Tampa is starting to make progress on safe bike infrastructure. Last weekend, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn led a celebratory ride to mark the opening of the city’s first protected bike lane — a curb-protected two-way lane on Cass Street downtown.

The Cass Street project is one of the first protected bike lanes in Florida — a notoriously dangerous state for biking and walking. It’s about three-quarters of a mile long and the city intends to extend it in both directions, said Karen Kress of the Downtown Tampa Partnership.

The project also converted Cass Street from one-way to two-way car flow. While that introduces more potential motor vehicle turning movements across the bikeway, the project includes signals to reduce conflicts between drivers and cyclists.

Kress says locals are already responding. “It is blowing up,” she said. “There’s been so much pent up demand for safe cycling conditions. They’re coming out of the woodwork.”

Kress said her organization has been trying to help businesses find a place for all the bike parking employees are demanding.

The Cass Street bike lane — along with the green, buffered bike lanes on Platt, Cleveland, and Brorein streets that were added last year — emerged from a strategic planning process for the city’s downtown. Tampa was recognized by Smart Growth America recently for its strides toward walkability. The bike lane will help people biking to and from Tampa’s popular 2.5-mile Riverwalk, which was recently completed with help from an $11 million TIGER grant.

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