Could more trees along streets lead to more bicycles in town? While the link may seem tenuous at first, local bike advocates believe street designs that incorporate trees can make Pensacola more bike-friendly and literally more green.
Well-planned landscaping as part of roadway design is another way to incorporate plants into our surroundings to improve quality of life. Some say with more trees and enhanced landscapes in a community, people are more likely to get out and about—and slow our roll, so to speak—as a result.
“Rows of trees along streets are an absolute necessity for making our city more bike and pedestrian-friendly,” explained Christian Wagley, an environmental and green building consultant who also happens to be an avid bike commuter. “Trees narrow the field of view for drivers and thus make them slow down, which helps cyclists feel more comfortable on the road. And shade makes the riding much more pleasant for most of the year here.”
Wagley, along with others involved with 350 Pensacola, the local chapter of the international 350.org movement, are organizing the second annual Cool the Panhandle Funky Bike Fest. Creating a more bike-friendly city is just one of the many bike-related interests that will be represented at the festival, which will include live music, a bike decorating contest, and presentations about safe bicycling and bicycle commuting.
“Streets without trees and attractive landscaping simply are not appealing—those are streets people just want to race down in their cars so they can get through it as fast as possible,” Wagley said. “Add trees and everything slows down and becomes more pleasant.”
Some strides to improve the city’s bike-ability have been made by local government; the redesign of Main Street in front of the Community Maritime Park incorporates trees, wide sidewalks, bike lanes and is a treatment Wagley said he hopes more streets will receive in the future.
Other recent planning improvements in Wagley’s estimation include converting one-way streets (such as portions of Palafox and Spring streets downtown) back to two lanes, and Councilmember Megan Pratt’s Complete Streets Program. However, there is still a long way to go. “We still don’t have a comprehensive or really focused and energized effort yet,” he said.
So, the Funky Bike Fest is just one way bike enthusiasts hope to get others invigorated about the pro-bike (and pro-street side greenery) cause. The inaugural event was held at Palafox Wharf in 2013, but moved this year to the Belmont-DeVilliers intersection to bring the festival into the city and its neighborhoods and to celebrate the revitalization of the historic district just northeast of downtown.
“We want to make Pensacola a safer and more pleasant place to ride a bicycle,” Wagley stated of the vision behind the festival. “The Fest is a fun way to draw attention to that and to bring together people who can work together to help us get there.”
COOL THE PANHANDLE FUNKY BIKE FEST
WHEN: 1—5 p.m. Saturday, March 15
WHERE: DeVilliers Square, 321 N. DeVilliers St.
DETAILS: 687-9968 or facebook.com/350pensacola