Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SWFBUD Asks Tampa To Allow Bicycling In Curtis Hixon Park

Dear Karen Palus, director of parks and recreation, city of Tampa:

It's come to my attention that several bicyclists have been told by security at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park that it is not legal to ride a bicycle in this park.

I am writing on behalf of SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers), a consortium of nine Tampa Bay area bicycle stores representing thousands of bicyclists, to suggest to you that the city should ALLOW bicycle riding in Curtis Hixon Park. Unfortunately, the city government's reputatation for not being friendly, hospitable and accommodating to bicyclists as depicted in several national reports only gets worse when security tells people to stop riding a bicycle in this new big park.

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is an important transition area from the city's riverwalk where people can ride a bicycle to the city's downtown and Ashley Street. The city of St. Petersburg has many waterfront parks that compare favorably to Curtis Hixon and it's a common sight to see bicyclists pedaling through the parks that border St. Petersburg's waterfront.

I hope the city of Tampa's government can take steps to change its unfortunate reputation as a city not friendly to bicyclists and allow bicycle riding in the park. I contacted your department via the TampaGov Customer Service Center regarding this issue, but never heard back.

I also recommend you add more bike racks to the park. On the park's opening day in January, I saw many bicycles locked to the riverwalk railing and also lying on the grass in the park. Bike racks are a good way of getting people to ride their bikes to the park and surrounding businesses while allowing bicyclists to lock their bikes in a secure area.

Thank you,

Alan Snel

Director of SWFBUD -- South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers
A nationally-recognized consortium of 9 Tampa Bay-area retail bicycle stores committed to bicycle advocacy
Organizer of the Bicycle Bash festival, Florida's 2007 Bicycle Event of the Year

Thursday, February 18, 2010

SWFBUD Quoted in St. Pete Times Story on Tampa Bay Commuting Woes

We all know Tampa Bay is behind the rest of the country when it comes to commuting resources -- a Forbes magazine report validated that with a report yesterday that listed Tampa-St. Pete in last place in the commuting category.

The St. Petersburg Times did a story on about the Forbes report, which included a SWFBUD mention.

But the way, look at the photo above. That's a bike lane that ends on Cross Creek Road halfway between Bruce B. Down and Morris Bridge roads courtesy of the city of Tampa. I guess Tampa ran out of money and ended the bike lane when the funds ran dry.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SWFBUD Calls For Bicyclists To Go Political

Hey, I'm the first to admit it -- a drab meeting room with metal chairs, maps and employees from agencies with names of Alphabet Soup is not very exciting compared to biking the hills of San Ann or the off-road trails of Alafia.

But right now, HART the public bus agency in Hillsborough County and the county Public Works Dept. are holding joint-forums to get your opinions about a mass transit/road project initiative that might be on the ballot in November in the form of a penny sales tax increase. Of the revenue generated from that penny increase in sales tax -- that's an annual potload of $200 million, folks -- 75 percent would go to build light rail and beefed-up bus service as part of mass transit and 25 percent would go to county public works for road improvement projects.

What's it in for bicyclists? Well, a whole lot.

Bicycles are a crucial link in any mass transit system. You could bike to light rail and bus stations -- if the HART agency people building these things include bike racks and bike storage centers at stations. And we need to make sure bikes are allowed on light rail cars.

Bicyclists also need a network of roads with bike lanes and shoulders and safe places to ride a bike to get to thsee stations.

There are planners in another Alphabet Soup agency called the MPO, which stands for Metropolitan Planning Organization, and these people generally like bicycling and they might designate roads for bike lanes. But the people who work for MPOs, as nice and well-intended as they are, are not political and are not at these public forums politicking on your behlf as a bicyclist.

I do, though.

As director of SWFBUD, I attend these meetings and forums and lobby/advise/cajole people at agencies such as HART that they need to work with Hillsborough County to make sure the roads that lead to bus and rail stops are safe for bicyclists and include designated routes with bike lanes and shoulders. I have advised HART that mass transit stations need bike storage areas and bike racks and bicyclists must be allowed to bring their bikes on light rail cars, too.

