Thursday, May 21, 2009

Contact Local Officials For Improved Gandy Bridge Conditions

A few months ago, SWFBUD contacted Don Skelton, the DOT chief for our Tampa Bay district, to install Share the Road signs on Gandy Avenue near the Gandy Bridge and clean the Gandy Bridge shoulders more consistently given the fact that Hillsborough and Pinellas counties closed the Friendship Trail. It's very doubtful the Friendship Trail will open again because of structural problems.

Here is Skelton's letter:

The department has evaluated the feasibility of providing for a physical barrier between the traffic lanes and the shoulder of the Gandy Bridge.

Our findings indicate the required six foot, one-way or twelve foot, two-way, clear width required for multi-use paths across the Gandy Bridge cannot be provided for two significant reasons.

First, the bridge structures were not designed to accommodate the additional loading from the weight of the barrier walls required.

Second, the addition of a separated multi-use path would eliminate the required pavement shoulders across the bridge. These pavement shoulders provide for a critical safety feature for vehicles to use for emergency purposes.

In accordance with Section 335.065, Florida Statutes, the department has also evaluated designating the bridge shoulder as a bicycle and pedestrian way by means of pavement markings without a physical barrier.

At present, the department cannot designate the bridge shoulders for bicycles and pedestrians due to a 5 year crash history from 2002-2007 indicating a significant number of crashes involving the barrier walls and also due to the lack of required pedestrian and bicycle railings on top of the barrier walls.

Please note that S.R. 600 (Gandy Boulevard) is not a limited access facility and the department’s policy is not to restrict bicyclists or pedestrians from using the shoulder across the Gandy Bridge.

In consideration of the above, the department will add street signs along the roadway approaches in advance of the bridge ends to indicate that motorists must share the shoulder.

Please expect these signs to be installed within four weeks from this date.

The department appreciates the time you have taken on behalf of thousands of bicyclists in the Tampa Bay area to express interest of a multi-use path across the Gandy Bridge.

Thank you for your interest and concern for the bicyclists in the Tampa Bay area. If there is any additional information we can provide you regarding the Gandy Bridge, please contact Mr. Ronald Chin, P.E., District Design Engineer at or at 813/975-6030.


Donald J. Skelton, P.E.
District Seven Secretary

But we need more Share the Road signs and we need better bridge shoulder cleaning. SWFBUD definitely supports local efforts by bicyclists to contact our elected officials at the city, county and state levels to install more Share the Road signs and to clean the glass and debris that's present in the shoulders.

It's terrific that an email is circulating advising bicyclists to contact our local elected officials in Tampa, St. Pete and at the state to improve the Gandy Bridge for bicyclists. The email from David Homan offered some good email resources and I'm also printing the proposed message.

Get involved and let your voices be heard:

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio:

Tampa City Council group contact email address:

Tampa City Council individual contact web-form: - - - click on the "Customer Service Request" link next to each coucilmember

Hillsborough County Commissioners contact form:


St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker email address:

St. Petersburg City Council:

Pinellas County Commissioners contact form:

The proposed letter:

I am writing to let you know I am one of the cyclists who used to ride across the Friendship Trail Bridge between Tampa and St. Pete as part of my weekend ride (or work commute or whatever).

Since this bridge had to be closed due to structural problems, I am now riding across the Gandy bridge using the same spans as cars and trucks. It is not safe, but the "breakdown" lane can be used as a bike lane and it is my only alternative. I realize the cost to repair the old Friendship Trail would run into the millions and is not likely to ever happen.

For a fraction of this cost, the D.O.T. could install some "Share the Road" signs on the Gandy Bridge to at least make it a little safer for cyclists like me who must now share the road with motorists.

It would also be nice if the breakdown lane could be cleaned more regularly. This lane must now be used as a bike lane, but is frequently littered with debris and broken glass. Though unnoticed to someone traveling in a car or truck at 55+ mph, these are serious hazards to someone on a bicycle.

It would be great if a streetsweeper could pick up the garbage in these lanes once a week, twice a month, or at least once a month. Thanks for your help in making the Gandy bridge safer for all of the cyclists who use it to travel across Tampa Bay.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tampa Says No To Bikers At Skate Park In New Tampa

You might recall that SWFBUD contacted the city of Tampa a fewe months ago on behalf of BMXers protesting that a new park that is open to skaters is not off-limits to BMXers.

The St. Pete Times got around to doing a storyabout the fact that BMXers can't use this park.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Become A Friend of SWFBUD

There are many people boosting bicycling in the Tampa Bay region and I like to think SWFBUD is doing its part to increase the profile of bicycling in our area.

SWFBUD puts on the Bicycle Bash by the Bay every year with a bare-bones budget and lobbies public agencies and elected boards to improve bicycling conditions in the Tampa Bay area.

If you want to help SWFBUD, we are creating a new category for folks who want to join the bicycle movement in the Tampa Bay area.

You can become a Friend of SWFBUD for $25 a year and the first 100 Friends will get a free Polar Bottle water bottle. Polar Bottle is a sponsor of the Bicycle Bash by the Bay. If you want to become a Friend, contact SWFBUD Director Alan Snel at

Friday, May 15, 2009

SWFBUD Cuts Presenting Sponsor Deal With Cure on Wheels For The Bicycle Bash

South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers (SWFBUD), a coalition of eight Tampa Bay bike shops and one lawyer, is proud to announce that it has struck a deal with the Cure on Wheels bicycle ride for Cure on Wheels to be the presenting sponsor of the award-winning Bicycle Bash by the Bay bike festival.

Under the deal, SWFBUD sold the exclusive food-vending rights for the Bicycle Bash by the Bay to Cure on Wheels, which will sell food at the bicycle festival as a fund-raiser.

