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Tampa Water Taxi adds Riverwalk ferry service

Tampa Water Taxi Company, LLC plans to add a continuous loop through the Tampa Riverwalk to its transportation lineup.  

Now going into its seventh year of operation, the company was founded by Capt. Laurence (Larry) Salkin, who was shocked when he moved to Tampa and found a city with a large amount of area surrounded by water that had very little water-based activities. Salkin wanted to show off the city from a different vantage point, to residents and visitors alike.

"Our water is a diamond. It’s a gem," says Salkin. "The views of Tampa from the water are like no views you can get from anywhere on land."

The biggest compliment during his tenure with the company was from a 96-year-old seventh generation Tampa resident, stating that he never knew the city looked this beautiful.

The company offers regular public tours of the water surrounding Tampa’s downtown, including a city overview called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Tampa," history tours, and year-round dolphin tours.There are also sunset and nightlife tours, featuring the lighted bridges.

They also provide private charters for parties and weddings, and transportation to and from Davis and Harbour Islands to Amelia Arena for Tampa Bay Lightning games and concerts. The four boats seating 30 people each have transported as many as 400 people during a single event, lightning the traffic congestion.

The company is planning a new ferry service for the Tampa Riverwalk, which is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The ferry will run a continuous loop along the Riverwalk Friday afternoon through the weekend, with the ability to get on and off at stops along the way. The goal is to charge a minimal cost for riders and obtain sponsorship to cover expenses.

Tampa Housing Authority uses personal touch to make an impact on homelessness

According to a count conducted in February 2014, there are just over 2,200 homeless men, women and children in the Tampa area. Tampa Housing Authority is doing its part to eradicate this through individual outreach and assessment.

The Housing Authority manages affordable housing and support services to help Tampa residents achieve economic self-sufficiency. Recently, the agency asked staff member Patricia Wingo to conduct outreach to get to know Tampa’s homeless population on a more personal level. Wingo spends three to four hours per day talking to individuals and learning their stories, including how they came to be homeless and the best way to help them.

"She has fallen in love with going out and talking to the homeless," says Lillian Stringer, director of public relations for Tampa Housing Authority. "She knows them by name. She tells their story."

Wingo has heard some remarkable stories, like Monsita a 53-year old woman who earned a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology. A medical condition has left her homeless for the past six years. There’s also Samuel, who after working for 20 years was not able to receive social security benefits because his company didn’t take out taxes. Or Crystal, a wife and mother of 10. She and her husband worked for the same company and became homeless when they unexpectedly lost their jobs.

Wingo uses an assessment called the Vulnerability Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI SPDAT) a screening tool which determines each person’s mental state and helps place them into the necessary programs. At first, she found she wasn’t trusted by the homeless and received comments like "you’re just gonna do like everybody else does…nothing." They’re learning that she’s proving them wrong. In all, she has assessed 20 people thus far and placed them on a wait list for housing.

The personal outreach and assessment, as well as other re-housing programs, were made possible by a $60,000 Federal Emergency Solutions Grant.

The Housing Authority recently participated in a nationwide program called 25 Cities Initiative, a national program aimed at assisting 25 cities with ending veteran and chronic homelessness. The program helps train staff to conduct assessments and coordinates other services.

On November 1, a 5K run will be held in Gadsden Park in Tampa, with proceeds benefitting families receiving assistance through the homeless programs. Funding will provide the families with housing, food, blankets and housewares.

Tampa Housing Authority works with a number of local partners, including the City of Tampa’s Affordable Housing Office, Tampa Crossroads, Metropolitan Ministries, Catholic Charities, the Veterans Administration, Francis House and Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

LabTech Software expands Tampa operations, adds jobs

LabTech Software, provider of a remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution, is adding over 100 jobs to its Tampa headquarters.

The company was founded in 2004 by six individuals in Toledo, OH with a managed services provider (MSP) business looking for a way to become more efficient in their business practice through automation. The RMM tool allows companies to automate IT tasks, such as work on multiple machines at the same time, manage billable hours for client projects and solve client issues remotely. The product is unique in that it was built and designed by and for MSP providers, allowing for a high level of detail in meeting client needs.

