Mitch Perry Report for 12.8.14 – Tampa gets a bike share program

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It took a little longer than anticipated, but the city of Tampa has now joined at least 38 other communities across the U.S. in developing a bike share program. It’s starting out modestly, with approximately 100 bikes available for anyone in the public to access in “hubs” rather than stations in downtown, Hyde Park, Ybor City, Davis Island and Channelside. Coast Bike Share ultimately says the program could be expanded to up to 300 bikes in 27 “hubs,” moving into the Westshore and Seminole Heights area.

Coast Bike Share is offering annual memberships for $79, monthly memberships for $30, or daylong passes for $5.

Between 150-200 people gathered in Tampa’s Water Works Park Sunday morning to officially kick-off the program, which included a four-mile community ride through parts of downtown and  Ybor City. Heading up the convoy were Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Police Chief Jane Castor.

“I think people are excited, and I think you saw that in the crowd today,” Buckhorn said after the ride. “We are now connecting the neighborhoods of our city. That’s what we envisioned when did our InVision plan. This is everything that we talked about linking the neighborhoods of this city, and it’s even better to do it in an environmentally friendly way, in a way that people can get healthy.”

Globally, there are now bike-sharing program in more than 600 cities in 52 countries.

Let’s face it – it’s more fun to get on a bike and go somewhere now, than say, about 8 other months of the year in Florida. But it works the other way around when it comes to weather. Buckhorn was in Washington D.C. last Friday (where he attended the White House Christmas party), and he said that while the bike-share program there is ubiquitous, there really aren’t too many folks using it these days. “Now, in D.C. it’s the middle of winter, so you’re not seeing a lot of people riding, but when you go up there in the spring or fall – those bikes are everywhere, and I think the possibilities in our cooler system, I believe people are going to love this.”

Tampa attorney Brian Willis and his wife bike regularly, but he says the program is great for guests who visit. “Last week some friends of ours were having a bike ride around Tampa, and it would have been great to have an extra bike.” He said it was also great to give people another form of transportation. “You have things like Uber and Lyft, this is just another mode of transportation. And being on bikes, it’s a great way to see the city.”

More and more cities are incorporating bike riding as they design their infrastructure, no place more dramatic than in New York City, which has built 300 miles of bike lanes.

Among others seen participating in the ride was Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, and ABC 28 news personalities Brendan McLaughlin and Laura Harris.

In other news….

Marco Rubio sounds like he’s running for president – especially if you were in the audience Saturday morning to hear his speech he gave at the RPOF winter meeting in Tampa.

And if you didn’t see it on Friday, then you probably haven’t seen it anywhere – but we got our hands on a Hillsborough County poll on transit taken right after the Greenlght Pinellas debacle last month.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.