overview & discussion
It was the onset of the new millenium when I began looking for the best way to pedal from metro Orlando to
the ocean. Curiously Seminole & Volusia Counties were just then gearing up for some major road improvements. It didn’t take long to find the best route on the map: there were only three possibilities and two of them weren’t known for bike-friendliness.
It was when, live &
in-person on my bike, I discovered a stretch of wide-open state road
running north-south for about eighteen miles through Volusia County that
I knew I was onto something worth writing home about --and to anyone
else interested in a grand ride close to where we live. For hidden here
yet closer than I’d dared dream was a sprawling yet direct,
open-country yet glass-smooth outdoor experience nearly rivaling the
pull of that vast watery horizon to the east of us.
And that was before they fixed up SR-415! The upshot of this confluence of events is that the single remaining candidate for a route to the ocean
just got even better! They widened the bridges and re-surfaced the entire length including both
north- and south-bound striped four-foot shoulders, from the St John's Bridge all the way to the intersection with SR-44 at Samsula.
Disturbing recent talk that
included a series of community hearings explored widening this
rare bucolic treasure in Volusia County to four lanes. Sure the right of
way is plenty broad enough for expansion. But what a waste: those wishing to travel the stretch faster can always take the nearby interstate. A far better use of that extra space for
many of us living in the region would be a paved off-road trail running
alongside. We want to say to our elected officials: “Hands Off!! Resist the old urge to pave over what’s left of this beautiful place!!”
To be sure not all roadplanning
is that shortsighted or overdrawn. For its part Seminole County has
mostly transformed the old cracked & constricted two-lane CR-427 to a an attractive thorofare of four broad lanes with plantings in the medians.
Sad to say, south of the US 17-92 interchange there are
still no striped bike lanes on the new CR-427. The great news is that north of that intersection marked bikelanes in both directions have now been added all the way to the SR-417 overpass --first step towards reconfiguring this fine new road into a bike-friendly passage over its entire length?
To the north, the improved
section of SR-44,
with its broad & already-graded elevated tracks in both directions,
still looks like an ideal candidate for the route’s first off-road
bikeway. As of this writing, however, there's still no indication either state or
county is making any headway in that direction.
From the I-95 overpass the New Smyrna Beach section has been widened & repaved eastward for nearly two miles. However the urban section still cries for improvement.
Well that brings it all up to
date. Except for the appearance in Seminole of a fine alternative to the
route suggested here. That’s the new Seminole-Wekiva Trail,
14 miles of paved, old rr roadbed and connecting lengths running north
through beautiful & tranquil off-road countryside. At writing the
trail has been completed for its entire length up to the Wekiva River
terminus off Markham Road, and now an east-bound spur off the Heathrow office park crosses I-4 on a beautiful new, trail-only suspension bridge. There are three major intersections to cross along the route but otherwise you’ll be riding entirely free of road noise &
pollution. At around the seven mile mark going north you can even check
in for a midtrail pickup at an indoor-outdoor Panera Bread café
overlooking a lovely expanse of lake & meadow!
Lately, SR-46 has been improved southeast to Sims and Titusville with paved, widened shoulders like SR-415. As the crow flies this would admitedly be a more direct route to the ocean. Still, for the reasons given before, New Smyrna Beach remains, in my view, the more desirable ocean destination, because “a) it is typically not overrun by tourist traffic (as, for example, is the case on the slightly closer roads of Titusville), b) it has already well established bicycle routes, starting at the new Intercoastal causeway bridge, and c) at its southern extremity along A1A, it offers easy access to the unparalleled beaches
of the (separate & remote) northern end of Canaveral National Seashore.”
To sum up, running from Semoran
Boulevard in Altamonte Springs to the Saxon Causeway Bridge in New
Smyrna Beach Bike to Beach
is a 42-mile route following existing, mostly good shared roadways. Overall it is scenic and it is safe. And it’s got a destination for landlocked Orlando pedalers that can’t be beat and is
And too Bike to Beach outlines a full-time, entirely off-road, permanent recreational trail along those
same existing rights-of-way, a first-class investment in metro Orlando
residents’ long term quality-of-life. That goal could be a acheived as a
phased undertaking starting with designated bikelanes on CR-427,
CR-425, SR-415, and SR-44. Off-road trail construction could begin
immediately with SR-44 and CR-415, gradually linking up other legs as increasing
To Beach represents an entirely regional approach to an
exciting recreational opportunity, transiting as it does three county
lines, five town & city boundaries, a slew of connecting DOT
interests, and a federal park. Here’s a grand opportunity for all
jurisdictions involved to create something truly splendid for the
benefit of the entire region.
Indeed, the guiding vision for Bike To Beach, as stated originally
in these lines, remains, I think, bright as ever. . .
It is recognized that the present
generation of Florida outdoor enthusiasts, including this proposal’s
author, enjoys the fruits of many dreams & labors of people close in
time & circumstances, for Florida’s recreational history is very
much a work-in-progress not much older here than the liberating advent
of air conditioning. The fruits we plant outdoors now are bound to
enrich generations behind us. How rewarding to be able to contribute to
such a heritage! Bike To Beach
promises to leave behind a gift worthy of (metro) Orlando’s children for
a long time to come.