DOWNTOWN — A sign at the city's newest downtown attraction, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, says no bicycles.
But Roy McKenzie didn't see such a sign as he rode his bike there recently.
He had ridden from his home in Palma Ceia after reading in the St. Petersburg Times that City Council member Linda Saul-Sena wanted to create maps showing cycling routes to the park, promoting it as part of Tampa's more pedestrian- and bike-friendly image.
But bike-friendly wasn't exactly the vibe McKenzie says he got, after a city employee stopped him. You can't ride your bike in the park, he told McKenzie.
And he wasn't the only one.
On a local blog for cyclists, several others said their bikes also got the boot from the highly touted multimillion-dollar park that opened in January.
So why would Saul-Sena ask the city staff to create a map showing biking routes to a park where biking isn't allowed?
Well, it's complicated. Officials said this week that biking really is allowed — sort of.
"We really are fine with people riding through the park, despite what the sign says," Saul-Sena said after consulting with the city's parks and recreation director, Karen Palus.
Tampa police had been "heavy handed" about enforcing the sign, Saul-Sena said, but city officials have talked to them.
"Officers were enforcing to the letter of the law," said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "They didn't do anything wrong. In the future, officers will only be escorting people off if they are trick riding or being reckless."
Yet the sign prohibiting bikes — along with skateboards and skates — will stay.
Basically, officials say, people can ride their bikes through the park on their way elsewhere. "As long as they're just riding through, it's okay," Marsha Carter, who oversees the downtown park for the city, said.
Saul-Sena clarified that the park is a destination and not part of the city's greenways designed specifically for bicycles. Currently, there are four metal bike racks at the park. The idea being, ride your bike to the park, then lock it to a rack until you're ready to leave. Saul-Sena wants to see more racks there, which Carter says is a possibility.
But cycling enthusiast Alan Snel, whose blog has featured bikers' complaints on the issue, says people should be able to ride leisurely in the park. What about the parents who bring their kids to ride their bikes? Allowing bikes to simply ride through is the "bare minimum," he said.
The issue goes back to a city ordinance that permits bicycling only on roads designated for vehicular traffic or other areas designated for that specific class of vehicle.
The walkways in Curtis Hixon and most other city parks, for that matter, technically don't fit.
Carter said signs prohibit bicycles, skateboards and roller skates because these activities can damage railings, eventually chipping them. She would prefer that the white concrete not be marred by tire marks.
Basically, she said, the city doesn't want cyclists popping wheelies, riding on the furniture or up and down the terraces.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813) 226-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.