Monday, November 30, 2009

Urban Bicycling Over on the Other Side of the Big Pond

Bicycle Stories correspondent Nick Griffiths sends in this
video of a guy doing some serious bike tricks.

Rudolph's Reindeer Ride at Suncoast Trailside Bicycles on Dec. 12

It's that time of year again for the Rudolph’s Reindeer Ride on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 5 PM from Suncoast Trailside Bicycles in the Target Supercenter on State Road 54.

This is a bicycle only event. Helmets are mandatory and bicycle Lights are required.
Win prizes and/or gift certificates from a local bike shop for the Best Holiday Decorated Bike Contest. All registrants must fill out the attached waiver and release.

The ride will start at Suncoast Trailside Bicycles with one turnaround at Crews Lake Park, with a total roundtrip mileage will be approximately 25 miles. Appetizers will be served at Suncoast Trailside Bicycles, and then more food and drink at Crews Lake Park, followed by drinks and desserts back at the bike shop. Rider support ends at 8 PM.

This is an RSVP event, and riders must respond by Dec. 6. Pre-registration cost is $20.00 and includes all food and beverage, and a raffle for prizes/gift certificates. Same day registration will cost $30. Free to children less than 12 years of age. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

For information contact:
Tina Russo: 813-598-1594 or email: russot@hillsboroughcounty.org
Steve Diez: 352-754-4057 or email: stevend@co.hernando.fl.us
Steffanie L. Workman: 813-675-3716 or email: sworkman@HNTB.com

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let's Bike The Urban Cruisers In Downtown St. Petersburg

Today was a bicycling doubleheader. I hopped on the Trek 2200 road bike for an easy 25-mile ride to St. Pete this afternoon. I purposely bike during Bucs games on Sunday afternoons because the roads are empty and it's stress-free.

I met Bridget near Vinoy Park in downtown St. Pete and changed bikes -- I swapped the road bike for my new red cruiser that Bridget brought on her car, which also carried her fat-tire urban Electra. We pedaled all around downtown St. Pete, including a stop at The Pier.


Here's a cool Tampa-St. Petersburg connection. On Friday night, Bridget and I visited the Phoenix Glass Studio open house held annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving right here in good ol' Seminole Heights across from the Sulphur Springs Post Office on a side street. Artist Susan Gott showed a very cool mold that she used for one of the six gorgeous pieces of art commissioned by a snazzy condo in downtown St. Pete called The Ovation at 2nd Avenue and Beach Ave.

Well, what do you know. Bridget and I were on our urban cruisers this afternoon in downtown St. Pete and we stopped at The Ovation lobby to check out Susan's artwork. And it was well worth the stop. Check it out. The lobby could be an extension of the next-door art gallery.




Bridget liked that her Electra purple chainguard was framed by the bike frame of Big Red.


The waning light today struck the big banyons near downtown North Straub Park in just the right places.




The loud thumping bass sound coming from Vinoy Park was a techno DJ Festival. The St. Pete cops working the closed streets around Vinoy Park called it "noise."


The St. Pete park system along the Bay is incredible. Sorry Tampa, I'd like to bike more on your downtown but your downtown park system is near non-existent and your city government does little to make the downtown streets friendly to bicyclists.

Ad Turned Out To Be A Harbinger

Only two days ago I posted this vintage ad of a super sweet coaster. It came courtesy of great pal Jeff Houck.



It was just a little foreshadowing for the real thing -- I saw a near replica of the bike in the ad Jeff sent me at Fun-Lan this morning. It was a miracle I even bumped into it. I stopped off to get a car key copied (hint, hint -- there's also a new car) and the first key vendor didn't have the right size key.

So I stopped off at another key vendor, had it copied and went to the Fun-Lan exit in a different direction than usual. And through pure luck bumped into this beauty that I snapped up for a bargain price.

Back home, I quickly outfitted it with a front light, a bell, two pannier bags and a very special license plate.


The Red Beauty was equipped with this signature tag.

Please Return This Guy's Boat

I was sauntering early this morning along a sweet road called Park Circle along the Hillsborough River when this "Reward" poster stapled to utility poles grabbed my attention.

Looks like a beautifully-crafted vessel. If you have ever had a bike stolen, then you know the feeling.

