TAMPA — A bicyclist and a motorcyclist were killed Saturday when they collided on Bayshore Boulevard, the scenic promenade that officials have labored to make safe after two previous high-profile tragedies.
The crash happened around 11 a.m. when a bicyclist was trying to cross the road in a crosswalk near Rome Avenue.
A motorcyclist, one of three who had been traveling north, hit the bicyclist. Tampa police said the motorcyclist, who was in their 30s, died at the scene.
The bicyclist, in their 50s, was pronounced dead later at a hospital. Police had not identified the victims by late Saturday afternoon.
The crash stunned residents who has been walking, running and cycling along the scenic road with its sweeping view of Hillsborough Bay as a respite from the relentless news about the coronavirus.
“Literally there are people bawling their eyes out who did not even know this man,” said Terri Parker, an attorney who was taking her weekend walk.
Parker, 53, said she was heading south on the sidewalk and trying to keep to the protocols of social distancing.
“I didn’t even see the guy coming on the motorcycle,” she said. “But I heard this crazy loud noise. … It is so senseless that this person was doing this. There are people everywhere, people’s children, it’s just crazy.”
Nearby, a man who later identified himself as a surgeon had been running alongside his young son, who was on a bicycle.
The man rushed to offer aid to the bicyclist. Parker kept an eye on his child. Other doctors were in the crowd as well, she said. Multiple witnesses called 911.
But it was too late.
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Comparing notes later, witnesses who were farther south on Bayshore said they had seen the three motorcyclists traveling together. One motorcycle was being ridden on its back wheels; it was not clear which one.
Mayor Jane Castor issued a statement Saturday evening saying she has ordered the chief of police to crack down on speeding and dangerous driving.
“No loss of life on our streets is acceptable,” the mayor said. “My prayers go out to everyone involved in this reckless tragedy. You have my commitment that we will continue working around the clock to execute and prioritize projects in the city to create safer environments for all of our residents.”
Bayshore has been the object of heated discussion since 2018, when three racing teenage drivers were in an accident that killed Jessica Raubenolt and her 1-year-old daughter, Lillia as they crossed the street.
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After that, the city implemented a safety plan that included slower speeds, narrower lanes and crosswalks with flashing lights.
Then in January, pedestrian George Gage, 70, died after being hit by the driver of a pool supply truck. The driver’s blood-alcohol level was 0.234, nearly three times the threshold at which Florida law presumes that someone is unable to safely drive a motor vehicle. The impact threw Gage into the bay.
Alexander Engelman, a Tampa doctor, is one of many residents who have worked to make Bayshore safer since the 2018 tragedy. Even before Saturday’s deaths, Engelman and others had called on Castor to shut down or reduce the number of lanes open to vehicular traffic during the current safer-at-home order issued because of the coronavirus.
“Mayor Castor needs to be more agile and follow the example of many other major metropolitan mayors who are adapting to the current situation by closing certain streets to vehicles to create new and/or larger pedestrian thoroughfares,” Engelman wrote to the Tampa Bay Times in a March 31 email.
“Bayshore needs to be closed to cars for the weekend during this crisis.”
Castor said recently that she was considering shutting down certain streets to make it safer for residents to exercise and get fresh air but she hadn’t made any decisions regarding specific streets before Saturday.
Parker said she would not be surprised if the Bayshore debate is reignited, with a call for speed bumps.
“Nobody likes speed bumps,” she said. “But with something like that, you couldn’t race on Bayshore. You don’t want to get where people can’t enjoy walking or riding their bike.”
The community looks to Bayshore for solace, “which just makes it so much more horrid,” she said. “It’s a lot of people’s happy place.”
Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report.