I represent an alliance of nine Tampa Bay bicycle shops called SWFBUD and our shops represent thousands of bicyclists in the area. The bike shop owners are too busy to attend many of these public feedback meetings, so I go as their collective voice. I wish more bike shops would be in SWFBUD so that we may have even more political clout.

But here's the thing: the government and agency employees at HART and Hillsborough County (and the city of Tampa, too) NEED TO HEAR IT FROM YOU, TOO.

Last night, I attended a HART forum and there were a mere seven residents sitting listening to a HART representative. There were another half-dozen HART employees. I had one-on-one time with these HART staffers to push bicycling. I also spoke with county public works employees, including Public Works Director Bob Gordon, to push bicycle projects.

They need to hear from you, too.

They need to know more and more people are biking and that many more people would bike, too, if our infrastructure was more accommodating to the needs of bicyclists.

HART needs to know that bicyclists will use light rail and buses if the commute can accommodate bicyclists. I see many buses with one or two bikes secured in the carry cage in the front of the bus.

Give HART and the county an earload about bicycling. The next forum is Thursday Feb. 18 at 5:30PM at Freedom High School (cafeteria) at 17410 Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa. Submit your comments online at and mail your comments to Steve Valdez; Public Works Dept., County Center 22nd Floor; PO Box 1110; Tampa, FL 33601.

Call 813-272-5811.

HART is ALSO having another set of special meetings that are more specific about stops and routes this week -- today, Wednesday and Thursday. Call 813-223-6831 EXT 1720 or email

Today's meeting will be at the Loretta Ingraham Rec Complex at 1615 Hubert St in Tampa from 11 am to 2 pm and from 4-7 pm. On Wednesday, there is a meeting at University Square Mall in Tampa from 3-7 PM and on Thursday there is a meeting in downtown Tampa at the Tampa Downtown Market from 10 AM-2 PM and at One Tampa City Center in downtown from 11 AM to 2 PM.

If you're a bicyclist, GET INVOLVED in the political process. People who make these decisions NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU.

SWFBUD Asks HART To Include Bicycles In Mass Transit Plan

Last night I chatted with HART folks, the guys who run the bus system in Hillsborough County because they're also in charge of putting together a potential game plan for a mass transit system that would be paid for by the money raised from a possible 1-cent increase in sales tax.

The county commissioners still have to decide in March about putting the 1-cent initiative before county voters in November. The 1-cent increase would generate about $200 million annually -- 75 percent would go to HART to start a rail system and get much more bus sroutes and 25 percent would pay for a hodge-podge

HART is holding about eight meetings or so around Hillsborough County to get people's opinions.

I represented SWFBUD and attended one such forum in Plant City tonight.

HART folks -- about eight of them -- spoke about commuter transit. The 75 percent part.

Hillsborough County public works staffers chatted about the miscellaneous road projects. The 25 percent part.

What was so disappointing was that among all the maps there was hardly any bicycle presence. The transit maps showed ZERO bicycle presence.

The transportation show about three bike trails.

That's it.

Also, it's hard to believe this deal will be approved when HART and the county is still trying to gather opinions only nine months out.

It's also so poorly framed by the officials. The photos used in the info booklet handed out by HART and the county show the same lame, oft-used shots of a bus and a highway choked with traffic.

We've seen it all before.

But now the stakes are so high -- and HART and the county have showed so little compelling information as to excite people to be interested.

Here's Bob Gordon tonight. He's the county's public works director and was kind of the master of ceremonies tonight. Bob was shmoozing with me about how he biked everywhere as a college student.

When I asked him what percentage of the general road project money would be designated for bicycle projects, he did not know.

Here are seven HART staffers -- some of the expensive ones -- and seven residents. Talk about small class size.

Based on what I see this point. I'm afraid a sales tax increase would go down in flames in November. They often do the first time in many cities.

