Temperatures to Dip Below Freezing again Tonight

University of Florida students are huddling and bundling up against the colder weather that has hit Gainesville this week.

Bikers around campus are packing on extra layers, and the line for Starbucks this morning was enormous, with about 40 people either waiting for their drinks or waiting to order.

Mead Bowen, a UF journalism student, is embracing the cold.

“It’s about time in my opinion,” he said. “I’ve lived in florida for about 22 years, and i’m ready for a change where winter comes earlier.”

The temperature is supposed to dip below freezing over the next couple of nights in Gainesville, but Bowen, for one, seems chipper enough about it.

“I like the feeling of going outside, how your body is struggling against the cold,” he said. “There’s something about braving the elements that makes you feel alive.”

The State of Gainesville’s Roads

I found some interesting numbers in a report on pavement maintenance from Gainesville’s Public Works Department. For instance:

  • About a third of the city’s roads are ranked in the fair-poor range. Most of these roads haven’t been paved in 15 years, which is right about the entire lifetime of a road if it isn’t repaved.
  • Even though Gainesville has very high traffic counts and about 390 miles of road to maintain, it spends an average of $777/mile to maintain those roads.
  • Lake Mary has the same budget for road maintenance ($300,000), and yet they only have 54 miles of road.

That was the detail that shocked me the most: out of all the comparable cities listed in the report, Gainesville spends much less on road maintenance. Lake Mary, for instance, spends more per mile than both Brevard and Putnam counties.

Why are other cities spending so much on road pavement, or is it that we’re not spending very much? It’s difficult to figure out what the norm is here.

From what I’ve seen, it seems as though Gainesville could use a few more dollars per mile to keep up the extensive road network that it supports.

But what do you guys think? Does Gainesville need more repaving projects, which will cause more traffic, or fewer, which will leave us will slag roads as far as the eye can see?

UPD handing out coupons instead of tickets for bikers without lights

For a short time, the University of Florida Police Department will be handing out warnings and coupons for bike lights to cyclists who find themselves suddenly riding in the dark after the time change, according to a report in the Alligator.

I wish that they had done this when I was a foolish freshman at UF. I knew that we needed to have lights, but I thought we needed only one or the other, not both.

One night I had my headlight, but no taillight, and soon wound up with a ticket. That was back in the days when you could take the bicycle safety class instead of paying the $52.50 or whatever it was, so I got rid of it, but still.

As far as I can tell from the Alligator report, the warnings are a one-night opportunity only. Bicyclists beware! The sun is setting around 6 p.m. or even earlier these days, so make sure that you have your lights, or you could end up with a fine.

On Pothole Patrol

Potholes are a plague and pestilence to drivers everywhere. During my time in Gainesville, I’ve come to hate a few sections of town just because of how poorly paved they are. (For example, anywhere on 16th Avenue comes to mind)

The people in charge of plugging the holes are the crew members of Gainesville’s pothole patch team. A division of the Public Works Department, they’ve already filled in more than 16,000 potholes this year.

The biggest issue for potholes, they told me, is slag-street roads. These roads are often very rough to begin with, and have a rocky, unfinished look to them. The problem is that most of them are old, and Gainesville has quite a few of them, which makes deciding which to repave first difficult.

Typically, residents call in most of the potholes that need fixing. If you have a pothole that about threw your front end out of alignment, call the pothole team at 352.334.5070, or send an email to pubwrk@cityofgainesville.org.

The Bike and Rail Trails of Gainesville, Florida

Just this evening I was driving down 16th Avenue in Gainesville when I rode over an old and broken “Railroad X-ing” sign that was paved into the road. While the tracks for that crossing have been gone for some time, I had a fleeting glance of a paved rail trail that slipped away into the shadows.

Although you wouldn’t know by the looks of it today, Gainesville, Florida has a long association with the railroad. The crest of our city is a railroad locomotive, after all.

During the 1920s, many railroads helped form the city of Gainesville. You can still see the traces around town, like on 6th Street, where the old station used to be, or the Depot Avenue grade and rail bridge.

In this photo (which I appropriated from the Florida Department of Transportation website), you can see a train coming down West Main Street in downtown Gainesville:

 

Today, the railways of Gainesville are gone, but the legacy remains in the many rail trails around town. Depot Avenue is one of the most noticeable, but the newly-paved trail on 6th Street lies on old tracks as well.

I believe that tonight, I may have found a third. Here’s a list of some of the other ones in our area: Gainesville Rails to Trails.

Cyclist-Motorist Co-existence & Cooperation

I saw an article this week in the Alligator about a forum on bicycle safety. The common mantra of cyclists is along the lines of “but the motorists don’t care about us!” The article quotes the cyclists referring to the roundabouts in the city as “deathtraps.”

Now, I’m a biker myself. I bike everywhere in this town. I love that Gainesville and Alachua county have so many bike lanes. But integrating road traffic and cyclist traffic is not always the easiest thing in the world. Here’s a couple of points that both motorists and cyclists should pay attention to so that everything runs smoothly.

Roundabouts

First off, the roundabouts. I like ‘em when I’m in a car: you only have to yield to your left, and you can turn all the way around if you’re lost… again.

When a bike lane goes through a roundabout though, there’s not enough room for both car and bike. So, cyclists, act as if you were a car. If you’ve got time to get through clear, do so, but don’t try to squeak alongside a guy that might be turning when you’re going straight. Collision waiting to happen.

Of course, motorists need to actually yield to cyclists in roundabouts as if we were cars as well. Some joker tried to cut me off the other day as I was on my way through and almost took me out. Not cool, dude.

Obviously, awareness is the key point here. This town moves at an astonishing rate of traffic. There are cars everywhere, bikes everywhere, pedestrians everywhere.

You have got to keep your eyes open at all times, whether you’re riding a bike or driving a car.

Thoughts on Citizen and Community Journalism

After talking it over in class on Thursday, I think that the key point is making the difference between citizen and community journalism. Both often deal with the same topics, but while community journalism can be written by real journalists, citizen journalism is not.

Of the two, I feel that there is more of a need for community journalism in today’s times. It must serve a purpose to enrich the community: like a profile of an interesting citizen, or business, or event that’s occurring in town.

When I hear “citizen journalism,” I think, commentary. Opinions. And while I will gladly read the opinions of people who write on subjects that are of interest to me (see the Comics Curmudgeon), reading just anyone’s random thoughts is different.

Of the two, I feel that while community journalism would have a place on a newspaper or media website, citizen journalism is best approached more carefully.

The dangerous areas for citizen journalism are conflicts of interest, loss of objectivity, and concerns for libel. Naturally, I think that these can occur in community journalism pieces, but citizen journalism is more prone to danger.

Nevertheless, I believe that citizen journalism can find a place in today’s media world, provided there is enough oversight to ensure that things are done cleanly.

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