J. Steele Olmstead of SWFBUD was hopeful that the event would provide awareness of the popularity of cycling in the region, and thus improve conditions for cyclists who face constant risk of automobiles in their daily commutes.
“There are 9,000 people in the Tampa Bay area that are commuting on their bicycles, at least for part of their commute or all of their commute. We cyclists use the roads, we pay taxes, we obey traffic laws, the majority of us do. There are as many bad cyclists as there are bad motorists out there. We're not grand offenders. So what happens is that a lot of times people say 'cyclists should get out of the way'. Well cyclists aren't blocking traffic, cyclists are traffic.”
The event has seen tremendous growth since its inception. Beginning with only two bicycle shops, 2014's event saw ten, with Olmstead expecting up to 500 in attendance. Randy Myhre, owner of Oliver's Cycle Sports, one of those first two, was especially pleased with what he feels has been the turning of a corner on the mentality towards cycling in the area.
“I get the feeling just in the last year maybe that things have started to make a turn locally with some of the things that are coming up. People are in the right places to make a difference. I hope that they're there because of some of the things we've been able to do and awareness we've brought to the situation.”
Mayor Bob Buckhorn was in attendance, and in his opening speech emphasized the role of cycling in Tampa's growth, along with the continued development of Downtown's Riverwalk, which he hopes becomes a cyclist destination.
“Just imagine this time next year when we have the 8th annual bicycle bash,you will be able to bike from the Tampa Bay History Center, on the Riverwalk, all the way up to the Straz Center, and on the north end on the Tampa Heights section, the Ulele restaurant and the new waterworks park will be completed as well, so you will have three great destinations.”
While hopeful for the Mayor's support on bicycle friendly initiatives, Olmstead didn't hesitate to point out some points of improvement, particularly in regards to his recent comments at the State of the City.
“In the State of the City, the Mayor said, when talking about light rail, that 'there is no form of transportation that pays for itself'. Cars and trucks have to have roads and you have to maintain those roads because they get damaged. They have to have lights and things like that. Trains, light rail, Amtrak, all of this stuff has to be publicly supported because that's what governments do, they support things that are good for the welfare of the community. But with bicyclists, you don't pay for it. Who pays for the bicycle? The owner of the bike. Who pays for the maintenance of the motor? The guy pedaling it. Who pays for the fuel? The guy who bought their breakfast that morning. Bicycles totally pay for themselves, so why are we not encouraging more bicycling in an area?”