fundraiser, no doubt, gained amply amicable contributions for the cause. And she was, overall, a great contributor to the success of Jacksonville’s first relatively-organized Bike Month last year.

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Gettin’ clean at the JBC Bike Wash Fundraiser

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Last-minute touches on the Mayor Bike

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An art enthusiast, writer, and keen eye for solid compositions, she also helped create an absolutely beautiful, not to mention remarkably professional, locally-shot short film noir, The Convert; an artsy fart approach to a PSA production meant to encourage the community to get involved with Jacksonville’s Bike Month.

Click on this image and it will take you to the Jacksonville Bike Month site where the film clip resides.

Click on this image and it will take you to the Jacksonville Bike Month site where the film clip resides.

Katie has fulfilled more than her fair share of volunteer work concerning the Jacksonville cycling community – from SAGing for the MS 150 to booth-running at cycling events; from promotional footwork to pro bono photography; and simply by conversing with non-cyclists about our rights, our reasons for why we do what we do, and, in general, how much fun bike riding can be.

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Bike Day at RAM, 2011

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Katie was the genius behind these cookies with their fondant “cement” icing and food coloring “skid mark” embellishments.

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Photography for the Duval Dirty Bike Olympics Fundraiser

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Photography for the 2011 MS 150

Katie Smith’s absence will be a great loss to Jacksonville’s cycling community. We’re gonna miss you, lady.

With heavy heart but irrefutable understanding , I wish you and Matt safe travels as you embark on this next great journey… RIDE BIKES™!

Sincerely, Jenny Kubicki

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Group bike ride for my 31st birthday

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Team Bubba Burger: The motliest crew at the MS 150

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Spectating the Duval Dirty Bike Olympics

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Forget Planking! All the cool kids are into Owling!

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Dirty Duval 4-Lyfe!

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Just say NO to the new 3-year Mobility Fee Moratorium!

February 6, 2013

Last year, the city pushed through (more like forced down our gullets) a year-long bill that placed a hold on 100% of our funding for more bike and ped infrastructure in what is nationally regarded as “the third most dangerous city in the nation for cyclists and pedestrians”. The bill went through before the public could even speak out against it. For one year, this little experiment was tried, and by the end of that year, regarded as a failure.

So not only did cyclists and pedestrians continue to get screwed for the umpteenth year in a row by councilmen who don’t seem to have any grasp on the importance of having a walkable and bikeable urban core, the proposed “positive” aspects of that bill failed miserably too – very little, if ANY, building development occurred, as was the hope of placing a hold on mobility fees.

By the end of the last year-long moratorium, the community gathered at the council chambers to speak out against the proposed extension of that moratorium. Tons of people came to say NO to an extension and thankfully it was dropped.

Now Councilman Richard Clark wants to propose it again, but this time for three years.

JUST SAY NO TO THE NEW THREE-YEAR MOBILITY FEE MORATORIUM!

Take these three easy steps:

  1. First: Write to your City Council members today! Specifically Richard Clark: http://www.coj.net/city-council/city-council-members.aspx
  2. Second: Attend the City Council Public Hearing on February 12th at 5:30pm, City Hall, Downtown. Fill out a comment card and/or speak at the podium and Vote NO! They may vote on it this day as an “emergency” vote, so attend this first hearing if you can.
  3. Third: Attend the City Council Public Hearing on February 26th at 5:30pm, City Hall, Downtown. Fill out a comment card and/or speak at the podium and Vote NO!

I’ll leave you with a fantastic quote from a person of whom I have yet to figure out the identity. From the Metro Jacksonville forum member, TheLakelander:

“Much focus has been placed on the amount of money being taken out of taxpayers mostly empty pockets to subsidize already feasible development.

However, one of the largest atrocities with this fiasco is the preservation of a land development pattern that places Jacksonville’s cyclists and pedestrians at death’s knocking door.

The mobility fee is designed to guide development, not penalize it. There are several ways to significantly reduce or eliminate the fee by simply building development that makes Jacksonville a more human scaled community.

