In 2009, SWFBUD (South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers) came of age, forging political alliances in the Tampa Bay area and winning national awards for its bicycle advocacy work in the Tampa Bay market.
SWFBUD was already known as the organizer of the popular and award-winning Bicycle Bash by the Bay -- Tampa Bay's annual bicycle festival. In fact, SWFBUD won an Event of the Year Award from the Florida Bicycle Association in 2007 for the Bicycle Bash.
But in 2009, SWFBUD became an advocacy force as SWFBUD Director Alan Snel lobbied local government boards and commissions to improve infrastructure for bicyclists; organized a bike ride to a Hillsborough County Commission budget hearing to help keep county parks open seven days a week and created key political alliances with local elected officials such as Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena to increase the profile of cycling in the Tampa Bay area.
SWFBUD's efforts paid off and drew national attention and recognition.
In April, SWFBUD won the prestigious Retailer Advocacy Award from the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) magazine, the trade publication that covers the bicycle industry in the U.S. Here, Alan Snel receives the BRAINy award from Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong and BRAIN Editor Megan Tompkins.
And then this summer, the Trek Bicycle Corp. gave its Advocacy Leadership Award to SWFBUD for working with Hillsborough County officials to keep the parks open seven days a week after the proposed budget called for closing the parks two days a week. Here are some SWFBUD store owners with mountain bike building legend Gary Fisher after SWFBUD won the award.
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SWFBUD became political and Alan Snel was showing up at Tampa City Council meetings and Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commission meetings and TBARTA meetings and just about any public forum to sound the call for improved and better infrastructure for bicyclists in the Tampa Bay area.
Alan appeared before the TBARTA board to advise them to make sure that bicycles are part of a future light rail plan. Here is Alan with former TBARTA Board Chairman Shelton Quarles.
Alan also appeared before the Hillsborough County Commission numerous times to implore the commission to connect the Upper Tampa Bay Trail with the Suncoast Trail and to keep the county's parks open seven days a week.
SWFBUD organized a bike ride to a Hillsborough County Commission budget hearing this summer to save the county's parks.
Once at the meeting, SWFBUD spoke loud for parks for bicyclists. Here, SWFBUD member Brian Eckman, owner of Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, spoke to the commission.
SWFBUD's appearance led to a meeting with Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who asked SWFBUD for ways to improve bicycling in the Tampa area. Snel came up with a 10-point bicycle improvement plan that ran the Tampa Tribune and that he presented to the county's MPO board.
SWFBUD arranged a meeting with Florida Bicycle Association Bike Laws Director George Martin to discuss bicycle laws with the Tampa Police after a bicyclist was cited in Tampa for biking in a road that was sub-standard in width,
SWFBUD is also lobbying the city of Tampa to improve its reputation as a hostile place for bicyclists. Alan is lobbying Mayor Pam Iorio and other officials in city government to install more bike lanes. He plans to work with City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena to enhance bike-commuting in the city.
SWFBUD appeared before local organizations to spread the word of improving bicycling. Here, Alan speaks at an Open Mic Night held by the Urban Charrette in Tampa.
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Then, there is SWFBUD's signature event -- the Bicycle Bash by the Bay.
We drew more than 3,000 people of all bicycle backgrounds to North Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg to celebrate bicycling. It was a hot day, but a great setting for SWFBUD's Bicycle Bash.
The Bicycle Bash drew bicyclists of all ages.
And Alan gave out SWFBUDDy Awards to people who made Tampa Bay a bicycle-friendly area.
The SWFBUDDy winners.
SWFBUD plans to keep the pressure on in December as Alan is appearing before several local government boards and plans to work with Saul-Sena to improve bicycling in Tampa.