Sunday, February 27, 2011

Family And Friends Remember Robert Niedbalec Today -- Bicyclist Killed By Speeding Motorist On Fletcher Avenue Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks have passed since a careless and speeding motorist killed bicyclist Robert Niedbalec, a 52-year-old vet from Temple Terrace who was biking in the bike lane along Fletcher Avenue.

Today, I joined Robert's wife and daughter; his co-workers from the vet's office where he works, his brother Jack and other family friends and some bicyclists to remember Robert with a bittersweet rememberance ceremony and short bike ride at Lettuce Lake Park.

Dan made the ghost bike. Tragically, it's the fourth ghost bike in the Tampa area since last Augist -- and they represent only a fraction of the number of bicyclists who have been killed around the metro Tampa Bay area.

Dan is a new friend who contacted me via email about wanting to make the ghost bike and he showed the initiative and hard work to get an old bike from Mike Olsen at God's Pedal Power, paint it white and install a beautiful plaque.

Courtney at the vet's office along with her co-workers brought T-shirts and bicycle pins painted white with a black ribbon in Robert's memory and we biked and walked about 20 minutes along a paved trail at Lettuce Lake Park.

Before the ceremony, Robert's wife Kathryn and Robert's daughter Kate took photos of the ghost bike and the message.

A touching moment: Dan tells Kathryn, "If one motorist sees the ghost bike and slows down and saves a bicyclist's life, then it was worth making this."

Kathryn responded, "Well put."

Kathryn and Kate let go of balloons bearing messages for Robert.

Dan and I plan to install the ghost bike next Saturday.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Election Campaign Action Around Tampa

With the Tampa city mayor and city council election just three days away, today I broke out the Turanchik For Mayor bicycle trailer and pedaled over to South Tampa, where I met Jason Wilson, candidate for citywide District 3. Jason was working the streets for votes in his native Palma Ceia neighborhood.

Then it was off to the Jan Platt Library, where a whole bunch of candidates and supporters held signs and begged people for votes.

There's my friend Diane Campbell with our pal Mary Mulhern, running for re-election in citywide District 2. Actually, that's not really Mary.

Julie Jenkins biked over to vote == Julie is a pro-bicycle council candidate running in District 4.

So, I'm bicycling on the ramp from Bayshore to Davis Islands and that's the Chipster with his kayak and his Turanchik sign.

I pedaled over to the Flan Festival and the Fiesta scene in Ybor City and saw Julia with the ghost tour and the Turanchik banner.

No bicycles along this wall in Ybor City. Don't think so.

It was bound to happen -- someone had a little too much fun with the Greco Gimme 5 hand.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ed Turanchik -- The Bicycling Mayoral Candidate

Ed Turanchik led a bike ride tonight to raise awareness about cycling in Tampa.

We biked from The Independent in Seminole Heights to the Tampa Convention Centr, where people were picking up Gasparilla running race packets.

Ed talked about the importance of bicycling, then we pedaled the four miles back to The Independent.

It was a great time as about 20-25 bicyclists participated.

Ed Turanchik For Mayor Bicycle Awareness Bikle Ride -- Leaves 6 PM From The Independent

Join the Ed Turanchik bicycle awareness bike ride today.

Get to The Independent by 5:30 PM. It's in Florida Avenue a half0mile south of Hillsborough Avenue.

We will leave for the ike ride at 6 PM.

And arrive at the Tampa Convention Center at 6:30 PM for a bike rally.

Check out Ed when he was a bike commuter and county commissioner in the 1990s.

Now check out Ed now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ed Turanchik Bicycle Billboard Rolls Into Trolley Barn Tonight

I bicycled the rolling Ed Turanchik For Mayor billboard right into the historic trolley barn at The Heights tonight for the candidates forum sponsored by the Tampa Heights neighborhood association.

Ed posed next to the famed bicycle billboard, which will be featured at Friday's bicycle awareness bike ride being held by Ed. It will start at 6 PM at The Independent and arrive at the Tampa Convention Center at 6:30 PM for a bike awareness rally.

Council candidate Jason Wilson, a pro-bicycle candidate running for citywide District 3, poses next to the rolling billboard tonight, too.

Ed Turanchik For Mayor Trailer Rolls Out Today

The Ed Turanchik For Mayor trailer was officially launched this afternoon and will head to a candidates forum tonight at The Heights at 7 PM.

Then tomorrow, the Ed Turanchik bike trailer will be rolling for the Bicycle Awareness Bike Ride and Rally. We will leave The Independent on Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights at 6 PM and arrive at the Tampa Convention Center at 6:30 PM for a bike awareness rally.