While it’s certainly true that Clark’s 3-year moratorium request would further lead us to the path of bankruptcy, it also promotes bad development policy, which will negatively impact us economically for years into the future.”

http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,17439.msg316110.html#msg316110

IMPORTANT BIKE/PED ISSUE! SPEAK OUT TODAY!

February 5, 2013

Say NO to the moratorium

JUST SAY NO TO THE NEW THREE-YEAR MOBILITY FEE MORATORIUM!

Take these three easy steps:

  1. First: Write to your City Council members today! Specifically Richard Clark: http://www.coj.net/city-council/city-council-members.aspx
  2. Second: Attend the City Council Public Hearing on February 12th at 5:30pm, City Hall, Downtown. Fill out a comment card and/or speak at the podium and Vote NO! They may vote on it this day as an “emergency” vote, so attend this first hearing if you can.
  3. Third: Attend the City Council Public Hearing on February 26th at 5:30pm, City Hall, Downtown. Fill out a comment card and/or speak at the podium and Vote NO!

 

Does Councilman Richard Clark really care all that much about our city’s issues? He has the worst attendance record of all (read all about that here). Tell Richard he probably shouldn’t have been napping the last time the community came in by the droves to speak out against last year’s moratorium. Read all about that here.

If you can’t make it to the meetings, Clark, then you don’t care about this city as much we I do.

Cyclists, pedestrians, urban core advocates: The community needs your help more than ever! Don’t let this happen to us again!

Mass Transit Magazine Addresses Jacksonville’s Dangerous, Nationwide Reputation

January 28, 2013

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The magazine, Mass Transit, was recently made privy to the North Florida TPO’s latest survey regarding North Florida’s transportation problems. There was an overwhelming response from the cyclist communities that make up the counties of Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns.

Read more about it here:

http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/10859635/fl-road-improvements-for-cyclists-pedestrians-in-first-coast-counties-subject-of-transportation-survey?utm_source=MASS+NewsViews+Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MASS130122002

I want to sincerely thank everyone who has ever voiced their concerns about Jacksonville’s awful reputation to the proper authorities, or at least to the media. There have only been a little handful of advocates that have been “whining” (as Councilman Bill Gulliford puts it) for years and years, hoping beyond hope that Jacksonville will finally start accepting cycling as a serious form of transportation, and that we need more infrastructure, education, and enforcement in order to be up to par with the rest of our progressive metropolitan counterparts.

If you’re interested in the context of Mr. Gulliford’s lovely comment about cyclist advocates, you can read that exchange of emails right here in the blog post “Anger Management”.

Since the JBC was formed and reinforced by teaming up with Bike Jax and BPAC, I’ve witnessed a very noticeable influx in media coverage about cyclist issues. You can read some of the articles in a couple categories in this blog – “Cyclists’ Concerns in Jax News” and “JBC in the News”. I don’t have every article represented here. No where near, in fact. But most of what I’ve posted regarding media coverage has more to do with the media “raising awareness”, not necessarily simply reporting another casualty (Jacksonville has always had more than its fair share of articles of that nature).

So again, THANK YOU, JACKSONVILLE ADVOCATES, for all that you do to BITCH and MOAN and most especially WHIIIIIIIIINE (that one’s for you, Mr. Gulliford) to those who are supposed to be implementing enforcement of the law, to those who are supposed to be including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in new street designs, and to the highest authorities who are supposed to stay on top of these matters when those who are supposed to be doing their jobs are, in fact, not.

That’s one thing an advocate is supposed to do, anyway.

And in my continued efforts in figuring out how to advocate for such a huge city with only a tiny number of advocate colleagues by my side, I’ve found that walking into City Hall, or the TPO headquarters, or contacting local media, or speaking to the mayor, or speaking directly to any given necessary figure, provides a great deal more change for our city, as opposed to standing outside those facilities and protesting.

You must be a part of the system and go right up to the authorities and communicate with them. An advocate cannot solely rely on protesting from the sidelines.

It’s that one nagging thing that makes me shy away from being a part of any bureaucratic system, though, and which ultimately slowed my momentum these past few months – the merciless politics.

