Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Calling All Bicyclists -- Get Involved In The Transportation Process
Hey, I'm the first to admit it -- a drab meeting room with metal chairs, maps and employees from agencies with names of Alphabet Soup is not very exciting compared to biking the hills of San Ann or the off-road trails of Alafia.
But right now, HART the public bus agency in Hillsborough County and the county Public Works Dept. are holding joint-forums to get your opinions about a mass transit/road project initiative that might be on the ballot in November in the form of a penny sales tax increase. Of the revenue generated from that penny increase in sales tax -- that's an annual potload of $200 million, folks -- 75 percent would go to build light rail and beefed-up bus service as part of mass transit and 25 percent would go to county public works for road improvement projects.
What's it in for bicyclists? Well, a whole lot.
Bicycles are a crucial link in any mass transit system. You could bike to light rail and bus stations -- if the HART agency people building these things include bike racks and bike storage centers at stations. And we need to make sure bikes are allowed on light rail cars.
Bicyclists also need a network of roads with bike lanes and shoulders and safe places to ride a bike to get to thsee stations.
There are planners in another Alphabet Soup agency called the MPO, which stands for Metropolitan Planning Organization, and these people generally like bicycling and they might designate roads for bike lanes. But the people who work for MPOs, as nice and well-intended as they are, are not political and are not at these public forums politicking on your behlf as a bicyclist.
I do, though.
As director of SWFBUD, I attend these meetings and forums and lobby/advise/cajole people at agencies such as HART that they need to work with Hillsborough County to make sure the roads that lead to bus and rail stops are safe for bicyclists and include designated routes with bike lanes and shoulders. I have advised HART that mass transit stations need bike storage areas and bike racks and bicyclists must be allowed to bring their bikes on light rail cars, too.
I represent an alliance of nine Tampa Bay bicycle shops called SWFBUD and our shops represent thousands of bicyclists in the area. The bike shop owners are too busy to attend many of these public feedback meetings, so I go as their collective voice. I wish more bike shops would be in SWFBUD so that we may have even more political clout.
But here's the thing: the government and agency employees at HART and Hillsborough County (and the city of Tampa, too) NEED TO HEAR IT FROM YOU, TOO.
Last night, I attended a HART forum and there were a mere seven residents sitting listening to a HART representative. There were another half-dozen HART employees. I had one-on-one time with these HART staffers to push bicycling. I also spoke with county public works employees, including Public Works Director Bob Gordon, to push bicycle projects.
They need to hear from you, too.
They need to know more and more people are biking and that many more people would bike, too, if our infrastructure was more accommodating to the needs of bicyclists.
HART needs to know that bicyclists will use light rail and buses if the commute can accommodate bicyclists. I see many buses with one or two bikes secured in the carry cage in the front of the bus.
Give HART and the county an earload about bicycling. The next forum is Thursday Feb. 18 at 5:30PM at Freedom High School (cafeteria) at 17410 Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa. Submit your comments online at www.hillsboroughcounty.org/transtaskforce/ and mail your comments to Steve Valdez; Public Works Dept., County Center 22nd Floor; PO Box 1110; Tampa, FL 33601.
HART is ALSO having another set of special meetings that are more specific about stops and routes this week -- today, Wednesday and Thursday. Call 813-223-6831 EXT 1720 or email maynesm@goHART.org.
Today's meeting will be at the Loretta Ingraham Rec Complex at 1615 Hubert St in Tampa from 11 am to 2 pm and from 4-7 pm. On Wednesday, there is a meeting at University Square Mall in Tampa from 3-7 PM and on Thursday there is a meeting in downtown Tampa at the Tampa Downtown Market from 10 AM-2 PM and at One Tampa City Center in downtown from 11 AM to 2 PM.
If you're a bicyclist, GET INVOLVED in the political process. People who make these decisions NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU.