U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood, Mayor Buckhorn, community leaders discuss cycling in Tampa

Most notably, United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke at the summit after touring downtown with the mayor on bikes featured in the Tampa bike share program. LaHood focused on the Department of Transportation’s current campaign of encouraging increased safety and awareness on cycling.

Mayor Buckhorn, Billy Hattaway of the FDOT, Karen Kress of Baycycle and Cpt. Ruben Delgado of TPD at the Summit panel
  • Mayor Buckhorn, Billy Hattaway of the FDOT, Karen Kress of Baycycle and Cpt. Ruben Delgado of TPD at the Summit panel

“Today our focus is really on safety, this is a complicated issue but it’s simple on these terms. In cities and states where you’re building roads, particularly in cities, build a bike a lane. How more simple can we be?” LaHood went on to quote the alarming statistics of cyclist deaths. “In 2011 bicycle deaths increased 9%. In Florida 534 cyclists died in traffic crashes between 2006 and 2010. That’s way too many, think of the injuries that occurred.”

The Secretary also called for change in the way motorists view cyclists.

“The other simple thing is that we need to make sure that people that are driving around a community have respect for cyclists. They have much of a right to the road as a person that’s driving a car.”

Awareness of cyclists by motorists is one of the most pressing transportation issues to LaHood, and he focused on how the views of drunk driving have changed over the years and how the same kind of change can be implemented to protect cyclists. Legal change needs to be taken by LaHood to increase the severity of punishment to drivers who disregard people on bicycles.

"Because good laws have been passed we’ve taken a lot of drunk drivers off the road. We have no tolerance for that (drunk driving). We need to develop zero tolerance for people who don’t respect cyclists.”

Florida is known as one of the least pedestrian and cyclist friendly states. However LaHood thinks that with the current path Tampa is on it can be a model for the rest of the state to follow.

Mayor Buckhorn addressed the attendants, primarily focusing on the economic impact increased bicycle options would bring to the city. As mentioned previously, the mayor is trying to build Tampa’s image as an attractive option to young professionals and an improved cycling climate encourages that.

“If we’re going to be hip, if we’re going to be cool, if we’re going to be less dependent on cars, if we’re going to reduce our carbon footprint, if we’re going to have an environment that young people are going to come and want to be a part of , sure things like Riverwalk are important, but things like bicycle safety and encouraging the use of bikes are just as important.”

Infrastructure change is giving the city an opportunity to reshape Tampa’s cycling access and Buckhorn feels that it can dramatically shift the atmosphere downtown.

“We’re all in. I don’t have to wear spandex to understand that. New roads, like the Secretary said. We’re building bike lanes. We’re an old city, we weren’t built for bikes. As we go in and retrofit, as we go in and repave, as we expand and contract, we’re putting bike lanes down, we’re starting a bike sharing program, we understand and we’re going to get this right. We’re going to change this city in ways that you can’t even imagine.”

The safety aspect was touched on throughout the morning as well, after the address a panel featuring the mayor and representatives of the cycling and law enforcement community was held to discuss what has been and needs to be done to increase cycling safety.

Hillsborough County had 13 reported cyclist deaths in 2012, and so far there have been no reported fatalities in 2013, something that everyone present hoped to be part of a larger trend brought on by increased awareness and city involvement.

One of Mayor Buckhorn’s main focuses so far into his tenure has been the attraction of Tampa residents to spend time downtown and encouraging bike travel throughout the area has been a part of that effort.

At his State of the City address, Buckhorn harped on how improving Tampa’s infrastructure will bring in the coveted young professionals that are moving to growing cities like Charlotte and Austin, and becoming a cyclist friendly city is a key step in the right direction.

The mayor was part of the Southeast Regional Bike Safety Summit and rally Thursday morning in order to take an in-depth look at improving the cycling climate of the city. Key players in Tampa’s bicycle/transportation world were featured as part of a panel on cyclist safety and improving Tampa’s infrastructure.

Scroll to read more Columns articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.