Thursday, July 16, 2009

SWFBUD Leads Local Bicyclists To Hillsborough County Budget Hearing

The bicycle community showed a Tour de Force today as about 30 cyclists from SWAMP, BAADR, the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club and several bike shops biked to the Hillsborough County budget hearing to tell the county commissioners to keep Flatwoods and other parks open seven days a week. Our line of cyclists, which followed Hanna Avenue from Seminole Heights to the People's All Life Center, followed a five-mile route to the People's All Life Center on East Sligh Avenue.

We picked up this cyclist on the way over.

Here's Nancy, a cyclist from Temple Terrace, sharing the Save Our Parks message.

Brian Eckman, owner of Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, voiced his support for the park system, pointing out the business cyclists provide in Hillsborough County.

I also interviewed Gary before the meeting and he explained how important the county parks are for cyclists.

SWFBUD's Statement on Hillsborough County's Proposed Budget

SWFBUD releases its statement for tonight's 6 PM Hillsborough County Budget Hearing:

It’s hard to convince bicyclists to attend a government meeting. They’d rather be out cycling. But dozens of bicyclists of all backgrounds are here tonight because Hillsborough County government is proposing to shut down for two days a week one of the natural gems of our county – Flatwoods county park and its adjoining park land.

Very bad idea. Flatwoods is many things to many people. For many, the roads in Hillsborough County are poorly designed to host bicycle riders, so cyclists seek refuge on the 7-mile loop at Flatwoods. You will see everyone from youngsters to families to seniors, from bicycle novices to hard-core roadies pedaling the loop. You will also see hundreds of off-road mountain bikers on the Wilderness park land on trails built and maintained by local residents, not the county. Then there are the kayakers, and runners, and rollerbladers and hikers and anyone else who seeks a wonderful safe haven from the development that has sprawled throughout Hillsborough County.

Then, we have another vital county resource – the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. The county has poured more than $20 million of infrastructure improvements into this trail that is used by families and cyclists of all backgrounds.

It’s foolish to think that you will truly “close” Flatwoods and the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. A mountain biker can easily bike in the woods at Flatwoods or a cyclist will enter the Upper Tampa Bay trail from many access points.

You’re shutting down county resources at a time when bicycling is growing more popular as ever and these safe havens such as Flatwoods and the Upper Tampa Bay Trails offer a safe venue for inexperienced and new bicyclists to learn skills and gain confidence because we all know the roads in the county can be menacing for even experienced bicyclists.

New bike shops are opening around the county. New bike clubs have been started in the past year. Your county residents are telling you in crystal-clear terms – give us safe and secure places to bike. It’s upsetting and regrettable that Hillsborough County chooses to decrease bicycle venue services while at the same time increasing pay for the assistants of County Administrator Pat Bean. Shameful and embarrassing, too.

SWFBUD asks sternly to reverse the park closures of two days a week and re-examine and re-evaluate your proposed county budget to do just that.

SWFBUD Budget Hearing Bike Ride Leaves at 5 PM Sharp

Today's SWFBUD Budget Hearing Bike Ride will leave promptly at 5 PM from in front of the garden center on Central Avenue. Please get there early and make sure you're ready to ride at 5 PM if you'd like to join the bike ride to the Hillsborough County budget hearing, where you can comment about the county's proposed budget, which calls for closing Flatwoods, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and all county parks two days a week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Volunteers And Fees To Keep Hills. Co Parks Open 7 Days A Week?

Mark Thornton, Hillsborough County's parks director, left a message on my cell phone today indicating he hopes local groups in the county will volunteer to help the county's parks stay open seven days a week after County Administrator Pat Bean proposed a budget that would shutter parks two days a week.

Thornton also indicated there could be user fees at the parks -- along with the volunteers -- that would make up for the lack of funds to hopefully maintain the seven-day-a-week schedules at parks such as Flatwoods.

I mentioned on WMNF, 88.5-FM, today that SWFBUD would be willing to consider those options if it comes down to keeping parks open seven days a week.