The deal also changes the name of the bicycl festival to the Bicycle Bash by the Bay, presented by Cure on Wheels.

The Bicycle Bash is now in its fourth year and will be held Oct. 11 at Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg. It is the winner of the Florida Bicycle Event of the Year in 2007. SWFBUD holds the Bicycle Bash annually to celebrate, promote and advocate bicycling as a healthy lifestyle and effective mode of transportation.

The Cure on Wheels is a fund-raising bike ride that raises money locally to fight cancer. It is scheduled for May 30-31 with rides ranging from 25 miles during one day to 165 miles during two days. Proceeds stay local in the Tampa Bay area for research and support services. The rides take off from Saint Leo University in Pasco County. Contact: or log onto

If you want to be a sponsor or vendor at the Bicycle Bash, contact Alan Snel at

Monday, May 11, 2009

SWFBUD Attends TBARTA Hearing Tonight To Boost Bicycling For Mass Transit Plan

Before the public hearing tonight I chatted with Don Skelton. Name ring a bell? It should. He's the top dog for the state Department of Transportation district that covers the Tampa Bay area. Did you know Don biked to a job in Daytona Beach from south Daytona when he was a teen-ager.

And he said he might actually have to bike to a mass transit station one day because his teen-age son might have to use his car.

What Don was telling me between the lines is that he appreciates bicycling.

That's good news to know. We need Don -- as the DOT district secretary and DOT chief for our area-- to have his staff mix bike lanes into road projects and make sure his state road designers consider the needs of bicyclists.

I actually first met Don tonight just outside his DOT district office off McKinley Drive south of the USF campus because he was walking across the street to a public hearing being held by the TBARTA agency -- the regional authority charged with creating a mass transit system for the Tampa Bay region.

I was the guy in the car. How was strange was that? I'm the bicycle guy and I'm in a car offering a ride to the DOT chief, who declines my car ride offer and wants to walk to the TBARTA meeting.

It was attending a TBARTA hearing for people to pipe in comments about TBARTA's master plan -- the big-picture, bird's-eye view of its proposed mass transportation plan. Here's a pic of the public hearing.

I attended to make sure TBARTA would include bicycling in all phases of the plan. I spoke for the record and requested TBARTA include bike racks and lockers at all mass transit bus and light-rail stations; provide access on the light-rail trains and buses for bikes and include photos of bicycles and bicyclists in all of its promotional brochures, web sites and posters.

It was disappointing not to see bicycling mentioned and shown in the master plan photos -- no bikes shown at stations, no bikes on buses or light rail, no bike racks or facilities.

How do they expect people to get to the stations? Or go from buses or light rail to their jobs? There will be park-and-drive lots, obviously, at the suburban stations for cars. But bicycles are a vital link in any mass transit system and MUST be included in any TBARTA plan.

After I made my comments at the hearing, I met this guy. Recognize him? You might know this guy more as the former middle linebacker for the Tampa Bay Bucs than as the chairman of the TBARTA board.

Shelton Quarles wanted to let me know that bicycling will be part of any TBARTA plan. Shelton said he's bicyclist, too, and he rides in the north Carrollwood area before dawn. Make sure you have a light on your wheels, Shelton.

Shelton gets his bicycle at Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, a SWFBUD member store and likes to work with CBE store manager Manny Sierra.

Shelton wanted to get a photo and made sure my green bicycle pin was easily seen in the photo.

Then I spoke with Scott Collister, director of transportation development for the Tampa Bay DOT district, also known as District 7. I explained to Scott that SWFBUD is not looking for bicyclists to take over the road. We want to share the road with drivers and I asked Scott to see if the local DOT office could start a public awareness campaign to get drivers to understand they need to share the road with bicyclists.

Scott said he would look into it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

SWFBUD Awards SWFBUDdy To Tampa City Center

This afternoon it was my pleasure to represent SWFBUD and present Sandy Ballestra, building manager of One Tampa City Center, with the first-ever "SWFBUDdy Award" for installing several terrific bike storage rooms that are very secure and for also planning to install lockers and showers.

It's so vital for city government to provide the safe infrastructure and also office buildings to provide secure places for bikes because that will drive bike-commuting in the Tampa Bay region. It's the green and right thing to do.

SWFBUD member store owner David Luppino, owner of Just Ride Bicycles in Riverview, and Karen Kress of the Tampa Downtown Partnership joined several building bike-commuters to witness the SWFBUDdy presentation. The bike room storage rooms are part of a movement in the building to encourage bike commuting because several HOK employees are bike commuting and looking to spread the word about how terrific bike commuting is. Sandy's work has created a spirit de corps for bike commuting and we hope One Tampa City Center is an example that other buildings can follow in the Tampa Bay region.

SWFBUD commends Sandy and any other buildings in Tampa that provide a safe and accessible storage area and congrats on the SWFBUDdy award.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Building Manager Of Tampa City Center Wins First SWFBUDdy Award

I am happy to announce that SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers) will be debuting the "SWFBUDdy Award" to people, businesses and public agencies that go out of their way to improve conditions for bicyclists, to increase the profile of bicycling in the Tamp Bay region and to make a difference for bicyclists.

SWFBUD's first award will go to Sandy Ballestra, building manager of the Tampa City Center office building in downtown Tampa for installing bicycle storage rooms in this prominent building.

I saw the storage rooms last week when I attended a bike commuter meeing at the offices of HOK architects in the Tampa City Center and I was impressed with the security and access for bike commuters. I believe Sandy wants to add showers and lockers, too.

My congratulations to Sandy Ballestra, winner of the first SWFBUDdy Award for creating bike storage space in the Tampa City Center. There will be a 2 PM Friday SWFBUDdy presentation award ceremony at the Tampa City Center.