A Bike Lane Runs To It

If you live in or near the city of Tampa, Florida, you will know that the car rules around here. While there are plenty of quiet streets to bicycle upon, there are not very many useful bike lanes in the area. Where bike lanes do exist, they have a tendency to start and stop at random, not linking up with other lanes or providing an unbroken route for cyclists to take advantage of.

But, things are changing — just a couple weeks ago, the city put the finishing touches on a bike lane that actually goes somewhere!

Tampa's newest bike lane

This is the new bike lane, running from just north of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd all the way down to and INTO the heart of downtown Tampa. The lane runs down the right side of a busy one-way called Tampa Street. This street is the main surface road into downtown, and can be quite busy early in the morning as folks rush to work in the urban core. Before the lane was constructed, I had found a quiet residential street a few blocks east that served my purposes for a fairly direct commuting route. Now, though, I can take this bike lane to within a couple blocks of the library where I work!

Here’s another shot with the downtown skyline visible:
the lane with skyline in the distance

Even though my previous route was peaceful, scenic and quiet, I feel compelled to use this new bike lane, even though there are a LOT of cars out there with me. And that brings up a few questions — do you readers try to use bike lanes where available, even if there is a quieter or better route at your disposal? Should I feel compelled to use this lane (I mean, what if transportation officials are watching? Will they build more?)?

This is a step in the right direction for Tampa — let’s hope there are more lanes in the works! The new lane is smooth and fast. My only gripe is that there is not a corresponding northbound bike lane to take me back out of downtown toward home, and according to Florida DOT officials and the Mayor of Tampa, there is no plan to create one in the near future, even though there is a perfect northbound, one-way, multi-lane road only 3 blocks from this new lane. Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, but I WILL step up my letters and emails to the transportation planners in the area!

A bike is an excellent piece of exercise equipment as well as a perfect means of transportation. Biking is better exercise than a home gym can provide, and you’ll feel better about yourself when you’re conserving energy. No other sport, not even golf equipment, can make you feel so good about the environment!


17 Comments

  1. Jeff Rossini October 4, 2007 1:31 pm 

    the good thing about the new lane running down the busy street: you can blow by all the cars every morning and laugh at them being stuck in traffic. just watch out for doors!

    i love the rush of riding down a heavily traffic-jammed street, but then again, doing it every day might increase the risks of an accident.

    hooray for the new bike lane though.

  2. Ghost Rider October 4, 2007 1:47 pm 

    I derive GREAT satisfaction from blowing past all those cars…hell, there’s even a red light I can cruise through without slowing down (motorists can only turn left onto Tampa Street at that light or turn left off Tampa Street onto the other street) — neither option puts cars anywhere near my precious new lane!!!

  3. Thomas Brock October 4, 2007 1:49 pm 

    I would definitely say use it, if you can.

    Clearly, safety should be the biggest consideration, but if you can safely use the lane to get to your destination, you should.

    The transportation folks are watching and certainly so are the drivers. If the lanes don’t get used, you certainly won’t be able to get more.

    My 2 pence.

    Thomas S. Brock
    thomas(AT)brocknet.net
    blogs.brocknet.net/brocklog

  4. Ghost Rider October 4, 2007 1:59 pm 

    Thomas, those are my feelings exactly — but you put them into the perfect statement! Thanks!

  5. Moe October 4, 2007 2:08 pm 

    Use it before joggers get a hold of it…

  6. Ghost Rider October 4, 2007 2:14 pm 

    Joggers in a bike lane? I will have NO problem mowing ’em down, as would be my right to do!

  7. Moe October 4, 2007 2:39 pm 

    You don’t have some of those??? For some stupid reason, joggers love to use the bike lanes around my neighborhood. The usually jog against traffic and get pissed off when I tell them to get out of the way.

  8. Mike Myers October 4, 2007 3:18 pm 

    Tampa would be a fantastic place for raised bike lanes. I’m pretty brave, Jack, but riding amongst Tampa’s crazy drivers on that bike lane would freak me out. Put that lane 6 inches above the traffic and it will keep them away from you.

    That being said, I wish there were more bike lanes here in Citrus County.

  9. Adam Newman October 4, 2007 3:20 pm 

    Kudos to Tampa for finally getting around to striping the lanes. I will say that I usually use the quieter back roads rather than a bike lane on a busy thoroughfare, but that’s just me.
    For the record, the best place to run is on the shoulder, against the flow of traffic. Because runners are, for all purposes, not moving in relation to traffic, they do not integrate into the flow of traffic and need to be able to see what’s coming. They stay off the sidewalks for the same reason cyclists do. They should yield to bikes (and cars) however.
    My biggest pet peeve is cyclists ride the WRONG WAY in a bike lane. It always ends up as a game of chicken.

  10. Adam Newman October 4, 2007 3:27 pm 

    I guess I shouldn’t say “For the record,” but rather “IMO”.

  11. Ghost Rider October 4, 2007 4:35 pm 

    Mike, I used to commute on that road long before the bike lane appeared — one of the reasons I decided to explore alternate routes!!!

