Sunday, April 17, 2011
SWFBUD And The Three Mayors
On Saturday mornings at the St. Petersburg farmers market you can find former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker strumming his guitar at the market's weekly home in the parking lot of Al Lang Stadium.
So this morning, St. Pete's ex-mayor wearing his trademark dungaree shorts ended a set and shifted over to a table topped with his new book, Seamless City. He was selling books and signing them at the market.
I was in downtown St. Pete with my bicycle after cycling from Tampa over the Gandy with my bike pal Ellen and her friend Doug. Both are riding the Police Unity Tour this spring.
I said hi to Rick Baker, who used to stop at the Bicycle Bash festival when SWFBUD staged it in his city.
I noticed Rick was hanging with a pal -- new Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was visiting Rick while his daughter was swimming at the North Shore Pool. And even St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster was there, too.
Since I had an audiience with the two current mayors and Rick Baker, I took the chance to tell Rick that he deserved credit for transforming St. Pete from a Mean Streets city to one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the state. Indeed, I spent Saturday morning biking from bike lane to trail to bike lane throughout St. Petersburg.
Then I asked Rick to help Buckhorn make Tampa more bike-friendly and explained to Bob the importance of a network of interlocking bike lanes or paved trails through a city so that neighborhoods can be safely connected via bicycle and cyclists can get where they need to go in an efficient and safe manner.
Rick said he mentioned the bicycle progress in St. Pete in his new book and Bob seemed to understand that bicycling needs to be valued in Tampa.
Tampa city government seems a bit more receptive to making its roads better for bicyclists -- witness 40th Street north of Hillsborough Avenue and North Boulevard's new re-surfacing and bike lanes north of Cass. Coming soon after the city dragged its feet for years -- Bayshore Blvd. bike lanes as part of the re-surfacing project.
But Tampa needs to be proactive and put sharrows and Share the Road signs on other roads used by bicyclists that do not have space for bike lanes. Too many studies and too many reports and too many powerpoints.
Notice to Tampa: stop spending money on consultants and start spending money on road improvements that help bicyclists. For years, the MPO has been advising Tampa on where bike lanes should go. The city already has maps of proposed bike lanes. Let's make it happen. It's not rocket science.
Making a city more friendly for bicyclists is a matter of political will by a mayor and the can-do enthusiasm of city workers to make it happen.
Let's hope Buckhorn takes a page from Baker's book and buys into making Tampa a better place for bicycling.