Bottom line for me: until I see more bicycle lanes and routes integrated into the mass transit system, I can't support this thing. If HART and the county promise to commit money to build bike lanes that lead to light rail and bus stops, I would be supportive. Until then, no dice.

Friday, February 12, 2010

SWFBUD Contacts Pasco County About Bicyclist Citations

SWFBUD sent this letter to Pasco County Sheriff's Office today.

* * *

Dear Pasco Sheriff's Office,

It has come to the attention of SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers), an alliance of Tampa Bay area bicycle stores committed to growing bicycling in the Tampa Bay region, that Pasco sheriff's deputies are giving citations to bicyclists who ride on the roads of Pasco County.

Bicycles are vehicles under the law, so SWFBUD encourages all bicyclists to comply with all traffic laws.

As you know, under law, cyclists not traveling as fast as the normal speed of traffic must ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the road. But I need to bring to your attention that there are circumstances under law that allow a bicyclist to be in the middle of the lane:

1. When passing another vehicle.

2. When making a left turn.

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions such as a moving object, a parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal or surface hazard.

4. When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side (a cyclist should maintain at least two feet of clearance from a curb or pavement edge and the minimum clearance for passing a bicylclist is three feet; a lane with less than 14 feet of usable width is usually too narrow for motor traffic to pass.)

I realize some Pasco County residents feel inconvenienced when they are behind a bicyclist in a traffic lane. But there are legal reasons why a bicyclist might be in the lane, such as debris along the edge of the road or a lane that is "sub-standard" in width.

I do need to request that if your deputies are handing out citations to bicyclists in Pasco County, then I do hope they are also citing motorized vehicle drivers who violate the law by "buzzing" bicyclists by not passing them with a clearance of a required minimum of THREE feet.

Thank you,
Alan Snel
Director of SWFBUD

Thursday, February 11, 2010

SWFBUD Working Behind The Scenes For Tampa Bay Bicyclists

SWFBUD is proud to put on the Bicycle Bash festival every year. But we work year-round to represent the interests of bicyclists. Did you know . . .

-- The city of Tampa is looking at bike routes to the new downtown waterfront Curtis Hixon Park after SWFBUD approached City Public Works and Utilities Director Steve Daignault at the park opening last month and asked him about installing bike routes to the new park. Then just recently, the city council instructed staff to look at potential bike routes to the park.

John Marsh of the city's Transportation Division handed out city maps to the MPO's Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee yesterday and asked for suggestions on bike routes from all directions to the park.

The city is also looking at installing more bike racks after SWFBUD pointed out to city parks officials that the new park lacks bike racks. Here are bikes locked up against the riverwalk railing because of lack of bike racks at the park.

-- HART is preparing signs advising motorists to clear bicyclists and pedestrians by the minimum required space of three feet after SWFBUD approached the HART board last month. A HART bus nearly struck me while passing me on Rowlett Park Drive, violating the three-foot buffer law.

In response, instead of taking the case to Tampa Police I took the incident to the HART board and advised them to please use this incident as a learning experience for not only its drivers but also all drivers to give clearance of at least three feet when passing bicyclists.

Katharine Eagen of HART is working on signs that will be posted inside the bus, on bus shelters and also, in some cases, on the outside of buses. The signs will also warn drivers to pass pedestrians by a minimum of three feet as well.

-- Tampa Police will be sitting down with George Martin, the bike laws expert of the Florida Bicycle Association, to discuss being trained to better understand bicycle laws after SWFBUD introduced George to Assistant Police Chief John Bennett recently.

SWFBUD and George met John Bennett and two other officers at an introductory meeting at police headquarters after a bicyclist was cited for being in the road and impeding traffic although the lane was too narrow and the cyclist had the right to be in the lane under those circumstances.

SWFBUD supports bicyclists and the motoring public understanding laws to allow both bicyclist and motorized vehicle operator equal access to roadways under the law.