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Buckhorn spars with Tampa complete street activists after Bayshore tragedy

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday's double fatality on Bayshore Boulevard shouldn't be used as a way to resuscitate a safe-streets project he scuttled in March. Transit activists saw now is the time to demand the city prioritize safer streets across the city.
MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn talks during an editorial board meeting at the Tampa Bay Times newsroom in Tampa, Fla. on February 20, 2018.
MONICA HERNDON | Times Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn talks during an editorial board meeting at the Tampa Bay Times newsroom in Tampa, Fla. on February 20, 2018.
Published May 26, 2018|Updated May 26, 2018

After tragic crash caused by drag racers killed a young mother and daughter this week on Bayshore Boulevard, social media soon lit up with a crossfire of opinion on what should be done.

Would a lower speed limit on Bayshore make any difference?  How about narrower lanes and more pedestrian crossings?

Some transportation activists sought to broaden the discussion to include dangerous, busy streets in other parts of the city, including a controversial shelved plan to calm traffic on nearby Bay to Bay Boulevard.

In March, Mayor Bob Buckhorn squashed a city plan to narrow lanes and implement other traffic calming measures on Bay to Bay.

Buckhorn's decision angered activists and prompted a protest of groups who said the east-west artery was dangerous for pedestrians and bikers.

On Friday, Taylor Ralph, a community development and transportation advocate, said the Bayshore fatalities should spur the city to resurrect that plan.

"Bay to Bay is the exact same thing. In light of this recent news, I think the Bay to Bay study should be reopened," Ralph said.

City staff had estimated the improvements would reduce accidents on Bay to Bay by up to 50 percent, he said.

Buckhorn fired back late Friday, saying the two projects shouldn't be linked.

"It is unfortunate that anybody would use the tragic death of this young mother and her child to advocate for their particular issue in another part of Tampa. The two issues are totally unrelated and should remain so. The decision to not add bike lanes and and to narrow Bay to Bay Boulevard was made after careful consideration of the impact it would have on the entire South Tampa peninsula," Buckhorn said in a text relayed through a spokeswoman. "There are a number of parallel streets that may be appropriate that will be considered that will serve the same purpose without completely disrupting the flow on one of South Tampa's major east/west roads."

Kyle Simon, a transit activist who was hit by a car last year, said making streets around the city safer, including Bay to Bay, is exactly what should be discussed right now.

"We don't have a racing epidemic in Tampa. We have an epidemic of people being hit in the streets," said Simon. "I think the mayor is willfully out of touch on this issue."

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