Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SWFBUD Works With Reps Cruz and Harrison To Build BAM Network

By Alan Snel
SWFBUD Director
(South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers)

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days but when it comes to local, back yard issues, SWFBUD has been able to unite Democratic state legiuslator Janet Cruz and Republican state legislator Shawn Harrison behind a SWFBUD initiative -- building the BAM Network.

The BAM stands for "Bicycle Area Mobility" and it centers on SWFBUD's idea to get Tampa and Hillsborough County to partner on building a regional paved trail system that would unite the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail, the South Coast Greenway and the Selmon Greenway into one comprehensive highway system for bicyclists. The tri-trail BAM Network would interface with roads with bike lanes like Fletcher Avenue and also HART bus routes.

Cruz and Harrison both attended the SWFBUD Bicycle Bash festival at beautiful Flatwoods Park on Nov. 6 and support bicycling. Rep. Harrison rode his bicycle with his son during the Bicycle Bash, while Rep. Cruz gave a speech at the Bash supporting bicycling in Tampa,

Bicycling transcends politics. Which is why SWFBUD sat down with Rep. Harrison recently to garner his support for the BAM Network. Rep. Cruz has backed the idea of paving a trail along the Bypass Canal Trail and making it part of the bigger BAM Network.

Rep. Harrison came up with the idea of co-writing a letter with Rep. Cruz supporting thr BAM Network and getting our local state legislators on both sides of the aisle in Tampa Bay to co-sign the letter that SWFBUD plans to share with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the Tampa City Council members and the Hillsborough County Commissioners. Commissioner Mark Sharpe is already a big advocate of the BAM Network and wants to see it built.

SWFBUD thanks Reps. Harrison and Cruz for stepping up and agreeing to co-write this BAM Network letter and for getting the local state legislator delegation to support SWFBUD's multi-trail system idea in Hillsborough County.

The BAM consists of three trails that would make up more than 30 miles of paved trails to provide effective transportation and a safe haven for our many local bicyclists.

The BAM can't be built fast enough as three more Tampa Bay bicyclists were killed by motorists in three days over the Christmas holiday weekend.

SWFBUD is already making strides with the BAM. SWFBUD has successfully lobbied the local MPO to conduct a feasibility study of the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail crossings, while the South Coast Greenway is in the MPO's 2035 Long Range Plan. The MPO has already had an open house for a consultant to preview the Selmon Greenway, too.

SWFBUD is asking you to also support the construction of all three trails as a cohesive unit and network of paved trails in Hillsborough County and Tampa that would interface with local road bike lanes and HART routes. As you know, the Hillsborough/Tampa area has a high bicyclist fatality rate and bicyclists need safe places to ride their vehicles.

SWFBUD offers several benefits of the BAM Network:

Economic impact: A trio of bicycle paths in Orange County, Fla. pumps $42 million into the local economy annually and supports 516 jobs, according to a study conducted by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council.,0,3028584.story

Tourism: Trails promote Florida tourism.

Health benefits: Bicycling is a great exercise that promotes wellness and fitness.

Jobs creation: Studies show trail projects create more jobs per dollar than roads.

Please write emails to your local elected officials asking them to support the BAM Network and attend public meetings to support the BAM. Let's turn Tampa and Hillsborough County around and go from worst to first in bicycle safety and bicyclist enjoyment.

SWFBUD Mourns The Deaths of 3 Bicyclists In 3 Days In Tampa Bay

The Christmas weekend in Tampa Bay was a deadly one for bicyclists.

A bicyclist was killed Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- three dead bicyclists in three days.

Motorists killed bicyclists on both sides of the Bay.

Friday in St. Petersburg: A motorist was charged with DUI manslaughter for the Friday hit-and-run death of a bicyclist in St. Petersburg. The driver of the motorized vehicle killed the bicyclist at 2:15 am. Read the Times story here.

Saturday near Brandon: A Plant City bicyclist riding his bike across U.S. 301 just north of State Road 60 was killed by a pickup at 6:40 am Saturday near Brandon. Read the Trib story here.

Sunday in Dover in Hillsborough County: A hit-and-run motorist killed a bicyclist on Sydney Dover Road at 6 pm Sunday. Read the Times story here.

The stories are breaking news items with not too much information. But if you look at the times of the motorists striking and killing the bicyclists, you will see that there was little or no daylight -- Friday at 2:15 am, Saturday at 6:40 am and Sunday at 6 pm.

This a reminder to light you and your bicycle up like a Christmas tree or a menorah so that you have the best chance to be seen by motorists when the daylight is dwindling or non-existent.

In two of the three cases this weekend, the motorist struck and killed bicyclists and drove away. That gives you a little sense of the character of the motorists around here.

In 2010, there were a dozen bicyclists killed by motorists in Hillsborough and with the two killed bicyclists in Hillsborough over the holiday weekend, the 2011 bicyclist death number hit eight. In 2011, the Pinellas County bicyclist death count hit 10 with the hit-and-run DUI manslaughter case in St. Petersburg.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Tampa First: A Share the Road Sign Appears On Bayshore Blvd.

Dreams really come true in Tampa. Look what I saw this morning on Bayshore Blvd.

A Share the Road sign. Whoa nellie!

For years, SWFBUD has implored the city of Tampa to re-pave the city's signature road and include bike lanes from the Platt Street Bridge to Gandy.

The road was not a pleasant experienced for bicyclists. The concrete sections gave bicyclists a "ka-thunp, ka-thump, ka-thump" rolling experience. A bike lane disappeared on the downtown-bound side of the road. And motorists still move too fast.

