Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Bike-Commuter's Story Of Pedaling Bruce B. Downs

A research administrator at Moffitt Cancer Center, Scott Mears, emailed this morning about his bike commute along the paved trail along Bruce B Downs from New Tampa to the Moffitt Center and back. Seems like the construction along BBD has made bike-commuting a little treachorous along BBD. I told Scott I admired him for bike commuting along BBD.

My own gut instinct about BBD as a bicyclist when I first encountered this corridor told me from the start that this is a nasty road for bicyclists because of the high speeds of cars, the many side streets and commercial parking lots, the multi-use path that crosses intersections at odd angles and the "booby traps" and "trap doors" of the infrastructure that result in a motorist unexpectedly in my face.

Scott agreed and I suggested he forward his letter to the local Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which includes members of the Hillsborough County public works staff. I'm a BPAC member too. I hope the folks at Hillsborough public works can help make Scott's bike-commute safer.

Here's Scott's letter:

I am a bicycle commuter, pedaling from Pebble Creek in New Tampa to my job at the Moffitt Cancer Center every day. I’ve always felt fortunate that most of my ride is on a paved bike trail, even though it’s still hit and miss with drivers flying out of various service road exits.

What concerns me these days is the construction taking place between Hunters Green and Pebble Creek. I’m all for widening of the road, and am glad it’s happening. However, when the contractors started repaving some areas for lane diversion, they completely eliminated the right side north-bound bike lane that had been demarcated with a white line.

Most of my ride from Hunters Green to Pebble Creek must take place with me riding directly on the edge of the pavement, and at that, I’m close enough to cars to almost get knocked on my keester.

On June 10, I wrote to the Hillsborough County Commission and asked them why the contractor wasn’t required to maintain at least a narrow strip for cyclists, as this has become extremely dangerous.

The County responded quickly by forwarding my email to Tom Fass, Section Manager, asking if he would speak to the contractor and ask that they be more conscientious of cyclists’ safety.

He responded as follows: “We'll contact him. The contractor is performing per the contract. Due to the extensive Maintenance of Traffic/traffic shifts we are unable to maintain the paved shoulders. We are maintaining pedestrian/bicyclist access via the multi-use path. Where we impact the multi-use path we incorporate detours. It's not a perfect solution but we believe it's the best and safest solution. We'll give him a call to discuss more”.

Mr. Fass is correct with regard to detours on the bike path, and I appreciate that, but it’s the areas that have no bike path that are the issue.

Subsequently, they had a gentleman by the name of Scott Passmore call me, and after playing phone tag for a week or so, we got to talk; I believe he is a project engineer.

He was very pleasant but reiterated that they were “following spec” and understood my concern, but asked that I be patient.

I told him I am patient, and that I fully understand the inconveniences of this type of massive project, but that my passion for living was a bit more prominent than my ability to be patient. I cannot understand, especially while they were actually doing some minor repaving, why they couldn’t have added a foot or so for bikes.

Now, because the work is intensifying in the southbound lanes near the Publix/Cross Creek area, there is absolutely nowhere for us to ride except precisely on the white line on the right side of the road, with big orange barrels to the right, virtually trapping us on the white line.

This is very risky for cyclists, and it’s not easy for vehicles to keep the appropriate clearance from bicycles. It’s a “white knuckle” ride for me in that area, and the ongoing slaughter of innocent bicyclists and pedestrians in this area makes me all the more anxious.

I’ve put an email in to the New Tampa Neighborhood News to request that Mike Smith do an article focusing on this new problem created by the construction.

Mike did a great article on two of my workmates and me a couple years ago, because we cycle to and from work from New Tampa, so I thought he might be interested in a follow up. No word back from him yet. I just submitted a request to the Tampa Tribune as well.

I’m really not looking to “bitch” per se….I just want all those who have the ability and authority to actually prevent another death, to do what they can to address this.

I’m not certain I’m being taken very seriously and frequently wonder if “this is the day” that it will be me that’s flown off to a hospital, and my “next of kin” that will get a phone call.

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