By Xiomara Meeks, TPO Senior Transportation Planner
As first published on the Florida Bicycle Association website
As a transportation planner for Polk TPO, nothing makes me happier than seeing people going about their daily business on their bikes.
I commute by car from Plant City to our offices in Bartow. I’ve seen people riding their bikes on the shoulders of State Road 60. I’ve seen a young boy, who I can only assume must have missed his school bus, ride his bike on the shoulder of State Road 60. And none of these people were what some would call the “lycra wearing” cyclists.
These were people trying to get from point A to point B by the only accessible method they had: a bike. Please don’t take my comment about “lycra wearing” cyclists negatively. As a runner, and triathlete, I fully respect the effort, dedication and endurance it takes to ride 20, 40 or in some cases over 100 miles for a workout. However, I’d like to focus on the reality of bikes as transportation.
As part of our planning efforts for Polk County we are currently updating the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for the year 2040. Yes, that’s right, 2040. It seems so far away, yet preparing an LRTP is how we get new roads, new sidewalks, and new trails. Projects included in this plan get moved into what the Florida Department of Transportation calls their Five Year Work Program.
Once a project is listed in the LRTP and it moves into the Five Year Work Program, there are four different stages: Project Development & Environmental Management (PD&E), Design, Right-of-Way and Construction. A project moves through these stages as long it has funding allocated in that fiscal year. We can all agree that it can be a complicated and long drawn out process. But the key here is to get those projects in the LRTP, so they can move up from the drawing board to the final phase of construction to public enjoyment.
The Fort Fraser Trail between Bartow and Lakeland has taken 15 years and it is still under construction. What I’m trying to say is that if you look at other countries that have biking infrastructure, it didn’t happen overnight. And the driving force for that infrastructure was the citizens.
I’ve been at Polk TPO for less than a year, but in that time I’ve met a lot of people who are very passionate about ensuring Polk County is more connected by trails and shared pathways. I know how hectic life can be. We all live busy lives.
What I’m asking from you today is to get involved.
Whether you can make one of our Adviser Network meetings, or if you can come to our TPO Board Meetings, we need your voice to be heard. If you want change, be the change. As we begin our planning process for our 2040 LRTP, we’ll be collecting public input through our website www.polktpo.com/momentum2040. You can send us your concerns/recommendations directly from your desktop computer or your cell phone, without leaving your house. You don’t even need to attend a meeting. So next time you are surfing online, please take a minute to visit it and give us your input.