Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tampa Police Stops Bike Rodeo Volunteer For Bicycling In The Street

This morning, Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium employee Chad Luppino was bicycling to volunteer at the Children's Gasparilla Parade Bike Rodeo in Tampa. A "bike rodeo" is a bike event by the local sheriff's office to give free helmets to kids while also teaching them bike-riding skills like pedaling around cones and stopping properly.

But for Chad, a funny thing happened on the way to help teach kids about biking at the bike event. A Tampa police officer stopped Chad for bicycling on the street and told Chad to bike on the sidewalk.

Welcome to Tampa, FL government -- a government that's just a little behind the rest of the country when it comes to bicycling.

Brian Eckman, who owns Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, tells me Chad's girlfriend called him at the CBE shop and that she was "freaking out" because an officer wanted to arrest Chad for bicycling in the road.

Brian tells me Chad advised the police officer a bicyclist has a right to bike in the road.

The officer didn't buy it. The officer told Chad to get off the road and bike on the sidewalk.

Brian says the officer, who placed Chad on the hood of his cruiser, ended up citing Chad. The citation: "Refused lawful order concerning traffic from police

Jim Shirk, a bike rodeo volunteer and bicycle advocate who helps on many bike events, went over and tried to explain to the police officer that a bicyclist has a right to bike on the road.

"Jim Shirk tried to explain the law but was told (by the officer) to not get involved," Brian says.

Jim Shirk tells me Chad was singled out by the officer when, in fact, many other people were bicycling on Bayshore Blvd. at the time. Jim says because Chad has a BMX biker look, he was likely singled out by the officer.

"At the time people, people were biking all over he place," Jim says.

Jim believes Chad was cited by the officer because the officer thought Chad was not respecting him.

* * *

What is the city of Tampa's problem with bicycling?

-- One day I called the city transportation department and asked for a "Share the Road" sign on Rowlett Park Drive, a very narrow road that I take when heading toward the USF campus from Seminole Heights. The city transportation woman said it costs too much to maintain. (I'm not making that up). A transportation director later approved a Share the Road sign request, but then got fired by Mayor Iorio.

-- On the same road, HART bus drivers nearly killed me THREE different times when passing me during the past three years because each driver told me he did not know that a motorist has to pass a bicyclist in Florida by a minimum clearance of three feet.

-- Also on Rowlett Park Drive, a police officer directing traffic around an accident ordered me off the road and onto the sidewalk. She also did not understand a bicyclist's right to be on the road.

-- A Tampa police officer ordered a bicyclist who was cycling across Gandy Bridge off the bridge by telling the bicyclists to bike against traffic back to the Tampa side. To her credit, then Assistant Chief Jane Castor (who is now chief and also a bicyclist) called me to tell me that police would be instructed to not stop bicyclists from crossing the Gandy Bridge.

-- The city's public works and transportation VIOLATED its own master plan for bike lanes by not including a bike lane on Tyler and Cass as part of a utility and road project. An email explaining why a bike lane was left out of the project told me bike lanes are "NON-ESSENTIAL."

-- A Tampa officer cited a bicyclist for impeding traffic when he was in a traffic lane -- even when he was allowed to be in the lane under law because the width of the lane was too narrow, one of the circumstances under which a bicyclist can legally take the lane. The bicyclist is fighting the ticket and has a court date in a few months.

* * *

Memo to Pam Iorio and the city of Tampa government: there is a bicycle movement in this country and Tampa's long-held belief that bicyclists should not be on the road is so 1970s. Translation: Tampa, time to come into the 21th century.

Other cities across the country -- from Boston to Portland -- have embraced bicycling as a great way to relieve traffic. They have invested in a bicycle infrastructure of bike lanes and wider roads to encourage bicyclists to take to the road.

Not Tampa.

Here in Tampa, a police officer stops a bicyclist on the way to a bike event to help kids bike.

What's so dishearterning about this is that a month ago I along with bike laws expert George Martin of the Florida Bicycle Association met with Tampa Assistant Police Chief John Bennett and two other police officers about having George train Tampa police regarding a bicyclist's right to the road.

John seemed interested in improving safety for bicyclists.

But if Tampa Police do not even understand a bicyclist's right to the road, how are they going to keep us safe on the road?


Donald said...

So... if the government refuses to acknowledge our rights and actively attacks them (threatening arrest and giving out fines for exercising our rights), perhaps a protest of some sort is in order?

I think I'm going to start carrying a copy of the Florida statutes regarding bicycle riding on the roads, in any case.

GhostRider said...

Wow...ridiculous. Tampa just doesn't get it -- from the top on down. If the cops are ignorant of the laws they're supposed to uphold, we're all doomed.

Mighk said...

Want to improve police understanding of bicycle-related laws? Join Florida Bicycle Association. If you're already a member, contribute to help us complete our bicycle law enforcement curriculum. Get a copy of FBA's copy of the compact, easy-to-carry Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide.

To see progress on our curriculum, go to:

Keri said...

Unbelievable! I wrote about this topic yesterday. I'm sorry I missed this post, or I would have included it:

The Enforcement of Imaginary Laws

Unknown said...

