Tampa City Council holds bike workshop to improve cycling safety

01/27/11 Matthew Cimitile
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After a rash of nine cyclist deaths on Tampa streets since July, both Hillsborough County and Tampa are working to quickly change the image of Tampa as one of the deadliest cities for bicyclists. The Tampa City Council met this morning to discuss ways of making Tampa a friendlier bike city.

Gena Torres of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization presented ideas to the Tampa City Council that can be established within the year to make the roads safer for both cyclists and car drivers.

“That sign that you see there, that can be placed on the back of a sign that already is existing. You will not need to pay for another pole or another sign, just put a sticker on the back of it that says biker you are going the wrong way. If we can get more of these out it is at least going to stop some of these problems. This also is an outreach piece that we have to get out to people, if cyclists wearing blue a motorist is not going to see them until they are 50 feet away. It is an incredible difference if they are dressed properly. These are some of the things we think we can do in the first year or so."

Other short-term ideas included in the MPO plan were painting shared lane markings on the road and giving out bike lights to cyclists who ride at night. Long-term, Torres said the Department of Transportation can narrow traffic lanes to make room for bike lanes, replace some parking spaces with bike lanes and conduct an outreach and education awareness program for both cyclists and drivers.

Alan Snell, director of the Southwest Florida Bicycle United Dealers, praised the recommendations as the first step to create a biker friendly city.

“I support the suggestions that Gena summarized and I think they are sound and sensible and an outstanding positive first step when dealing with bicycle issues in the metropolitan Tampa area. Also think it is an ideal opportunity to use this as a launching opportunity of the shared road markings that Gena showed on roads that are traveled by bicyclists, especially routes taken from South Tampa to Downtown and Downtown to USF campus.”

According to federal statistics, Florida is the deadliest state for pedestrians and bicyclists and Tampa is one of the most dangerous cities in the state. The county averages 7 bicycle fatalities per year with 87 severe crashes.

City council member Yvonne Capin echoed many council members and bicycle advocates in the room when she said that signage and education can be implemented soon to address the problem.

“Along with our resurfacing, we are talking about paint on the road and that would be a share road. I live very close to Euclid and that is what is exactly on there. It serves two purposes. It lets people know that this is also bicycle on the road and it is educational. It reminds you constantly when you see these on the road that you are sharing that road and bicycles are there, it is educational, and I would agree with council member Mulhern that that is something we can implement right away.”

Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the Metropolitan Planning Organization will be hosting several bike safety workshops over the following months while developing and implementing a bike safety plan.

Hillsborough County Bicycle Safety Action Plan

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