Robert Niedbalec Memorial Ride Sunday at 2 PM at Lettuce Lake Park

I did not know Robert Niedbalec, but we shared the same bike road -- Fletcher Avenue east of 56th Street, about a mile or so shy of the I-75 interchange.

It's on Fletcher Avenue where a speeding motorist -- a 20-year-old woman -- killed Robert while he was cycling on a Sunday afternoon -- 1:46 PM on Feb. 13. The sheriff's office is still investigating the matter and wants to have its information lined up before charges are brought.

Robert's friends will gather at nearby Lettuce Lake Park for a memorial bike ride Sunday at 2 PM and a ghost bike will be unveiled there, too, to be installed at the Fletcher Avenue site at a future time.

I will be there Sunday at 2 PM and hope to see you , too, to remember Robert.

HCSO Bicycle Messages On Portable Signs Return

Nice to see the bicycle messages returned recently to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office portable signs in Fletcher Avenue near I-75. SWFBUD suggested the HCSO start the sign messages on its portable sign boards last year.

The sign is situated about a mile west of where bicyclist Robert Niedbalec, 52, of Temple Terrace, was killed by a speeding motorist on Fletcher Avenue on Feb. 13.

There will be a bike ride in memory of Robert Niedbalec, the bicyclist killed by the motorist on Fletcher Avenue, at Lettuce Lake Park on Sunday at 2 PM.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tampa Road Projects Will Include Bike Lanes Or Sharrows

Stop the presses (or World Wide Web): The city of Tampa sent out a letter to residents explaining that the resufacing of North Boulevard from West Cass Street to Osborne Avenue and of West Cass Street from the Hillsborough River to North Boulevard will include bike lanes or sharrows.

The North Boulevard project includes changing the four lanes to three lines ala Nebraska Avenue -- with added bike lanes or sharrows and a center left-turn lane.

I just got the letter today.

Ed Turanchik, Tampa Mayoral Candidate, Holds Bicycle Awareness Bike Ride Friday At 6 PM

I will be at this bike ride and I hope you are too.

Ed Turanchik, running for Tampa mayor, will be leading a bike ride from Seminole Heights at 6 PM Friday to the Tampa Convention Center at 6:30 PM to highlight bicycle awareness. Ed is the one candidate who has highlighted bicycling as an issue and believes bicycling is an integral part of a transportation system.

We will gather at The Independent on Florida Avenue and bike the four miles to the convention center. It will be a fun and easy bike ride. Bring bike helmets and front and rear lights for your bicycles. See you there

SWFBUD Gets Hillsborough County To Fix Fletcher Avenue Bike Lane Design

SWFBUD contacted Hillsborough County Public Works after the department re-surfaced Fletcher Avenue at 56th Street, but failed to configure the intersection with a bike lane that goes through the intersection.

As you can see, the bike lane veers to the right of the right-turn bike lane -- which is NOT the proper way to confugure the bike lane at this intersection, or any intersection.

So, SWFBUD spoke with the county's public works director and also wrote emails. They did the job. SWFBUD wants to thank Hillsborough County for addressing this issue promptly, as you can see by this photo showing a proper bike lane configuration on Fletcher Avenue at 56th Street.

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Bike Lane?

Most of you know how I collect bolts, screws, nails, nuts and other debris in bike lanes.

Well, at Hillsborough Avenue and Himes I ran into this pair of fowl that would be difficult to stuff in a jar.

And over at Morris Bridge Road, I saw this wild boar carcass in the bike lane. I'm sure the turkey vulture will be visiting soon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hub Grub Ride's Stops On The Seminole Heights Circuit

The Hub Grub Ride on April 2 will start and finish at Ella's, 5119 N. Nebraska, Tampa. Registration is 2:30PM

The Hub Grub will have five stops:

3:15PM -- The Refinery/Cleanse Apothecary
4:15PM -- Nani's Sandwich Shop/Publix
5PM -- Viital's bakery
5:45PM -- New Way Cafe/Velo Champ
7-9PM -- Ella's for party and live music

Please print form and mail in.

Check out Hub Grub web site at

Next Hub Grub Ride: April 2, Start and Finish at Ella's in Seminole Heights

I'm happy to say that the Hub Grub Bicycle Ride is back.

The next Hub Grub is April 2, with registration at 2:30 PM and the ride will be from 3-7 PM.

The Hub Grub will start and finish at Ella's restaurant at 5119 N. Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, 33603.

