Spine’ intended to benefit urban bicycling in Tampa
TAMPA - City officials next year might allocate money to build an east-west pathway shared by motorized vehicles and bicycles. The proposed route would connect Homer Hesterly Armory in West Tampa with Cuscaden Park in V.M. Ybor. Vehicles would travel on two lanes along Cass Street, Nuccio Parkway and east of Interstate 275 to 14th Street. Bicyclists would have their own two-lane “cycle track” -- parallel to the roadway, but separated and buffered from motorized traffic. The pathway, dubbed the “East-West Green Spine,” is among projects proposed by InVision Tampa, an effort launched by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to re-imagine connections between downtown Tampa and surrounding neighborhoods. “It’s extremely significant,” said bicycle enthusiast Jim Shirk. “It’s been demonstrated that separate bike facilities are much safer and result in much higher acceptance from casual riders and commuters.”In recent city officials and consults from the firm AECOM have held workshops and solicited on-line comments about Tampa’s future development. The feedback often focused on two desires: opening up access to the river and linking neighborhoods. “They felt this was the one route that would do both,” said Randy Goers, the city’s urban planning coordinator. No price tag is attached to creating the pathway, which stretches about 3.1 miles. City officials hope to begin work on a feasibility plan in coming months that will address costs and right-of-way needs. In most places, Goers said, the roadways probably are wide enough to accommodate the proposal. In a few areas where the roads are narrow, bicycles and motorized bicycles might be separated only by a stripe on the pavement, rather than a physical buffer. “There’s probably going to be some places where we’ll have to make some compromises,” Goers said. The first segment headed for design and construction could be a downtown stretch of Cass where developers want to build a 36-floor residential tower between the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and the John F. Germany Public Library. The city is offering a 1-acre tract for the project. If approved by the Tampa City Council, Cass would be converted from one-way to two-way from the river to Orange Street. Tyler Street also would be made two-way. Developers have offered $4 million to reconfigure the road design. Council members postponed a vote on the project after opponents said the tower would wall-off the river and obstruct access to the performing arts center and library. The board rescheduled the public hearing to Aug. 8. Including cycle tracks in street designs is a familiar concept in European countries and in cities such as Indianapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City and Long Beach, Calif. Supporters say cycle tracks encourage urban bicycling and reduce accidents. Critics say the tracks must be carefully designed, particularly at intersections, to ensure bicyclists are easily visible to motorists. Costs range widely, depending on the complexity of the pathways’ design. According to news reports, Washington, D.C. spent about $100,000 per mile for cycle tracks that required paint and new signals at intersections. New York City spent about $1.5 million per mile for a track with medians and trees as buffers and dedicated traffic signals. For Tampa’s project, Goers said, “It depends on how much reconstruction has to happen.” He said he hopes the next budget Buckhorn submits to the city council includes money for the “Spine.” Shirk recently visited Buenos Aires, which has about 100 kilometers of cycle tracks. “It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “It was relatively inexpensive.” Washington, D.C. has streets around the White House with cycle tracks that complement the city’s bike-share plan, he said. A cycle track in Tampa would radically enhance the viability of urban bicycling, Shirk said. “It’s almost a required condition for a healthy cycling culture.”
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