By Angela Ryan
My bicycle journey started like it does for many people. In high school I didn’t own a car and needed to get to work. I was one of those kids from the Midwest that spent my summers working on soy and corn farms to save up enough money for school clothes. So for me, a new or even gently used car was completely out of the question! Once I started biking to work and around town, I felt this incredible joy of being free on two-wheels and having no limit on where my pedals could take me. Nowadays, I bike to work a lot less and mostly just for exercise and recreation, but I still feel the same joy I felt when I was younger. I’ve realized that my practical and economical decision ultimately led me into a profession where I can teach people every day about the incredible environmental, physical, and mental health benefits of biking.
In 2020 alone, we counted more than 2.1 million trail users on the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. It’s evident that many Pinellas County residents and tourists share the joy of cycling. In fact, bicyclists have repeatedly been found to be the happiest commuters according to several studies, due to sensory experience, social interaction and the feeling of overall happiness from biking.
Forward Pinellas, Pinellas County, our cities, organizations and dedicated citizens have made huge strides to increase dedicated spaces for people on bikes through the creation of trails such as the Pinellas Trail; by dedicating bike lanes and shared bike lanes known as “sharrows” for bicyclists along roadways; and by providing support for funding and policies to implement these projects. One example of such a funding stream is the Forward Pinellas Complete Streets program, which provides grants to our government partners to create streets that are safe for all users, including bicyclists, throughout Pinellas County.
All About Florida Bike Month
March is Florida Bike Month and we are celebrating the many benefits of biking! Bicycling is fun, provides both physical and mental health benefits and has a positive environmental effect from reduced pollution and energy consumption. Bike Month is the perfect opportunity to share the joy of biking, provide education on bike safety and increase advocacy for bicycle and pedestrian dedicated spaces for walking and biking.
Bike Month has a long history and was initiated by the League of American Bicyclists when they established May as National Bike Month in 1956. However, as the weather is rather warm in May, The Florida Bike Association designated March as Florida’s Bike Month.
Florida Bike Month provides an avenue to provide education on roadway safety – for bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. As a community, we all share the road and it is our responsibility to keep each other safe! A major factor in keeping people biking and walking safe is educating and alerting motorists. Ensuring all motorists operate with awareness for bicyclists and pedestrians is key to reducing serious injuries and fatalities on our roadways.
As Florida state law considers a bicycle a vehicle, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on the road as any other vehicle. Motorists operating with simple safety measures such as obeying traffic laws, providing pedestrians the right of way, and never texting while driving, will help us get closer to achieving our Safe Streets Pinellas goal to have zero deaths or serious injuries on our roadways by 2045. Remember, we all share the road!
Florida Bike Month is also a great time to support advocacy for safe biking conditions, including creating infrastructure that supports safe and efficient travel for people on bicycles. Many of our roadways in Tampa Bay were historically designed solely for automobile traffic and did not designate exclusive space for bicyclists. When cities implement designated bike lanes within the transportation network, it heightens motorists’ awareness for people walking and biking and increases familiarity so people in motor vehicles get used to seeing people on bikes and are more likely to share the road.
How to Get Involved with Florida Bike Month
This year, there are many ways to celebrate Florida Bike Month. Statewide bicycle enthusiasts, government entities and other organizations will take part in a variety of Florida Bike Month celebrations. Here at Forward Pinellas, we have developed a month-long biking scavenger hunt, a weekly “Tuesday Trivia” social media campaign and partnerships with local bike shops and the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center to give away free bike advocacy yard signs. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for information on all our month-long events and register now for our month-long and countywide Bike Your Own City Scavenger Hunt!
We still have a lot of work ahead of us and want you to join us!