If you know anything about this stolen boat, call the number listed on the poster.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gone Too Soon

Twenty years ago when newspapers were the only game in town I worked for a daily paper located about halfway between New York City and Albany named the Middletown Times Herald-Record. They called the region the mid-Hudson and cities and villages fell into two categories -- rundown or quaint. Most were rundown.

I was in my mid-20s back then and I was lucky enough to run with an amazing pack of reporters who I shared pick-up basketball games, beers and newsroom laughs.

A guy who worked as a bureau editor in probably the most depressed mid-Hudson city of them all -- Newburgh -- was a 6-foot, four-inch huge, gregarious and talented cartoon of a man named Mark Pittman. Mark had a deft writing touch, a booming laugh and a penchant for smoking lots of cigarettes.

The big dude had a bigger-than-life presence -- and he was my editor in Newburgh in the late 1980s when I covered West Point and the military in the mid-Hudson Valley.

I recall his excellent writing and editing skills when I worked with Mark on a special section about the local military serving in the Middle East 20 years ago and I called him "The Dog" in an affectionate way for his pitbull-like tenacity.

Mark spent 12 years at the Times Herald-Record before he joined Bloomberg News in New York and went on to make a big name for himself uncovering the banking and mortgage scandals only a few years ago and forcing the Fed to be more upfront with the public about its bailouts. By then, most of the Times Herald-Record reporters and editors had scattered and I lost touch with Mark.

Today, though, Mark is on my mind because I was saddened to hear he died this week at the young age of 52. I had heard a few years ago that he suffered a heart attack and that he had heart-related illnesses.

We shared newsroom experiences and post-deadline gatherings when we were at an age when mortality was not discussed. Twenty years later, that's no longer the case. Mark's the third former newspaper comrade of mine to die this year.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Now That's A Holiday Ride

Next Ride: Leftovers Bike Ride at 11:30 AM Saturday to 22nd Street Park


The food-theme bike rides just keep on coming.

Join the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club's post-Thanksgiving Leftovers Bike Ride on Saturday at 11:30 AM for a short 3-mile bike ride to the 22nd Street Park for a fun lunch of leftovers. The bike ride leaves from 1203 East Powhatan Avenue in Seminole Heights.

Bring your wrapped or container-sealed leftovers and join the nationally-recognized Seminole Heights Bicycle Club for a fun Leftovers bike ride.

If you do not have room on your bike or can't carry your leftovers, I can carry your food in a my saddlebags.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life of a Tampa Bicyclist

Funny how shitty bicycle conditions on roads in Tampa will either cause people to simply refuse to bike on those streets or cause them to adapt and do unorthodox things to stay alive.

Me? I adapted.

And I do unorthodox things.

Like playing the role of smiling bicycling ambassador and using friendly hand signals while cycling to wave drivers behind me to go ahead of me or flashing the peace sign to oncoming drivers in the opposite lanes.

I know I must look like an idiot.

But I'm not going to let Pam Iorio and everyone below her in the Tampa city government pecking order who blow off bicycle infrastructure improvements keep me from doing what I love and comes so naturally -- ride a bicycle, safely.

I realize I chose Tampa as my home base, which means cycling on the city streets around here to the places which are really great to bike -- like Flatwoods or hilly Pasco County. It also means I have to bike on these roads to do shopping or go to the post office or visit a friend. I can't accept driving a car for two or three or five miles when a bicycle is so much more efficient and enjoyable. It also saves fuel and wear-and-tear on the car.

I don't like throwing my bicycle in a car to go to a place to bike that's around the Tampa area. In fact, I have lived all over the country and I never lived in an area that has so many people who drive with their bicycle to another place to use their bicycle.

So I use those ambassadorial techniques to become instant friends with drivers so that we can safely co-exist on the very narrow streets of Tampa.

It works. I call it the Snel Interface Bicycle System -- or SIBS for short. I offer amiable hand gestures to every driver who sees me -- flashing the peace sign, throwing them the power fist, giving them the number one index finger. (I know, some of you are thinking that giving the middle finger is the finger you'd like to use).

I'm tired of confrontations with drivers in Tampa who are poorly educated about a bicyclist right to the road -- including being in the middle of the lane if that lane is too narrow.

To reach Flatwoods from my house, I bike through the Rowlett Park/Sulphur Springs area of Tampa where bicyclists on the road are usually not treated too well. When I first moved here nearly six years ago, I used to get yelled at and screamed at and harrassed to get off the road.

