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Tampa Bay’s Commuter Choices Week 2008

Today I attended the kickoff party for the Bay Area Commuter Services “Commuter Choices Week”, where folks pledge to try a different form of commuting transportation than their usual mode for the month of October.

I didn’t attend in an official capacity…rather, I went along to help my friend Alan Snel get the word out on the upcoming Bicycle Bash by the Bay.

me and Alan
(photo courtesy of SWFBUD)

The crowd at Poe Plaza was smaller compared to last year…but there were a variety of transportation agencies (TBARTA and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization), community organizations (Tampa Downtown Partnership, among others) and bicycle-friendly folks (Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium and Southwest Florida Bicycle United Dealers, the organizing arm behind the Bicycle Bash).

BACS

Here, Manny Sierra of Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium offers free commuter tuneups for anyone who brought a bicycle…he’s rockin’ the official American League sweethearts Tampa Bay Rays haircut.

manny

Of course, one of the big crowd draws is the free pizza and soda offered by one of the event sponsors:

pizza

A shot of the crowd:

crowd

And, of course, I had to represent by bringing my Xtracycle along…obnoxiously parked so that everyone had to pass right by it. This rig may have attracted more attention than a lot of the display tables…I got a lot of questions about it and handed out a few “Eleven Answers” cards provided to me by Xtracycle. I wasn’t in the mood to offer free passenger rides around downtown Tampa, though…maybe I’ll do that at the Bash.

xtra

We had a good time…talked to a few bike-friendly people and gave some of the local transportation planners some good-natured grief about their lack of support for more bicycle infrastructure in our area. Somehow, this year I missed the official speeches, but that’s ok…we still had fun!

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.