Find Out How Joining the FBA Can Help Improve Cycling in Florida

Video Transcription:

Jim: Hey, good morning, it's Jim Dodson The Florida Bike Buy. Welcome to our livestream. So, we're joined this morning by Becky Alfonso, who's the Executive Director of the Florida Bicycle Association. I've had the privilege of working with Becky since she's been the executive director. This is going in to her fourth year and I'm a member of the FBA, I'm proudly a member of the FBA, I'm with the board. Currently serving as a Secretary this year, we'll be doing the same next year. But I think there's a big void of understanding about the role of the FBA and how critically important it is for all that the FBA does for cyclists throughout Florida. Why we need to encourage individual memberships and I wanted to have Becky join this conversation sort of help us understand why it's important and some of the critical things the FBA does. Becky and I were chatting before we went on the air and she's been a member of the FBA since 71. She's probably one of the first, that right?

Becky: No, 98.

Jim: 98, I'm sorry, what was it, I missed the date then.

Becky: My membership number, I'm one of the first hundred to have joined.

Jim: Okay, right, so since 1998 and the FBA really originated from a terrible crash that occurred in 1997.

Becky: Right.

Jim: So, Becky, why don't you introduce yourself and kind of explain your role with the FBA today.

Becky: Alright, well, my name's Becky Afonso, there's no L in it. Native Floridian, born and raised in the Tampa Bay area. Actually I can say Clearwater, Pinellas County. Where I live now is Oldsmar which nobody knows where it is and that's okay, we like our little town. Been an avid cyclist since commuting in fifth grade to St. Cecilia's Elementary School. Not something I would do in high school because our high school was actually off of US 19. But I did bring my bike to college and I still commute. I probably get about two thousand miles a year just doing errands on my bicycle here in Oldsmar.

Jim: Well, it's kind of interesting when we were talking the other day, you managed to go to a, you're a big sports fan.

Becky: Yes.

Jim: You managed to commute from Oldsmar. Those of you who don't know, Oldsmar is sort of north of Clearwater, kind of northeast of Tampa. It's a little bit more rural, if you can imagine that in Pinellas County. Less developed than we are down around my area in Clearwater but Becky, every year manages to cycle to a Lightning game in downtown Tampa, to a Bucks game at the Tampa Stadium and to a Rays game in downtown St. Petersburg. So she's committed to commuting and understands the issues of commuting as well as road cycling and trail cycling. Raymond, how are you, welcome to the livestream today. So, Becky, I know that, tell, kinda walk through kind of the mission of the FBA and the breadth of the cycling community that the FBA represents, works with and helps.

Becky: Well, the primary mission of the association is to be a voice for bicyclists in the state of Florida. That may not sound like it needs to be done but it does need to be done. The crash that happened in 97 really brought that message home. If you wanna change certain laws in the state you have to have representation at the state. Even though regionally or locally, you need involvement as well. So, being a member of the association takes your local issues to a state level that addresses it in the partnerships where we serve such as the Florida Department of Transportation Safety Coalition, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Council. We're also part of the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation board and I personally serve as chair of the Florida Greenways and Trails council. So, the concerns of cyclists are well represented at the state level but the association also goes into a federal level where I serve as the state coordinator for the League of American Bicyclists during the National Bike Summit in March. So, we are following the federal issues which actually concern a lot of funding or other initiatives such as putting bike pedestrian safety features into the autonomous vehicles. So, those are things that we're looking at, we monitor, we support, we take that message down to the state level, make sure everybody's in compliance. Which was part of the Florida Department of Transportation adopting Complete Streets policy and then we take that message into the local area where I've made presentations in front of metropolitan planning organizations to explain Complete Streets policy and why it's important for the cyclists living in their community.

Jim: Well, I know from, you know, my interaction with you on the board and otherwise that you are constantly on the go, I mean, you're attending meetings throughout the state, you are giving presentations to civic clubs throughout the state. You go nationally, I mean, all the things that you talk about, you're actually out there doing. And you do that for cyclists, I mean, you're officially representing the FBA but you're real message is for Florida cyclists and for Florida cycling, is that correct?

