Friday, November 28, 2008

Terrific Friday Night-after-Thanksgiving Event

One of the terrific annual events in Seminole Heights is the Friday-night-after-Thanksgiving open house at the Phoenix Studio glas-blowing art studio by Susan Gott. Her amazing studio in on a side street off Nebraska Avenue across from the Sulphur Springs Post Office. On a normal afternoon, the studio would hardly been seen. But tonight, the place was buzzing with visitors for the open house and also a mixer held by the Business Guild of Seminole Heights.

What's Hot This Holiday Season

Not sure PETA would approve of this Link-o'-Mink beautifully displayed by the owner of an antique store in downtown Dunedin.

Don't Mess With Sasquach

Have you noticed that bicycles are showing up on TV commercials? For example, check out the "Messin with Sasquach" series for Jack Link's Beef Jerky. A mountain biker skids and sends dirt on the fire that was painstakingly ignited by our sasquach pal. The dirt wipes out the fire.

Well, old sasquach gets ticked off -- as you can see blow -- and tosses a giant tree section on to the mountain biker, who wipes out.

Giving Thanks To Those Big Burly Gray and Green Guys

I lived around the country and sometimes I wonder how I've managed to stick around my Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights for a whopping five years, which is 187 years in Snel years. One reason is the wacky and funny and nice characters who live in this little patch of the earth. But then I got to thinking -- which is not necessarily a good thing -- and I knew there something else.

The trees.

Besides the fact they give off the stuff we need to breathe, namely oxygen, there's something safe refugesque about these sturdy oaks that hang out everywhere, including my modest lot.

So on this morning's saunter through the 'hood, I stopped to smell the trees, as it were. And here are some of the highlights.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving From Bicycle Stories

Morris Bridge Road, outside Tampa

Hillsborough River, Seminole Heights

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bicyclists Catch a Break

That big ol' $700 billion bank bailout includes a tax break for commuting cyclists.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve

Bicycle Stories journeyed to the Forum named after a local newspaper tonight for a hockey game between the hometown Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers. Let's just say the fans like to go wild when the punches are flying.

The Lightning has a monster on skates named Evgeny Artukhin, a 6-foot, five-inch 254-pounder who likes to slam the opposition players into the boards.

This gal is a big Artukhin fan -- and likes to blow her horn during games.

What I like about after the Lightning game -- fans take over the street and there's not a car to be seen. At least for a few blocks.

Who Said Florida Doesn't Have Fall Foliage

It's on the banks of the Hillsborough River at Flatwoods near the Morris Bridge Road bridge.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bicyclist Dies in Tampa

Regrattably, there's another bicyclist fatality to report. This from the St. Petersburg Times:

Bicyclist dies following Florida Ave. crash
TAMPA -- A 19-year-old bicyclist is dead after losing control on Florida Avenue last night.

Gilbert Hernandez, of 2450 E Hillsborough Ave., Apt. 319, was riding his bike northbound near E Flora St. at 9:30 p.m. when he crashed and struck his head on the curb and pavement, Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.

He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he later died.

-- Rebecca Catalanello, Times staff writer

Good Morning From Hannah's Swirl

This morning I cruised through the neighborhood for an early-morning jaunt. Come along.

Here's Hannah's Swirl, a section of the Hillsborough River that has a circular bend to it.

Anyone missing a car? Tampa PD found this one in a ditch at the end of 22nd Street by the ballfield this morning.

Fences and schools. I realize our precious children attend schools, but building these types of institutional fences around the school lawn makes the school look like a prison. In this case, this is Stephen Foster Elementary School. The first time I saw fencing around my old junior high school in the metro New York area I cringed. It just didn't seem right -- looked like a county jail. I realize evil lurks out there and we need to protect our kids, but at what costs?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tampa lawyer Thomas Singletary Joins SWFBUD

I am happy to report that SWFBUD has a new member -- Tampa lawyer and bicycle advocate Thomas Singletary. Many of you know Tom as a active cyclist and runner. He's also a tremendous longtime supporter of bicycling in the Tampa Bay area and SWFBUD is proud to count Tom among its members.

In 2009, SWFBUD will be holding a public meeting on bicycle insurance and legal issues -- an area Tom is well versed on. If you see Tom around town, thank him fo joining SWFBUD.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

With The Friendship Trail Closed, It Was Time To Check Out The Gandy Bridge

At 10:15 a.m. today, I biked 12 miles from house in Seminole Heights to the Gandy Bridge/Friendship Trail. The Friendship Trail bridge is closed due to structural problems, so I wanted to check out what it's like to bike across the Gandy Bridge. I found the 3-mile ride across the Gandy rather routine and incident-free because the shoulder is about the size of a traffic lane. There seemed to be more debris, small rocks and sand on the westbound side coming from the Tampa side. But generally speaking, an experienced cyclist should not have a problem. Casual and inexperienced bicyclists will probably be spooked by the car traffic. Regardless, I'm calling on he DOT and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to deal with the Friendship Trail bridge as quickly as possible and deal with it with a heightened sense of urgency.

