TAMPA — The wheels and gears painted in bold green, blue and red catch the eye, with a clear message drawn above them: “Ride your bike.”
The mural at William F. Poe parking garage near the Tampa Museum of Art is one of five art pieces marking new bike racks installed in garages throughout downtown Tampa.
The initiative, sponsored by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, is the latest pairing of art and transportation in Tampa Bay. Area cities have partnered with local artists to design crosswalk and intersection murals over the last several years. The hope is that the art will draw the eye and encourage drivers to slow down, especially in heavily trafficked bike and pedestrian areas.
Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the partnership, said functional art provides a much-needed service while also bringing character and charm to a public space.
“I’m always looking for places to put additional bike parking,” Kress said. “In downtown Tampa, we’re not blessed with the widest of sidewalks and you hate to take away an on-street parking space if you don’t have to. But the garages seemed to have extra space.
“Once we decided on that, we thought, 'Why not make them beautiful?”
That’s where mural artist Jay Giroux came in. Giroux was already familiar with the pairing of art and transportation, having painted a series of murals at school crosswalks as part of the Crosswalks to Classrooms campaign.
The bike murals, he said, were much easier. Painting on an asphalt crosswalk that’s driven over repeatedly by cars presented all sorts of difficulties.
“The bike project is actually a hell of a lot more forgiving,” Giroux said. “It’s only foot traffic, and it’s perfect concrete."
The five murals are all the same motif, with repeated circles and wheels as the base then layered with graphic bicycle parts, like gears and a bike frame.
The partnership spent about $15,000 to commission the five murals, including design and installation. The Florida Department of Transportation paid about $10,000 for the bike racks and repair station. They were installed last week.
The racks — also installed at the Fort Brook, Twiggs, Pam Iorio and Tampa Convention Center garages — add 98 bicycle parking spaces downtown. They’re the newest link in a series of decisions from the city to make biking safer and more accessible. This includes separated bike lanes, a bike-share program and a network of lanes and racks that run throughout the city.
The garage spots provide covered, security-monitored parking for cyclists. Kress said she hopes this will make it easier for more people to choose a bike over a car when visiting downtown.
“Whatever small moves like this we can make to encourage people to think outside of their car I think will be good,” Kress said. “Drivers in garages pay good money to park there. Maybe this bike parking will inspire them to ride their bike every so often.”