A Blog About Brian Albritton's September 2012 Cycling Ride Across Britain

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Gandy v. Bayshore: Which Is Safer to Ride?

Cycling can be dangerous.  City or country riding, it doesn't make much difference.  For example, take San Antonio, Florida.  It is a lovely rural community: lots of farms, country roads, and orange groves.  For the most part, the roads have few cars and little traffic.  What could be dangerous about that?  Unfortunately, there are few bike lanes there; we ride in the road, sharing it with cars.  Most of the drivers slow down, go around cyclists, maybe even wave; lots of nice people there.  There are a few motorists, however, who drive by at 60+ mph and who go just close enough you can feel the whoosh of the car going by.   There is no margin for error.

The picture at the left is Gandy Bridge, called "The Gandy" by us locals:  you don't go over the bridge,  you drive over The Gandy.  It is almost three miles long and it spans Tampa Bay, between south Tampa and Pinellas.  To get from Tampa to St. Petersburg, a great place to cycle with lots of bike lanes, you have to bike over The Gandy.  The speed limit is 55 mph on the bridge, but you would think that is the minimum speed:  everyone is going fast, 60, 70, or more.  The high walls you see in the photo radiate the sound, making it seem to the cyclist as if they are riding on a speedway.

But here's the great thing about The Gandy:  the shoulder is at least 8 feet wide.  From my point of view, it might even be one of the safer places to ride.  I mean, you're giving all those people on their cellphones at least a four foot swerve lane if they starting veering over.  When I ride across, I stay right next to the high sidewall.  My theory is that drivers rarely hit the wall and if they do, they're going to die.  So, that's a disincentive for swerving over 8 feet and hitting me. 

Compared to Tampa's other grand landmark, Bayshore Drive, shown here in the picture, The Gandy is a broad cycling vista.  The speed limit is 40 mph on Bayshore, and there is a bike lane heading north.  Yet, that bike land is 4 feet across:  a cyclist is right next to cars.  And, the speed limit is really an aspirational goal as opposed to a limit, given that so few people follow it.  One inattentive cellphone call or dropped coffee while you're driving, and the motorist is veering into the bike lane.  Cyclists do get hit on Bayshore.  It doesn't happen very often, but it happens.

Ironically, I am far more scared riding on Bayshore, and I try to avoid it whenever possible.  If I want to ride on Davis Islands, a local mecca for south Tampa cyclists, I put my bike in the car and drive the short distance there down Bayshore.

Needless to say, my long training rides can be very exciting, though for all the wrong reasons.

A. Brian Albritton
July 30, 2012

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