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A New Excuse to Ride My Bike

Today I discovered a new and altogether great excuse to put some more miles on my bike. My son started his first day of school today! He’s in the Florida voluntary pre-Kindergarten program…they got a late start this year, but today’s events are his first steps down a long road — education ROCKS!

I figured I’d bring him in style today — riding my singlespeed “Patriot”, adorned with Sweetskinz “Nightwing” tires. Grey rides in a Nashbar trailer — he’s getting a little too big for it, but until he’s got the skills to navigate his new trail-a-bike, this is what he’s stuck with.

The school chariot

The ride to school is only a hair over a mile and a half…silly to fire up the car for such a short drive, and there is a nice, quiet residential street to take him there and back. I do have a short stretch on the sidewalk, which sucks, but otherwise I’d have to dodge the crazies in their cars on one of the worst traffic streets in Tampa (Nebraska Avenue, home of the transvestite hookers).

Alright, let’s make sure all the gear is there: got your helmet? Check. Got your lunchbag? Check. Got some clean underpants? Check! Let’s DO THIS!!

Let's do this thing!

Of course, everyone else brought their kids via giant, gas-sucking SUV. Dammit! I talked to a couple parents, and many of them live even closer than I do!! That’s a bummer.

Finally, here is a picture of some of the other kids in his class…and his teacher, Ms. Perez. Let’s pray that our boy is well-behaved — he can be a wild one!

School time!  Education ROCKS!

Some changes coming to Nick James’ city

New York City’s bronze medal from the Washington-based bike group represents an endorsement for the city’s efforts under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to promote cycling for a cleaner environment and a healthier populace.

“The way we think about transportation and how we use our limited street space is changing,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner.

The city is installing 400 to 500 bike racks a year and plans to have more than 400 miles of bike lanes and paths by 2009. There will then be 1 mile of bike lane for every 10 miles of road; the ratio is now 1 to 15. In San Francisco, it’s 1 to 7.

In Brooklyn’s hipster-heavy Williamsburg section, the city reduced the space for car parking in favor of bike parking — a first — when it widened the sidewalk to fit nine new bike racks over the summer.

“It’s better because people used to chain their bikes to trees and house gates,” said Pedro Pulido, an architect who parked his bike at one of the new racks last week.

Read More Here.

Commuter Choices Week in Tampa Bay

Commuter choices week header

All this week, Bay Area Commuter Services is having their annual “Commuter Choices Week“, with festivities and bike rides throughout the Tampa Bay area. On October 1st, I attended their “Party on Poe Plaza”. There were representatives from local bike shops, bicycle/pedestrian planning organizations, the area’s two municipal bus services and many others in attendance.

part of the crowd

Even better, this event was attended by folks from the national, state and local governments. It was a veritable “who’s who” of Senatorial staff, Congresspeople, County Commissioners and planning chiefs — someone from U.S. Senator Mel Martinez’s office came and made a speech, our U.S. Congressional Representative Kathy Castor said a few words, and Hillsborough County Commissioner and all-around great lady Rose Ferlita gave the keynote address to the gathering.

Here’s Rose Ferlita (behind the podium at left) addressing the folks in attendance:
Rose Ferlita

Everyone in attendance seemed to agree that more work is needed in the Tampa Bay area to get people to use alternative forms of transportation. Although there was a lot of talk about “light rail” solutions, plenty was said about building bicycling infrastructure throughout the area. As this is the event’s 11th anniversary, it is apparent that the Tampa Bay area is really looking to change for the better — the event is better-attended every year and with all the politicians and planning professionals mingling with the crowd, good things CAN happen if we’re patient (and vocal!).

Oh, did I mention that Thunderbug, the mascot of NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning (2003 Stanley Cup Champions) also came to the event on his custom-made trike? Here he is:
Thunderbug

Going to this event also gave me the opportunity to talk with the organizer of Tampa Bay’s upcoming Bicycle Bash By the Bay, which the Bikecommuters.com team will be participating in. Stay tuned for more info on that event, which will take place on November 4th at the Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg.

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!