Becky: That is correct, yes and in fact if there's other information that anybody would like we have a form from our website where you can actually request a presentation. And I'll work with scheduling and I'll actually be able to do a presentation to a rotary club, I'll actually be in Boca Raton for their Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. I'll be at the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club monthly meeting in January so, there's ways that you can schedule me in to make sure everybody's on the same page with the message.

Jim: Yeah and you know, bear in mind, I think these presentations that Becky does are not simply to cycling groups but to the public at large because a large part of the component of educating the public is, you know, understanding the cyclists have a right to be on the road and while we're on the road and how to safely navigate with us sharing the road. I mean, that's a big part of what you do and it's part of our understanding of our work with the legislature as well. Just looking at a question that came up on the screen here from Susan. So, Susan has a, I mean a, really a comment about the kind of an attitude of drivers in terms of the relationship of cyclists. And I think, Susan, what we're trying to do what part of the FBAs mission is to spread the word to raise the level of awareness of drivers in particular of why it's important to avoid cyclists and how you share the road with cyclists and why we have a right to be out there and how to navigate through these community streets safely. You know and I appreciate your concern and expressing your question or statement. I think, Becky, one of the things that has really evolved in the time that I've been on the board of the association is how we've approached the legislative process. I know that there's a great deal of frustration by the average person to think that you know, Florida doesn't have a texting ban for instance, as a primary offense, right now it's a secondary offense. And how difficult it is to move something like that which seems so obvious to everyone on a bicycle. How difficult it is to move that through the process of the legislature and get the people on board that need to be on board to get something on the committees, for the committees, passed and on the floor into the governor's desk. So, talk to us a little bit about the kind of victories we've had but what you see coming up in the next session which starts in March of this year up in Tallahassee.

Becky: Okay, first of all and I've put this in my head as far as what I see as process, which is the legislative process and then what I view as politics and that's a whole separate can of worms. But it lends itself to process when for instance, a move over bill that we were, had bill sponsors for does not get on the committee agenda and you can't find out why. Sometimes I think that's politics and not process.

Jim: Right.

Becky: But to that point, there is a lot of success with getting your message out there which takes time for the process. The Seatbelt Use Law for instance, I believe took about 25 years. What I do find and I gotta reiterate this to cyclists when it comes to making your point, a lot of times, especially when you're in front of a legislative delegation, you only have two minutes. So, in those two minutes you've gotta make your point clear. So, it's, you know, people are dying, we need a law, pass it.

Jim: Right.

Becky: And that sometimes just how simple you can get it. It would be wonderful to be able to tell these stories. Stories have a place and purpose. That's where you go to your own delegate, whoever that is, be the constituent to tell your story. But on a state level we actually have to get right to the point about why this is not acceptable and why we need to have a law.

Jim: And I know that a big part of what you do and what I think most successful organizations who work through the legislature do is identify and create relationships with legislatures. So, that when you walk in the room they know who you are, who you stand for and they listen to your issue because you have credibility from being seen and being heard and being an honest participant in the process. So, kind of talk about what you do and what you aim to do in terms of educating legislators just sort of before the session starts. When you have the opportunity to do that.

Becky: I about to say, you have the time before the session starts and it's relationship building. It's trying to make a friend and you have to make a friend to cross both aisles if you will. So, I don't even think about that. I got asked about who's party affiliation was for who we're dealing with and I don't think about that. I just want a bill sponsored, want the bill to go through and I want it to become a law. But when you're doing relationship building that does take time.

Jim: Right.

Becky: So, you meet these people, you talk to them. You explain briefly what it is you're doing. Sometimes the staff has 15 minutes but you do it consistently, year after year and you become a resource. So, for the association right now, I've become a resource for senators across the state when there's a bicycling concern coming from their constituent. And I would recommend that more people get involved in this process locally. Do it through your city council or your county commission. And that's how you get your message in front of people. If we're not a priority, if we're not on the radar, we're irrelevant and we need to be relevant.

