“Two wheels are definitely better than four” according to Dexter Murphy, “at least in Springfield.”
This sentiment sums up how most people in the Springfield Historic District, and greater urban core, feel about the ancient, yet suddenly-chic form of transportation: the bicycle. Whether it’s the benefit to the environment, a financial decision based on gas prices, or the rediscovered simple joy of riding through the open air, bikes are definitely in in Springfield.
Josh and Jessie have called the Historic District home for 5 years. Engaged to be married, they enjoy all the usual love bird activities; Long walks on the beach, reciting love poems to each other, picking out curtain patterns together . . . . and you can add riding their bicycles to popular downtown hotspots and in-town sites to that list. It may not be the norm for most Jacksonville couples, but it suits these casual riders just fine.
“That’s kind of the whole point of living here, isn’t? To be close to entertainment, nightlife, restaurants, etc? “, Josh asks rhetorically. “We have easy rides to the Jacksonville Jaguars football games, downtown festivals and events, and nightlife like Dos Gatos. Oh, and the Riverside Arts Market. The best part is that we don’t have to worry about parking or traffic. Just tie off your bike and you’re good to go”.
Destination biking isn’t the only reason the couple don bicycles though.
“Sometimes we just like to go for a ride through the neighborhood”, says Jessie, “or down to the Riverwalk. We like riding through the neighborhood to see all the houses, talk to neighbors, and get ideas for our house. The Riverwalk is a relaxing ride too, and close by.”
While some Springfielders enjoy a casual ride on the weekends, others incorporate cycling into their everyday routine.
Alex and Jenna are new to the neighborhood, circa Spring 2011, but have already established an active bicycle lifestyle. They own 6 bikes between them, sleek road bikes to sturdy mountain bikes.
“I try to ride my bike to work as much as I can,” Alex explains. “I work in the home renovation industry, so it’s not always feasible, but right now I’m working on a house in Avondale and my office is near Tallyrand, so I’m really enjoying riding to work right now.”
Jenna also rides for more utilitarian purposes, like getting from point A to point B. “The grocery, bank, post office, and Main Library are close by, so I take my bike to run errands. A lot people ride bicycles here, so cars know to look out for us”.
Much like Josh and Jessie, these new residents aren’t all work and no play. They bike for pleasure too.
“There’s a lot to see around these older, historic neighborhoods. Different styles and different people. Riding through on a bicycle gives you a whole different perspective and appreciation of the little things, compared to riding by car. Of course we’re close to all the fun stuff in and around the downtown area, but riding trails in the nature parks of Jacksonville are a lot of fun too.”
Greg Williams has spent a lifetime riding bicycles. From his chrome plated, banana seat Schwinn at 8 years old, to his ultra stealthy Litespeed road bike today, Greg has always loved his bikes. The San Francisco Bay area native was first exposed to urban cycling during his college days in San Fran, and quickly discovered a fondness for it.
“It was something I loved. I could ride from downtown San Francisco to Lake Merced to Presidio in no time at all. I could ride everywhere. The Downtown area of Jacksonville is somewhat similar, but still changing. It’s in transition, but still urban enough and in proximity to venues to ride in the same way.”
These days he rides for exercise. And ride he does.
“I usually go riding at first light before a lot of cars are on the road. I’ll do 20 or 30 miles in the morning and be back by 8am. My buddy Chuck and I will ride from here to the Baldwin Trail, across the river and down San Jose Blvd into Mandarin, or sometimes just find a loop around Downtown up to Jax Port”, describes Greg. “Living so close to downtown is a good scene for cycling. You have quick access to bridges and waterways, a stimulating and changing environment, and refreshing scenery. I need that, and if I lived in the suburbs I wouldn’t have that.”
“My favorite ride has to be Fernandina Beach. I rode from Springfield to Fernandina Beach last month and videotaped the whole thing, about an 80 mile round trip. It was fun man, it really was. It’s a great sense of personal accomplishment.”
For almost 2 years, Leigh Burnett of e2ride Bike Tours has made her living showing off the bikeable and historic areas of Jacksonville. Featured in all sorts of local media, e2ride has been Trip Advisor’s #1 Jacksonville attraction for over a year as well. If anyone knows why people enjoy biking certain neighborhoods, it’s her.
“In all honestly, it can be something as simple as sidewalks and front porches,” Leigh explains. “Not all neighborhoods have sidewalks these days, and many don’t have front porches. You feel closer to the neighborhood with these features. You wave hello, you socialize. Then there’s the rich history and architecture. The character of the older neighborhoods really comes through when you ride a bike, much more so than behind the wheel of a car. It really is the best way to feel the culture, vibrancy, and lifestyle of a neighborhood. Plus, you can stop and meet people at wonderful, unique destinations, like Three Layers café. It’s really nice to be able to ride your bicycle to a local café and meet a friend for coffee. “
e2ride Bike Tours features a tour of the Springfield Historic District, along with Riverside & Avondale, San Marco, Old Mandarin, the Beaches, and other specialty tours.
The Big Picture
So what’s next? Bicycle ridership is up nationally across the board. No matter how you slice it, study after study supports the trend, especially in in-town neighborhoods, and especially in communities that are fortunate to have parks and sidewalks, such as the Springfield Historic District. The 2030 Mobility Plan was recently passed by the Jacksonville City Council, which includes a Bicycle Master Plan that will create new bikes lanes and paths throughout the city, including our neighborhood. Tony Allegretti, the guiding force behind the super successful Downtown Art Walk and Riverside Arts Market, has whispered the idea of a Ciclovia, which would hypothetically include Springfield as well.
While most of Florida, and Jacksonville specifically, is not considered particularly bike-friendly due to suburban sprawl and lack of bikes lanes, many residents of Jacksonville’s more urban, eclectic, bikeable neighborhoods have embraced the bicycle with open arms. In fact, outside cycling groups have been spotted traveling through the neighborhood of late, as word spreads about it's bikeability.
Whether it’s a casual ride, regular transportation, serious exercise, or a profession, Dexter is right: two wheels definitely are better than four in the Springfield Historic District.