Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tampa Bay area honored by state bicycling organization

Tampa BayCycle, under the direction of Julie Bond, New North Transportation Alliance at the Center for Urban Transportation Research, and Karen Kress, Tampa Downtown Partnership, has been honored as Program of the Year by the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) at its annual awards ceremony during the recent ProBike/ProWalk Florida Conference, held in Lakeland, FL.
In 2007, the New North Transportation Alliance and the Tampa Downtown Partnership, co-organizers of Tampa BayCycle, created an initiative to encourage commuters to cycle to work, school or play during the month of May, which is National Bike Month. Tampa BayCycle brought together people who believe that riding a bicycle benefits everyone from individuals to the entire community. Bicycle commuters save money and gas, stay fit, reduce traffic congestion and most importantly have fun. It was the first year that a bicycling initiative of this scale was held in the Tampa Bay area and it won a Creative Excellence Award from the International Association for Commuter Transportation. Tampa BayCycle was also named as one of the Green 100 by Creative Loading during 2009. Efforts are funded in part by the Florida Department of Transportation, New North Transportation Alliance, Tampa Downtown Partnership and various sponsors including bicycle shops and other private businesses. Tampa BayCycle also relies on volunteer hours contributed from the cycling community.
The campaign continued to grow over the next 3 years, adding new elements and partners as well as participants. The new website has dramatically helped create an awareness of the now year-round campaign and a Facebook page and Twitter are also utilized. During 2010, Tampa BayCycle successfully celebrated Florida Bike Month in March with plans for activities during National Bike Month during May. Safety courses, group rides and other events brought the community together during March.
Jim Shirk, of Tampa, was recognized as Volunteer of the Year.
Jim is a citizen member of the Hillsborough County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and stands up for everyday bicyclists. He volunteers for every bicycle event in the Tampa area such as the Bicycle Bash festival and the Tampa BayCycle commuter program. As a member of the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club, Jim creates a bike route map for the Seminole Heights Home Tour, one of the most popular home tours in Tampa. He can be seen at numerous bike rodeos like the event at the Children’s Gasparilla Parade in February, and then he’s working the downtown Tampa Crit bike race in March. Jim’s tireless energy motivated him to drive to and from Tallahassee for the 2nd Annual Florida Bike Summit April 8 to lobby his local state legislators. Jim is a selfless bike advocate who does and act - not just talks. As an engineering consultant, Tampa resident and 66-years young, Jim does more bicycle activities than people half his age.
Representing the other side of the bay, the Pinellas County MPO Bicycle Advisory Committee, chaired by Tom Ferraro, was recognized as Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee of the Year.
The Pinellas County Bicycle Advisory Committee was the original group to start the Pinellas Trail program 20 years ago by advocating the conversion of a 34-mile rail corridor into the Pinellas Trail. Because they were a standing committee of the MPO, they were able to advocate and support the follow-up funding for trail overpasses and filling in trail segment gaps with enhancement funds and CMAQ funds. The BAC successfully negotiated use of the power company corridor for the Progress Energy Trail, a corridor 20 miles long on the east side of the County. The committee developed the Pinellas Trail Loop plan which is a 75-mile loop connecting all destinations in the county by trail including as the spine, the existing Pinellas Trail and the Progress Energy Trail which has been approved by the MPO and is on the Rails to Trails Conservancy website. The group plans to complete this project within 10 years.

The committee has also supported the recognition and implementation of bike lanes throughout the county initiated 10 years go with a special joint workshop with the County Commission and MPO. The committee has been very active with respect to educating the public concerning safe cycling. It has a close partnership with the MPO's Pedestrian Transportation Advisory Committee on common issues such as bike /pedestrian crossings of roadways. Most recently, the committee has been involved with FDOT in the redesign of Gulf Blvd. In summary, the Pinellas County Bicycle Advisory Committee serves as a role model for how to engage the public and agencies in a positive way to further bicycling as an integral part of our livable community.

Lastly, Rebecca Afonso, of Oldsmar, has been honored as Special Recognition of the Year.
After participating in the initial Florida Bike Summit in 2009 Becky provided valuable input and suggestions on ways the event could be improved. In the months leading up to the 2010 Summit, Becky visited Tallahassee to research and nail-down lodging options, meeting sites, and bike routes. She was even able to gain access to showers at a church near the capitol for cyclists who rode to the Summit. She also provided time and energy towards analyzing several pieces of legislation Summit attendees would be supporting. Her insight and organizational skills helped make FBA’s second Florida Bike Summit an overwhelming success and she is already working on the 2011 edition. Her volunteer work continued throughout the 2010 ProBike/ProWalk Florida conference as a logistical expert. All in all, Becky is a go-to person and is happy to take on a challenge.
The FBA annual awards are presented to worthy recipients for their contributions to bicycling, to bring attention to the efforts and achievements of groups, organizations and individuals that help deliver the FBA's mission to inspire and support people and communities to enjoy greater freedom and well being through bicycling. "These awards are just a part of FBA's work on behalf of Florida's bicyclists," said Laura Hallam, FBA executive director. "Through its annual Florida Bike Summit in Tallahassee during the legislative session, ProBike/ProWalk Florida conference and its local chapters including Bike/Walk Central Florida, FBA works to improve the legal landscape for bicyclists. “Our organization also strives to make bicycling a safer alternative for more and more Floridians through education and safety programs and the "Share the Road" campaign, which includes the proceeds generated by Share the Road specialty license plate sales that helps support our efforts."
The FBA was incorporated in 1997 in Orlando for educational and charitable purposes and is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Through its many educational tools, hands on training programs, literature, communication tools and annual events, FBA has raised awareness for everyone who rides a bike. FBA envisions a state where people of all ages see bicycling as a normal, practical and safe transportation alternative and where drivers of motor vehicles respect and appreciate the presence of bicycles on the roadways. FBA is supported by membership dues and grants for safety education for both bicyclist and motorist awareness programs. Find out more online at
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