Lessons from a long walk across Tampa Bay

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I walked from Seminole Heights to Treasure Island with my daughter and her friends on Monday – about 39 miles through Tampa Bay – and I know two things:

  • We live in a beautiful place to take a long walk and we live in an incredibly dangerous place to be a pedestrian.

Yes but: Our cities are slowly but surely changing and reorienting themselves towards people-oriented streets.

Driving the news: It’s barely noticeable from a car, and the infrastructure is slow to change. But when you walk across Tampa Bay, it’s clear as day.

  • This is what we call “shoe leather reporting”.

Flashback: Ten years ago, As part of an experiment, I walked from my home in Tampa to downtown St. Pete and back in one day to see what I can learn about staying alive in one of the most dangerous places to walk in America .

  • I called it the Thoreau experiment. I almost got killed. And many dozens of you have written to me about your own difficulties in walking in a region built for cars.

What’s new: So much has changed since the last walk. Alana Brasier and Brandie Miklus from the Tampa Department of Mobility helped me remember the big projects of the last decade.

  • Bike trails on Platt and Cleveland.
  • Bike boulevards in Central, Ola and Gray.
  • Two bike trails in downtown Tampa – Jackson and Cass, known as the Green Spine.
  • The Tampa Riverwalk as we know it did not exist.
  • Bayshore Boulevard got bike lanes and flashing pedestrian crossings.
  • The Selmon Greenway was built under the Selmon Expressway.
  • The Selmon Expressway has been elevated above Gandy Boulevard, and the city is working to improve routes from Westshore to the park near the bridge.

And that’s just on the Tampa side.

Ben’s hiking companions look south from Gandy Beach towards St. Pete. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios
St. Pete’s Central Avenue is one of the coolest streets in the South
Strollers cluster around pink picnic tables.
The walkers are regrouping at Love Food Central. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Ten years ago, A walk down St. Pete’s main street would have meant strolling past a crowd of empty store fronts.

We picked up Selene and drove south to lunch at Love Food Central.

  • In 2012, Haslam’s Books appeared to be the only business west of Tropicana Field. The neighborhood now called the Edge was mostly empty.

Well, the edge is home to 1,500 residents and 130 businesses.

  • And neighboring Grand Central District is home to over 450 locally owned independent businesses – from restaurants and bars to art galleries and spas.
We saw spectacular things in nature
A gif of swimming stingrays.
A Radiation Fever swims south of Gandy Bridge. Video: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Coming over the Gandy Bridge, We caught this stingray fever in the south – an amazing sight. watch.

  • The column stretched nearly a quarter of a mile. If I had to guess, I’d say it was 5,000 rays.

And if we strike Intracoastal at Treasure Island, Selene saw her first manatee ever and tried to call her in manatee talk.

Remarkable: We smelled none of the pungent red tide odors that have been so common for the past few summers, and saw no sign of dead fish.

A farewell shot
Selene and Ben smile on the beach.
We made it. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

thanks for going with us. I’ll see you out there.

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