Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Humana Freewheelin pedal buses could be essential for travel in downtown Tampa during RNC

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 2:13 PM

Mayor Buckhorn takes ride for the cameras
  • Mayor Buckhorn takes ride for the cameras
Maybe you shrugged when you first heard the news that health care giant Humana was going to be providing what they are calling pedal buses to transport delegates, business people and presumably protesters around downtown Tampa during the Republican National Convention later this month.

But now with the realization that so many streets will be shut down in the city, and with the ubiquity of taxi cabs in question, these unconventional 'bus-cycles' might just prove to be more valuable than originally thought when the company announced they would be breaking in these different modes of transportation at both national conventions this summer.

Tuesday morning outside of the Tampa Convention Center, the Freewheelin pedal buses as they're referred to were introduced by Dr. Scott Latimer, the Marketing President of Senior Products for Humana in Central Florida.

"Freewheelin are a great way for convention goers, Tampa residents and visitors to get around town while doing something good for the environment. Free of charge," Latimer said.

There will be four stations in Tampa where Freewheelin stations will be established - at Curtis Hixon Park, the Straz Performing Arts Center, the Franklin Street Mall, and on 7th Avenue at 14th Street in Ybor City. Each station will be equipped with complementary health screenings (this is being sponsored by a health care company, after all) where riders can get tested for high blood pressure and their body-mass index. There will also be misting fans, shaded seating, cold water and fresh fruit available while you wait for the next pedal bus to take you to your downtown destination.

The buses seat eight people, where the gas that fuels them will be the legs of those riding it. Humana is providing the actual drivers who will sit behind the wheel.

During the 2008 conventions in Denver and St. Paul, Humana offered up a free bike sharing program. That occurred just as the momentum for such a system began taking off in the U.S. after being successful in some European cities.

Last month a Humana spokesman told Michael Van Sickler with the Tampa Bay Times that a similar program wouldn't work in Tampa because of the lack of "infrastructure."

In his brief remarks at today's unveiling, Mayor Bob Buckhorn alluded to making infrastructure improvements when discussing how his administration is going "out of our way to make sure that bicyclists are safe" in the city.

Always ready with a quip, Buckhorn's first words when addressing reporters at the press availability were "I think we're going to trade in that big black SUV that we took from a pimp and make this the new 'Mayormobile.'"(That was a reference to the black 2005 GMC Yukon Denali that he rides in that came from a police forfeiture lot and was last allegedly owned by a man who transported prostitutes).

Also on hand to make a few comments was Jan Larimer, the co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Spreading positive vibes about Tampa 13 days before the RNC begins, Larimer mentioned the just completed London Summer Olympics and how many of those same millions in America will be tuning into the convention later this month.

"This is going to put Tampa Bay on par with London, and is going to put Tampa as an A-lister for conventions," she said. "We will be having hundreds of events and venues and we'll be moving tens of thousands of people in four days around Tampa, and that is a daunting task for us."

With tens of thousands of people crowding into Tampa for the convention, Larimer could be right, which means these 'bus-cycles' might be more than just an curiosity piece, but an essential form of transportation beginning on August 26.

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