    After a while, I just became numb to the fear…like a bike-commuting zombie! It really pays to find alternate routes when all you’ve got are bad streets and crappy drivers — you shouldn’t live in fear and you shouldn’t have to be a zombie (biking is supposed to be fun)!

    I like the idea of raised or physically separated lanes — some cities in Europe have experimented with curbs to separate road from bike lane, and I read recently that New York may try to separate the two with a row of parking spaces!

  12. Greg Raisman October 6, 2007 9:47 am 

    It looks a bit sketchy to me. With operating speeds and volumes like that road will have, that — what looks like — 5′ bike lane is not going to encourage a lot of cycling.

    The good news is that there aren’t a lot of driveways and cross streets to deal with. Those are the points where the design challenges come in with things like cycle tracks and separated bikeways.

    While it’s definitely possible to put in a really nice cycling facility on that road, it doesn’t seem like there’s political will yet. Heck, they won’t even put in a bike lane in the other direction.

    In the meantime, you have the start of another really nice cycling facility. I’d much rather develop a series of quiet bicycle friendly streets than try to deal with that ugly beast of a road above.

    Here are some short films about Bicycle Boulevards. These are great because they slow down speed in residential areas and reduce the amount of cut-through traffic. So, they’re good things for people who don’t ride bikes too.

    Portland:
    http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/portland-or-bicycle-boulevards/

    Berkeley: http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/berkeley-bike-boulevards/

    The bike boulevards I live near have a lot of joggers, people out in their front yards, safe places for kids to play, and so on. Residential speed and cars near houses are a huge concern for a lot of people.

    The Portland clip is from a longer movie about what’s going on here in Portland. You can see that one here:

    http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/portland-celebrating-americas-most-livable-city/

    Enjoy. And thanks for being a bicycle pioneer.
    Greg

  13. Ghost Rider October 7, 2007 1:23 pm 

    90% of the bicyclists I see in the city of Tampa use the sidewalk anyway…I’ll stick to these lanes in the (vain) hope that they’ll make more — at least it’s a step in the right direction!

  14. 2WheelTranz January 10, 2008 12:11 am 

    Congratulations on the new bike lane! Since I’ve read that Florida is the state with the most cyclist deaths in the country; I can see the importance of bike lanes there. I live in Louisville, Ky. & it’s a different story for me. Recently (within the past two months), a bike lane was installed on the road that is at the end of the street I live on. I travel that road as the first & last leg of my daily commute. A lot of people would no doubt see this as a blessing, having a bike lane so close to their home; even though this road has no heavy traffic. I’ve been riding on this road for about seven years, and have only had problems since the bike lane was installed. It’s full of rocks, broken glass, roadkill, & debris from trees. People park their motor vehicles in it. People who live along it leave their garbage cans in it. I’ve reported all this to the city workers several times. I was even stopped & questioned by some of the officials who were responsible for it’s being built. When I showed them the rocks & debris right next to their car, they agreed with me & told me that something would be done. A week later, a street cleaner vehicle cleaned the lane, on one side, down to the first street that turned off (about a quarter of a mile). That was the big cleanup. What’s more: since I don’t ride in the bike lane because it’s too hazardous, I am now (for the first time) harassed by motorists who insist that I ride there. Of course they are oblivious to what is to them not a hazard at all. Nor do they really care. All they care about is that they have to go around me, the same as they always have; instead of having the convenience of having me two feet to the right so they don’t have to move slightly out of their way for about four seconds. So now I can continue to ride on the road as I always have, enduring this new hostility from motorists; or I can ride in the bike lane, go really slow, keep my head down & stay focused on weaving in & out of the debris field while avoiding roadkill & garbage cans, and miss seeing my surroundings while taking much longer to get anywhere. This has been my experience with bike lanes so far. I hope yours will be better.

  15. Ghost Rider January 10, 2008 4:48 am 

    Funny you bring up those points…because ever since I originally wrote this article, the bike lane has steadily filled up with dead possums, tree limbs, crushed glass and assorted parked vehicles. It DOES get cleaned about once a month, and I have sent a variety of emails and letters to the city stating that “if you build it, you’ve GOT to take care of it…otherwise, what’s the point?”.

    I still use it, for the most part, but I sure ain’t married to it — I’ll take the travel lane when I need to!

  16. Josh Sherman December 12, 2012 8:24 pm 

    Old post but I felt compelled to reply. I started using the bike lane down Nebraska Avenue coming out of Ybor recently. To say the least, it’s been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. The drivers are terrible in that they weave in and out of the bike lane (which is a shared bus lane every other block) like it’s just an extra bit of a buffer for their stupidity. Additionally, there’s absolutely no respect when it comes to intersections, I’ve been nearly clipped a few times due to individuals turning in front of me that don’t seem to understand that I have the same right in the intersection as the cars driving in that direction. I’m sticking to the back roads for now until I work up the confidence to simply take the lane and not mess with the bike lane at all (and I assume face getting a ticket?). I’ve also experienced the trash build up as well as the fact that I have to drive through the dips in the road for the storm drains (I’m not most experience cyclist seeing as I’ve only recently gotten back to it, and that alone was pretty sketchy for me) not to mention people on bikes riding in the wrong direction.

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