Jim: Right and we don't earn relevance just by complaining, you know, we earn relevance by creating relationships. And that's one of the things.

Becky: Well, that's why I went back to the friend thing about do you wanna be friends with a person that always whines and complains or the friend that comes in and says hey, I really enjoyed this, let's make sure it can still happen. And work on the solution based and not the complaint.

Jim: So, I know one of the things, we have an election coming up in November and that could affect the relationships that you already have, I mean, you have. Before you can plan for this year's session you need to know who you're dealing with and some of those seats could change in this election. And it affects, maybe disturbs relationships that you've had because somebody loses their seat and they're not their. So, it's really, it's more, it's challenging to have a consistent, you know, process for getting bill sponsors and moving things through the committees.

Becky: That is true, the elected official may change. A lotta times staff may stay in place. So, I've been visiting with the senate transportation staff for four years and with house policy staff for the last two years. So, these are people that have seen me on a regular basis and they will call if they've got some concerns or questions about pieces of legislation that may get passed. We don't always know about what's coming on. Sometimes it comes from outside sources but we do now start to get the phone call or the email that says have you seen this and how does the association feel about it? And when I receive those I put that back to membership.

Jim: Right.

Becky: So, being a member of the association brings you into the process.

Jim: So, let's talk about couple of things that may be able to move forward or advance this year. I know you still have a texting bill or want to have something that affects texting. What are the alternatives and some of the possibilities that may be moving forward this year.

Becky: There is a coalition for the texting as a primary offense, that's still being organized. They are looking at a possible handheld device ban. Which, George, I believe phrased it as a hand free device ban. That allegedly is more enforceable by law enforcement. This is things that we're hearing from the state level. There's still our Move Over bill, we have that language, our bill sponsors are up for election. But they know we're interested in it if they win their election. If they don't win their election, we'll just go down the list of who we think will support that bill.

Jim: So, the move over law, just so people understand. Currently there is a Move Over law of requires you to slow down 28 miles per hour and move into the opposite lane to pass an emergency vehicle in certain categories of emergency workers that are on the side of the road. And the purpose of the Move Over law is to include cyclists in the definition of those for whom we have to move over and slow down, is that correct?

Becky: I don't mind explaining it that way. The current move over law addresses only moving over for vehicles that if you cannot switch lanes to be 20 miles under the speed limit, the posted speed limit. So, that expanded from emergency vehicles to utility vehicles to service vehicles. What is not in there is people. So, our move last year, we had bill sponsors, was to put people into that law and that would include a cyclist but more importantly it means if you're coming up on a cyclist, it's not the three foot passing law. It is to move over into the other lane.

Jim: Right.

Becky: Or 20 miles under the speed limit.

Jim: Right.

Becky: This is huge and this is somethig that we feel is actually easier for people to understand, move over. That's very clear as opposed to what a three foot passing law is, there is a lot.

Jim: The Three Foot Rule is unenforceable.

Becky: Yeah, right, if.

Jim: Everyone knows that.

Becky: And it involves first responders. It involves more than just a cyclist issue. So, this has a lot more play into it then just being a special interest looking for something.

Jim: So, all those things are on your horizon and you're the, really the point person for the FBA. Beause you're at the committee level and working with the legislature throughout the year. Transition for a minute about, let's just talk about the benefits of why people need to consider joining the FBA and why it's critically important for our mission to have individual members in addition to our club membership and bike club membership and what have you. But individual memberships really drive the strength of the association. If you just wanna talk about that a minute.

Becky: Well, yeah, I mean numbers count obviously and that goes back to relevance. If you're just up there saying you want something done. You know, that's one person. If you can have more than one person saying the same thing. There's a great example with the Friends of the Legacy Trail down in Sarasota. That it's not one person going to a council meeting to specify the support. It's a room full of people with the same color shirt that are actually asking for that support. You may have one spokesperson but they clearly can see the room is filled with people in support.

