Making a more bike & walk-friendly downtown

bikesign_parkingmarker_TampaMajor improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure are taking place in downtown Tampa. Several major streets now have new bike lanes, new segments of the Riverwalk are under construction, and plans are underway to build the Selmon Greenway under the Expressway. Downtown will be the “diamond on the Green ARTery‘s necklace” as that trail is pieced together over the next few decades.

The upcoming  Tampa Bay Bike Share program will be a game-changer in our downtown. Expected to launch next February, more than 300 bikes will be available to rent by the hour 24/7, and a substantial increase in cycling is expected.

The Tampa Downtown Partnership has consistently worked to find ways to make Tampa’s downtown more walk and bike friendly. In 2007 they co-founded the Tampa BayCycle campaign, focused on cycling advocacy and education, including free bike safety classes. The Partnership added more than 100 bike racks both on re-purposed parking meter posts (pictured above) and as artwork made from old bike parts.

As a result, the pent up demand for cycling is becoming more apparent each day. It is no longer unusual to see downtown cyclists commuting to work or an event, taking a guided tour or just leisurely riding along the Riverwalk and Bayshore Boulevard. One can often find “bicycle valet” at major events or a see a bike delivery person whiz past cars.

The increase in downtown cycling, however, will trigger other needs. Since the bikes can lock up anywhere, more bike parking is needed. Installing more racks gets tricky with narrow sidewalks that are filling with things like outdoor cafes and pedestrians. One strategy is to add more bike parking medallions to the parking meter posts. Another is to take advantage of an under-utilized on-street parking space and turning it into a bike corral. Coupled with standard sidewalk bike racks, that strategy should provide ample opportunities to anyone wanting to enjoy downtown via bicycle. And don’t forget that each HART bus and In-Town Trolley are equipped with a bike rack.

Even the most careful cyclist sometimes gets a flat tire or needs tools for a quick fix to their bike. The Tampa BayCycle campaign is adding five downtown bicycle repair stations, in addition to a few that are already in constant use at the University of South Florida campus

So next time you spend time downtown, consider arriving via bicycle. There are plenty of other things on which to spend the money you will save on parking!  For more information, contact Karen Kress, Transportation & Planning Director for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.