I also have created a Hub Grub Web site to keep people posted.

Contact me at for a Hub Grub registration/waiver form. Ride cost is $5 per person.

Monday, February 21, 2011

3 Bike Plan Meetings In Metro Tampa/Hillsborough County

After SWFBUD blew the whistle and prompted the Hillsborough County Commission and Tampa City Council to take action in response to bicyclist deaths in October, a government agency called the Metropolitan Planning Organization (the transportation planning arm of local goernment) has worked with other local government departments to come up with a proposed bicycle safety action plan.

Its proposals and strategies are a small first incremental step toward dealing with the high number of motorists who kill and injure bicyclists in metro Tampa area. The ideas are sensible and focus on creating safety awareness and education for bicyclists -- which is very good. But it doesn't focus much on motorists who are killing bicyclists or creating a sweeping infrastructure system of bike lanes and trails to improve safety.

The League of American Bicyclists wrote an outstanding letter in response to the bike plan

You can offer your thoughts on the bike plan at three upcoming meetings:

February 24: Pizzo Elementary (Cafeteria) at 11701 USF Bull Run Drive Tampa, FL 33617
6:30P.M. to 8:30P.M.

March 01: Bloomingdale Regional Library at 1906 Bloomingdale Ave. Valrico, FL 33596-6206
6:30P.M. to 8:30P.M.

March 2: Broward Elementary (Cafeteria) 400 W. Osborne Avenue Tampa, FL 33603
6:00P.M. to 7:30P.M.

A presentation will be repeated at the start and end of each workshop. For more information please visit & see the Bicycle Safety Action Plan (BSAP) section under Publications & Maps / Current Projects & Drafts, or contact Gena Torres at 813-273-3774 x 357.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Powerful Letter In the Aftermath Of Another Tampa-area Bicyclist Fatality

A powerful letter in light of the recent bicyclist death on Fletcher Avenue in the Tampa area. I was proud to sign it:

Dear Tampa City Council & Hillsborough County Commissioners:

Another Tampa-area cyclist is dead. Yet another valuable and productive life ends with a painfully simple roadside memorial that reads “motorists – stop killing bicyclists”. The reckless driver that hit the cyclist – who was not doing anything wrong – hasn’t been charged with anything and is, as far as I know, still out there behind the wheel of a car today.

After a spate of fatal crashes last fall, we joined the chorus of concerned cyclists and wrote to Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Commissioners to ask for a meaningful response and a serious action plan to cut this appalling death toll. The first draft of that plan was presented last month and there are three more scheduled in the next couple of weeks to discuss the latest version. There’s lots of worthwhile activity in the plan – education for cyclists, rodeos for kids and recommendations for more bike lanes and complete streets. We need all those things for sure, but are these enough?

While looking for details of the most recent fatality, we saw story after story about pedestrians getting hit and killed, other cyclists getting hit and killed, drivers veering off the road and killing themselves, or smashing into other traffic and killing people in those other cars – and that’s all in the last couple of months. Another cyclist was badly injured in St. Petersburg yesterday. Folks, we have a problem here. We’ve read about the pedestrian safety grants that have gotten area police more resources to teach pedestrian safety and ticket jaywalkers, grants to build more sidewalks and crosswalks – again, all good things to do, but surely missing the stark, huge, and very inconvenient truth. We need to do something, and quickly, to stop careless, reckless, distracted, and downright dangerous DRIVERS, because they – you – are killing Tampa-area people in frightening numbers.

Traffic safety, or lack of it, dramatically cuts into everyone’s quality of life and literally chases cyclists and pedestrians off the streets. People on foot and on bikes are, like it or not, the indicator species of a vibrant and healthy community. Think about the places you like to go – most of them are filled with people you can watch, meet, and interact with. So this issue is about bikes, but it’s so much bigger than that.

And that’s why the solution has to be so much more than educating bicyclists and ticketing errant pedestrians. It’s time to demand more from drivers; to hold drivers accountable for their actions. In the majority of the recent fatal bike crashes, the cyclists were riding properly – they were riding where they should be, visible, following the rules, doing everything right. Diane Vega was killed standing on the sidewalk with her bike, for goodness sake. The drivers were not doing what they should be doing. They were distracted, impaired – and most recently, simply recklessly speeding (possibly racing) down the street. Those drivers are still out on the roads today, still driving. That’s not good for any of us – but we tolerate it and we don’t do anything to stop it.

