BikeCommuters.com

Bike Your Drive!

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!

Lone Peak Saddle Bags

I’m a huge fan of panniers, so when I saw Lone Peak‘s Booth at Interbike we stopped to check it out.

This pannier is sort of ‘business oriented, it’s designed to carry your laptop and some other office necessities.

The neat thing about this pannier is it’s ‘hideaway’ strapping system. Simply roll the cover down and zip it up, that simple.

Here’s another neat pannier from Lone Peak, it’s a garment pannier. How many people use the excuse about not riding to work because their clothing becomes wrinkled on their backpack or other pannier? This Pannier is the solution.


The garment pannier’s 2300 ci volume has plenty of room to carry other necessities for your commute. Stay tuned, we maybe getting one of these panniers to put them through our rigorous testing.

i love the smell of apathy in the morning

There is no denying the fact that Phoenix stinks. Seriously, the city (generally speaking) has a bad odor to it. This is a fact that I never really came to notice until I started bike commuting. And as it has become custom for me to do, I contemplate these things while I am riding to and from work each day. It is easy to see why the city has a foul odor – there is litter everywhere, a plethora of cars and machines spewing pollutants, very little natural “greenspace,” and trash cans baking in the intense sun. But why is that the case?

Reluctantly, and non-judgmentally, I think America’s “car-culture” is, at one level, a root cause of such a catastrophe as a smelly city. It is our willingness to drive even only down the street to a store or friends house that facilitates the downward spiral into poor city conditions. When we step into a car, we are removing ourselves from our surroundings, and just as Robert Pirsig wrote about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, viewing the world through a frame – just as we do when watching tv. All of a sudden, the world around us does not seem real, but mere fiction. And therefore the problems in that world are just as fictional. When we are in cars, we don’t have to worry about the litter or the smell, because it does not exist. We do not see it and we do not smell it.

I never intend to force my personal beliefs on anyone else. But from time to time, in order to provide appropriate context, it is necessary to reveal things about one-self and the life one lives. So here is a story:

This past Sunday at church, the priest (Father Gil) gave a well-delivered sermon about the growing disparity between rich and poor. Episcopalians use 3 readings from scripture during every Sunday service, and this week there was a reading from Luke’s gospel about a rich man and a poor man, to which Fr. Gil stated the following:

What was the rich man’s sin that resulted in him being sent to Hades? It seems that his sin was what he didn’t do rather than what he did. He ignored the poor man Lazarus. He didn’t do anything to help Lazarus. He averted his eyes from Lazarus’ condition and did nothing to help him. [read more…]

And tying this back into bike commuting: it is our willingness, as modern Americans, to drive anywhere and everywhere that facilitates a culture that ignores the real problems of our own communities. I guarantee that no one who walks by all the trash on the road smiles and says, “that is so pretty, and the smell…heavenly!” Instead, we plop ourselves into a car to drive someplace, and are not confronted with the reality of it. It’s not that we are always the ones creating the litter. But we ignore it, all from the comfort of our air conditioned, sea breeze-scented, rolling world-shrinker.

So it is only when we immerse ourselves in reality that we can truly see what the problems are. And I have the youthful ignorance to believe that when those problems become real to each of us, we will eventually reach a tipping point and do something about it. And because of that, I urge people to take a bike ride or a walk around something as remote and small as your own neighborhood, and if you see a piece of trash, pick it up. It’s such a simple thing to do – and as we do it more frequently, it will become almost second nature, until we restore the care and respect for our surroundings. Our neighborhoods and our cities need it. And our conscience will be happy…

The Velorution is about more than bikes.