As a kid in junior high and high school in Tampa, I had no choice. I peddled my bike to school and back, to visit friends, go to the movies, etc. until I was old enough to land a part time job at a Kwik Chek Grocery store and buy a car and liability insurance, a luxury my widowed mom could not afford to provide me.
All my life, I’ve used bikes in places I’ve lived, particularly in Belgium, another flat landscape that lends itself to two wheelers. The last place we lived before moving to Amelia Island was Atlanta, which is not bicycle friendly due to its many hills and awful traffic.
But here in Florida because of its climate and flat topography, the state should be ideal for cyclists. But it’s not. Florida has a reputation as the most deadly state in America to cycle with Tampa-St. Petersburg being the most deadly community for cyclists in the country followed closely by Jacksonville.
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Florida had by far the highest per capita bicyclist death rate in the nation with 6.2 percent per 100,000 people killed from 2007-16. That’s 59 percent higher than Louisiana, the state with the second highest numbers. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area leads the state with a staggering 7.0 per 100,000 followed by Jacksonville at 6.0, making them the two most deadly places in America to hop on a bike.
A friend of mine, Fran Kane, currently moving here from Tampa, related a story of how — when riding a bike on Tampa’s Davis Island — he was whacked and critically injured by a car driven by a distracted nun. It took him more than a year of therapy five days a week and major spinal surgery to regain the use of his right arm. He still can’t throw a ball overhand and continues to suffer chronic pain. The nun even made mention of the incident in a book she wrote following her retirement.
As a kid I had two bicycle accidents that I can recall, one running smack into the door of a car the driver had just opened on the street side and the other landing in the bottom of hole at night that was dug by a road crew that day and not clearly marked. I wasn’t seriously injured in either but they didn’t do the bike any good.
My bicycle excursions here mostly amount to riding from my Seaside home down Jean Lafitte, Jasmine and Citrona to the YMCA and back, and rides downtown or to the beach. The only time I’ve been nervous is recently when the town began repairing the sidewalk along Citrona and I’ve had to ride in the street. It makes me very uneasy peddling along Citrona, particularly when Fernandina Beach High School lets out and young drivers are tempted to text while heading home. If a nun can be distracted then how easy is it for a 16-year-old to do the same?
According to the National Safety Council, driver distraction, particularly texting is a major problem. Alcohol consumption both by drivers and cyclists runs a close second. I know of two local incidents where bicyclists have been stopped by the police because they were drunk. One was warned and told to walk his bike home, while the other, who was found passed out next to his bike on the side of the road was hauled to the slammer.
Police hereabouts take bikers seriously and do what they can to prevent accidents. My wife, Linda, was stopped on a ride through Ft. Clinch and told to take her ear buds out as they prevented her from hearing traffic coming up behind her. I agree. She couldn’t even hear me when I hollered at her to stop or turn. It is also required for bikers to use lights here at night, which I also strongly agree with as I’ve had bikers with no lights, clad in dark clothing swerve across my car’s path on a couple of scary and close call occasions. Even though I am a biker my pet peeve is those who ride two or three abreast so they can chit chat as they peddle along, particularly on Fletcher Avenue. I don’t want to mention a car-bike accident in my book years from now.
The Florida Department of Transportation is taking a number of steps to improve the safety of bikers with better street lighting, wider bike paths, and educational programs, etc. But through the end of September 97 cyclists have been killed putting the state on track for about 133 bicycle-motorist deaths this year.
Maybe It Was A Full Moon: This is very funny. It’s also true. And I didn’t make it up, honest.
Fernandina Beach City Commissioner, Mayor, and Palace Saloon bartender, Johnny “Moonbeam” Miller, announced on his personal Facebook page last week that he intends to run in 2020 for the 4th U.S. Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Johnny Rutherford.
Bartender/Mayor Miller didn’t say what party he is affiliated with, where he expects to get the necessary funding, who is endorsing him, or who will be on his campaign staff in this hopeless Quixotic quest.
