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Bayshore Boulevard In Tampa Won't Be Shut Down For Pedestrians Just Yet

bicyclist on sidewalk along Tampa Bay
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media

The Tampa City Council is holding off – for now – on a plan to shut down part of Bayshore Boulevard to traffic one Sunday a month.

Instead, they decided to ask Mayor Jane Castor's staff to put together a report on the effect shutting down the road to all but pedestrians and bicyclists would have.

At Thursday's virtual council meeting, District 2 Councilman Charlie Miranda said he had many unanswered questions about how the plan might be implemented.

"What about if 200 people (or) 200 cars show up? Can you are tell me where the cars are going to park?” Miranda said. “Or a thousand cars, where they are going to park? Can you tell me if there’s any bathrooms or restrooms going to be opened up? Are there any refreshments so that people can drink and eat? I don't understand the whole logic because no one’s explained it."

While Bayshore has been the site of a number of recent crashes involving speeding drivers and pedestrians or bicyclists, the motion is not an official response to those incidents.

In April, council members voted 6-1 – Miranda was the only “no” vote – to recommend Mayor Jane Castor shut down northbound lanes of Bayshore one Sunday a month.

Miranda said Thursday that such a move may set a precedent for residents elsewhere in Tampa who live near other dangerous roads.

“But when you start closing streets that means that some other place in the city is going to want the same amenities that the good people on Bayshore have,” he said. “Four other districts make up the whole city: four, five, six and seven. So if somebody in those districts wants to do the same thing, that's what we’re going to do?”

Vik Bhide, the director of Tampa’s Mobility Department, said that Castor’s “Open Streets” concept would temporarily close streets around the city for a number of things, including bike and pedestrian traffic.

But he added that closing a road as popular with recreational users as Bayshore may lead to the kind of overcrowding officials are trying to avoid during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The concern is to limit any kind of congregation,” said Bhide.

Members of the public who spoke at both Thursday’s meeting and the one in April asked the council to consider a number of safety measures, including lowering speed limits on Bayshore and installing better lighting.

The city already lowered the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph after a mother and her 21-month-old child were struck and killed in 2018 by what police say were racing drivers.

They also installed flashing lights for pedestrian crossings and began installing temporary traffic signals at two intersections earlier this month.

Council members asked that the report address those safety concerns, as well as include feedback from nearby MacDill Air Force Base and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

They also requested that the report be done in time for their September meeting.

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