The Hillsborough County budget hearing is 6 PM Thursday at the People's All Life Center next to King High School at 6105 East Sligh Ave. SWFBUD is leading a 5 PM bike ride to the county budget hearing, leaving from in front of the Seminole Heights Garden Center at 5800 Central Avenue.

SWFBUD Interviews County Commissioners After Friendship TrailBridge Meetings

SWFBUD interviewed Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris, who seemed supportive of fixing and re-opening the Friendship TrailBridge.

Then, SWFBUD chatted with Hillsborough County Comissioner Al Higginbotham, who also sits on the TrailBridge committee.

Tour de France? How About a Tour de Florida?

How about we have a Tour de Florida and start it at the re-opened Friendship Trailside Bridge? That's one speaker's idea during today's Friendship TrailBridge meeting.

SWFBUD Blogging Live From The Friendship TrailBridge Meeting

I'm blogging live from the Friendship TrailBridge meeting at the Weeden Nature Center in St. Petersburg regarding the future of the Friendship Trail. A committee of officials and citizens from both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties will hear a report, which says it will cost $15 million to fix the old Gandy Bridge that serves as the Friendship Trail.

SWFBUD wants both counties to fix the bridge, which has structural problems. Both counties own the trail-bridge.

$4 million was scheduled for improvements, but now there are four different options, including demolishing it for $13 million and fixing it for $15 million. Partial improvement and repair of the limited end portions is $10 million. New piers and bridge demolition would be $17 million.

An engineer is giving a powerpoint to show the "internal structural defects" for the 1956 bridge. In 1995, the new bridge for westbound traffic opened.

The TrailBridge is one of the longest pedestrian bridges over water in the world -- 2.6 miles long.

Problem is there is deterioration -- and the powerpoint shows nasty cracks and deterioration in the beams and steel tendons. The bridge has been closed since November 2008.

It's a packed house here in a meeting room, including Adam Beland, owner of Bicycle Outfitters in Seminole and Dottie Jessup of Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater. I'd say about 100 people are here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

SWFBUD To Be On WMNF Radio Tuesday

We all know that the county closing Flatwoods park two days a week is wrong, but SWFBUD also opposes Hillsborough County closing another valuable bicycle resource two days a week -- the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

The county has invested millions of dollars to build and improve the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, which SWFBUD hopes will be extended to connect into the Suncoast Trail.

In fact, the county received DOT money (yes, Transportation funds) to improve the Upper Tampa Bay Trail's infrastructure such as the bridge above Gunn Highway because not only is this trail a recreational resource it also is a key TRANSPORTATION corridor for bicyclists, too.

For the life of me I don't understand how Hillsborough County can "close" a massive stretch of land like Flatwoods or a trail corridor like the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and both are major regional resources that would make it foolish to close.

So, SWFBUD asks you to oppose the closing of not only Flatwoods for two days a week but also the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, too.

Tune into WMNF Tuesday at 1 PM. I'll be on the air representing SWFBUD regarding the impact of Hillsborough County park budget cuts on bicyclists. Host Mitch Perry said he'll probably get around to SWFBUD around 1:20 PM.

Friday, July 10, 2009

SWFBUD Mentioned in Bicycling Magazine's August Edition

SWFBUD goes national again. This time, SWFBUD made Bicycling Magazine.

Check out the current August edition of Bicycling with Lance on the cover and turn to page 30, the hubbub section.

Halfway down the page SWFBUD makes an appearance, calling for governments in Florida to be proactive in preventing bicyclist fatalities.

The back story: Several months ago I crunched the transportation numbers on the number of bicyclist fatalities by state in the US in 2007 and learned that Florida leads the country with the highest bicyclist fatality rate AND in the raw number of bicyclist fatalities (more than California, which has twice the population).

I wrote a media release about my SWFBUD bicyclist fatality findings and Bicycling ran with it.

SWFBUD Bike Ride To Hillsborough County Budget Hearing Still On Despite New Location

Hillsborough County has switched the location of its July 16 budget hearing at 6 PM to the All People's Life Center at 6105 East Sligh Avenue.