The Friendship Trail's fishing areas are open. I was able to bike four-tenths of a mile from the Tampa side before I hit a fence.

On the Tampa side, you can go four-tenths of a mile and then it's the end of the line.

All aboard the Gandy Bridge.

I'm heading to St. Pete and nearing the top of the span. The shoulder on this side of the bridge was OK, with debris here and there.

On the St. Pete side, you have three-tenths of a mile on the trail until you hit the fence.

Here's a bicyclist on the shoulder cycling from St. Pete to Tampa. As you can see, there's decent space on the shoulder of the bridge.

Playing It Nice On The Roads

On Saturday when I did my bread-and-butter 46-mile ride to Flatwoods and back, I deployed a technique to win over drivers and show that bicycles and cars can share the same narrow roads around the Tampa area.

I took proactive action and waved at drivers, even flashing the peace sign and the power fist. When I heard cars coming up behind me, I rode my straight line in the traffic lane, waved the cars past me and waved and smiled when they drove by me. Just about every time the driver smiled back and waved.

I especially did this technique inside the city of Tampa's environs when I biked from Seminole Heights along Rowlett Park Drive while heading out to the Busch Gardens/USF area.

I even stopped for this guy who was collecting golf balls along Rowlett Park Drive next to a city golf course where sliced shots land on a patch of grass along the road. His name is Dave Park and he's a roofer and he thought it was a hoot tht some crazy bicyclist wanted to take his photo.

It just goes to show that being an ambassadorial cicylist is one technique to survive the roads around here. I'll do whatever it takes to return to my starting point without a scratch.

Getting Visible in Vancouver

Our bicycle friend Kimberly Cooper of St. Petersburg sent over a nice video clip of a cool PSA on Bike to Work Week in Vancouver

Drivers Cry About Bicycle Lanes In New York City

Back in 2000 and 2001 I used to bike-commute from New Jersey into Manhattan. I was never hit by a car, per se, just doored twice -- occasions where I hit the ground off the bike and bruised a collarbone. But no broken bones. Biking in New York was not for wusses. My senses were on full-alert every moment and I was prepared to take evasive action in a heartbeat. But it was also amazingly efficient and saved me a ton of money. Biking in Manhattan was FASTER than cars and mass transit and there was NO parking costs. Beautiful. And I still treasure the lovely visual images while biking across the George Washington Bridge.

Now New York City is installing more bike lanes and drivers who are crying and whining. Give me a break. Here's some of the coverage courtesy of my friend Claudia, who was in New York City recently and said the bike lanes have caused a stir.

The New York Post weighed in with this story.

FOX ran this news report.

A Manhattan downtown newspaper ran this story.

Here's an AP story about a report that many cyclists in New York City don't obey traffic and helmet laws. There's a blockbuster.

The right-wing New York Post has a nasty columnist who blasts the bike lane plan in New York City.

Ghost Rider Lights Up The Night

Just when you thought Tampa's velo-man Jack "Ghost Rider" Sweeney pushed the envelope with another cool bicycle or feature he takes cycling around Seminole Heights and T-town to a new level.

Jack showed up at a Seminole Heights Bicycle Club meeting last Thursday night in light-up-the-night style, his rig showing up illuminated like a country carnival/Vegas strip.

I really needed a video for you to appreciate the light job. Here's just a snip of the luminary action.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

RIP: Michael "Frankie" Bentley

The St. Pete Times published a touching story about the young man who lost his life recently when struck by a car while cycling in St. Petersburg.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gandy Bridge -- What SWFBUD Is Doing

You're looking at the Gandy Bridge and its parallel Friendship Trail. As you know, the Friendship Trail was closed a few weeks ago because an engineering inspection of the Friendship Trail bridge under the auspices of the state Department of Transportation showed structural damage. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties then shut down the trail bridge to users, leaving bicyclists with the sole option of crossing the Bay on the Gandy Bridge and sharing that bridge with motorists who are known to zoom 60 mph and faster.

SWFBUD is extremely concerned about this situation and will:

-- contact the DOT and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and request that all agencies deal with remedying and repairing the Friendship Trail with a heightened sense of urgency.

-- advise agencies to post electronic signage on the Gandy Bridge advising motorists to be aware that bicyclists are sharing the bridge with motorized vehicles.

-- I plan to bike the Gandy Bridge on Sunday at 10 a.m. to check out the shoulders for debris and also find out what it's like to bike on the main span of the bridge. I bike the Courtney Campbell Causeway and know the span sections have very little shoulder room if any at all and I suspect that's the same for the span sections of the Gandy Bridge.

If you are interested in joining me to check out what it's like to bike the Gandy Bridge, I will be pedaling across the bridge starting at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Bill Addler, the owner of SWFBUD member store Revolution Bicycles on North 4th Street in St. Petersburg, met with the city of St. Pete yesterday and the pedestrian advisory board and the city. Bill reports that "the city was going to also make sure that additional signage (share the road etc) would be added onto Gandy Blvd. as well as the bridge. They also were going to try and get the portable message board sign put up to alert motorist of cyclist using the bridge."