Tampa-based ConnectWise, an IT automation company that also provides MSP services, took an interest in LabTech and provided the capital needed to take them to the next level. In 2010, LabTech’s headquarters was relocated to ConnectWise’s offices in Tampa. Since then, the company has gone from $1 million to over $50 million in sales revenue.

"Technology companies are starting to grow and find that Florida and the Tampa Bay area are great opportunities for growth," says John Timko, director of marketing for LabTech, noting that the Tampa Bay job market is well positioned to meet that growth.

Now with 325 employees, the company shares both facilitates and staffing resources with Connectwise, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

The company is currently hiring in the areas of marketing, sales, development, support, product management, consulting and training. "Every department within our organization is growing and scaling, not just to accommodate the present but the future as well," says Timko.

LabTech attributes their growth to the strength of the product as well as the company culture and values, which focus on commitment, integrity and service

USF, Stetson collaborate to assist military veterans

A new partnership will help Tampa Bay area military veterans navigate the often difficult and complex Veterans Administration system – from healthcare benefits to education.

USF Health and the Stetson College of Law have worked together for many years, sharing students, research and a joint Master of Public Health and JD degrees.  The new partnership will take this a step further to meet a community need.

The relationship will allow law students to teach medical students how to navigate workers’ compensation and other disability benefits. Medical and physical therapy students will in turn work with law students to help them understand the clinical aspect. Learning teams will be formed with students from both institutions, resulting in a better understanding of both sides of the system.

"The heart of the relationship is to break down the financial, medical and perceived barriers between law and medicine," says Jay Wolfson, PhD., professor of public health and medicine at USF Health. "We’re bringing physicians and other healthcare providers and attorneys together to work toward a common good."

USF health professionals will also provide a second review of difficult cases, which might result in approval of previously denied benefits.

The ultimate goal is to provide a better experience, better assessments and ultimately better quality of care for those who serve or have served.

"Attorneys, law students, medical students, and physicians are being trained toward the goal of being advocates of meeting society’s needs," says Wolfson. "We’re training a new breed of physician and new breed of attorney who think differently. That’s one of the best things we can do as educational institutions."

Air taxi service takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton airport

Statewide travel from the Sarasota area just got a little easier with the emergence of Lift Air, a new air charter and taxi service that elevates intra-state travel above the cloud of rush hour traffic congestion on Florida’s notoriously busy highways.

Based out of the Rectrix Aerodome at the Sarasota International Airport (KSRQ), Lift Air is an outgrowth of SRQ Aviation, a Cirrus Aircraft Training Center that expanded from a pilot’s training facility into a fully-operational air charter service this year. Lift Air currently flies in and out of every airport in the state, offering affordable air travel from Tallahassee to Key West.

“Simply put, air charter is the business of renting the entire aircraft to our customers and their itinerary, as opposed to purchasing individual seats through a traditional airline. Air taxi is air charter operating on an on­-demand basis,” explains Lift Air Consultant Bill Russini.  

Russini says that the air charter and taxi service was created to fill a need that emerged in the wake of the recession, when Census reports documented a nearly 2 percent growth in the populations of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. 

“The demographic potential of offering Florida's Gulf Coast an alternative means of personal air travel gave birth to Lift Air. … The economic impact is immediate in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and extends further to our main maintainence facility located at the Tampa Executive Airport in Hillsborough County,”  Russini says. 

Lift Air currently consists of seven full and part-time employees who maintain operations at the Rectrix Aerodome at KSRQ, as well as in Lift Air’s Hillsborough-based maintenance facility.

The fleet consists of new 2014 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircrafts. These lightweight, single engine piston aircrafts provide a convenient, cost-efficient alternative to jet travel, and are equipped with state-of-the-art emergency technology. Each Lift Air aircraft is equipped with Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) technology, a system that launches a 55-foot diameter parachute that lowers the plane to the ground when activated in the instance of in-flight emergency. 

Although Lift Air currently operates solely within the state lines of Florida, Russin says that the company its working to expand its operations in the near future. 

“As to our future, Lift Air plans further inter­state and international (Bahama) certification next year,” Russini says. “One only needs to contemplate the domino effect we have in advertising and destination service support to Florida's economy.”