 

SURVEY: Let your voice be heard on Jax bike infrastructure

January 17, 2013

Are you a CYCLIST in JAX?

Tired of the North Florida TPO NOT including CYCLIST & PEDESTRIAN INFRASTRUCTURE in new street designs?

Take just a few minutes to fill out this VERY IMPORTANT SURVEY and let your voice be heard! Then pass it on!

In order for change to take place in our city WE, THE PEOPLE, MUST ADVOCATE FOR IT! Here’s an easy way to do just that.

Click the link below and then click on “Take the Survey”:

http://www.northfloridatpo.com/news/last_call_for_regional_bike_ped_plan_input/

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Saying Goodbye to a Friend and Hardcore Advocate

January 16, 2013
Here's Abhi with his pre-bus-accident xtracycle

Here’s Abhi with his pre-bus-accident xtracycle

The news came quite suddenly.

Abhishek Mukherjee, Co-Founder and former Director of the JBC and affiliate of Bike Jax, sat down with me at dinner one night along with Goliath Flores, another member of the JBC, to inform us of his latest pursuits as an engineer. And shortly thereafter, his career called him to another city – Lakeland – where the cycling community is certainly smaller, but the overall street-sharing atmosphere is considerably friendlier.

I remember the first time I met him. It was July of 2011 and I was hosting my very first brainstorm with a rag tag group of other cyclists who yearned for change as much as, if not more than I. The group was intimate but enthusiastic and full of enough hope and good feelings to represent a hundred able bodies. Well, all of us, that is, except one person. As our naive notions of a better tomorrow for the cyclists of these mean streets filled our little corner of Three Layers Bakery, Abhishek brought to our table a raincloud of a scowl, and with raised eyebrow, proceeded to not-so-gently let us down with a tellin’-it-like-it-is approach. And I couldn’t be more grateful to him, then and always, for being the logical skeptic that he is.

Abhishek was an old hand at bicycle advocacy in the River City, having already been an active member of Bike Jax, so his jaded remarks were completely founded on years of struggling with our not-so-cycle-savvy city council members. In fact, it was only by coincidence that he joined our brainstorm, as he was actually only there to meet up with a friend. But before he knew it, and with some not-so-gentle nudging from Yours Truly, he got carried away with our conversations and… shortly thereafter… became a Co-Founder of the Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition.

Since then, our town and our little coalition have experienced good change thanks to Abhi’s diligence and hard work, and quite literally, his blood, sweat, and tears. Well, blood and sweat anyway. Abhi’s no pansy.

He created a comprehensive cycling survey for the city, which included video testimonials. It had a great turnout and was used in conjunction with other materials presented to our city council members.

He helped write a proposal to the city, encouraging city council members to get on board with other forward-thinking cities where cycling is regarded as an essential element for a thriving urban core and progressive city overall.

He attended countless Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meetings for years and also attended countless City Council meetings for various cycling, pedestrian, and urban core-related hearings.

While with Bike Jax, he helped create that fantastic Bike Valet at Riverside Arts Market. In fact, he’s been a part of many Bike Jax-related activities and pursuits long before he partnered up with the JBC.

He played the main role in getting those Riverside Avenue sharrows installed. That was his idea and his proposal. And by pure coincidence, Abhi was also struck by a city bus on that very road, weeks before the sharrows were installed (that’s the “blood” portion of his advocacy, by the way). You can read more about that here.

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Abhi also played another integral and important role in the direction of the Mayor Bicycle event which took place during 2012’s Bike Month. Not to mention all the other aspects of Bike Month that was largely implemented because of him. He created the Jacksonville Bike Month website and coordinated with others on launching various events and then listing them on the site, kind of as a main go-to hub for bicycle-related activities all over the city.

And it doesn’t stop there. Abhishek is also an afficianado of the arts and wrote and co-directed the short film noir, The Convert. You MUST see it. Take six little minutes out of your life and watch this film, all shot by Abhi. You can even read some of the reviews here too:

Click on this image and it will take you to the Jacksonville Bike Month site where the film clip resides.