About five years ago, one idiot was so upset that he had to wait five seconds behind me to pass that he buzzed me, then turned off the road along the grass and assumed the boxer's fighting position to actually engage me in a fistfight.

What an asshole. It was so ludicrous a situation that I just passed him on my bicycle and laughed.

My SIBS technique has improved the situation. So much so that one driver in Sulphur Springs actually smiled and called me Lance Armstrong. That's a long way from the dolt who wanted to fight me on the road.

Too bad the city of Tampa won't help. City government employees who oversee road building resist designing streets that are wide enough and hospitable for bicyclists because they began their careers when the goal was to move only one form of transportation fast -- namely, cars.

But that era is gone and people want to get around by many ways -- except the city of Tampa's mayor, Pam Iorio, has a lovely public persona but gives lip service to making our streets more hospitable and safer for bicyclists. Nice lady. But she gets an F for helping bicyclists.

In my nearly six years of living in Tampa, only two CITY streets have new bike lanes:

-- less than a mile of bike lanes on Manhattan Avenue.
-- a section of 40th Street.

It was the Florida DOT that put bike lanes on state-controlled Nebraska Avenue and Tampa Street and on Jackson in downtown Tampa.

The city of Tampa VIOLATED its own master plan by failing to put bike lanes on Cass and Tyler in downtown Tampa even though utilities are being installed below the downtown streets and those two streets are earmarked for bike lanes, according to the city's own planning document. The roads will be re-surfaced and it would have been an ideal opportunity to stripe bike lanes as part of the utility project. Most cities would put bike lanes on roads designated for bike lanes when they're re-surfaced -- but not Tampa city government, which blew it off.

There are other wide one-way roads in Tampa that are ideal for bike lanes -- southbound Armenia and Platt heading towards downtown. But the city's public works transportation employees turn a deaf ear.

And how about the city's signature road -- Bayshore? How long do we have to wait for this road to be re-surfaced and bike lanes installed for the entire length of Bayshore from Platt to Gandy? I rarely bike on Bayshore because the road surface is horrible, and one side of Bayshore doesn't have a bike lane while the other side of Bayshore has a bike lane that fizzles out a mile from downtown in favor of a third traffic lane for cars. Shameful stuff city of Tampa.

Every city that has embraced bicycling and supported bicycling has flourished. They can be big cities such as New York or Chicago or smaller cities such as Portland, Minneapolis or Madison or small cities such as Davis, Calif. or Boulder.

If I was Pam Iorio or Steve Daignault, Tampa's administrator of public works and utilities, I'd be ashamed to wake up every morning knowing that Tampa finishes last in the country in pedestrian and bicycle safety. That's not my opinion. That's the opinion of independent reports that come out year after year and rank Tampa near the bottom.

Build all the art museums and light rail systems you want Pam Iorio. Too bad the roads leading to those places are so poorly designed for bicyclists.

I didn't plan to get so involved in bicycle advocacy. I was a reporter for many years and worked at cool places around the country -- from metro New York to Denver. I liked writing and talking with people and reporting and the comraderie of the newsrooms I worked in. But I saw the writing on the wall and realized the newspaper business was dying and had management that failed to grasp the economic consequences of a public that was getting their information through other mediums.

My last stop was the Tampa Tribune and I quit three years ago before the big implosion came in the newspaper business. I like to think that I didn't leave the newspaper business. The newspaper business left me.

But when I worked at the Tribune, I called the Tampa public works department about installing a "Share the Road" sign on Rowlett Park Drive, a very narrow two-lane road I use to bike from my home out to the USF area and eventually Flatwoods.

The woman in public works at the city office told me, "It costs too much to maintain a Share the Road sign."

That pathetic lame answer still drives me to this day to bike to city council meetings and TBARTA meetings and county commission meetings to tell our "leaders" that the Tampa area deserves safer roads and better infrastructure for cyclists.

Despite the city of Tampa's resistance to making its streets friendly for bicyclists, I joined several folks in the Seminole Heights neighborhood to form a bike club last year that encourages local residents to bike in the streets and connect with out neighborhoods and neighbors. The Seminole Heights Bicycle Club was featured in Bicycling Magazine's November edition, is on the cover of the current Old Seminole Heights newsletter and was praised by the Florida Bicycle Association at a recent statewide meeting as the new model for bike clubs.