Hillsborough County's economic initiative, entrepreneurial center shine spotlight on startups

Hillsborough County is betting on small business. Back in Feb 2013, the Economic Development Council announced the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2), a measure to nurture the startup community and kickstart industry innovation. The aim? To support small business, build entrepreneurship, and grow technology in Tampa Bay.

Now in its fifth round of funding, the EDI2 program has received local accolades like the recent “TiETan of Entrepreneurship” award from TiE Tampa Bay, along with national recognition from tech leaders like Guy Kawasaki for its support of the local Startup Bus.

From support of small, grassroots initiatives to a well-developed board review and application process, Hillsborough County Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan says the EDI2 program “is a model of transparency for its taxpayers,” and it could serve as a national model for County engagement with local business communities.

Whelihan credits the County Commissioners who created the EDI2 program for their leadership and dedication to technology and innovation. 

“They have assisted our community with the emergence of our next tech generation to help Hillsborough County grow on the tech map,” she says.

In the past year, organizations that the EDI2 has supported have created and retained a total of 168.5 jobs. An additional 1,366.75 intern hours worked at 127 events with over 2,565 attendees.

“Through the program, we are driving opportunities, growing a community of technology entrepreneurs and facilitating collaboration among existing organizations,” explains Whelihan. “Our collaborative efforts are truly growing our community’s entrepreneurial resources.”

After one year, four rounds, and close to $600,000 in support to entrepreneurial events and programs in Hillsborough County, the EDI2 program has developed new roots in the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center.

The rebranding of the former Small Business Information Center into the new, more tech-friendly Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) goes hand in hand with the very heart of the EDI2 program –- to serve as a hub for a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, to encourage connections within the community, and to provide resources to startups and small business owners alike.
 
The new location in a yet-to-be-determined space in Ybor City will move County business initiatives closer to the growing downtown hub, catering to the many local entrepreneurs who operate from home offices or shared workspaces like the new CoWork Ybor. The ECC is set to open in Nov 2014.

“Business incubation and acceleration programs play a vital role in the quest to improve our community by evolving our entrepreneurial, technology and innovation ecosystem,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director. “Through the EDI2 program, we are driving opportunities, growing a community of technology entrepreneurs, and facilitating collaboration among existing organizations.”
 
The fifth EDI2 funding cycle application deadline is Oct. 31, 2014. Full program and application information is available online at the County website.

New MFA exhibit invites artists to be inspired, create

While Fashion Weeks dot the country this fall, the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg has its own take on the art of fashion.  

With its current exhibit of Jamie Wyeth’s paintings of dance icon Rudolf Nureyev and his costumes as a backdrop, the museum presents "Fine Arts, Fashion and Photography: Three Magical Worlds Collide'' on Thursday, Oct. 23, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We collaborate [with producer Alyen Suarez of NuSoBel] on finding upcoming designers and artists, fashion photographers. We bring them into the museum and have them be inspired by the art of our permanent collection and have them go back to the drawing board and create what they are inspired by,” says Audrie Ranon, MFA’s Director of Guest Relations, Retail Operations and Museum Events. The artists created the works in the six weeks since their initial tours and were permitted to submit up to three pieces each.

Though the eclectic event kicks off with a somewhat unrelated and unusual fashion show of “recycled or really creative artsy things,” live entertainment, bar and food in the Conservatory, the real show happens in the gallery and later in the Marly Room. 

Of the select group of 15 artists, roughly half are designers, including a shoe designer. The others, a mix of painters and photographers. The designers’ and photographers’ models are positioned near the corresponding pieces of inspiration throughout the museum as is the artwork and photography. The evening culminates in a procession of the models and works to the Marley room where each artist presents their pieces, discusses their story, why they were inspired and how they got started.

“The event combines fashion, that excitement of seeing and meeting the new artists and designers, being in the galleries and hearing their stories,” says Ranon. “It’s very moving to hear them speak.”

Entrance to Three Magical Worlds Collide is open to all with just the discounted Thursday evening's museum admission fee ($5 after 5).

Canine Ranch Country Club offers full service amenities for dogs, dog lovers

Most dog owners are aware of the benefits of exercising their pet, from fewer behavior problems to less obesity and even a longer life. But, sometimes schedules get in the way and exercise takes a back seat to work and other priorities.

