Buckhorn encourages biking, plans for trails and lanes
Bob Buckhorn campaigned for mayor in part on a pledge to campaign publicly for drivers to be aware of, respect and make room for cyclists.
As mayor, Buckhorn has done innovative and significant work on Tampa as a place to cycle, and not just through public education efforts.
In May 2011, Buckhorn rode a bike from Davis Islands, where he lives, to City Hall where police unveiled a "Share the Road” safety campaign.
The campaign used mobile electronic signs to tell motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing. In addition, police put 100 stickers in the back windows of Tampa police cruisers to remind drivers and cyclists, "Share the Road, It's the Law!” The same message appeared on CBS Outdoor digital billboards along some major roads in Tampa. Police also pushed out bicycle safety messages through Facebook, YouTube and the department's website.
As part of the campaign, officers also ran weekly operations that targeted drivers that failed to yield to crosswalks. Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said police wrote tickets and focused those operations downtown, as well as near Tampa General Hospital and the campuses of the University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida — all areas with high volumes of pedestrians and cyclists and lots of complaints about drivers ignoring crosswalks.
Yet Buckhorn's most significant effort to raise the profile of cycling on Tampa streets might be the city's project to create a bike-rental program similar to those in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.
The city requested proposals from private sector operators to start the program in October 2012. On March 6, 2013, the city announced that it had chosen a partnership of two companies, CycleHop of Miami Beach and Social Bicycles of New York City, to launch the effort.
Starting in fall 2013, the operators plan an initial deployment of 300 bicycles and 450 bike racks at 30 parking stations around downtown, Ybor City and Bayshore Boulevard. Riders will be able to rent the bikes using a credit card. They also can rent helmets from a solar-powered dispenser that would sanitize the helmets and replace their liners upon their return. There's no cost to the city, which would provide the use of public sidewalks for the bike racks.
By fall 2015, city officials hope to expand the program to the West Shore business district and University of South Florida.
In an interview on Oct. 10, 2012, Buckhorn said the bike-sharing program should make motorists more aware of cyclists and more respectful of their rights, but that's not all his administration is doing.
The city strengthened its application for an $10.9 million federal transportation grant to finish the Riverwalk by including a plan to connect the Riverwalk to a new 15-foot-wide 1.7-mile multi-use trail along the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.
Meanwhile, the city is factoring cycling into plans for downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Currently, the city looks to add bike lanes or "sharrows," road markings that indicate motorists must share the road with bicyclists, whenever it widens or improves a road.
And the city's new InVision Tampa plan for downtown Tampa and surrounding neighborhoods outlines steps to make pedestrians and cyclists feel safe and welcome. These could mean creating a east-west "green spine" — a multipurpose trail that could run generally from the V.M. Ybor neighborhood, down Nuccio Parkway, through downtown, over the river, past the University of Tampa and out to West Tampa.
In the long run, Buckhorn talks about ideas like "street dieting," reducing the number of lanes on a road and giving the space to bikes or people on foot. One candidate for a diet: Florida Avenue, where Buckhorn has talked about reducing the number of lanes and adding bike lanes or wider sidewalks.
Put it altogether, and the result should be an improved environment for cycling, Buckhorn said.
In May 2011, after the city announced the "Share the Road” safety campaign, we initially rated Buckhorn's efforts on bicycle safety as In the Works. Since then, information from Tampa police shows that the campaign was more substantial than we understood at the time. That information, plus the mayor's efforts to create a bike-sharing program, to add new lanes for cyclists and to incorporate cycling into the city's long-range plan for downtown, adds up to a multi-faceted approach to a difficult problem. Changing Tampa's cycling culture is clearly on Buckhorn's agenda and has received his active attention. We rate this Promise Kept.
Interview with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Feb. 26, 2013
E-mail interview with Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis, March 22, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa picks team to create new public bike-rental program,” March 6, 2013, accessed March 22, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa seeks proposals for bike-sharing program,” Oct. 10, 2012, accessed March 22, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa plan charts downtown's future along the Hillsborough River,” Nov. 27, 2012, accessed March 22, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa secures $11 million federal grant to finish Riverwalk,” June 19, 2012, accessed March 22, 2013
Mayor pedaling bike safety plan
As part of his agenda for neighborhoods, Bob Buckhorn said creating a city friendly to cyclists and pedestrians would enhance Tampa's quality of life.
To do that, Buckhorn said on his campaign website that his administration would "work to foster and codify bike and walkable urban policies in both land development codes and in internal infrastructure planning.”
"In addition,” he added, "the Buckhorn administration will launch a public service campaign to educate and alert motorists to bicycle safety rules.”
On May 19, Buckhorn strapped on a bike helmet and pedaled from Davis Islands, where he lives, to City Hall. There, police unveiled a "Share the Road” safety campaign, which uses mobile electronic signs to tell motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing.
But he said more is coming.
"That's not it in its entirety,” he said. "The public service (campaign), particularly my involvement in it, will be forthcoming.”
We'll watch to see what else Buckhorn does to promote bicycle safety. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.
Buckhorn for Mayor, Strong Neighborhoods, accessed May 27, 2011
City of Tampa, Mayor Buckhorn bikes to work with citizens and police officers, May 18, 2011
South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers website, SWFBUD Bikes with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, May 19, 2011
Interview with Bob Buckhorn, May 24, 2011