I appeared before the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Board this morning to offer a SWFBUD Top 10 suggestions to make the Tampa/Hillsborough area the Portland of the East Coast.
1. Attitude -- Elected officials need to expand their perspective that the bicycle is solely a leisure tool. We must see the bicycle as a transportation tool and adopt a complete streets approach to roads where bicycling and pedestrian use is mixed into road design and building. For too long, the city of Tampa government has held an institutional belief that bicycling is a leisure activity and not part of a transportation plan.
2. Trails -- The inventory of bicycle infrastructure should include trails as bicycle highways into downtown. Build trails along the Hillsborough River and the By-pass canal from Morris Bridge Road to serve as bicycle commuter highways into downtown Tampa. See city of Denver where bike trails along the Platte River and Cherry Creek lead into downtown.
3. Widen Roads -- Key narrow roads such as Livingston and Westshore need to be widened so that bicycles can have a shoulder or a bike lane. The DOT has done road widening work on US 92 from Tampa to Plant City to make it better for bicycles.
4. Read Jeff Mapes' Pedaling Revolution -- Jeff is a Portland Oregonian newspaper reporter whose book shows the best cities are ones that people get around by ways other than a car and that bicycle infrastructure is much cheaper than constantly building wider roads for cars.
5. Create a City of Tampa Bicycle Czar position -- The city of Tampa government is rudderless on bicycle infrastructure. A government staffer needs to shepherd bicycle lane projects to completion, make sure the city complies with its bike lane master plan and represents bicyclist and pedestrian concerns. See city of St. Petersburg's bicycle/ped program.
6. Recognize bicycle-friendly buildings and businesses -- Give awards to downtown buildings and businesses in the county that designate inside space for bicycle storage, lockers and showers. SWFBUD gave the first award to the Tampa City Center for its bicycle-friendly building this year.
7. South Tampa to USF -- Designate a bike route for people to bike from South Tampa to USF. And make sure all light rail has bicycle infrastructure support such as bicycle racks and secure lockers and light rail cars allowing bikes on board.
8. Bayshore Blvd. -- Pave and have bike lanes along the entire stretch of Bayshore from Platt to Gandy. There has been talk about this for years. Make it happen now.
9. Start connecting with bicyclists -- City and County elected representatives, officials and planners need to start connecting with bicyclists by going out on rides and increasing awareness. They need to get of the offices and meetings, stop using technical planning jargon that average people do not relate to and start connecting with everyday bicyclists.
10. The bicycle plans are here. Start enacting them -- Planning agencies have bicycle infrastructure plans in place, It's time for elected officials to show political will and start putting the plans into action.