Next week, we need cyclists and pedestrians – and anyone who isn’t prepared to tolerate this mayhem any more – to show up in support of the Bicycle Safety Action Plan. We also need them to say that isn’t enough. We need an immediate response from law enforcement and the court system to demonstrate very clearly that dangerous driving won’t be tolerated. That speeding through neighborhoods, running red lights, driving drunk, texting and talking on the phone while driving, and “failing to see” cyclists and pedestrians simply aren’t acceptable anymore; the price in human life is just too high. Cyclists and pedestrians aren’t perfect by any means, we know that. We’re committed to educating cyclists to follow the rules of the road in everything we do…but the harsh reality is that errant cyclists rarely harm anyone but themselves. Out-of-control motorists harm everyone in the community.

Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists, Washington D.C.

Alan Snel, Director, Tampa-based South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers

Dan Moser, Interim Executive Director, Florida Bicycle Association

John "Jay" F. Anderson, II, TSP, Executive Director, Stay Alive .... Just Drive!, Inc.

Snel Tampa Mayoral And Council Endorsements

Tomorrow, early voting begins to elect a new Tampa mayor. In addition, all seven Tampa city council seats are up for grabs. The election is March 1.

I interviewed all five Tampa city council members to find out their views about bicycling and attended many city council forums to hear what the council candidates have to say about bicycling. See the mayoral candidates' views on bicycling below.

Bicycling as a public policy issue is never as important as it is now given the high death rate of bicyclists in the Tampa area; the lack of a comprehensive and coordinated bicycle route network; the dangerous and reckless motorists who imperil the lives of local bicyclists; the many bicyclists who ride at darkness without lights and reflective vests and who ride against traffic; and the lack of appropriate criminal punishments for motorists who kill and injure bicyclists.

Here are the Snel endorsements based on the candidates support and commitments to bicycling.



No surprise here. Ed is more savvy about bicycling than any other mayoral candidate. He used to bike-commute to his county commissioner job in the 1990s and likes to show an amusing photo that shows him holding his bicycle in front of his county commissioner car parking space. Ed is a big rails and trails guy and also identified specific corridors in Tampa that he believes can be used for bicycle infrastructure improvements.

Turanchik's bicycle views.

Bob Buckhorn appreciates bicycling as a way to draw professionals to Tampa. He believes that people who work high-tech jobs will also like bicycling. He believes bicycling as a lifestyle is good for Tampa.

Buckhorn's bicycle views.

Rose Ferlita, Dick Greco and Tom Scott know little about bicycling as effective transportation and offered no ideas about how bicycling can enhance Tampa.

Ferlita's bicycle views.

Greco's bicycle views.

Scott's bicycle views.

* * *

District ONE: No candidate has emerged as someone who has supported bicycling. No endorsement.


District TWO: Incumbent Mary Mulhern in October prompted the city council to join Hillsborough County in launching a bicycle safety action plan. Mulhern also had a city council bicycle workshop in January. Mulhern has spoken out publicly in favor of bicycling at a time when other city council members rarely mention bicycling.


Ditrict THREE: Jason Wilson came to me with a list of proposed bicycle imrpovements from bolstering eduction and awareness about bicycling and adding sharrows to city streets. No other council candidate sought me out to offer bicycle improvement ideas. Jason, an ER doctor at Tampa General, also bike-commutes to his emergency room job.


District FOUR: Julie Jenkins has expressed to me her support for bicycling as a viable transportation mode and talked about her past experiences of bicyclingin Washington, D.C. She promised to suppert bicycle measures if elected.


District FIVE: No candidate has articulated thoughts about improving bicycling.


District SIX: Kelly Benjamin is a clear choice over incumbent Charlie Miranda. Kelly dropped off his campaign lawn signs by bicycle and identified bicycling as a crucial issue when talking with newspaper editorial boards. Kelly helped with the memorial bicycle ride on Oct. 1 when I led the ride to memorialize the lives of bicyclists killed by motorists in the Tampa area. Charlie Miranda has never mentioned bicycling as a safety issue.


District SEVEN: I have not heard any public comments from the candidates in this district.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Celebrating Early Morning At Flatwoods

This blog is about how life is so much richer when navigated via bicycle.

So, I wanted to share this morning's photos taken very early at Flatwoods Park. the cool temperatures and foggy conditions made for some wonderful light.

Fletcher Avenue Memorial At The Site Of The Bicyclist Fatality

To the Robert Niedbalec family and his friends:

My deepest condolences. Robert was doing what he loved Sunday on a road that I travel on my bicycle frequently.

I will think of Robert and pay my respects when cycling that road.

