20 May 2017

Escape From The Sunshine State

People move from one state to another for all sorts of reasons.  Chief among them, I suppose, are jobs, family and schooling.  Then there are those who have a warrant out for them in the state they left (One of the great things about getting older is that the statute of limitations runs out!  You didn't hear that from me!) or are simply running away from any number of things.  I fit into that category when I left New Jersey:  Although my childhood wasn't Dickensian (It was more like Everybody Loves Raymond), a day came when I didn't want to be around my family or anybody or anything I knew.

Back then,  I said I'd "escaped" from New Jersey.  Other people, I'm sure, see their exits from one locale or another that way.  And that is how Alan Snel regards quitting Florida and going back to Nevada.

"Ghost Bike" dedicated to Johnny Jones in Jacksonville, Florida

As he reminds Governor Rick Scott in his open letter, posted on his blog Bicycle Stories, the Sunshine State leads the nation in cycling fatalities.  Given that it is the fourth most-populous state, it's not surprising that it also has the highest number of fatalities per million people.  What's most shocking, though is that no other state comes close, with almost twice as many deaths per million as second-place Louisiana and in absolute numbers, it edges out California, which has nearly double the population.

Two months ago, Alan Snel nearly became one of those statistics. He pointed that out in his letter to the Governor, in which he makes this judgment:  "You have showed no political leadership to try and reduce [the number of cycling fatalities] and you and the political leaders just don't care enough to do anything about keeping cyclists alive in your state."

Now I'll admit that my experiences of cycling in Florida are limited to a week or so I spend there every year.  And while there are great beaches and scenery, and it's nice to ride in shorts and T-shirts in December or January, I have even less of a sense that whoever makes decisions there knows or cares even less about cycling than in other places.  That is particularly troubling when you realize how many people ride.  

I always had the sense that, more than in anyplace else I've ridden, planners seem to think that throwing a bone to cyclists by painting a lane here or there is "policy".  And on Florida roads, you're more likely to encounter motorists driving way over the speed limit while under the influence of some substance or another--or are simply ignorant of, or hostile to, cyclists--than you are in, say, Portland--or even New York.

So...Although I usually enjoy the time I spend in Florida, I have no plans to move there.  And I understand why Alan Snel is moving out of it.

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