Click on this image and it will take you to the Jacksonville Bike Month site where the film clip resides.

Abhi was also a featured guest on Action News Jax during last year’s Bike Month, explaining to the public what the basis of our problems are as a car-centric city struggling with the idea of sharing the road with cyclists.

Click on this image to watch the video clip.

Click on this image to watch the video clip.

There is far more that this man has done for our community, both behind the scenes and at the forefront, than what this little blog post suggests. Inspired by Bike Jax’s farewell blog post, I’ll leave you with a few photographic memories of Abhishek Mukherjee, good friend, amazing advocate, and a great loss to Jacksonville’s cycling community. We miss you, man.

Sincerely, Jenny Kubicki

Riding bikes with me and some buddies for my 31st birthday.

Riding bikes with me and some buddies for my 31st birthday.

Filming cyclist testimonials that were used in correlation with the JBC survey.

Filming cyclist testimonials that were used in correlation with the JBC survey.

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Surprising Harley and Matt on their birthdays with a group bike ride and specially designed cupcakes

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Is that cupcake Harley or Abhishek?

The Bike Jax Bike Valet at RAM

The Bike Jax Bike Valet at RAM

The Mayor Bike event

The Mayor Bike event – Jenny, Alvin, Matt with Bike Jax, Olivia, and Abhi

Abhi, Olivia, and Goliath

There’s Goliath as the man behind the Mayor Bike brainchild and speaker for the event

There's Abhi at the First Annual Duval Dirty Bike Olympics

There’s Abhi at the First Annual Duval Dirty Bike Olympics. Stay cool, man.

Saying Goodbye to (what felt like) Old Friends

January 16, 2013

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Well I just got the memo, i.e. just tragically discovered, that Kickstand Comics – home of that delightfully eccentric commuter cyclist, Yehuda Moon and the rest of the chain gang – illustrated its very last comic strip at the end of 2012. Geez, and I just thought they were taking a long vacation or something.

If you’re not familiar with the comic, get familiar. You’ll LOVE IT. http://yehudamoon.com/

You can either sign up for the online comic strips which you may peruse at your convenience; perhaps read a comic a day, much like I did. Or you can buy one or all of the Kickstand graphic novels, volumes I through V.

The creators, Rick Smith and Brian Griggs, made sure to incorporate a variety of cyclists within this strip, from the hardcore helmet-hating commuters to the hardcore forever-sporting-spandex roadies, and everyone in between, including a snarky and super funny Shaker fixed gear rider. Each character reminded me of someone I knew personally. Each strip, I could relate to in some way. There were so many moments that made me laugh and even pulled at my heartstrings in a very emotional way, revealing parallels of the typical trials and tribulations associated with cycling on a regular basis and the ever-present conflict between the uneducated motorists and the cyclists who are just trying to get from point A to point B safely, lawfully, by way of thigh-powered, earth-friendly means.

Here’s the very first strip, elegantly simple and something we can all relate to no matter what type of cyclist you are.

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There are way too many wonderful strips, but here are just a few examples I pulled from the web that really hit home for me.

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The one below is actually a sad reminder of a local, well known, and highly beloved cyclist who was struck and killed recently by a young woman who claimed she didn’t see him because the sun was in her eyes. I do not yet know the outcome of the situation, but usually these incidents do not lean in favor of the cyclist for some insane reason. I will never understand how it’s perfectly okay to drive at the normal speed limit, and not have to slow down and drive extra cautiously, when the sun is blinding you. IF YOU CANNOT SEE WHILE DRIVING A MOTORIZED VEHICLE, YOU ARE DRIVING RECKLESSLY AND YOU SHOULD BE AT FAULT FOR THE INCIDENT. PERIOD.

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Do yourself and these fine creators a favor and buy at least the first volume. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it. http://yehudamoon.com/

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To the Kickstand team and the creators thereof, I thank you immensely for the laughter and sincere inspiration. You will be missed immensely.

Jenny Kubicki

The Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition