Each year, members of the community gather before sunrise to promote bike safety and bond with their mayor and city commissioners. The 2018 Bike with the Mayor event was held at Gilchrist Park at 7 a.m. Friday morning.
Escorted by Plant City Police Department, the group rode 3.75 miles through the city on tandem, road and cruiser bikes. As they rode, many chatted with Mayor Rick Lott, City Manager Bill McDaniel, Vice Mayor Bill Dodson, representatives from FDOT, the Recreation and Parks Department and more.
City Planner Mara Latorre said attendance has grown steadily. This year, there were several children in the mix and Latorre said she is excited for new faces continue to get involved with their city.
“It’s camaraderie, it’s a way to bring people in Plant City together and boost civic pride,” Latorre said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to get to know the mayor and meet some of our elected officials. Because this month is Florida Bike Month, this is an important way to promote the awareness of bicycle safety, which is something that needs to continue to happen.”
Upon arriving, attendees signed in, picked up their t-shirts and goodies and mingled with their fellow community members. Lott said the event was important to the community because it showed both residents and many of the corresponding agencies that Plant City supports biking.
As Plant City continues to develop and grow, Lott said, it is crucial for the city to be able to have prominent bike trails to link Plant City to other bike-friendly cities.
“One day you’ll hopefully be able to leave downtown Plant City, go up and ride bike trails all the way up to Knights Griffin Road and take those trails there all the way to Tampa, all the way to Pinellas County and Pasco County,” Lott said. “We want to be a part of the bike solution of Florida. This is just one effort. You coming out today lets us make an impact and say ‘Hey, we want to be a part of this.’”
Last year, the city announced it was planning on working toward putting together a bike share program downtown in McCall Park. Lott said the city was still working towards that. Now that an effort in Tallahassee which would have limited cities from signing multi-year contracts and hindered partnering with the bike programs was voted down, he added, the plans have restarted.
The bike sharing program allows people to use their credit cards to rent out the bikes stationed at McCall Park. When the bike is returned, the rider is charged for the number of minutes they had the bike out.
“Hopefully here in the near future we’re going to have a bike share program here in our city, which will further advance biking in Plant City,” Lott said.