Buckhorn, sans Spandex, pitches bike safety with LaHood
Mayor Bob Buckhorn strapped on a bike helmet along with his shirt and tie Thursday and took U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on a two-wheeled tour of downtown Tampa.
The ride kicked off a DOT-sponsored bicycle safety summit at the Tampa Convention Center.
Buckhorn admitted after the ride that he’s happy to make a fool of himself for the sake of his city – but he drew the line at donning Spandex cycling gear.
“Maybe 25 years ago, Mr. Secretary, I might have looked good in that. But I would not have looked good in that today,” Buckhorn quipped in front of a crowd of cycling advocates. “So I dressed for the occasion – light starch instead of my normal heavy starch.”
LaHood’s summit is one of two his agency is holding outside of Washington, D.C., this year to promote cycling and cycling safety. The second will be in Minneapolis on April 29.
LaHood said he wanted to focus on Florida because the state is one of the deadliest for cyclists and pedestrians. The Tampa and Orlando areas regularly lead the nation in cycling deaths.
In Florida, 534 cyclists died in traffic crashes between 2006 and 2010, LaHood said.
“That’s way, way too many,” LaHood said. “We have to sensitize people to the fact that cyclists are very vulnerable.”
He compared the current campaign to promote cycling safety to previous campaigns that stigmatized drunk driving and made wearing seatbelts second nature for most drivers. Like them, cycling safety will take time, he said.
“We know we can make a difference,” LaHood said. “This is a long campaign.”
Buckhorn said Tampa needs to become bicycle-friendly to sell itself to future generations of workers, particularly those leading the revitalization of urban neighborhoods across the country.
“There are economic reasons why this is important,” Buckhorn said. “Intellectual capital is mobile.”
Future workers will look for a place to live before they look for a job, Buckhorn said.
“We’re all in,” Buckhorn said. “I don’t have to wear Spandex to understand that.”
Two weeks ago, Buckhorn announced the creation of Tampa Bay Bike Share this fall, which will enable people to rent bicycles for short-term trips around downtown, Ybor City and Channelside.
The program is a for-profit venture by two companies, CycleHop and Social Bicycles. It puts Tampa is the same category as Denver, Buffalo, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. – 3 of the 41 U.S. cities with bike sharing programs.
“Bike Share is part of communicating the message that bikes are part of transit,” said CycleHop head Josh Squire.