TAMPA — With 50,000 visitors in town for the Republican National Convention, Tampa officials are open to expanding the options their guests have for getting around downtown, the Channel District and Ybor City.
So here's one possibility, courtesy of Humana health insurance: pedal buses — nonmotorized, steered by a driver and powered by the pedaling of up to eight passengers.
The idea is to offer conventioneers a fun and healthy way to travel around Tampa at no cost, Humana spokesman Mitch Lubitz said Monday. Each of the 20 pedal buses would carry nine people in three rows of seats.
As part of its Freewheelin health awareness and free transportation program, Humana expects to set up stops for the buses offering water, fruit and information about healthy living. The company did something similar at the national political conventions four years ago when it provided bicycles for use free of charge in Denver and St. Paul, Minn., promoting physical fitness and environmental awareness at the same time.
It's the same idea with the pedal buses, which are also going to Charlotte, N.C., the site of the Democratic National Convention.
"As we become more of a health benefits company — keeping people healthy and giving them tools, resources and programs to be active and to live a healthier lifestyle — this is just really a part of that larger message," Lubitz said.
To make the program possible, the City Council is scheduled Thursday to consider enacting temporary rules for the pedal buses during the Aug. 27-30 convention.
As proposed, the vehicles would be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Aug. 24-30, but only on designated roadways and only in the lane closest to the curb. They also couldn't load or unload passengers just anywhere, but would have established pick-up and drop-off locations. Operators also would have to provide proof of insurance.
The city has identified one pedal bus route between downtown and Ybor City, though Lubitz said Humana and city officials also are discussing others.
The route to be considered would go from the northern end of downtown — between the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park — along Tyler and Cass streets east to Nuccio Parkway, north to E Seventh Avenue and into Ybor City. There, the pedal buses would loop around a block near Centro Ybor before beginning the return trip to downtown.
The Freewheelin program won't be Humana's only contribution to the city during the convention, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.
The company also is working with the city to build a KaBoom! playground at Ragan Park on Aug. 11.