So Pam Iorio and Steve Daignault and all you other city road engineers who don't like bike lanes and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians, I'm not going away soon.

I'm going to hound your asses to improve infrastructure for bicyclists. In fact, I'm stepping up my appearances in December at public meetings. The city of Tampa's resistance to helping bicyclists doesn't discourage me -- it makes me more determined.

After all, I'm a long-distance cyclist. I'm used to long trips -- and I'm used to taking the time necessary to get to the places I need to get to.

Monday, November 23, 2009

So Long Old Chap

Good-bye, my four-wheeled friend. You took me to many places and served me well for 10 years.

But an accident prompted me to pull the plug.

You're no bicycle.

But I'll still miss you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On The Road At Mount Dora

Today I visited the garden city of Mount Dora in Lake County outside Orlando while Bridget renewed her rite of visiting the Renninger's antique extravaganza outside Mount Dora -- the Bicycle Bash of antique dealers.

I was in downtown Mount Dora when I saw this very cool bike rack.


I stopped by a McDonald's at the corner of US 441 and Donnelly Street outside Mount Dora and saw the nicest McDonald's bathroom in the country. That's a beauty!


Nice to see that I could take advantage of the bike parking at the Renninger's flea market.


When in Mount Dora there is only one place for BBQ -- Sugarboo's at the corner of Lincoln and Grandview.


I'm confused. Is this the true Ghost Rider of Florida, who I bumped into outside Mount Dora?


Or is this the true Ghost Rider, our own Jack Sweeney of the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club?

Pasco County's Changes

I was cycling in Pasco County recently and thought this photo of hay bales and rooftops showed the growth (or sprawl) of the region.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bicyclist Killed in Pinellas Park This Morning

BayNews9 is reporting a bicyclist wearing a reflective vest was killed by a driver in Pinellas Park this morning.

The bicyclist was killed a little before 5 am today.

The Yikebike

Here's a fun video ad for a zippy little bicycle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life of Cycling Reilly

Check out who's riding a bike. Why, it's Rick Reilly, ESPN writer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

There Are Times When Bicyclists Can Ride In The Lane

I recently received an email from a bicyclist who was cited by Tampa police for not bicycling to the far right edge of a roadway. While law requires bicyclists to bike to the far right as "practicable," there are several circumstances under which a bicyclist can bike in the lane and not at the edge.

One of which is when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side. That happens a lot in Tampa, where lanes are sub-standard in width and less than 14 feet wide.

In response, I sent this email to new Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor in hopes SWFBUD can help educate Tampa police and the motoring public about a bicyclist's right to be in the lane under certain circumstances.

* * *


Dear Chief Castor,

I hope your new assignment is working out well for you. Congratulations on being named police chief.

As director of SWFBUD, I am writing to forward you an email I received from a bicyclist who was cited by a Tampa police officer who apparently believed that bicyclists must stay as close as possible to the far right edge or curb of a roadway -- even in the event of road lanes that are sub-standard in width.

However, Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide cites 316.2065 that explains several situations under which bicyclists do not have to ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge, including "when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side." The guide goes on to say: "A cyclist should maintain at least two feet of clearance from a curb or pavement edge. Since the mininum clearance for passing a bicyclist is three feet and the total width of larger motor vehicles is commonly eight feet or more, a lane with less than 14 feet of usable width is usually too narrow for motor traffic to pass."

In this bicyclist's case in the forwarded email, it's clear that his lane was too narrow, and, thus, he had a right to be in the lane to assure his safety.

My purpose of this email is not to argue his case but to use this example as an opportunity for Tampa city police to be advised on the laws for bicyclists on roads and traffic lanes in Tampa, many of which are sub-standard and less than 14 feet in width.

I know you're an experienced cyclist and are aware of the hazards of cycling too close to the right edge of a roadway. And I'm also sure you're aware of the laws for bicyclists regarding their position in the roadway as stated in the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide.

I am respectfully asking you to please advise your law enforcement staff regarding the rights of bicyclists to be in roadways and the circumstances under which they do not have to ride as close to the roadway's right edge. As you know, many of the roads in Tampa are sub-standard in width and I believe as a veteran bicyclist that the safest place to be is not straddling the roadway's right edge but to be in the lane.

