Friday, January 6, 2012

Plight of the Tampa Bicycle Commuter

I'm a Facebook friend of USF graduate assistant Sven Williams, who conveyed his recent experience of being told to ride his bicycle on a sidewalk:

"dear driver on Yukon, nearing 40th: you will forgive me if I don't respond politely to your fat ass braying at me to get on the sidewalk. I'm sure you were on the way to doing something important with your life, but it takes like 30 seconds to safely pass me. (and folks wonder why I cheer a little when gas prices spike)"

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About four comments followed on Facebook after Sven's post and then Sven wrote more:

"Ironically, it only really happens to me in poorer parts of town, where bikes are more transportation than recreation. I think it's in part because I'm an annoyance in their already-shitty lives, and I'm a convenient target to take it out o...n, because I can't really do much in retaliation beyond memorizing license plates and delivering one-finger salutes.

There's this really super-strong car culture in Tampa, partly because the city really grew after the 40s, right around the time when the streetcars were dismantled here and cars really took off in America. Not owning a car in Tampa relegates you to second-class citizenship and denies you full use of public space. Try going to grad school, working, and attempting to have a social life without a car here. Impossible, since it takes you an hour to get anywhere worth getting to, and you risk your life every time!

I'm done fighting and pretending like my transportation situation is a matter of principle. I'm looking for a motorcycle; know anyone selling one?"

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Bike commuting in Tampa is no easy task when a high number of motorists do not respect your right to use the public right-of-way. Add to that a lack of bike lanes and paved trails and the bicyclist faces a challenge, indeed. The local DOT's new bike safety message even blames bicyclists for getting hit.

But don't give up. Don't let all these forces make you give up your bicycle. It's a beautiful thing, bicycling, and makes your life fuller.

5 comments:

Donny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donny said...

I'm close to giving up, but not on bicycling... I'm giving up on Tampa.

When I graduate with my MS, I'm headed back north. Even in Pensacola, which is full of rednecks and SUVs, I tend to be treated better on the road.

Ghost Rider said...

I feel like I gave up on Tampa, even though I didn't have any say in my move (when the Air Force says "go", you just go). I DO love riding in my new home, though!

Donny, I call bullshit on Pensacola -- I love the city, but riding a bike there is no picnic. Of course, it's been quite a few years since I've done so. I hope things have changed.

By the way, my word verification is "carking". Ironic, ain't it?

Donny said...

Ghost Rider, I didn't say it was a picnic. ;-)

I've just had fewer (and less nasty) bad experiences there than I have Tampa (Pensacola is my hometown). Could be luck, but that's my experience.

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