CELEBRATING A LOCAL BIKE PIONEER
by Ron Cunningham, Executive Director Bike Florida
In 1977 Herb Hiller got out of his car and got onto his bicycle. Herb has never been the same, and neither has Florida. At the time, Herb was a travel writer living in Coral Gables. He was also something of a pioneer, having foreseen the economic potential of what he called “alternative tourism” in Florida. Or more specifically, bicycle tourism.
After spending 20 months riding 1,200 miles throughout the Suwannee River Valley — exploring small, out-of-the-way communities and mapping scenic back roads — Herb helped establish the inaugural Suwannee River Tours as a way to bring new economic vitality to the small towns and businesses of north Florida. Years later, he would be the guiding force behind the establishment of Bike Florida’s “St. Johns River to The Sea Loop Tour” — a four-county, week-long route that connects St. Augustine, Flagler Beach, New Smyrna Beach, DeLand, the St. Johns River towns of Welaka and Palatka and the historic African-American community of Armstrong, on the “Gullah Geechee Corridor.”
Bike Florida continues to conduct the St. Johns Loop Tour on an annual basis, and may expand it to multiple times a year due to its growing popularity.
Now living in DeLand, Herb’s latest vision is to capitalize on SunRail train service as a new vehicle for connecting Orlando-area cyclists to one of Florida’s premier eco-tourism regions. He recently helped organize a demonstration ride to show how easy it is for cyclists to get off the train and get onto the roads and expanding greenway systems of the St. Johns River region.Working with the East Coast Greenway Alliance, Herb is also one of Florida’s most articulate and forceful advocates for expanding the state’s system of greenways and rail-trails.
“The future of bicycling is bound up with green mobility — with a new gold standard of transportation,” Hiller said recently. “Transit, trails and safe on-road corridors for cyclists and walkers: They’re at the heart of place-making — the reverse of sprawl — for Florida’s most hopeful future.”
It is no exaggeration to call Herb Hiller the man who invented Florida bicycle tourism. That’s why Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association recently named Herb the recipient of the 2014 “Share The Road Celebration of Cycling Visionary” award. It is a richly deserved honor. Congratulations to Herb Hiller, the father of Florida bicycle tourism.
This article originally appeared in the Daytona News Journal (see link below)
Photo by Maggie Ardito