The SWFBUD Bike Ride will still be on for 5 PM, meeting on Central Avenue in front of the garden center at 5800 Central Avenue.

The tentative route will be Central Avenue north to Hanna Avenue, and a right turn on Hanna for a straight beeline to 56th Street North. Then a left on 56th Street and a right turn on East Sligh.

It's about 5 miles.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SWFBUD Asks Hillsborough County Commissioners To Keep Flatwoods Open 7 Days A Week

At a time when bicycling is growing in popularity in Hillsborough County, a budget proposal to cut back on park access at Flatwoods county park and nine other county parks is a regrettable idea and opposed by SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers).

Flatwoods, especially, is a special natural resource used by thousands of county residents, including bicyclists of all types, runners, paddlers, hikers, bird watchers, roller-bladers, walkers and many families. To close Flatwoods and not make it open two out of seven days a week is bad business; that is, the county is not using an invaluable resource effectively as possible.

Flatwoods county park is not owned by Hillsborough County, so it's unclear how the county would keep people from using the vast land during the two days that it would "close" the park.

What makes Flatwoods so valuable for bicyclists is that the majority of roads in Hillsborough County are perceived by everyday bicyclists as unsafe to ride, so Flatwoods is an essential safe haven for anyone wanting to ride a bicycle in a safe environment.

SWFBUD is asking the county commissioners to instruct county budget staff to re-shape the county budget and fund the necessary money to keep Flatwoods open seven days a week as it is right now.

SWFBUD has attached a few photos to show you the natural beauty of Flatwoods, which is a gem for county residents.

Monday, July 6, 2009

SWFBUD In The News: Bay News 9 Report On Flatwoods Park

Bay News 9 included SWFBUD in its Monday report on the Hillsborough County proposed budget that calls for the county to close Flatwoods and nine other county parks two days a week. SWFBUD is leading a bike ride on July 16 to the county budget hearing at 5 PM and is asking people to bike with us to tell the county commissioners to keep Flatwoods open 7 days a week.
Check out the live link to the Bay News 9 report.

SWFBUD On Bay News 9 Tonight

Look for a Bay News 9 TV report today on the SWFBUD bicycle ride at 5 PM July 16 to the Hillsborough County Center to tell the county commissioners to keep Flatwoods county park open 7 days a week. The proposed budget calls for Flatwoods and other county parks to be closed two days a week.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

SWFBUD Urges Public to Give Input on Friendship TrailBridge

The Friendship TrailBridge might be closed, but it's not dead. SWFBUD wants Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to fix and re-open this valuable regional resource that bicyclists on both of the Bay enjoy and value.

Public Input Sought on Friendship TrailBridge

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are seeking input on alternatives for the future of the Friendship TrailBridge.

The counties received a follow-up inspection report for the Friendship TrailBridge in May. The inspection and tests confirmed the initial reports that girders of the bridge were heavily corroded and broken. Several options and their cost were provided in the report that included repair, replacement and/or demolition of all or portions of the bridge. The full report, along with graphics of proposed options, is available on the Friendship TrailBridge Oversight Committee website.

Two public meetings will be held, one in Pinellas County and one in Hillsborough County. Following the Hillsborough County meeting, the Friendship TrailBridge Oversight Committee will make its recommendation to the two County Commissions.

The dates, times and locations of the meetings will be:

Tuesday, July 14
4 p.m.
Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center
1800 Weedon Drive N.E., St. Petersburg

Wednesday, July 15
7 p.m.
Presentation and decision on recommendation
Jan Platt Regional Library
3910 S. Manhattan Ave.

All meeting facilities are ADA compliant. For additional assistance, call Steve Valdez at (813) 307-8384 (TTY: (813) 301-7173).

Residents can submit a comment through July 14 at the Friendship TrailBridge Oversight Committee website or by mailing it to: Pinellas County Planning Department, Attn: Friendship TrailBridge, 600 Cleveland St., Suite 750, Clearwater, FL 33755.