Local bicycle activists addressed Tampa City Council on Thursday to advocate for a network of bike trails and received positive feedback from council members.
The BAM – Bicycle Area Mobility – Network is an envisioned chain of bike trails that would stretch from New Tampa to Ruskin. Alan Snel, the President of SWFBUD – the South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers – presented the proposal to City Council. Supporters of the project wore T-shirts reading, “Build the BAM!”
Snel said the goal is “to create a superhighway system for bicyclists and other users.”
The BAM Network would link three different bike trails: the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail, which stretches from New Tampa to State Road 60; the Selmon Greenway, which is proposed to be built under the Selmon Expressway; and the South Coast Greenway, which would extend through Apollo Beach to Ruskin.
Snel said that the development of the network would provide economic benefits.
“People are putting their money and their wallets behind bicycling,” he said.
Snel noted that there are 12 stores in the SWFBUD group.
“Bicycling is business,” he said.
Several council members voiced their support for the project, especially as it would provide a safe area for bicyclists, in contrast to Tampa's notoriously deadly streets.
“I'd love to ride a bike,” said council member Harry Cohen. “The reason I don't is that I'm afraid to.”
Council member Mary Mulhern said that she would not permit her child to ride a bike to school because of the danger of being struck by a car.
“Our bad record for safety for bicycles in this city is a huge problem,” she said.
Council member Mike Suarez said that Snel's activism had inspired him to make two promises.
“I'm going to get out and ride my bike more,” he said. “And I will never wear bike pants.”
“We appreciate that,” said Snel, adding that most bike riders don't actually wear spandex.
Snel said his organization hosts events for regular folks who like to ride bikes, and he invited City Council members and the public to the Bicycle Bash Festival, to be held at Flatwoods Park, November 6, from 10am to 4pm.
“Come to the Bicycle Bash Festival and talk to the people there,” he said.
Snel said that the next step in making the BAM Network a reality is for the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization to complete a feasibility study, which should take 6-8 months. After the study is complete, if council members' enthusiasm is any indication, the activists may succeed in their goal of building the BAM.