If nothing else, his campaign, — if by some miracle it actually materializes — will enable all 778,000 residents of the 4th District, which encompasses Nassau County, a large part of Jacksonville’s Duval County and south to St. Augustine in St. Johns County, to chuckle at our local joke of a politician. The district, which is majority Republican, has voted overwhelmingly for every GOP candidate, presidential and otherwise, since 1992. Republicans would react to Moonbeam’s candidacy like Linda Blair’s Exorcist character’s did to Holy Water and I can’t imagine even the far left wingers, even those in crazy Uncle Bernie’s asylum wanting to be associated with this tree-hugging fanatic.
I suspect the gasps and laughs will come fast and furious when the folks opening the door to his closet are buried in skeletons that will prove too embarrassing and impossible to explain away.
One local resident responded a few minutes after reading Moonbeam’s announcement and sent me the following letter:
“It has come to my attention that Johnny Miller, mayor of Fernandina Beach and bartender at the Palace Saloon, has announced his candidacy for representative to Congress for Florida’s Fourth District in 2020. Mayor Miller said his inspiration was Senator Flake’s flip-flopping on the Brett K. Supreme Court nomination. His push was the far left’s outstandingly disgusting and systematic destruction of a man’s good name and family. Setting aside the left’s obvious hypocrisy and lunacy on this matter, the absolute circus the Democrats made of this process is downright shameful. If we are to believe every allegation made by anyone at any time, where is the leftist outrage at Senator Booker’s alleged battery and those other Democrats sitting on the Judiciary Committee? Miller will have no reasonable reply to that, nor will he understand the hypocrisy.
Johnny Miller is a far-left want-to-be folk hero who cloaks his obvious hate and loathing for everything conservative in the left’s façade of love, tolerance and faux-intellectualism. Regularly stoking the fire of leftist hate and vitriol on his Facebook page, Miller is nothing more than a lost soul who unfortunately found a misguided sense of purpose in the communistic ideals of the modern Democratic party. Often painting himself an environmentalist, Miller supports tight over-regulation and overhauls which would stifle economic prosperity and add to the tax-burden on those he so willingly wishes to represent. Clearly a fan of the mob tactics of Antifa and other leftist domestic terror groups, a vote for Miller would be another vote to normalize this behavior in America.”
It didn’t take long for Mr. Smith to sum up Mayor Moonbeam and I agree with his assessment. If Moonbeam is actually serious, there will be so much more and it will be so much fun. However, it must be gnawing at him why he shouldn’t attempt this preposterous leap. Is he willing to put himself and his family up for ridicule, because he knows what’s in that closet of his? The late David Yulee and downtown’s Peg-leg Pete statue have about the same chance of being elected as Moonbeam, and are both far more qualified.
Unintended Consequences Department: Ironically the real losers in the Democrats handling of the disgusting Brett Kavanaugh Senate Confirmation Hearings were women. For years they have been fighting for their legitimate rights. And just as they were on an equal footing the Democrats, extreme feminists, and far-left fanatics took a sledge hammer to those hard-won rights with their vile and repulsive handling of Judge Kavanaugh and their abuse of a sad and pathetic Christine Ford. Women have rightfully demanded to be included in business dinners, cocktail get togethers, and other events and to be treated socially equal in business. Now, businessman around the country will think twice before inviting a woman to a company dinner or cocktail event where business relationships are made and deals done. They, and #Me Too, are far worse off today for this, than before the hearings. The Democrats acted unethically, and in violation of all due process and confidentiality. And they destroyed Ms. Ford in the process. Her life will never be the same again. Her kids just like Kavanaugh’s daughters, will suffer. The Democrats think the American people are stupid and in this case they attempted to put all 63 million Trump voters in Hillary’s “deplorable” basket. In doing so they made a terrible miscalculation and I predict they will pay dearly in the November elections for their willful and shameful treatment of Ms. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, during a vile spectacle that set the rights of all American women back for many years and sealed the reputation of the Democrat Party as a group of radicalized, dishonest, hateful, guillotine-blade sharpeners led by a doddering, demented, hypocritical, lying Senator Dianne Feinstein, a cross between Eva Braun and Marie Laveau. A bugged-eyed, crazed and confused Cory Booker, empty skirt Kamala Harris, and serial liar and deceitful stolen valor loser Richard Blumenthal are topics for future discussion as are the other shrieking, spittle-flecked Democrat members of the Judiciary Committee. Also, at this point a self righteous, shaken and cowardly Republican, Jeff Flake, may already have been fitted for a straight jacket and confined to an institution where he’s required to eat without access to any sharp objects.
