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Biking My Way Around Town

Charlotte, N.C., where I was raised, is well equipped with parking spaces in front of any business. I can park, get out of the car, and walk in before another minute passes.  Thankfully, Jacksonville is too.

Jacksonville is well equipped with another convenience—real bike lanes and sidewalks.  Charlotte is sprinkled with them on certain popular roads but not in many of the places which could actually benefit from them.

When my sister moved here, her first big purchase was a bike, a pink beach cruiser to be exact. I have ridden a bike throughout my life, but only around my neighborhood or the few mountain biking trips I have taken.

The idea of a beach cruiser in the largest city in the United States seemed ludicrous. I pictured my sister, riding along in a little beach cruiser, while cars passed by, laying on their horns and throwing up obscene gestures.

While expressing my concern to her about this, she quickly pointed out Jacksonville was well-equipped to handle bikers and informing me biking was actually a popular mode of transportation around the area.  Upon packing for my trip, I was instructed to attach my old blue bike to my car. My sister said I was not allowed to use her pink beach cruiser because I have a tendency to break things.

“Why would I need a bike when I have a car,” I asked my sister.

“Because you will need it, I promise,” was her response.

Unfortunately, my sister was right. Everything a person needs-from restaurants and shops can often fall within a half-mile radius (or at least where I'm staying) in Jacksonville.

A beach cruiser is the perfect way to get anywhere and coolest way as well. At the grocery store, the bike rack is constantly filled with bikes locked. I can go grab a few groceries and ride home with them hanging on the handle bars, since my old bike from home suffices for the summer.

My favorite use of the bike, however, is filling my beach bag with towel, book and sunscreen. Hopping on the bike, I travel almost a mile to the beach. The road is flat and I alternate between riding on the sidewalk and road.

My whole life, I have lived four or more hours away from the nearest beach. A trip to the ocean is reserved for a week of summertime vacation with my family, or a weekend way with friends.  This summer, a day at the beach has become a daily affair.

I overload my skin with a sunscreen and tanning oil combo and sit on the beach. I read, sleep, or just hang out. A day at the beach should always be appreciated and taken advantage of.

The people I have met down here don’t seem to appreciate the beach like I do. They live here and therefore, they say, it gets boring after awhile.  Attending college in the mountains a t 3,333 feet above sea level, I can identify with the feeling of boredom at otherwise magnificent scenery.

Thus, I suppose is why I am so enamored with the beach. The sun shines everyday in Jacksonville. I get to go to the beach whenever I want, and do not have to deal with filling up my tank every 300 miles.

The bike has become my favorite mode of transportation and I have notice myself becoming annoyed if I have to drive anywhere.

Kudos to Jacksonville for being biker friendly, the bike has become my new favorite way to get around and is eco-friendly, always a plus. The alternative to my bad driving skills has improved my leg muscles and has allowed me to have a fresh and easy way to enjoy the city. Riding a bike will never again be as much fun.

4 Responses »

  1. Mary Elizabeth,
    Where are you staying? Although we have sidewalks and bike lanes, I have trouble finding anywhere in Jacksonville to ride a bicycle without getting flattened by a Suburban.

  2. I went the first 14 years of my professional life without a car, 7 of those in Jax. Most people don't think Jax is very bike friendly because their only experience with getting around in Jax is by car on the major roads. There is almost nowhere in Jax that you can't get to by using alternative back roads that have very little traffic on them. There's a whole other side of Jax out there that the vast majority have never seen.

  3. Thanks, Mary Elizabeth, I enjoyed the article. I also ride a bicycle, not only for exercise, but I discovered it adds flair to what used to be mundane, boring tasks like.... daily trip to the post office and various things like going to the barbershop or to the grocery store for run outs or to the convenience store to pick up the daily Times-Union. I've a suggestion for you: go to a bike shop and have them fit your bicycle out with a basket & a rear-view mirror for the handlebar. Both are huge safety items, not to mention the convenience of carrying 'stuff.'

  4. Everything depends on where you live. I would think riding a bike would be fine in Riverside or San Marco or the Beaches.

    But in Mandarin (where I have lived) bike riding is much more difficult. The only street you can use to get out of the neighborhood, San Jose Blvd, is eight lanes wide in some parts, and traffic goes by at 50 mph. So it isn't really all that safe to bike, despite the existence of bike lanes.

    Some people ride bikes on the sidewalk. But the problem with that is that for about half a mile of San Jose Blvd. (between Sunbeam and Baymeadows) the sidewalk disappears, so the bicyclist is back to sharing the street with speeding cars.

    Unfortunately, more of Jacksonville looks like Mandarin than like the Beaches.