Debbie Boada is a lucky woman.
The Gainesville-based pediatric nurse said she nearly lost her son a few years ago when he was hit by another vehicle while riding his bicycle on UF’s campus.
“There probably needs to be more implementation for bicycle safety,” Boada said.
Boada may get her wish. In honor of National Bike Month, Gainesville city officials and citizens cycled together in Depot Park on Saturday. Their goal was to highlight the benefits of bike riding and the city’s efforts to put bicycle safety first.
Mayor Lauren Poe, along with Gainesville City Commissioners, led the three-mile bike ride. Poe said about 100 residents of all ages attended the event.
“Eventually, we want to have a completely interconnected grid of multi-use trails and paths that are off the main road network,” Poe said.
The route they followed is part of a continuous urban trail system — an interconnected group of bike paths. The city is also working on an “infinity line” project, which will be shaped like a figure eight and meant for cyclists.
“There has been progress made to the trails and existing ideas, but there will never be a deadline,” Poe said. “As the city changes, these paths will be added to.”
After the bike ride, everyone gathered around the tents to talk to Poe and the commissioners. Bike checks, bike lights and information on bicycle safety were also available at the event.
“I look forward to this every year,” Poe said. “I think what happens is people come here for the biking, but they end up talking about a lot of other things that they want to see for the city.”
While Boada’s son was able to walk away from the accident with only a totaled bike, some cyclists aren’t as lucky. Florida had the second highest number of cyclist fatalities in the country in 2016, according to the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The City Commission has adopted a Vision Zero policy, Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said. The goal of the policy is to eliminate injuries and fatalities on the roads.
The Vision Zero policy will be implemented in 2018, according to the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Board’s meeting minutes.
Megan Wallrich, a 31-year-old wildlife biologist, said she appreciated the message behind Mayor Poe’s bike event, but she also wants to see more come from it.
“There is a huge community here for cyclists,” she said. “Hopefully that prompts them to also make changes in the future.”
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