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Mayor peddles bike safety

Tampa Bay Online: Mayor peddles bike safety

By NEIL JOHNSON | The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 20, 2011

TAMPA --

In a region that's been dangerous for bicycle riders, Tampa's mayor pedaled to work Thursday to stress how motorists and bicyclist can co-exist on the roadways.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn and about 20 other riders tooled along Bayshore Boulevard to downtown as part of a Tampa Police Department bicycle safety campaign.

"The view from the road gives you a different perspective," Buckhorn said.

He emphasized the state law requiring drivers to keep 3 feet away from bicyclists as part of the safety effort.

Educating drivers will be a focus, Buckhorn said.

Stickers promoting the 3-foot rule have been placed on the rear windows of 100 city police cars. Four digital billboards also will trumpet the law for the next month.

Buckhorn, who while on the city council pushed for a law requiring dancers in topless clubs to remain 6 feet from patrons, said in Tampa the 6-foot rule was now the 3-foot rule.

Also, police will increase enforcement of traffic laws in parts of the city frequented by pedestrians and bicycle riders. Officers will issue citations for failure to yield for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Areas that will see the stepped-up enforcement include downtown and streets around the University of Tampa, Tampa General Hospital and the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College.

Electronic message boards will be moved around town to let drivers know about keeping a safe distance from riders, Buckhorn said.

Bicyclists also need education. About half of crashes involving vehicles and bicycles are the fault of the rider, said Karen Kress, director of transportation planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

The city is changing portions of North Boulevard between Cass Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to include bicycle lanes.

The rise in gas prices may be shifting people from cars to bikes, Kress said.

"Gas prices really do impact how people travel," she said.

The police department had to add more bike racks in its garage for employees who are riding their bicycles to work, said department spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Last year was especially perilous for bicycle riders in the Tampa Bay area. Between July 29 and Nov. 16, nine bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents.

"They have a right to the road," Buckhorn said.