Panel of local bicyclists share their experiences about riding in the Tampa Bay region.

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Panel of local bicyclists share their experiences about riding in the Tampa Bay region.

From L: Ron Zajac, Héctor Santiago, Jessica Brenner & Tajuana Cox

At the Bike/Walk Tampa Bay “People, Places and Perspectives” event on June 14, 2017, four bicyclists from different backgrounds were invited to participate in a speaker panel to tell their stories about bicycling in the Tampa Bay region. The panel was moderated by BWTB Vice Chair Kent McWaters. Each bicyclist took a few minutes to explain how they got into bicycling and why it was important to them.

Jessica Brenner is the founder of WellBuilt Bikes, a nonprofit that provides bicycle repair services for the needy and also has an Earn-A-Bike program, where participants can earn a bicycle through volunteering. Jessica spoke about how she first became interested in bicycling as a student at the University of South Florida, joining their bike club, then becoming a fulltime bicycle commuter after her car broke down. Her passion to help others was kindled by working with the WalkWise Tampa Bay program, delivering pedestrian and bicycle safety presentations to diverse populations.

Tajuana Cox commutes to her job daily at the University Area Community Development Corporation. She spoke about how much different Tampa was than Miami in terms of traffic and perceptions of bicycle safety, and how she uses her bike for everything. She commented “I feel like a better person because I’m not polluting the environment or adding to the traffic congestion.”

Héctor Santiago first got into bicycling due to the stress of his job in Information Network Security. “It’s a lot cheaper than a gym membership!” he joked with the crowd. He also said that bicycling has introduced him to many new friendships. “It’s a whole new community, and they were very welcoming to me.”

Ron Zajac is the President of the Swamp Club, a group of mountain bikers that not only ride together, but they also do volunteer work to maintain the local trails for the community. He first joined the club in 2004, when four hurricanes came through the region and left the trails a mess.

The panel then took questions from the audience. They were asked about what they found challenging, how to deal with difficult drivers, and how to get more people involved in bicycling. Tajuana Cox said “It’s a feeling of peace that you get when you’re out riding that you can’t explain unless you get out there and do it.”

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