Canine Ranch Country Club  in Bradenton brings together dogs and their owners to not only provide a place for dogs to exercise and play, but owners can participate in activities with their dogs and even meet other like-minded individuals. K-9 coaches provide structured exercise activities that can be done with or without the owner. While dogs are being exercised, groomed or even enjoying time in the therapeutic Jacuzzi tub, owners can relax in a lounge with couches, a large screen TV and juice bar or even pull out their laptop and get some work done.

"I did some research and found that dogs live an average of two years longer when they’re well exercised," says Heather Perry, the club’s owner. "I wanted to get the word out that dogs need to be exercised."

Perry has a background in membership-based organizations and recently owned a personal development and sales training center in D.C. From these experiences, she learned how much people like being around those of like minds, which helped inspire the club's design.
 
She moved to Bradenton initially to purchase land for her horse, and realized that the land was also a dog’s paradise. Combining her membership management experience with her love of canines, the concept of Canine Ranch Country Club was born.

In addition to the focus on exercise, the club’s Ranch Manager, a veterinary technician, provides seminars on topics such as dog nutrition. A resource library provides books on pet-related topics. Other services include obedience courses, an agility area, dog yoga, winding trails with running creeks, doggy day care, birthday parties and arts and crafts. Future plans include a putting green for owners to enjoy while dogs are being exercised.

The club opened by appointment on October 1 and will have a grand opening October 30 complete with a Halloween costume contest.

FIVE by FIVE celebrates every dimension of the arts

'Tis the season for arts-lovers and collectors to find reasonably priced original artwork! The Arts Council of Hillsborough County is hosting its third annual FIVE by FIVE event, Friday, Oct. 17th, at 8 p.m., where the flash exhibit of nearly 700 original pieces of pieces of 5-inch by 5-inch art will be available for sale for $25 each.

“If you love art or are an arts supporter, this is an environment where you are immersed in it,” says Terri Simons, the Arts Council’s Director of Program Services and organizer of the event.  “Artists of all disciplines - visual, performing, literary artists; friends and supporters can come together and be part of one community.” 

The exhibit encourages guests to experience art intuitively, not based on the fame or reputation of a given artist or the criteria of a curator. While there are many award-winning professional artists who have contributed pieces to the exhibit, they are mixed democratically with emerging and new artists and all are exhibited without attribution. The artists’ signatures are on the back.  

“Because the art is displayed anonymously, people learn to appreciate the beauty of a particular piece,” notes Simons. 

The artwork, submitted by artists from the Tampa Bay area and around the nation and world, is highly varied with a spectrum of media from painting, etching and sculpture to glass, metal, fabric and even jewelry. 

The FIVE by FIVE theme is thread throughout the event, which will take over the first floor of the Tampa Museum of Art, and includes about 40 five- to 10-minute live performances of music, dance, theatre and spoken word in a pop-up club in the lecture hall. The constant flow also mixes in some more recognized performance artists such as Kuumba Dancers and Drummers, Soho Indigo,The Lint Rollers and Stageworks Theatre.

The event, which grew to 900 guests last year, benefits the Arts Council’s individual artist grants program.  The $13,000 raised by last year’s FIVE by FIVE contributed to eleven individual artists grants, which are also in part funded by the Hillsborough County Commission and Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. 

Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance through the Tampa Museum of Art’s website for $10.  Admission to the event includes the museum’s current exhibition, Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color exhibition. Museum members are admitted free.

Eckerd College focuses on climate science solutions

A summit held at Eckerd College on October 6th aimed to not only educate about climate science but also focus on tangible solutions.

The event grew out of a conversation with Governor Rick Scott in which he indicated that as a non-scientist he could not understand the dynamics of climate science. Rather, he urged scientists to focus on solutions. Knowing how important the topic is, faculty members at Eckerd decided to organize an event to explain it in a way that both scientists and non-scientists can rally behind.

In Florida especially, issues like rising sea level and a predicted increase in the severity and frequency of hurricanes pose real threats to health and safety.

"We’re really the ground zero for the impacts of climate change," says David Hastings, Ph.D. professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College. "As scientists, we’re not just interested in focusing on the science but also in identifying the solutions that will mitigate the worst impact."

Solutions include both short and long term changes that will not only create new business opportunities but jobs as well. Entrepreneurs can explore innovative ways to use solar power as an alternative energy source. Another opportunity lies with using algae to create biofuels.