I am requesting that we can meet and discuss the issue so that your police staff and the public can be better informed about this issue.

In addition, the Florida Bicycle Association has staff who can help guide police on bicycle laws. On Nov. 14 in Clermont, I was lucky to hear a presentation by the Florida Bicycle Association that included George Martin, FBA's bicycle laws program director. I am sure Mr. Martin would be responsive to a request to help educate police officers regarding the rights of bicyclists in the roadways. His contact information is flbikelaws@bellsouth.net and 904-392-1193.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Alan Snel
Director of nationally-recognized SWFBUD -- South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers
Nine Tampa Bay bicycle stores and two lawyers united behind bicycle advocacy
813-468-0064
alansnel@yahoo.com
www.swfbud.blogspot.com

Home of the Bicycle Bash by the Bay festival



For the record, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor responded within an hour to my email request and said, in part: "I will look into this issue. I agree that officers need to be made aware of bicycle laws. Our streets are unfriendly enough to cyclists without the added burden."

Ellen Visits Nevada For Bike Ride


My bicycle pal Ellen was out in Nevada doing a ride. Looks like her group went through a few tire tubes.

Ellen and her friend Cathy Carlin recently rode in the MS 150 in Las Vegas. Beautiful 96 mile route through the Valley of Fire State Park. Warm up lap on the LV Speedway. Ride goes form 2000 to 3000 feet. 3600 ft of climbing. Second day was 65 miles, 2200 feet of climbing. Ellen says Cathy the ride on a Bike Friday, one of those portable, collapsible bikes.

Only regret was Fed Ex not getting bike back in time for Horrible Hundred. Next year Ellen will bring her bike on the airplane. Maybe by then they will wave the checked luggage fees. Yeah right!

How About Running Across The State of Florida?

When I bicycled across the state of Florida from Vero Beach to Clearwater Beach -- 170 miles in one day in early June 2008 -- I didn't think that someone would try to run across the state.

But that's what my good friend and former Jensen Beach neighbor Mike Melton is doing this week.

In fact, Mike is running 203 miles from Tarpon Springs to Daytona Beach.

Mike will be a one-man relay team for the 203-mile run.

I hope you make it Mike!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

The Bicycle Stories dad took the bicycle to the tennis courts in Boca Raton this morning. This is a Raleigh road bike I gave Bicycle Stories dad in 1989,

What Is Complete Streets?

It's roadways and sidewalks that are built for all users -- cars, bicycles and walkers. It's what I found here in Boca Raton, a city in Palm Beach County that's one of the best in the southeast United States when it comes to building roads for all forms of transportation.

Stay tuned for SWFBUD activity on this topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MDA Ride Drew 372 Cyclists in Dunedin

My friend Harold Mitnick sends this message a day after the MDA Challenge Bike Tour Sunday in Dunedin:


Well we had a great event yesterday. The 2009 MDA Challenge Bike Tour went off yesterday morning with a great crowd and terrific weather. 372 riders took to the streets of Pinellas County for this annual fundraising event. The event which was launched from Highlander Park in Dunedin was enjoyed by all, despite the lack of hospitality by the City of Clearwater.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone from the club that helped make this event a success. Specifically, Christine Tabor, Bill L'Ecuyer, Marty Miller, Tim Hunt (and family) and Ken Mayeaux for helping to put this event together and to Janet Van Horn, Dottie Jessup, and Debbie Dunn for also helping us get through the day. Also thanks to Anthony Monaco and his SAG team for helping our riders on the road.

If anyone has photos of the event, please start an album here for the 2009 MDA Challenge and post them here.

Thanks,
Harold Mitnick, Chairman 2009 MDA Challenge Bike Tour

TBO.com Reports Story on Seminole Heights Bicycle Club

Kathy Steele of the Tampa Tribune came for a recent Saturday bicycle ride with the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club and reported a terrific story about the SHBC that ran today on TBO.com.

The timing was great because the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club drew kudos Saturday from the Florida Bicycle Association and other bike clubs around the state of Florida for our bike club's appeal to casual bicyclists who want to go for slower, urban bike rides.

Tweed Rides -- Gary Fisher Would Be So Proud

Washington Post story on tweed rides. Thank you Bicycle Stories correspondent Laura Sarantis.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Horrible Hundred Was Challenging But Not So Horrible


CLERMONT, FL -- Hats off to the Florida Freewheelers of central Florida for staging a top-notch mega-bike ride in the hills of Clermont and Lake County today.

