Now in its fourth year, ShiftStPete, Inc., a nonprofit organization, has been actively advocating on behalf of bicyclists and pedestrians in the City of St. Petersburg. Though stemming from humble roots, the organization has played an instrumental role in encouraging the city to enhance walking and bicycling infrastructure and has brought residents together to speak in favor of crosswalks, bike parking, bike share, and other amenities.
The organization was originally founded by four St. Petersburg residents, who met over coffee one morning and forged a bond and a mission to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists. ShiftStPete recently welcomed three new board members, Kerry Bailey, Cesar Morales, and Lee Allen, to serve beside co-founder, Alec Smith. The organization also recently bid farewell to long-term board members, Jeremiah Rohr and Vanessa Wheeler, though Vanessa will remain involved as an advisor.
“St. Pete is such a unique and special city,” explained Cesar Morales, new board member and vice president of Open Streets. “To me, advocating for more pedestrian and bike friendly policies and activities, and highlighting these things, contribute to our quality of life and is a worthwhile contribution to keeping St. Pete special.”
ShiftStPete has no paid staff and relies entirely on volunteers. Despite this fact, ShiftStPete has hosted numerous free educational programs and fostered a signature event series, BlockbyBlock, where representatives host bicycle tours so citizens can experience navigating the city on two wheels and see what an implemented Complete Streets plan might mean for them.
One of ShiftStPete’s most notable achievements, in direct partnership with nonprofits Keep St. Petersburg Local, St. Petersburg Preservation, and the St. Petersburg Bicycle Co-Op, was hosting Open Streets St. Pete. Open Streets St. Pete is an annual event where streets are closed to automobile traffic for an afternoon so that people of all ages can experience city streets on foot or by bicycle without worrying about traffic. Past events have highlighted Mirror Lake and Central Avenue. The third annual event is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, October 28, 2018 on Bayshore Dr. SE.
When asked what’s next for the organization, Cesar shared a vision of being even more involved with the city’s Complete Streets plan implementation and leveraging the opportunity to increase bike and pedestrian safety as development continues. It’s another sign that active transportation is becoming a reality in the City of St. Petersburg.