If you would like to share anything about Robert with bicyclists on this blog, please don't hesitate to use this forum to let fellow bicyclists know about Robert's life.


Alan Snel

Monday, February 14, 2011

RIP Robert Niedbalec, Bicyclist Killed By Speeding Motorist Sunday

When a motorist kills a bicyclist, a motorist just doesn't kill a person on a bicycle. They kill a dad, a husband, a father and a humble veterinarian.

Such was the case Sunday afternoon when a speeding driver on Fletcher Avenue killed Robert Niedbalec, a 52-year-old vet who lived in Temple Terrace and was bicyling in the bike lane between the USF campus and the I-75 interchange.

St. Pete Times story.

The Tampa Tribune interviewed the bicyclist's wife today.

Here's the Channel 10 story.

Here's the Channel 13 story.

Here's the Channel 8 story.

I did not know Dr. Niedbalec, but I take his death personally because I have biked the same bike lane used by this bicyclist many times.

In fact on Sunday, I was biking with a friend in that direction toward Flatwoods Park and took a back road through Temple Terrace instead of Fletcher Avenue. We left my house at 1:15 pm and would have been very close to the scene if we took Fletcher Avenue instead of Druid Hills through Temple Terrace.

I have talked to several TV stations today and my message is simple -- motorists will imperil the lives of bicyclists until they understand that there will be severe punishments for killing or injuring a bicyclist. I'm unaware of a single motorist ever cited for Florida's three-foot buffer law.

Our elected leaders have to embrace bucycling and celebrate bicycling and give the message that a bicyclist is simply a co-user of the roadway shared by all whether your vehicle has the capacity to move fast like a car or slower like a bicycle.

Punishments Don't Fit The Crime Of Killing A Bicyclist In Tampa Bay

On Sunday morning, the St. Pete Times ran a column about how punishments for motorists who killed bicyclists are inadequate.

This comes on the heels of a story in Outside magazine written by the author of highly-acclaimed Traffic book that also touched on the topic about how criminal penalties for car drivers who kill and injure bicyclists don't take into account the vulnerable nature of the bicycle as a vehicle.

Hours after the Times column ran Sunday morning, a 52-year-old Temple Terrace bicyclist was killed Sunday afternoon by a motorist on eastbound Fletcher Avenue between the USF campus and the I-75 interchange in the Tampa area.

Sheriff's deputies said it appeared as if the motorist was racing with another car driver side-by-side and they're looking for witnesses to step forward.

I bike that road all the time and bike the bicycle lane used by the bicyclist killed by the motorist.

It could have been me.

I have stopped reading the moronic and mean-spirited comments written by angry anti-bicyclist haters after newspaper stories about bicyclist deaths. We have had a dozen people killed on bicycles in Tampa Bay since the middle of the 2010 summer and in my book motorists will not change their driving behavior until they understand that killing a bicyclist means a harsh criminal punishment.

Too many times a car driver kills a bicyclist and simply says, "Sorry, I did't see the bicyclist," and voila, the driver is off the hook.

Drivers don't even get a citation for violating the law that requires a car to pass a bicyclist by a minimum berth of three feet.

I'm upset.

And I'm angry.

Things need to change.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bicyclist Killed In Tampa Area On Fletcher Avenue

This afternoon, I was bicycling west on Fletcher Avenue in the Tampa area with Mike Limerick after a ride to Flatwoods Park when we came to a roadblock.

We assumed a car crash.

We didn't think that a bicyclist was involved.

But a cyclist was involved -- and was killed by a motorist near the USF river park on Fletcher Avenue, about two miles west of I-75.

The St. Pete Times story has a short story, but no ID on the bicyclist yet.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pedal The River For Jason Wilson Fundraiser At The Heights

Fresh off his Tampa Tribune endorsement, Tampa City Council candidate Jason Wilson (District 3) rode his bicycle today as part of the Pedal The River For Jason fundraiser. I was proud to be a host along with Darren Booth, the developer facilitator of The Heights development -- a mixed-use development on the Hillsborough River about a mile north of downtown Tampa.

We bicycled from The Heights to Riverwalk in downtown and met Darren and friends on his boat as we all met up on Riverwalk near the Tampa Convention Center.

Jim Shirk dons the sharrow vest for the trip from Seminole Heights to The Heights development for the Jason Wilson fundraiser.

Biking from The Heights to the downtown Riverwalk.

Boats and bicyclists -- with this boat with a violinist.

Jason talks to both biyclists and boaters.

Darren's Angels.

North Boulevard bridge after sunset from The Heights