It's all right, Keri. I'm used to and I read the blog. :)

Besides, I do educate myself every single day. I've been in,,,, and probably that's about it.

Donald said...


Is it possible to join the FBA through something other than the website? I'm not sure I want to stick my credit card number on that Wufoo form... >_>

Keri said...


Just contact Laura via the contact page, she'll send you a mail-in form.

The woofu form is secure, though.

Andrew J. Besold said...

Remind me to NEVER to take a vacation in Tampa again.

Feel free to forward that to your mayor.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that cyclists download, print out, and carry this little PDF brochure from the Florida Department of Transportation:

"Road riders are drivers: Florida's bicycle laws"

It summarizes Florida's traffic laws for cyclists with explanatory comments. If cyclists had a copy of it, first of course they could familiarize themselves with Florida's bicycle laws. Secondly, if they got pulled over by a law enforcement officer while riding legally, they could show the brochure--an official Florida DOT publication--to the officer to prove that they were obeying the law. (Of course, if they were breaking the law, it wouldn't do them any good.)

It's a little awkward to read as a PDF since it's a single sheet, printed on both sides and designed to be folded up into a narrow brochure. And, unfortunately, it's 14" x 8.5", and most people probably don't have that size paper at home. But PDFs can be printed to fit smaller paper sizes. I have a full-size copy, but I've tried printing it on 8.5" x 11" paper, and the type is smaller but still readable.

There are links to more cycling materials on this FDOT page, including a PDF of the "Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide", an online version of
"Florida Bicycling Street Smarts", and in-depth web pages on Florida's bicycle laws


Alan said...

Excellent resource Jose!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Brian Eckman....

here he is on video, moments before the group ride he is a part of takes to the streets, violating law after law:

Donald said...

Regarding the link Jose gave, is there anywhere you can get the flier already printed? Does FDOT distribute it in any hard-copy form? I don't have that paper size, and it'd be nice to have it in that slightly-more-rugged flyer paper...

Anonymous said...

Donny, I don't know whether the FDOT distributes hard copies of that brochure, but I'll email its Public Information Office to find out. (I'll report back here when I get a reply.)

There's another place that does distribute hard copies of that brochure and many other bicycle safety materials, including CDs and DVDs, and that's Florida's Pedestrian/Bicycling Safety Resource Center at the University of Florida. Here's the "Resources" page, showing all the materials they have, including Road Riders Are Drivers. Unfortunately, they only provide materials "to qualifying organizations to help support pedestrian and bicycle safety and educational activities."

I don't know whether SWFBUD would be a qualifying organization, but if it were, perhaps it could get a number of copies for each SWFBUD member store to distribute.

Tampa BayCycle might be a qualifying organization, too. I'll contact someone there about looking into it.


Donald said...

Awesome, Jose. Thanks.

Also, BPAC (part of the MPO) might qualify...

I think it'd be awesome to get these into the hands of motorists and bicyclists around here so both groups would be better informed on the law.

Anonymous said...

I feel silly that I forgot about the BPAC. A fellow member of the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club used to be on it, but he moved out of state. I wonder if his spot has been filled yet.

By the way, I've been carrying copies of that brochure, printed on ordinary legal and letter size paper, and they've held up very well. The key is to keep them where they won't get sweaty, for instance in a bike tool bag.


Anonymous said...

Sorry for not getting back sooner, but at least I have good news.

According to this FDOT web page:

"Links below access pedestrian and cycling guidance publications available on-line (in PDF files). Hard copies of these publications are available (in limited quantities) from this office. Copies of these and other publications are also collected in two kits of samples....

"Request a Pedestrian Safety Kit, a Bicycle Safety Kit, or both kits, or copies of individual publications. We regret we cannot supply more than one kit of each type per request. Except for Florida Bicycling Street Smarts, publications included in the sample kits are not copyrighted and may be reproduced...."

I hope a lot of cyclists request copies of these publications, so that they'll be prepared in case they're ever stopped by a law enforcement officer who doesn't know a cyclist's rights under Florida law.

Anonymous said...

To follow up on an earlier comment, I registered an account for Tampa BayCycle at Florida's Pedestrian/Bicycling Safety Resource Center, and they've ordered a lot of these cycling-related publications, including 50 copies of Road Riders Are Drivers. (That was the most they could request at the time.) But they plan on ordering a lot more copies of that and the other publications over the next few weeks, so that they have plenty for Bike Month in March.

If SWFBUD is interested in getting some of those cycling-related materials from the Ped/Bike Resource Center to distribute free in its member stores, registering an account is simple, and approval was instant when I did it. And there's no charge for the materials or for shipping and handling.


Anonymous said...

To follow up on another comment, I emailed Dwight Kingsbury at FDOT's State Safety Office about their Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Kits. According to him, the Bicycle Safety Kit includes Florida Bicycling Street Smarts, Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide, Road Riders are Drivers brochure, Street skills for young cyclists brochure, Find the 12 hazards poster, and Use your head (helmet) flyer.

There's no charge for the kits or for shipping and handling. All they need is a name and mailing address. The kits are mailed in a large envelope through the USPS and should arrive within a week. Note: They can't supply more than one kit of each type per request. Use this email link to request a kit.