BY GREG HEETER
I didn’t set out to get injured today, but it could’ve come to that, more than once.
The afternoon was beautiful and breezy, so I got out my bike and helmet and took off for a casual ride around DeLand. My casual bike ride included sprinting over crosswalks between speeding cars, and bumping through worn lawns and sand, while trying to get from one dead-end sidewalk to another.
Riding bikes — for fun or transportation — is neither safe nor easy in DeLand. City politicians smile and glad-hand, and receive endorsements from every civic organization in the area, yet basic movement of people around town remains circa the 18th century.
The city added 10,000 people since the last census, but still has sections where kids lug their school backpacks on dirt paths only 24 inches from whizzing traffic. On top of the travails of modern life, children shouldn’t have to worry about taking a bumper to the back of the head.
It’s well-documented that Florida is the No. 1 most deadly state in the nation for pedestrians, and our fair town is an example of why.
The city’s political priorities are on display every day by the brave souls trying to move around town without a car — and without bodily harm.
If DeLand’s “Department of Sidewalks, Bike Trails, and Places Where Humans Want to Walk” had been in charge of the NASA space program to land on the moon, they’d still be getting around to building Launch Pad 39A. Smooth, wide and connected sidewalks and trails seem out of reach in this “Athens of Florida.”
Businesses want visitors to come to DeLand to spend money. But you can see the sign now as riders step off the SunRail train: “Downtown DeLand, four miles that way. Good luck.”
A good day of bike riding in DeLand is one when you’re not injured. And, since the city is conducting its strategic planning right now, it might be time for citizens to let them know that we would support a manager position for pedestrian and bicycling initiatives, as well as an advisory committee on the topic.
— Trained in industrial-organizational psychology, Greg specialized in workplace learning and knowledge management in tech industries. Now retired, he works to encourage efficient processes, wise decision-making, and a good quality of life.