But after years of SWFBUD lobbying, the city of Tampa government is adding bike lanes as part of an initial re-surfacing project from Rome Ave. to the Platt Street Bridge.

And the Share the Road sign was added on Bayshore after Rome.

Hope there are more Share the Road signs around Tampa.

Friday, December 16, 2011

TBARTA Has A Bike Lock-up Area -- Finally

For years, I found it ironic that a regional Tampa Bay transportation agency called TBARTA never had a bike rack in front of its building. That's because I consider bicycling great transportation and just wish the people who work at regional transportation planning would join me in telling our elected leaders to fund bicycle transportation projects like regional paved trail systems and bike lanes that form a network.

TBARTA is the same agency that at the start didn't show bicycles in its materials or slide shows and didn't have bicycles as part of a rendering showing downtown Tampa transportation center to a Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

I remember about three or four years ago Karen Kress, the super bicycle lady of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, spoke to the TBARTA board about an issue and ended her chat with a suggestion that the transportation agency have a bike rack in front of its building.

For years, this agency located at the USF campus off Fowler Avenue never had a bike rack.

Even my emails didn't spark TBARTA to have a bike rack.

But I am a member of the Hillsborough/Tampa Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and a few months I made a motion that our BPAC Chair Jim Shirk send a BPAC letter to TBARTA asking for a bike rack.

So just two days ago at our December BPAC meeting I saw a surprise -- a letter from TBARTA saying it has a bike rack.

I stopped by the TBARTA building at the USF Connect building Thursday and didn't see a bike rack out front but there were these bike lock-up hoops behind the building.

And because this is Tampa, you take what you can -- even if the bike lock-up area is behind the buulding and not in front.

Chainwheel Drive Donates Bikes For Kids Next Week

SWFBUD stores are always doing good deads.

Take Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater and Palm Harbor, for example.

Dottie Jessup tells me Chainwheel Driuve is involved in a holiday bicycle donation for kids and that on Wednesday, December 21, at 5:30 pm Jim Dodson Law and Chainwheel Drive will present the bikes to the kids who have been chosen to receive their first bikes.

The presentation will take place at Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater.

"We can't wait to see the kids faces when they come into our bike shop and see their bikes lined up all in a row with big red bows on each one," Dottie says.

Well done Chainwheel Drive.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Florida DOT Removes Graphic Video From Its Web site

Well, that didn't take long -- the Florida Department of Transportation has removed a graphic and inflammatory video from its so-called pedestrian-bicyclist safety campaign web site created by the Troy Dunn advertisement company less than a month after the DOT issued a press release about the safety campaign.

Months ago, SWFBUD warned the DOT that the Troy Dunn advertisement company's content was inflammatory and distorted because it blamed only pedestrians and bicyclists for getting hit and killed by motorists, but failed to hold motorists accountable for their actions.

SWFBUD believes bicyclists MUST be educated about safely riding their vehicles on roads. But we also believe motorists must be held accountable, too -- something the local DOT safety staffers and the Troy Dunn advertisement company failed to accomplish in its safety campaign.

The web site originally showed a highly graphic video on its home page that showed images collected off the internet of motorists smashing into pedestrians, with the pedestrians going flying. The scenes show pedestrians walking in front of cars and getting smashed, but I guess the Troy Dunn advertisement company couldn't find the videos of the two car drivers racing down Fletcher Avenue in Tampa and killing bicyclist Robert Niedbalec who was pedaling in a bike lane in February or the red-light-running driver who killed bicyclist Diane Vega at Spruce and Himes on Oct. 1, 2010.

The DOT wanted something attention-grabbing in the campaign because, according to the DOT PR spokeswoman, the conventional Share the Road messages are too "vanilla."

Apparently, the graphic video hatched by the Troy Dunn advertisement company was too inappopriate for the DOT.

So, the web site shows another video on its home page showing elephants and tanks on a downtown street, scaring pedestrians and a bicyclist.

SWFBUD also opposes that video because it reinforces the stereotype that roads are only for cars at a time when we are working to show the public that the roads are for everyone -- not just cars but for bicylists and pedestrians, too.

In previous St. Pete Times stories on this DOT bicycle-ped campaign, Florida Bicycle Association Executive Director Tim Bustos expressed his concerns about this DOT campaign. Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, also opposes this inflammatory DOT-Dunn campaign that does little to instruct people on how we all as motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians can safely co-exist on local roads.

The local DOT safety staffers in Tampa did not consult with the local Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee or the Florida Bicycle Association about presenting safety content in this campaign.

The local DOT safety staffers believe pedestrians and bicyclists cause their accidents and they're the ones who need to be addressed in a campaign.

Without contacting the Florida Bicycle Association, the DOT-Dunn campaign stated this on its web site: "According to a published guide from the Florida Bicycle Association, bicyclists are at fault in seventy percent of all police-reported crashes because they violated traffic rules."

FBA's Bustos said the DOT-Dunn web site distorted the information.

SWFBUD, like most bicycle organizations, believes it's split about 50-50 between bicyclists and motorists regarding who causes accidents. The local DOT pays for a local agency to run pedestrian and bicyclist safety programs and SWFBUD supports that -- but how come there is no DOT initiative to also educate motorists on how they need to share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians? There are WalkWise and BikeSmart programs but what about a program to make motorists smarter or wiser and to teach motorists how to drive in a new world where roads are for everyone?