Who Is Bill Nelson? In his “American Spectator” column yesterday, Thursday, Oct. 4, friend and former Tampa Plant High School classmate Larry Thorneberry, drew stark comparisons between Florida’s senatorial candidates Republican Governor Rick Scott and Democrat Senator Bill Nelson and gubernatorial candidates Jacksonville area Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis and Democrat Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
I particularly enjoyed his perceptive and incisive summary of three-term Democratic Senator Nelson. In addition to correctly pointing out that there is “no particular issue or legislation attached to his name and that he’s more of a Trivial Pursuit answer than a legislator,” Larry succinctly summed up this senator’s lackluster 18-year tenure writing: “Nelson has consistently supported the left’s agenda during his three terms in the Senate. All the ideological vote-measuring groups give him a very high liberal score. Barack Obama had no reason to complain of him (in fact, Obama will likely come to Florida to campaign for Nelson, as will Mz. Hillary). Nelson has supported higher taxes and expanded government. He voted for and then defended Obamacare. He voted against confirming Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He has branded every Republican attempt to prevent voter fraud as a racist voter suppression. (In Bill Nelson’s world, white racism is still a going concern, very worrisome, and a Republican project.) He has always been a great respecter of the Democrat sacrament of abortion. Regardless of his obvious leftist bona fides the mainstream media in Florida insist on referring to Nelson as a moderate. It’s not clear what one would have to do to earn the title of liberal or leftist from this crowd. Nelson’s only possible credentials as a moderate are that he has a good-ole-boy drawl and doesn’t wear a Mao jacket while on the Senate floor.”
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Next Saturday, October 13 Main Beach will be filled with smokers, the smell of pork and brisket barbeque, and the sound of music, during a cancer cure fund raiser. Some 400 plates of pork and brisket plates will sell for $10 with offerings from more than 50 of the area’s best pit masters. Proceeds of these sales will be donated in the name of Gary Lee Park Jr and his late wife Joy Smith-Park, who lost her battle with cancer this year. Live music from Decades Band and The Honey Badgers will be heard from 11:30am – 3:00pm. “Protecting Amelia island’s Dunes; Protecting Island Residents” will be the topic at 6:30 p.m. at Story & Song, 1430 Park Avenue at 14th Street, Wednesday, Oct. 17. The event is sponsored by The Amelia Island Beach and Marine Life Protection Task Force and features speaker: Frank Hopf – PhD, PE (Texas), PhD, Geomorphologist (look it up folks) who will explain dune formation, the habitat dunes provide, how they protect residents during hurricanes, and the human activities that threaten them – and island residents. Beer and wine will be available for sale. If you’re looking for a few chuckles and a cocktail then you’ll want to be at St. Peter’s Burns Hall at 801 Atlantic this coming Thursday, October 11 for the 5th Annual Storytelling Slam. The event features a cash bar and five of the area’s best “storytellers” telling their stories as they compete to see who can generate the most laughs. Tickets for the Cafe Karibo-sponsored reception are $50 and can be purchased at the Fernandina Beach Library at 26 North 4th Street or online at www.FernandinaFOL.org or by calling 904/530-6500. All money goes to Friends of the Library for the newly renovated library.