JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A plan to stop collecting a fee has some local bicyclists crying foul.
At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, a bill was introduced that would allow developers to stop paying a special fee for bike lanes and other projects.
Bicyclists parked their bikes in front of City Hall during the meeting in an effort to show council members how important they say funding alternative transportation is.
To spur more development, the city is not requiring builders to pay the special fee, and the plan is to extend that for three more years.
Bicyclists say that's not only turning people away, but it's making roads unsafe.
Drew Johnson is a businessman and bike enthusiast who owns City Cycle in Jacksonville. He knows what businesses have to pay in taxes, but he also is aware of the reputation Jacksonville has when it comes to bicycles and pedestrian safety.
Johnson points to national statistics that show Jacksonville is one of the worst cities in the county for bike and pedestrian fatalities. He says the city needs to make changes.
"Protective bike lanes, greenways, whatever you want to call them," Johnson said. "Have places for kids and people to go out and ride their bikes, exercise. We have beautiful weather here. We should be a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, yet people are turning away from Jacksonville."
Johnson spoke at the meeting Tuesday night, saying the city needs to make changes. But other bikers said the council needs to collect money from developers to pay for those improvements.
It's called the mobility fee. To build in Jacksonville, a special fee or assessment would be charged, and that money goes into a special fund to pay for alternative transportation issues like bike lanes and light rails.
Right now, the city has put a hold on that fee, and now the council is being asked to extend that hold for three more years.
Councilman Richard Clark introduced the measure. He was not around Tuesday night to hear the comments and was not available to comment Wednesday.
He has said in the past the reason for this is to spur development. This will now go to committee and be debated in the council.
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