Perhaps in response to consistent reports finding it to be the most dangerous state in the U.S. for cyclists and pedestrians, the state of Florida has implemented a new law that will invest millions into creating newer and safer biking and walking trails.
Under Senate Bill 2514-A, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) must set aside $25 million in annual funding for The Florida Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Network – also known as SunTrail – which seeks to create a statewide network of bicycle and pedestrian paths that are separated from roadways (and thus much safer).
The amount allotted for the plan is actually half of the original proposal, which called for $50 million to be directed from certain taxes on acquisitions and improvements on conservation lands. But following controversy on this form of funding, the source of this revenue will be only a motor vehicle tax.
Still, many cycling and pedestrian advocates, as well as nature buffs, applaud this as a step in the right direction. The executive director of Audubon Florida commended SunTrail for helping make the state’s natural beauty more accessible for residents and visitors alike. Indeed, that was a big reason why voters approved the plan originally.
Nevertheless, others are concerned that the network, while well intentioned and a positive development, fails to address the lack of safe lanes urban commuters who ride bikes daily. According to officials most of the SunTrail will follow abandoned railways, canal banks, scenic highways, or utility transmission lines – not the sort of paths city-dwellers tend to go for day-to-day activities or routines.
In any case, SunTrail at least raises the important issue of traffic safety for commuters engaging in all forms of transportation.
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