Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Biking in Tampa

I spent the last week in the Tampa Bay area of Florida on vacation. Tampa is quite the opposite of Seattle, the last major city I visited. I literally saw no bike commuters like I saw in Seattle and Bainbridge Island, where the ferries dropped cyclists off to pick up their bikes at a bike lock-up for a commute home, or anything like that.

The only bike commuters I saw in Tampa were obviously folks who couldn't afford a car, and the bikes they rode were generally dirt bikes of some kind - the kind we'd probably have called "BMX bikes" back when that craze was flying around. I even saw some of the old banana-seaters. And the entire concept of working with traffic was lost - most of them were glorified pedestrians. I never saw anyone on the street unless they were crossing it - and then they were usually jaywalking.

It was a bit depressing, obviously. As far as cities like Seattle (and hell, even Columbus) have come, there is much further to go in cities like Tampa.

A bright spot was Clearwater, where my family and I spent three days. Clearwater was a car haven, but it also had bike taxis, cyclists commuting out to the beach from Tampa (though on the sidewalk, which actually looked a bit like a multi-use path, and I'm not sure what the status of that path was, but I'm going to call it a sidewalk), and a few people cycling around just for fun.

And though we weren't there during a particularly busy time, there were also bike taxis in Ybor City, a part of Tampa Bay with a lot of Latino history and lots to see. We saw the taxis locked up in a parking garage, obviously waiting to look for business during cooler hours of the day.

I think the heat down there probably discourages a lot of folks. It was Africa-hot down there. But at the same time, I think that many folks would feel better IF they biked more often - I find that my tolerance for weather has increased since I started biking for transportation, and though Tampa would have been an extreme example of this, it still might help.

6 comments:

  1. I live in St. Petersburg, just south of Tampa and Clearwater. The Tampa Bay area is considered one of the worst areas for cycling in the state. Once you get out of the city to the north there are some nice roads, but cycling in the area mostly consists of the above-mentioned income deficient, hardcore enthusiasts (racers and mtn bikers) and tourists on beach cruisers. The heat does turn a lot of people off to cycling in the summer, but in the winter it is wonderful. And it is always flat.

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  2. I bet it's really nice in winter... but I know the traffic down there would certainly turn me off of trying to cycle too often. One thing we have in Columbus is that most cars are deferential to bikes out of fear of what they're going to do, and I didn't get that impression down in Tampa. We have a pretty good bike racing community here and a couple of little tours that come through town so people are a little more used to the idea.

    I didn't get that impression in Tampa - it seemed almost a class warfare thing going on down there with the aforementioned underprivileged cyclists being the main folks giving bikes a try and the folks with cars trying not to let them have their space.

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  3. Florida is the worst of America in terms of reliance on cars. Everything is based on the car, and it seems every road has 6 lanes. It rather reminds me of a whole state that looks like the area around the Polaris mall. Bleh.

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  4. I live in Tampa and I bike to my university, the store and for fun as much as possible. I have a car, I just like the exercise and the fact that I'm cutting my emissions. I think the main reason people don't bike in Tampa is because it is incredibly dangerous. There are bike lanes that end abruptly and sidewalks that last for maybe 50 feet before dropping off into water filled ditches. The city of Tampa does not take care of its biking community... Perhaps if they did you'd see more bikers on the road.

    :)

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  5. I live near the intersection of Bruce B Downs and Bearrs in Tampa/Lutz/New Tampa. It's risking life and limb to try to get out of my housing complex when the traffic is heavy. Pedestrians and bicyclers are NOT part of the plan around here...but, oh, look at the price of gas...c'mon CHANGE!!

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  6. I understand this post is a couple years old, but I have to agree about the bike situation in Tampa. I ride my bike around downtown and only one road (Tampa St.) has a bike friendly lane. I have learned motor vehicle drivers are mostly self-involved, careless and have cellphones attached to their heads. I obey the rules of the road as a cyclist, I don't jaywalk, yet a day does not go by that a motorist chatting on their phone will merge or turn nearly clipping me. Tampa really needs to get informed that we are just trying to get from point A to point B like they are, except we're staying in shape and saving money while doing so. :)

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