Bicycling is a major news story in 2010 in light of the nearly dozen bicyclists who have been killed by motorists in the three-county Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco area since July. Yet, with a major March 1 election looming in Tampa -- a mayor and all seven council seats are up for grabs -- hardly any candidates have addressed bicycling.
SWFBUD reached out and interviewed five mayoral candidates on their positions on bicycling: Ed Turanchik, Bob Buckhorn, Dick Greco, Rose Ferlita and Tom Scott. Tampa is run by a strong-mayor form of government, which allows the mayor to have enormous power in initiating projects such as a bicycle program.
SWFBUD has not asked council candidates for their views on bicycling. But out of 29 council candidates, only one council hopeful has contacted me to offer his positions on bicycling. District 3 candidate Jason Wilson, a Tampa General ER doctor from south Tampa, gave me this letter on bicycling in Tampa. Wilson wrote:
"Bicycling is an effective mode of transportation, excellent fitness exercise and an enjoyable family recreational activity. However, to maximize the potential of bicycles in our life, our city must work much harder to build a system that promotes the utilization and implementation of a bicycle culture.
1. Is there a bicycle representative/member on TBARTA? If not, there needs to be one on TBARTA and every other transportation work group that develops in the city or county.
2. We can work now to promote a culture shift by –
a. Educating drivers and law enforcement through publications and advertisement – current driver unawareness creates unsafe conditions for riders
b. Enforcing the laws that do exist that promote bicycle safety and the sharing of roadways
c. Develop more “sharrows” and signage on roadways
d. Encouraging companies and new businesses to integrate commuter bicycling - i.e. showers at work, indoor or sheltered bicycle storage areas - new buildings can be encouraged to implement these facilities by waivers and reductions on permits and other associated applications/fees
3. We must have a vision for a complete and complementary transportation system in Tampa. This vision encompasses:
a. Some form of mass transit that integrates bicycles so that riders can switch easily between rail/bus/car and bike as needed
b. Increased bicycle use and storage on existing or planned transit options (bus and highspeed rail)
c. Integrating new bicycle corridor initiatives into all further mass transit planning (Turanchik has the right ideas regarding this)"
I urge you to support political candidates who support bicycling. For too long, bicyclists in Tampa and the Bay area have stood on the political sidelines and failed to voice our agenda for safer roads, more paved trails and better driver awareness regarding our rights to the road.
As the mayor's race gets closer, I will offer my views on the mayoral comments regarding bicycling.