I wish I could have been at the MDA ride in Dunedin-Clearwater. But a statewide bicycle clubs meeting on Saturday afternon brought me to Clermont this weekend, and I thought it was best to also touch base with the Florida Bicycle Association on key advocacy issues on behalf of SWFBUD at the Horrible Hundred.

And it's hard to pass up a 100-mile bike ride at the 30th aniversary edition of the Horrible Hundred. I did a sub-six hour century and that's not too shabby for a non-racer type.


Spectacular November weather brought out the roadie masses -- 2,000 cyclists did the 100-mile ride, along with the 70-mile and 35-mile excursions. Fellow Seminole Heights Bicycle Club members Rick Hickman, Ken Sturrock and Doug Jesseph made the early-morning, pre-dawn journey from Seminole Heights to Clermont for the bike ride. The trio did the 35-mile ride.


Simply put, great effort and execution of a huge ride. Let me describe the ways:

-- Police were at every busy corner stopping cars to allow cyclists to pass through, including several State Road 50 intersections. Lots of intersections had police.

-- The markings were excellent on the route.

-- Challenging course, with tons of uphills such as the famed Sugarloaf Mountain and the rollercoaster Buckhill. Here's one fella stuggling to climb Sugarloaf.


-- Tons of carbo food at the SAG stations, with a beauty off US 27 where literally hundreds of cyclists munched, hydrated and ate snacks from small plastic bags hermetically sealed. The station weas around Mile 68 and featured a mountain camping theme and the volunteers were called sherpas.

-- Volunteers -- the best. Simply great attitude and can-do spirit. These two were smearing cream cheese on bagels before dawn with a smile and a chuckle.


-- And how about a marriage before the ride. At 7:30 am on a pier at Lake Minneola, this cycling pair exchanged vows. After the ride as I left the parking lot, I saw the happy pair and snapped a photo.


All in all, an amazing day of cycling with lots of great bike jerseys. Like this one.

Seminole Heights Bicycle Club: The New Model For Bicycle Clubs

CLERMONT, FL -- If you biked with the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club I bet you didn't know that you were cycling with a cutting-edge bike club that could be the new model for bicycle clubs in Florida and this country.

That's a message I got from a Saturday afternoon meeting of statewide bicycle club leaders from around Florida that was organized by the Florida Bicycle Association in collaboration with the Florida Freewheelers, the local bike club in central Florida that's putting on the 30th Horrible Hundred bike ride in just a few hours here in Clermont.

The Seminole Heights Bicycle Club is all about getting people on bikes in a community and putting on slower rides so that people who otherwise would not be biking on roads would feel comfortable to pedal on routes with groups.

Bicyclists come in all shapes and abilities and some feel intimidated by the Spandex-and-jersey roadies on high-priced road bikes. So, the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club invites cyclists of all interests to join us in an informal setting to ride 5 miles in a fun family ride or 10 miles in an urban ride or 20 miles in a longer and slightly faster ride the first three Saturdays of every month. Our group agreed that the only rule is that you wear a helmet and bring a road-worthy bicycle in working order.

The first two rides -- the slow family 5-miler and the urban 10-miler -- usually draw bicyclists who wear long shorts and T-shirts and pedal an assortment of bicycles from urban cruisers and hybrids to mountain bikes and some older road bikes.

The feedback I got Saturday afternoon from the Florida Bicycle Association is that the SHBC might be the new model of bike clubs -- a group of bicyclists who go at a slower rate of speed wearing non-cycling clothing for the pure joy of bicycling.

For the record, the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club is a unincorporated group with no membership fees, titles or by-laws. Our weekly Saturday bike rides held the first three Saturdays of the month are kind of a meet-up style gathering with a designated ride leader for the purpose of showing the route.

We also have special bike rides outside of the regular schedule such as the last Saturday of this month -- the Thanksgiving Leftovers Bicycle Ride at 11:30 am for an easy bike ride to eat leftovers at 22nd Street Park in Seminole Heights.

I'm only a few hours away from starting the Horrible Hundred bike ride here in Clermont with some 2,000 other bicyclists. The weather forecast is for sterling, Chamber-of-Commerce conditions -- cool, dry, blue skies and low humidity with temps in the mid to high 70s.

