Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cycling with Raphael

Cycling with Raphael

Raphael Clemente is our Executive Director at the Downtown Development Authority and he is one of our best cycling advocates, having been a professional racer. He even lived in the Netherlands for 2 years racing bikes so he knows first hand the wonders of a cycling country. He caught me riding around town and I rode around with him and his family for a while. He had his 2 kids with him and he was carting his bike while riding his wife's Electra Amsterdam, all on their way to pick her up so all could cycle home. They are a lovely cycling family and his children grew up on 2 wheels. They cycle to school, to Publix, even to Home Depot with his trailer that attaches to his bike. He wants to get either a cargo bicycle like a Yuba or a Surly, or give in and get a bakfiets so he can really truly haul anything and everything in it. He would be the first I've ever seen around here with a bakfiets.

Cycling with Raphael
Cycling with Raphael
Cycling with Raphael

He is amazingly skilled at cycling and tries his best to advocate for safer streets in our neighborhood, usually all by himself fighting for cycling accomodations before the Commission. Before Bret Baronak became our MPO, he had this position for 4-5 years and finally quit once he gave up trying to fight with the county engineers to fix our roads and account for cyclists and pedestrians, but they are very car-centric. George T. Webb and Steve Carrier are the very engineers who are anti-anything-not-in-a-motor-vehicle in West Palm Beach and they don't care that they are stifling neighborhoods and progression. They don't care that they are causing the County to lose jobs and creative people moving to friendlier places with better transportation options. They only care about pouring millions of dollars into asphalt because that's all they've ever known and it's already last-century thinking.

Raphael is actively trying to look for ways to influence his own neighborhood and improve it, whether it is bringing in new opportunities and new businesses into the downtown core, or fixing problematic areas for cyclists and pedestrians. He brought in all new bike racks into Clematis so that there is more parking and now is spear-heading on-street bicycle corrals by replacing some on-street car parking. Slowly, he is chipping away at the car problem on Clematis and hoping that businesses see and reap the benefits. He is also leading the way to bringing the bike-sharing system DecoBike permanently to Downtown West Palm Beach and hopefully we can use it to market the downtown as a pedestrian and bicyclist friendly hotspot. Go Raphael! We are looking forward to a great 2013 and working hand-in-hand with you to advocate for continuing to improve our neighborhood!

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This is my favorite image and I think this highlights perfectly the bicycle-friendliness of Downtown West Palm: two happy cycling families. This guy was on an old English bike also with a child seat, and kept looking back like he wanted to ask us a question but didn't. He probably hasn't seen many bikes with the white fenders and full chainguards.

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A tandem!

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Our downtown security guards riding around on bicycles.


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