Folks, be careful and be alert out there. It's getting darker earlier these days and be vigilant to your right to the road while also being smart. No more bicyclist fatalities.

Check Out CBE's New Jersey (Not The State)

Brian Eckman, owner of SWFBUD member store Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, shows the new CBE bike jersey that just arrived.

Suncoast Trail Parking Lot Looks Good

Today I checked out the Suncoast Trail and you'll notice the parking lot is nearly done at the start of the trail. A guy in the truck at the parking lot said he expects folks to start striping parking spaces soon.

Lose Your Chains

A couple of friends sent me this CNN story about bike chains being replaced by a carbon fiber belt drive.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Snowbird Bicyclists Infiltrate Flatwoods

A marauding band of Snowbirds from Michigan swooped into Flatwoods county park's loop and terrorized the loop goers today.

The snowbirds are back!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Armstrong-signed ISM Bike Saddle To Be Auctioned Off

Steve Toll, creater of the ISM saddle, went to Interbike in Las Vegas this fall and had one of innovative bike seats signed by Lance Armstrong. Now that seat will be auctioned to benefit the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla..

Thw Armstrong-signed Adamo Racing Saddle will be available at a silent auction Nov. 21-22. Anyone wishing to bid on the saddle may call Ackerman Jewelers of Tampa, the sponsor of the event, at 813-961-7321. Credit cards are accepted.

Steve says the item is especially memorable because Armstrong signed it on Sept. 25 at Interbike -- the same day the seven-time winner of the Tour de France further outlined his return to bike racing and announced plans for his developmental team.

His goal is to focus world-wide attention on the LiveSTRONG Foundation and its fight against the disease. Cancer kills more than seven million people each year, more than 70 percent of them in low- and middle-income countries, according to the International Union Against Cancer.

Steve says he was at the trade show to promote Adamo saddles when we learned Armstrong would sign autographs in the Oakley Booth. I convinced Dave Bunce, our operations commander, to wait in line with me. Dave had met Armstrong several years ago when he assisted John Cobb who improved Armstrong’s racing aerodynamics. We hoped Armstrong would remember.

Excited? You bet. Dave said he felt like a school girl while we waited.

The chance to get Armstrong’s autograph was unexpected, so the line was short and moved quickly. Within 10 minutes, we were introducing ourselves to the cycling legend.

I had rehearsed some things I wanted to say about our saddles, about their comfort and the lack of pressure cyclists feel when riding on one. I had been briefed by people who have worked with him in recent years on what aspects of the saddles he’d want to know about most, like pressure readings for example. I’d have about 3 minutes to make my point.

When the time came, the only thing I managed to do was to ask for his autograph on the saddle and tell him it was for the Children’s Cancer Center. He immediately agreed. All the other points I wanted to make were forgotten, and even though I had a camera in my hand, I forgot to take his picture.

If you’re interested on bidding for this unique collector’s item, please call the store at 813-961-7321.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bicyclist Killed Near Dog Track Was a Tour de Pizza Employee

Bill Addler, owner of Revolution Bicycles in St. Pete, informs me that the 20-year-old bicyclist killed in front of the Derby Lane dog track on Gandy Avenue in St. Petersburg was a worker at the Tour de Pizza pizzeria in the Publix shopping center on 40th Street and 38th Avenue.

Here is Bill's email to me:

"The young 20 year old that was killed in front of the dog track, you all may have met him, his name is Frank and he worked for Matt at Tour De Pizza. I just learned this myself today from Matt, and he informed me what had happened. (Matt is the owner of Tour de Pizza).

"Frank was a good kid and a very good employee for Matt. You may have seen his bike out on the bike rack at the pizza place (brown fixed gear). Unfortunately he was not wearing a helmet which may or may not have saved his life, we will never know.

"But I would like to think it would have. In fact we just had a guy walk in today with a Cannondale that was split in half after swerving to avoid a young girl on the bike trail near 83rd ave. He ran right into a post and crushed his helmet; he however survived to ride again (with new frame, fork, etc)."

Listen, every bicycle fatality is a major jolt. If you go out and bike on the roads around here, I strongly urge -- wear a helmet, bike with traffic, comply with traffic laws, don't run red lights, have white and red lights when biking at night and bike defensively.

Looking For The Sun

Another overcast, soggy but warm day in the Ellicott City-Baltimore area this morning as I stroll through the woods along Patapsco River. Here are this morning's visual highlights.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Hiking Stories Today

Bicycling is as natural as walking for me so the time away from Tampa in the Baltimore area has been spent hiking and hoofing the woods along the Patapsco River. I forgot how much I enjoyed traipsing through leaves and trees and along trails in the late fall when the trees are nearly leaf-less and their stark vertical grayness dominates a stroll.

So I bring you a few of the sights from this morning's jaunt in the Ellicott City area.