I want to share a letter I wrote today informing the city of Tampa to please instruct its police officers to not stop bicyclists from crossing the Gandy Bridge. Tim Butts, president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, has informed me that Tampa police have stopped cyclists on at least two occasions.
Dear Mayor Iorio, Mr. Daignault, Mr. Lee, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Edge,
I want to bring to your attention that several officers of the city of Tampa Police Department have stopped road cyclists from crossing the Gandy Bridge even though the state Department of Transportation says it is LEGAL to cross the Gandy Bridge by bicycle. While I personally have not been stopped by a Tampa police officer when I biked across the Gandy Bridge, the president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club has informed me that Tampa officers have stopped bicyclists on two occasions. As you know, the Friendship Trail has been closed and it's imperative that the Gandy Bridge be open for road bicyclists because now it's the only link between Tampa and St. Petersburg for cyclists.
Local DOT Secretary Donald Skelton also informed me via email that he instructed DOT staff to install "Share the Road" signs on both sides of the Gandy Bridge so that drivers would be aware that bicyclists might be on the bridge. Those signs are now up. Keep in mind bicyclists use the wide shoulders to cross the Gandy Bridge and do not interfere with motorized traffic.
I am requesting you to please remind the city of Tampa police department that it is LEGAL to cross the Gandy Bridge by bicycle. Below I have attached the email from Tim Butts, president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club.
Thank you for your time.
Director of South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers (SWFBUD)
Yes, once at the end of January a City of Tampa Police officer stopped us as we (4 of us) were heading back into Tampa returning from the Saturday morning club ride. He was polite and professional and listed to our discussion (that it was legal to cycle on the bridge) and ultimately agreed that he was not sure riding on the bridge was illegal (or legal). The next week I communicated with the City of Tampa Attorney ’s Office about that issue. Kirby Rainsberger – of the COT Attorney’s Office - agreed that cycling on the Bridge was legal and that would be communicated to all police officers. Subsequently, Lori Snively, FDOT D7 Cycling Coordinator, wrote an e-mail restating that and indicating that information would be provided to all area law enforcement (COT Police, Pinellas County Sheriff, FHP, etc.) Problem solved.
However, a few weeks ago (I believe it was the afternoon of the March 21st) a buddy of mine was stopped west-bound on the bridge just east of the hump by a COT Police Officer who was not polite (per my friend, I was not there) and who threatened to arrest – not just ticket - the cyclists if he did not return to Tampa by riding (illegally) east-bound on the west-bound bridge. I again communicated that to the COT Attorneys Office who said they would circulate that information to all police officers, particularly traffic enforcement. Problem solved - maybe.
I am interested to know if others have been stopped. I can understand – somewhat – if a few officers did not “get the memo”, but if this is a common occurrence than that needs to be addressed.