Eckerd hopes to bring forth the message that not only is an enhanced focus on climate change needed at the policy and business level, but there are also things individuals can be doing to reduce energy consumption such as installing more energy efficient windows and roofs.

The summit was hosted in partnership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

USF's Graphicstudio invites you to purchase artwork

Don’t be timid, art-lovers! USF’s Graphicstudio is opening its inventory and inviting the Tampa Bay community to start or add to their personal art collections for its annual one-day sale Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. 
  
“This is the one time of year where you can see everything out of the vault,” says Kristin Soderqvist, the studio’s director of sales and marketing. She is expecting up to 500 guests throughout the day and notes this is not an auction, “the earlier you come, the more opportunities you will have.”

Hundreds of pieces of original fine art prints and sculpture multiples from “bluechip” names, such as Mapplethorpe, Rauschenberg and Katz, to emerging artists, are deeply discounted for this event, which aims to engage the community and raise funds for Graphicstudio’s mission.
 
“People think they can’t afford [such quality] work, but there are plenty of pieces people can afford,” comments Soderqvist. “There is no pressure, it’s very relaxed.”

Soderqvist says not only is it an excellent opportunity to buy original artwork, but also to understand how Graphicstudio works and its relevance in the world of art on a national and international scale. The studio provides the technical expertise and hardware for a spectrum of printing - lithography, etching, photogravure, aquatints, silkscreens, cyanotype, to name a few.  

“You can ask questions, up close. You can see the printers. Ask, how does this process work?,” says Soderqvist.
  
Graphicstudio, founded in 1968, is the largest university-based press in the United States and invites artists to work in the studio throughout the year. 
 
Sales will benefit Graphicstudio’s continuing artists-in-residence programs, educational programming and commitment to research and the application of traditional and new techniques for the production of limited edition prints and sculpture multiples.

Local ad agency sees growth, adds jobs in Tampa

Schifino Lee recently added five new hires and plans to look for more creative talent in the near future.

The Tampa-based media and communications agency was founded in 1993 by Ben Lee and Paola Schifino. The firm specializes in integrated communications, including digital, experiential and traditional media. Services include market strategy and planning, creative work and media buying.

The company has experienced recent growth, leading to the addition of five new hires -- four in the creative realm and one account executive, bringing them to 22 employees in all. They are currently hiring a Copywriter and hope to bring in additional account managers in the near future.

The growth is attributed to the economic climate and client demand.

"The economic climate is good in the Tampa Bay area," says co-founder and principal Ben Lee, noting that clients don’t need to go to Chicago or Los Angeles for good quality advertising work. The Tampa Bay advertising market is on the same level playing field as anywhere in the country.

A native of Tampa, Lee returned to the area to start Schifino Lee after living in New York and the Netherlands and receiving an MBA at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Tampa has gained national recognition for being a good place to be, a good place to do business." says Lee. "Clients are coming here expecting great work out of the area."

Schifino Lee’s local clients include Alessi, Wellcare Health Plans, Gerdau and Lowry Park Zoo as well as pro-bono clients the Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Museum of Art and the Shelton Quarles Foundation.

Cowork Ybor provides space for local creatives, plans open house Oct. 9

CoWork Ybor plans an open house on Oct. 9th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to share the vision for the coworking space with Tampa residents. That vision? A creative community.

CoWork Ybor Founder Roberto Torres hopes to see the space at 1903 E. 7th Ave become ''an informal incubator/accelerator for the other industries in Tampa -- besides tech -- that don't always get the mention or the attention that they should.''

Torres envisions CoWork Ybor as a ''community storefront for creatives only. We want to be a space that fosters and grows industries like food and beverage, retail and hospitality.''

The emphasis at CoWork Ybor is placed on creative jobs, he says, because startup entrepreneurs in these industries might not know much about the tech world – or about being an entrepreneur.

"We really want this space to be about the people who are going to be in it,'' Torres says. "Their work is going to be better, because they are going to be in a community that fosters and brings creativity and knowledge to them.''

To that end, the space may play host to exhibits from local artists in the future. Torres also plans to develop "curated experiences'' each month, by bringing in lunchtime speakers through a partnership with the Visit Tampa Bay program Unlock Tampa Bay.

