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BFB Spotlight: Tampa goes from 0 to 11

This week, we’re sharing some highlights from our latest round of 100 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Businesses. Today, we take a deeper dive on how the Tampa, Florida, region has grown from 0 BFBs to 11 in one fell swoop! We talked with the two people behind that development to learn more about their connection to bicycling and what they envision for Tampa’s future. Karen Kress is the director of transportation and planning at the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Christine Acosta is the founder of Pedal Power Promoters, LLC.

The Tampa area has gone from 0 BFBs to 11 in one round! How did you help to make this happen?

Karen: I’ve known about and admired the League’s BFB program for several years. Tampa has made so many great strides with safer infrastructure and encouragement that the time seemed right to promote the program locally. I put a team together to brainstorm. I included Christine Acosta, who was referred to me through the Tampa Neighborhood University Program – she came along at just the right time to help me make this a reality. Christine and I discovered a shared enthusiasm and passion for cycling as a viable mode of transportation. I introduced her to the League and it’s Bicycle Friendly Business program, and she jumped right in to learn and work with me on our design.

Christine: I got to know Karen and local bike movers and shakers and knew I had to get involved in Tampa’s transformation into a world-class city for bicycle commuters. I created Pedal Power Promoters, LLC in 2014 to spearhead bicycle-friendly initiatives with the goal of working closely with private and public sector stakeholders and make change happen! I researched best practices around the county and received excellent support and coaching from everyone at the League, especially Amelia Neptune. I proposed a plan to Karen and Tampa Downtown Partnership. It was approved by the Florida Department of Transportation and we started in January with a two-tier program: City of Tampa Bike-Friendly Businesses, which form an applicant pipeline for League’s BFB. 

Why did you use the BFB program to further your goals for Tampa?

Karen: We see BFB as a critical conduit to our other bike related goals: Increasing ridership and use of our vastly expanding network of bike lanes and facilities. We chose to focus on ground-floor businesses in our downtown so it would double as economic development. These small businesses work hard to build traffic to their store. We want to reward those trying to accommodate cyclists by helping to differentiate them from the rest.

To grow our pedal population we must create incentives and overcome the perception that cycling downtown to work to enjoy our great restaurants and fantastic events is difficult or hazardous

Christine: To grow our pedal population we must create incentives and overcome the perception that cycling downtown to work to enjoy our great restaurants and fantastic events is difficult or hazardous. Having worked in business development for a fortune 100 company, I felt uniquely qualified to “sell” bicycle friendliness to local companies.

What is the value of a business becoming more bike friendly in your eyes? 

Karen: We’ve had so much negative media attention and not much about all of the improvements that have been made. Businesses buying into the program and promoting how bikeable Tampa has become is a great way to get the message to the general public.

Christine: Our restaurant and merchant BFBs most frequently cite their desire to play a part in creating the vibrant urban environment in which their businesses can thrive – a place where workers and residents experience the street front establishments at a slow and relaxed pace, and spend more money! Larger employers pursue bike friendliness to promote a more healthy and productive workforce, to save on healthcare, and to contribute to a fun corporate culture.

What’s next for you and for the region?

Karen: We will continue our collaboration with Florida Department of Transportation. We are hopeful to expand the BFB program outside of the city center and have already had requests from a couple of the other business districts. Regionally, we are sharing best practices with teams in communities in the surrounding Bay Area, and we’ll be speaking at conferences within the state.

Christine: We are in the second of a three-phase plan for our urban core. Phase One was engaging street level merchants to gain recognition and economic benefit for businesses and incentives for the cyclists. Phase Two has been focused on large employers; Phase Three will highlight cultural attractions. In 2016 we will grow the program outside of the downtown corridor and keep climbing the League’s BFB ranking list!