Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Transportation

Tampa bike safety summit features U.S. transportation chief

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Jim Shirk has spent years trying to get the voices of cyclists heard in the Tampa area. Despite a strong, growing bike community and all of the region's attributes — flat terrain, nice climate — the area has been known as a deadly place for cyclists: 13 dead in Hillsborough in 2012.

But that seems to be changing.

"I feel somewhere between very positive and over the moon," said Shirk, beaming, as he mingled at a national bike safety summit held in a ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday morning. The room was full of people who shared his passion, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"It's finally coming together," said Shirk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

So far this year, there have been no bicycle deaths in all of Hillsborough, officials said last week.

LaHood chose Tampa as a site for the summit because he said he believes in the area's potential to change its dangerous history.

"We think that there's probably not a better place in America than Tampa to launch a bike safety event," LaHood told the Tampa Bay Times.

LaHood said much of what is needed to fulfill Tampa's promise is already in place — a large community of passionate cyclists and officials, like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who are working to make the area more bike friendly. Buckhorn campaigned on the promise of making the area safer for cyclists, which he said is not only to improve citizens' lifestyles but is rooted in economics. He is fighting to make Tampa a "hip" and "cool" place where smart, talented professionals want to live.

"Is it a city where you can live, work and play and not get into your car?" he said. "Bicycles are a part of that."

This fall, the city will launch a bike share program with 300 bicycles, for rent by credit card, at 30 parking stations around downtown, Ybor City and Bayshore Boulevard. The city's plans for downtown and surrounding neighborhoods include bike lanes and an east-west trail running from the V.M. Ybor neighborhood, down Nuccio Parkway, through downtown, over the river, past the University of Tampa and out to West Tampa.

"We are going to change this city in ways you can't even imagine," Buckhorn told the crowd.

LaHood said more education for drivers is needed. He plans to launch a campaign similar to ones in past years aimed at educating people about drunk driving and buckling their seat belts.

"We know we can make a difference," LaHood said.

He said the nation needs to show no tolerance for people who don't respect cyclists.

"We will continue this effort until we reduce cycling deaths and injuries to zero," he said.

The interest from LaHood and Buckhorn make it more likely that these plans will become reality, said Jean Duncan, the city's transportation manager.

"When these things come from the top, it makes a huge difference," she said.

Many experts and cycling proponents, such as Shirk, want protected bike lanes installed, where there is a barrier between riders and drivers. Some are included in Buckhorn's plans, but Shirk wants more. As happy as he is with the attention Tampa is getting, he says there is more work to do.

"We'll keep pressing," he said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3405.

Comments
FDOT considers transit, other options for improving Fowler Avenue in USF area

FDOT considers transit, other options for improving Fowler Avenue in USF area

TAMPA — A new study eventually could lead to better traffic flow on Fowler Avenue while offering a variety of transportation options.The $500,000 study, to take up to 18 months, focuses on the University Area and the University of South Florida. It ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Mother reconciles with Plant City DMV employee who made her stand outside with baby

Mother reconciles with Plant City DMV employee who made her stand outside with baby

PLANT CITY — After Liz Gately was told to wait outside the Plant City’s Tax Collector office to renew her car registration with her 1-year-old last week, the internet fought back. Facebook posts from Gately, 27, as well as bystanders and other mother...
Published: 11/16/17
Holiday events begin, annual traffic snarls follow

Holiday events begin, annual traffic snarls follow

A few favorite holiday events are gearing up and that means impact to traffic, starting with the annual Times Turkey Trot, which will temporarily close streets Thanksgiving morning in Clearwater beginning at 6 a.m. until approximately noon. The follo...
Published: 11/15/17
Moms with infants told to wait outside Plant City DMV

Moms with infants told to wait outside Plant City DMV

PLANT CITY — Liz Gatley needed to renew her car registration. As if that task wasn’t cumbersome enough, she says a Department of Motor Vehicles manager told her she had to wait outside until she could be served because her 1-year-old daughter was wit...
Published: 11/10/17
Updated: 11/11/17
The Cross Bay Ferry won’t come back this fall. What about 2018?

The Cross Bay Ferry won’t come back this fall. What about 2018?

Still waiting for the Cross Bay Ferry to return? It’s going to be a while — say, 2018 at the earliest.The ferry’s supporters, most notably St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, had hoped to bring the boat back for another season after the first six-mon...
Published: 11/10/17

Work on Sunshine Skyway’s rest areas to last two more years

We often go fishing near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and are wondering what’s happening with the rest area and parking lot? It looks like there’s work going on there. How long will the rest area be closed off?Mike WalkerThis is a state Department of T...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/13/17
Hillsborough loses transit leader Katharine Eagan to a better funded agency

Hillsborough loses transit leader Katharine Eagan to a better funded agency

TAMPA — Katharine Eagan, the leader of Hillsborough County’s transit agency, is leaving the job just a month after implementing a widespread overhaul of the county’s bus network.She will take over as CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny, Pa., which...
Published: 11/08/17
Updated: 11/09/17
Speakers give mixed reviews to new Hillsborough bus-route overhaul

Speakers give mixed reviews to new Hillsborough bus-route overhaul

TAMPA — Hillsborough’s transit agency heard its first public comment Monday since overhauling its bus network and cutting about 20 percent of its routes last month.A handful of people spoke at the agency’s board meeting, with one praising the new net...
Published: 11/06/17
Updated: 11/07/17
New DOT work plan includes $32 million for U.S. 41/SR 54 interchange

New DOT work plan includes $32 million for U.S. 41/SR 54 interchange

LAND O’LAKES — Twenty-one months ago, the Florida Department of Transportation said it was hitting the brakes on planning improvements at a traffic-clogged intersection in central Pasco.Instead, the DOT said it would await recommendations from Pasco ...
Updated one month ago
Planning commission to rethink Bloomingdale Avenue reversible lane proposal

Planning commission to rethink Bloomingdale Avenue reversible lane proposal

RIVERVIEW — Business owners and residents of Bloomingdale Avenue breathed a cautious sigh of relief Monday after Hillsborough County planning commissioners said converting the busy roadway into reversible lanes is no longer an option.The proposed cha...
Updated one month ago