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Tag Archive: Tampa

Superbowl Fever in Tampa…but what about bikes?

Anyone who follows professional football knows that next weekend, Superbowl XLIII makes its appearance in Tampa. Preparations are underway throughout the city for an estimated influx of over 100000 visitors for this huge event.

Since I live right down the road from Raymond James Stadium (where the game’s going to be played) and not too far from downtown Tampa, I thought I’d take a bike trip to capture some photos of the preparations and to see if there was any evidence of bicycle accomodations for the event.

First, pictures: how about the stadium itself —
rayjay

Along Himes Avenue, what used to be open grass parking fields have been converted into a “tent city”…event tents, stages and other structures designed to house the press, numerous VIP parties and something called The NFL Experience. It’s really quite amazing to see just how much has been packed into this area:

himes

more development

Huge fences have been erected with security entrances at points along it…the NFL was thoughtful enough to cover the fencing with “no peek” banners so the non-ticketholding-riffraff can’t look in at all those celebrities in attendance:

fence

Elsewhere in Tampa, a number of displays have gone up. Downtown near the Channelside area, two art installations are available for visitors. The first is an NFL-themed interactive sculpture that was part of Tampa’s recent “Lights on Tampa“. This one is called “Tampa’s public mood ring”, as it responds with different-colored lights as the crowd responds to it. The artists were thoughtful enough to set up an online tool to help change this art piece in real time. Play with that by clicking here.

mood ring

The second art installation is located nearby the “mood ring” on a portion of Tampa’s Riverwalk. It is a series of really cool sculptures made out of welded recycled steel and each piece is meant to represent an NFL team:

sculptures
(sorry, the pictures aren’t great…I’m no Russ Roca!)

Just down the street, construction crews have put the finishing touches on the brand-new Tampa Bay History Center, which is a breathtaking building. They had their grand opening last weekend and hope to be 100% operational by the time all those tourists and celebrities make their way into town.

history center

So…what does any of this have to do with bicycles? Good question. As many of you might have heard or read about, the recent inauguration in Washington D.C. saw thousands of cyclists take advantage of the free bike valet parking, courtesy of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). These folks did a tremendous job in orchestrating this, and with large parts of the city closed to motorists, bicycles made a LOT of sense to get around on.

What about Tampa and the Superbowl? Well, it’s like this: NO ONE I’ve spoken to and nowhere have I heard about or read ANYTHING about any bicycle accomodations for this huge event. There are going to be massive street closures (some of which are listed by clicking here) and because some of the road closures are major avenues through the city, I fear that gridlock is going to spill out into surrounding areas. I’ve got a couple theories about bicycles and the Superbowl, though:

1. If you can afford a ticket to the game or one of the exclusive VIP parties, you wouldn’t be caught dead tooling around town on a bike!
2. They can’t accomodate bikes at this event because they needed the room to park all the limousines, team vehicles, broadcast trucks and celebrity Hummers.
3. The most plausible: Tampa just doesn’t get it. Bikes? Those are for recreation, not transportation!

Anyhow, things should get interesting around here. I’ve got next weekend off, so I am strongly considering putting my pirate flag on the Xtracycle and wading into gridlock over in the stadium area…passing out “Gas Sucks” stickers and showing folks caught in traffic that there IS a worthwhile alternative to burning gas. I think I’ll check out that NFL Experience, too!

Who knows? I might bump into Diddy or Carmen Electra heading to one of those exclusive parties.

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!