Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SWFBUD Responds to Tampa Mayor's Decision to Kill Bike Lanes on Euclid Avenue

SWFBUD's response to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio killing bike lanes on Euclid Avenue:

Dear Mayor Pam Iorio,

At today's Livable Roadways Committee meeting, I saw your letter to Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena regarding your decision to kill the staff-proposed bicycle lanes on Euclid Avenue and I must say your decision is very disappointing and out of touch with national bicycle and pedestrian policy declared last month by U.S. Secretary of Transportaion Ray LaHood. As you know, the city of Tampa has been deemed one of the most dangerous cities for bicyclists and pedestrians in the country in national reports and national media stories so I would think that you would want to invest in infrastructure to reverse that trend.

I don't understand how killing bike lanes on a road that serves as an bicyclist alternative to biking on Gandy is part of your plan to make Tampa more bicycle-friendly. Only a few weeks ago I praised the city plan for bike lanes on Euclid Avenue in a bicycle column I wrote for the Tampa Tribune not thinking that you would actually kill the idea.

Mayors of cities of all sizes across the country have embraced bicycle lanes as part of a practical strategy to allow bicyclists to safely pedal from place to place and as a way to relieve vehicular traffic on congested roadways. But your decision to value parking of residents on a transportation public right-of-way over the safety of bicyclists shows that you have a blind spot in your policy-making. Once news gets around the country that the mayor of Tampa believes the parking convenience of people visiting homes for book club meetings (an actual example cited by a Euclid resident, according to the city's transportation dept.) is more important than the safety of bicyclists, the city will receive yet another black eye for being a dangerous and unfriendly place for bicyclists

The city's alternative of "sharrows" on Euclid are appropriate for bicycle-savvy cities such as Seattle where local drivers and bicycles are educated about sharing the road together. But we're not there here in Tampa, where motorists believe they own the road and harass bicyclists who have a legal right to bike in the traffic lane. Will the city be engaging in an education program for vehicular drivers to inform them that they must be courteous to bicyclists on roads with sharrows?

For a person who supports light rail, your bicycle policy is very disappointing and baffling. Both light rail and bicycling are forms of transportation that get people out of cars and get people around the city. The city of Tampa does not even have a bicycle plan -- which is why so few roads in Tampa have bicycle lanes. I understand that your transportation manager, Jean Dorzback, planned to make Euclid Avenue as a prime example of "complete streets" policy, which is sweeping the country. You'll have to explain to me how cutting bike lanes from a street makes it "complete."

I had higher expectations for your support of bicycling in Tampa. Your decision is very disappointing and is opposed by bicyclists and others in Tampa.


Alan Snel
Director of SWFBUD -- South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers
9 bicycle retailers growing bicycling in Tampa Bay

Iorio responds:
Alan, we have a difference of opinion on this. As mayor I have to take all factors into consideration and I believe this is a good compromise.


Gordon said...

What are "all factors"?

Anonymous said...

It would have been nice if Iorio would have stated WHY her opinion is different, rather than just state "because I said so."

Donald said...

@Anonymous, Gordon:
I completely agree. I think one of the major problems with this situation is lack of openness. What "factors" are being taken into account? Alan's letter is laying out a clear argument in favor of bike lanes with several good reasons why bike lanes are necessary, and the best our mayor can come up with is "I disagree"?

Has she presented at some other time a better argument for why bike lanes are not necessary? Or is this about the most thorough response that has been received from her? If it is, my opinion of her has diminished greatly -- a government that is not open with its citizens cannot be trusted and shouldn't be respected.

Can you better explain what's wrong with "sharrows"? I personally like the idea of them -- they mark off a safe place in the lane for cyclists to ride without the conotation of "boxing in" the cyclists. I think they would help take away from the perception that bicyclists are *only* allowed in the bike lanes, a problem that I run into talking with motorists fairly regularly.

Alan said...

Sharrows are a very decent idea. But cities that use them usually have comprehensive bicycle programs in place where road users -- bicyclist and motorist -- have a mutual understanding of proper positioning in the roadway. In Tampa, I don't think most drivers and bicyclists have ever heard about sharrows and the city of Tampa needs signs and education to inform people that sharrows imply the traffic lane will be shared by bicyclist and driver alike. That potentially could be a good thing in getting drivers to understand that bicyclists will be in the traffic lane. But the key is educating the public in Tampa what sharrows are.

Todd S. said...

Educating is indeed the way to go - even with bicycle lanes, as they still take knowledge to use in a safe manner. I hope that such education is part of her "compromise".

Charles said...

I agree that we are a long way from a community that embraces bicyclists' right to share the roadway. I didn't know what the heck "sharrows" were so I dug up this link in Pittsburgh. Without a good education plan, this will be a real mess.

GhostRider said...

I'll echo the sentiment...a sharrow is a great thing, but ONLY if it is coupled with a media blitz and education campaign to alert road users (motorists AND cyclists) as to what it means. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of painted squiggles on the road.

Mayor Iorio continues to disappoint me. She showed such promise at times, but it's clear she just doesn't "get it" when it comes to providing for alternative tranportation...well, alternatives other than rail.

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