I did this bike ride about six years ago and recall the mass of bicyclists and in just a few hours there is supposed to be a record number for this bike ride, celebrating its 30th year.

Later this late afternoon, I'll have photo coverage on this blog.

Also, there's the MDA ride in Dunedin-Clearwater today in Pinellas County. And if anything, just get on your bicycle today. It's going to be a gorgeous day to ride!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Trekking Along the Hillsborough River

Sterling weather -- cool and dry in the mornings -- makes for stunning photos along the Hillsborough River.


Why You Should Get To Know Flatwoods

Off of Morris Bridge Road.






Catching Up At Flatwoods This Morning

A crisp, cool and dry November morning brought out bicyclists by the dozens all around the Tampa Bay area.

Take Flatwoods county park, for example, where it was a regular social bike round-up.

I did my usual ride from Seminole Heights to Flatwoods and met my pal, Ranger Rick, collecting $2 fees at the Morris Bridge Road entrance, then cycled through the loop and saw my fellow Seminole Heights bicycling Alan Badia -- one of the fastest cyclists in Tampa.

When I reached the Bruce B. Downs Blvd. side of Flatwoods, I met Oliver's Cycle Sports owner Randy Myhre, a SWFBUD member who was at the parking lot for a Trel demo day. If it's a Trek demo day, Trek central Florida rep Andrew Young is not too dar away and I met with Andrew at Flatwoods as well. Wrenching for Andrew Young was Andrew of Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium.

Hanging out at the BBD entrance was Flatwoods manager Eddie Anderson, who I caught up with.

Then it was a ride through the park back to Morris Bridge Road and at the parking lot there was Doreen Jesseph, who got a new road bicycle and is a Seminole Heights Bicycle Club member and married to Doug Jesseph, who I plan to see Sunday morning at the Horrible Hundred ride in Clermont.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Dubious Distinction For Tampa

If you think it's dangerous to ride a bicycle in the Tampa Bay area consider the perils of the oldest form of transportation: walking. Tampa Bay ranks as the SECOND most dangerous place to walk in the country, according to a report released Monday.

Places that are dangerous to walk or ride a bicycle do not thrive as quality-of-life communities and there are economic consequences for cities such as Tampa that are not committed to building adequate infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. People do not use businesses as much as they would if it's unsafe to bike or walk to them.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is a nice lady who says all the right things publicly, but the bottom line is that she has failed to financially support public works-transportation projects that would make Tampa a safe place to walk and ride a bicycle. She gets an F for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

Kudos to Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe who posted the pedestrian report on Facebook. Sharpe -- along with Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena -- is the only politician in Hillsborough County who understands that cities only flourish when they embrace, design and build infrastructure that accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users -- and not just cars.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Share the Road Sign Is Part of Today's tbt* Cover

During the last year, I have lobbied for SWFBUD before local Hillsborough County planning and transportation agencies to include bicycling as part of any transportation plan.

Today on the cover of the free daily tbt* you saw a "Share the Road" sign along with a bus and a train as part of a "2035 Vision Transportation Plan" being proposed by the Tampa/Hillsborough County MPO (Metropolitan Trainiong Organization).

A few years ago bicycling was seen as a gringe activity in Tampa but slowly we're becoming a political player on the local landscape.

Keep telling your local officials that you want more bicycle infrastructure in the Tampa Bay area because communities that embrace bicycling in all its forms flourish economically


The Challenge of Sharing the Road

Bicycle Stories correspondent Picot Floyd sends me in a few paragraphs from a LA Times story about a car driver who hurt two bicyclists in California and highlights the challenge of creating roads that accommodate both bicyclists and cars:


Mandeville Canyon Road is a two-lane, dead-end road that twists and climbs for six miles through a quiet Brentwood neighborhood. "It's perfect for bicycling -- like honey to bears," says Jeffrey Courion, former public policy director for Velo Club La Grange, a bicycle touring and racing club.

But with just one lane in each direction and limited visibility in some places, the road has also become a flash point for conflicts between motorists and cyclists. "It's a problem of people competing for space," Courion says.

That competition turned ugly in July 2008. Brentwood doctor Christopher Thomas Thompson is currently facing trial in the L.A. County Superior Court, charged with four felony counts related to a collision with two bicyclists in Mandeville Canyon. The injured cyclists allege that Thompson deliberately pulled in front of them, then slammed on his brakes, intending to hurt them. Thompson's attorney argues that the cyclists had yelled profanities at Thompson and were to blame for the accident.

The number of people riding bicycles has exploded in recent years. U.S. census statistics released in September show a 43% increase in bike commuting nationwide between 2000 and 2008, and Courion's bike club, which often rides in Mandeville Canyon, has seen its numbers nearly double to nearly 500 in the last several years.

This surge of new bicycles on the road frustrates some motorists, leading to antagonism and altercations of which the Mandeville Canyon incident is an extreme example. And though data suggest that cycling fatalities have actually fallen nationwide, one new study suggests that the injuries cyclists suffer in traffic accidents are becoming more severe.

On The Road To Plant City

If you have been cycling the last two days you know the winds are strong out of the east -- a fact of life I accepted while cycling into the teeth of the steady gusts while biking east on US 92 from Tampa to Plant City Sunday morning.

I used a bathroom at the Seminole Hard Rock Sunday morning and is there a more depressing scene than old blobs of people sitting like zombies in front of slot machines, with a cigarette dangling out of the cornr of their mouths.

Then it was off to Plant City after cycling a bit on the I-4/US 92 ramp to Seffner but not before I took in the view of the biggest confederate flag at the I-4/I-75 junction. Makes Tampa Bay so proud, doesn't it, to see the Confederate Flag flying at the crossroads of our region's two major highways?


Confederate flag fans pay tribute by leaving a Marlboro pack in front of the flag at a small parking lot in front of the flagpole.


Vending by bicycle along US 92 on the way to Plant City.


Beautiful outdoor artwork: Wild boar vs. boar-fighting canine.


In doubt about the marketing approach for your business? Just put sexy legs on whatever you'r trying to sell -- like long-legged sandwiches at Norma's on US 92 in Plant City.

Flat-butted Cyclists Get Perfect Bike Seat

Bicycle Stories correspondent Jeff Houck, master blogger of The Stew and Side Salad, sent in this photo for those cyclists with butts that might be a little on the flat side.

Stolen Belt-driven Bicycle Recovered By Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium

Bicycle Stories reported last week about a belt-driven Trek bicycle stolen from Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium last Thursday.

CBE owner Brian Eckman told me today the bicycle has been recovered:

"Concerning the stolen bike from CBE, it was actually recovered last Thursday night.

"A pretty shady person who we believe to be the thief came to the shop at closing, asking about a reward for the bike, and said he saw one chained up at the Chuck E Cheese almost directly across the street. Sure enough, serial number matched and we got 'er back. Still not 100% sure who took it but all's well that ends well."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

SHBC Thanksgiving Leftovers Ride on Nov. 28 at 11:30AM

A SHBC special thanks to Mike Limerick, who spent several hours getting the movie screen and projector up and running for the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club "Bike-in" Movie Night last night.

And a tip of the culinary helmet to SHBC member Doug Jesseph, who made a succulent brisket that wowed the Bike-in Movie Night participants.

SHBC members enjoyed a 30-minute documentary called Vive le Tour, a 1962 clip of the Tour de France and then our feature presentation was El Amateur, an off-beat movie from Spain about a modest bicyclist who biked for 130 hours straight to set a world record. My own movie analysis said it was an spoof on the Rocky movies.

Besides our regular club rides on Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, mark your calendars for a special Seminole Heights Bicycle Club Ride on Nov. 28 -- the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our first-time "Thanksgiving Leftovers Ride."

This ride will leave at a special time -- 11:30 AM from 1203 E. Powhatan Ave. and we will bike to the 22nd Street Park for a SHBC Leftovers Lunch!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

SHBC's Tour de Brisket Was Delicious -- Tonight Is Potluck Dinner/Bicycle Movie Night


This morning's easy and fun 5 1/2-mile Seminole Heights Bicycle Club Ride -- the Tour de Brisket" -- drew about 20 bicyclists for a scenic hour-long ride through Seminole Heights, along the Hillsborough River and around Lake Roberta.

Club member Dough Jesseph could not make it because he was cooking the brisket, which will be served tonight at SHBC's Potluck dinner/Bike-in Movie Night, which starts at 6 PM at 1203 East Powhatan Avenue.