Jim: Right.

Becky: And that's what membership will do with the association. It will clearly show that there's not just me up there, it's cyclists in Florida that are up there.

Jim: So, a lot of people, you and I were talking the other day, I think, how many people have the license tag, the cycling license tag?

Becky: On the average, about 10 thousand had the Share the Road specialty license plate and thank you for your support.

Jim: How many people, you said 10 thousand?

Becky: Yes, roughly, on average, yeah.

Jim: So, that means the people, there's 10 thousand people that have expressed a desire to pay money to have a tag who obviously are cyclists or involved in cycling in some way. We need those 10 thousand people to take the next step and join the FBA because the money that's generated from that tag program, the FBA shares with Bike Florida and it is really, well, but the legislature kind of restricts what can be done with it.

Becky: Correct.

Jim: Our membership money doesn't carry that type of restriction and gives us the opportunity to do more things that are beyond what the tag program allows.

Becky: Correct.

Jim: So, if you wanna just explain that.

Becky: Well, with the share the road license plate and that is split between Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association, it's within statute how we can spend that money. Primarily for education and promotion. So that wouldn't include, let's consider lobbying. So, membership money would cover the lobbying aspect of it. But keeping in mind that we are a 501C3 nonprofit and we can only spend up to 10 percent of our annual revenue into lobbying. But we can't use any of the Share the Road tag money, we can use the membership money. And the membership money goes beyond that as well. There's programming, there's other things that we're doing that all the money that comes in is for cyclists. We have the Law Enforcement Guide publication, the Florida Bicycle and Street Smarts publication. We spend the money on that, we send it to you. It's for by request, we don't charge anybody anything for it, we just provide that service.

Jim: Yeah, so, if you join the association, you know that every dollar of what you're paying for membership is going directly into cycling related support throughout Florida.

Becky: Correct.

Jim: And it's a direct relationship. I know there's been some real victories that the FBA's been a part of. You know, the SUN Trail System in the legislature, a required FDOT to have 25 million dollars in recurring funding for trails. You wanna just talk about that a second?

Becky: Well, just in the grand scheme of we're a Florida Bicycle Association, it's not always a road issue, it can be a trail issue. It can actually be a off-road natural surface trail issue. Lot of that tends to be funding and the association through the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation found a champion in senator Andy Gardener to actually get legislation through to put 25 million dollars a year into a SUN Trail program that is overseen by the Florida Department of Transportation. That was not new money, that was actually money through, I believe it's new license drivers license. So, anybody coming from out of state, when they go to get their license or tag, the money's being drawn from there. And so that's already been programmed, the Coast-to-Coast Trail is one of the first trail systems that they're looking to complete as a regional trail system. And there's more information, we link back into it from our website to the foundation's website to the office of Greenways and Trails. So, that was part of what Florida bicycling involvement creates statewide for you, the individual bicyclist.

Jim: Well and also one thing that you're doing, another program that you're doing right now is to ride, Leader Ride Marshall program. I'm speaking to the people at the Spacecoast Freewheelers and I know they're lined up their club to and want all of their ride leaders to be certified by the FBAs Ride Leader program.

Becky: Yes.

Jim: You've got the Messenger which is our newsletter we do every quarter and we got E-bike legislation that's on the horizon. We've got to address the E-bike situation every time you open my Google lead, I feed another type of E-bike that's being manufactured. Some of them doing 60 miles an hour, it's like. So, we have to get a handle on what an E bike is and how it's gonna be defined in the statute. And we're working with industry organizations for that. So, I mean, I don't know, sure you wanna, I've sort of talked about those things if you want to just share with that.

Becky: I wish there was an easy answer to that but we are still vetting anybody's concerns with electronic bicycles such as where they should be ridden. We recently asked a question, in fact, this will be going back to membership within the next two days and an update. Where would you tolerate E-bike use? On a sidewalk, on a bike path, on a club ride, all of the above, none of the above? We're getting that type of feedback because yes, there is a push for a nationwide definition of E-bike that has already been put in front of a senator. And we are working with that senator and their staff to get the feedback of the cyclist here in Florida on how they feel about where it should be ridden and how it should be defined.