Torres cites Brooklyn-based Hyper Akt as an inspiration for the concept he would like to bring to Tampa. "There's really nothing like that in Tampa. We're like a band of outsiders trying to bring creatives together,'' he says.

Along with freelancers and entrepreneurial creatives, Torres also hopes to attract young members from Entreprenuership programs at nearby schools like the University of Tampa and St. Petersburg College.

Torres is in talks with Verizon to donate the Internet for CoWork Ybor, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The space will have seating for about 40: two conference rooms, a handful of communal tables, and a more relaxed lounge space with couches in the area facing 7th Ave.

CoWork Ybor will host a membership drive from Oct. 27-31st before formally opening Nov 1st, 2014. Membership, which will be capped at 75, is $100/month. Click this link to email for more information.

Next door, the Blind Tiger Cafe is the result of a partnership between Torres' men's apparel company Black & Denim and local businesses Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea Company and Piquant, along with Tricycle Studios.

The Blind Tiger Cafe will feature fresh tea and coffee drinks along with pastries like German chocolate cake and guava and cheese croissants, but it will not have wifi; instead, customers can pay $5 for a pass to gain access to the coworking space for the whole day. The mixed-use storefront at 1901 W. 7th Ave in Tampa's historic Ybor City is set to open on Nov. 5th, 2014.

UT speaker series focuses on crowdfunding for start-ups

A panel discussion September 24 at the University of Tampa aims to help students and the community better understand microfunding for entrepreneurial ventures.  

The sixth installment of the MainStreet Speaker Series at the University of Tampa (UT)'s Entrepreneurship Center will allow students to network and connect with business leaders in Tampa Bay, as well as hear from a panel about crowdfunding for their business.

The Speaker Series originally began in 2012 as a way to provide information and inspiration to UT entrepreneurship students from local business leaders. Past speakers have included Jeff Stevenson, founder and CEO of VinoPro and Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, co-founders of Barefoot Cellars.

This fall, the focus will be on crowdfunding. The topic was selected strategically, to help give students a deeper look into non-traditional ways to fund their business. Often, students’ entrepreneurial plans come to a halt when they realize the amount of capital needed to make them a reality. The event’s goal is to help these students understand funding mechanisms as well as encourage the community to support Tampa Bay-based start-ups.

"We’re trying to pinpoint those burning topics for entrepreueurs and connect our students with this amazing entrepreneurship community that we have in Tampa," says James Zebrowski, program assistant for the UT Entrepreneurship Center and recent UT graduate.

The panel is moderated by Reid Haney of Hill Ward Henderson, P.A. and will include Roland Chase, Hill Ward Henderson, Roberto Torres, Black and Denim and David Chitester, Florida Funders.

For one day, Cyclovia reserves downtown Tampa street for bicyclists, pedestrians

No cars or trucks allowed! On Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa will be closed from Nebraska to Tampa Street from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., allowing the residents and visitors to run, bike, walk and play together.

The idea for the event, coordinated by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)’s Tampa office, came from Florida State Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad. Prasad traveled to Bogato, Columbia recently and witnessed a weekly event known as Cyclovia (spelled Ciclovia in Columbia), where major city streets are closed temporarily and turned into family-friendly street parties. The name comes from the Spanish word for “cycle path.” The practice has become a worldwide event and takes place in Costa Rica, Brazil, New Zealand, Peru and India, among other countries.

The goal of Cyclovia Tampa Bay is not only to promote community, but also to educate the public about bicycle, pedestrian and driving safety. Florida has ranked in the top three in the nation for bike and pedestrian fatalities since 2001, and the FDOT plans to change that with events and programs such as this aimed at creating a cultural shift.

:We can use this as a way to not only get people out experiencing walking and biking, but also increase awareness and visibility," says Stephen Benson, bicycle and pedestrian safety program specialist for the FDOT. Benson is a Tampa native and USF graduate.

Each block will have an interactive activity, including, “slow” bike races, interactive street games, food trucks and bike safety information.

The event is the first of its kind for Tampa, and FDOT plans to make it an recurring event, as well as replicate it in other parts of Tampa Bay.

Community partners include the City of Tampa, Tampa Downtown Partnership, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, HART, the Urban Conga, Tampa Bay Cycle and Walk Wise.
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