What’s the Purpose of Paved Roads?

I know the question in the headline above might seem dumb, but it’s at the heart of the discussion whenever road improvements come up these days.

Take the county’s current plans for NW 16th/23rd Avenues. Because some of the commissioners want to promote bicycle travel, the county has devoted several commission meetings and months of research into determining how to slow traffic and shrink lanes to provide adequate space in the roadway for bicyclists—never mind that few bicyclists use the road now, or that already there are sidewalks lining each side of the road that bicyclists could use.

Then there are the proposals to spend $2 million or so to develop a bicycle path from Haile to the University of Florida, and the county’s general commitment to allocate nearly a quarter of all gas tax money to bikeways, walkways and mass transit.

So back to the core question: What’s the purpose of paved roads?

I’d argue they’re there primarily to facilitate motorized commerce by moving freight, commuters and consumers to their destinations. And I’d argue that since road renovations and new road construction are funded in large part by gas taxes, tolls, vehicle registration fees and other transportation taxes, the roads should serve drivers’ needs foremost.

We shouldn’t be looking at ways to narrow every road—including major commuter corridors—to accommodate alternate uses. We should acknowledge that motorized commerce is what generates the income that lets us live in a beautiful area like Alachua County. And we should make sure we do everything necessary to provide a well-paved, fast-flowing corridor to move goods and people around the county.

Let me make one thing clear: I say this as a rabid bicyclist. I’ve done an 800-mile trip around the state of Florida, biked 3,000-plus miles coast to coast, ridden several 100-mile centuries, and still average 2,000 miles or so a year.

Despite this, I recognize that the roads I bike on weren’t built for my purposes or funded by bicycle taxes. I also recognize that bicycling will never be my primary form of travel in steamy Florida, so my bicycling needs shouldn’t be the first concern.

Yes, it’s important to provide recreational bike lanes and trails, but let’s be prudent here. Let’s recognize that roads are for motor vehicles and stop wasting time on some grand but impractical vision in which every roadway needs to be turned into a bicyclist’s or walker’s heaven.

Proud to Serve You for Another Year

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That success is a credit to the hard work and excellence of staff members like senior sales exec Pete Zimek, senior writer Chris Eversole and top quality freelancers including Rick Sapp and Elizabeth Hillaker Downs. But it’s even more a testament to you, the readers.

You have accepted and encouraged us from day one. We appreciate you and will continue to do our best each issue to justify your support.


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