Jim: So, from a lawyer standpoint, this is a big deal because it matters what you're riding. Whether you're riding a bicycle or moped or some other device. All of them are defined by statute but consequences of insurance and licensing and all that come out of those definitions. So, arriving at a uniform definition of what an electronic bike is going to be is very critical for our state moving forward. And we have to get a handle on that, especially with the proliferation of E-bike choices out there.

Becky: And I think we're gonna all see how technology moves very fast and sometimes the laws move very slow. So, anytime they can kinda get ahead of it, it's good for us.

Jim: Exactly, so, if somebody's listening to this and they're, think about they'd like to think about joining the FBA. I know there's one confusing issue. A lot of people are a member of a club, they believe that the club may have a membership or then some clubs actually pay the first year member for people to join their club. Explain the difference and why it's important to be an individual member and not just kind of thinking your club's taking care of that for you.

Becky: Well, I mean, we do appreciate the club memberships. They actually help us point back into regions and when I became the Executive Director I actually said that if a club joined our association, I would join their club. So, I'm a member of about 32 bicycle clubs throughout the state of Florida. So, I get the newsletters, I get to see what is happening around the state. But what doesn't always happen is those club members, unless they are individual members of the association.

Jim: Right.

Becky: They may not know exactly what the association is doing. A club membership really only goes to the person on that account and that could be the president, it could be the treasurer, it's not the individual. So, if the individual joins, they'll learn more about the association. I explain it as, now I'm a sports fan so I think of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or even the Lightning at this point. A season ticket holder, well that shows your support. You're there for every game and you support the team. The fan and you can be a fan of the Lightning but not be a season ticket holder. So, let's say you just watch it on TV. It's not the same thing as being in the stands supporting the team and that's to me how that distinction between a club membership and an individual membership. We know people support what we're doing but we don't have their membership. Their membership is what actually puts that number and all the information, all of us on the same page.

Jim: So, what does it cost to become an individual member and what are the membership choices?

Becky: Well, there are several membership choices. The basic individual is $25 dollars, we do have a family or household membership for $35. We will certainly take higher donations and they'll start to come in to benefactor or a champion. We also offer a snowbird, people only here for part of the year, that comes in at $15 dollars a year. The membership gets the Messenger delivered to their door. Other than that, it's that information. I repeatedly send updates to membership. I encourage membership to do surveys and then we actually have a newsletter during the legislative session.

Jim: Right.

Becky: That goes out every week to update on the bills and where things stand.

Jim: And the Messenger is a great benefit. It not only discusses what's going on regionally with events but it's news and it's interesting and it's and I think how many pages was the last issue?

Becky: 20, we went up from 16 to 20.

Jim: Yeah, so the Messenger's growing, our membership is growing and we really want to encourage anyone listening to this program today to do, just take the bull by the horns and join the FBA. It's a great, as Becky said, you become a season ticket holder as it were, not just a fan and you know that when you do that that you're promoting safe cycling in Florida along with all the other work that the association does to help all of us enjoy the sport that we love so much. So, we're running a link on the bottom of the screen. It'll take you directly to the FBA membership. We've got a world of information on the website as well so I'd urge you to go check out the website. It's updated constantly, so, Becky, I want to thank you for joining us today.

Becky: My pleasure.

Jim: It's been great, so this is Jim Dodson, I'm The Florida Bike Guy, remember, although I have an emphasis in representing cyclists throughout Florida, we also represent car crash victims, falls, pedestrian, golf carts, you name it. If we can help you in any way don't hesitate to call us, just go on our website, call us or fill out a contact form. We'll be happy to get back to you. I look forward to seeing you the next visit and you have a safe day, be good out there, take care. Goodbye, thank you, Becky.

Becky: Thank you, Jim.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.