Capital city to the sea trails expands hiking, biking areas gas efficient cars


Allen is on a mission because according to the survey, Dangerous by Design, Sunshine State drivers kill more bicyclists and pedestrians than in any other state in the United States. And four of the nation’s top 10 deadliest cities are in Florida; Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa. Retired as the Southeast Regional Manager from the Trust for Public Land, Allen is now working harder than ever to help the state lose that number one spot; and he hopes soon.

As one mode of transportation shuttered, another’s time has come. Many of the new bicycle and pedestrians trails are taking over former abandoned railroad lines. In partnership with the Department of Transportation and the Trust for Public Land, the first rails to trails segment in Florida was bought in the 1980s.

The 16 miles of abandoned CSX railroad tracks from south Tallahassee to St. Marks was the first purchase. Allen has never stopped expanding the system since that date. Forty other segments of power lines, gas line right of ways and tracks around the state have been gobbled up by a growing partnership of interests including the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida State Parks and the Office of Greenways and Trails.

"It is important to note that these trails are not just for competitive cyclists; trails are the perfect place for beginning cyclists and cyclists from young to old," Ausley said. "In fact, I bought a used tandem bike for my son, Will and I to get out there once the weather gets warm. With his visual impairment, a bicycle built for two will enable me to guide the way while he gets to experience the thrill of cycling. I can’t wait!"

Fellow Greenways and Trails board member and long time friend of Dale Allen, Florida State University Professor Emeritus Joe Beckham still marvels at Allen’s leadership. Though others have contributed and advocated for the cause through the years, Beckham says only a personality as large as Allen’s could have accomplished what they have done. "Dale had a vision in the mid-1980’s of a completely unique concept; a linear park linking the state. His extraordinary enthusiasm, earnestness, confidence and ability to motivate others in this new mission was the successful catalyst."

American’s love affair with bikes is actually not new at all. Allen, also a passionate historian explains, "The first wave or phenomena of biking was in the 1880’s. Actually, mud and dirt roadways were paved, to accommodate bicyclists. At the time pedestrians complained mightily about how these fast moving two-wheelers came zipping by them." Since the 19th century when bikes ruled the roadway, they have had to give way to much faster 4 wheeled vehicles. Allen now wants those cars to once again share that pavement.

Admittedly it takes dollars to create safe pathways for bikers and walkers but often trails have proven to be an economic boost to areas. Beckham sees biking as an alternative tourism draw for the state. "We have the year around climate to ride," he explains, " but more importantly we can bring tourists in for the big draws like Disney and Universal but have them stay another day to enjoy our trails."

Beckham saw this first-hand in Winter Garden when his Bed and Breakfast, The Historic Edgewater Hotel was filled with German, French and Scandinavian tourists who were planning to bike the West Orange Trail for an extra day in the state. And farther south, a staggering 1.4 million used the Florida Keys Trail in 2014.

Biking and walking is a great equalizer; young and old, fit and those looking to trim down, healthy and those living with disabilities can enjoy the same outdoor trails. Surprisingly, it is not a matter of owning a bike. According to Allen, numbers show nine out of 10 households in Florida own a bike. Only 1 in 10 families use it because most fear getting hurt.

From the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, bikers and hikers will soon be able to traverse the width of the state. Allen’s crowning jewel, the Coast to Coast trail will link St. Petersburg on the Gulf Coast to Canaveral National Seashore on the Atlantic by the end of 2020. Two hundred and fifty miles to explore with your feet, either walking or using your pedals to power you across a safe, scenic and sensational slice of the Sunshine State.