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Spinning and Grinning



By JAMIE PILARCZYK

The Tampa Tribune, May 28, 2008


As driver manager for Speedy Courier Service's Tampa office, 201 E. Kennedy Blvd., he coordinates drivers before taking to the streets on his 18-pound, Dolan track bike. He said he's the city's only bicycle courier

He pedals from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Harbour Island and Dale Mabry Highway to Ybor City, delivering packages and papers. He averages 15 runs a day, coordinating them on a circuit each morning and keeping a 20-mph pace. That's after he cycles from his apartment near Florida and Fowler avenues, following Florida into downtown while his car sits in his driveway.

Japenga, 19, covers about 200 miles weekly, cycling for groceries, exercise and recreation. Last Thanksgiving, he rode from Tampa to Savannah, Ga. It took him four days each way.

He started using his bicycle as his sole form of transportation when he moved to Tampa from eastern Michigan 10 months ago, doing it as a test in living simply and cutting his expenses. He also wanted to get to know the city.

Since then, he has helped start the Tampa Bike Co-op ( www.tampabikecoop.wordpress.com), a group of cycling enthusiasts that meets the first Monday of the month at Transition Art Gallery, 4215 E. Columbus Drive.

Q. How do you like being a bike courier?

A. It's the best job I've ever had. It's personally rewarding and pays my bills. When you love riding bikes, it's convenient to find a job that will pay you to do it.

Q. Why do you think there aren't more bike couriers in Tampa?

A. I don't know. Places like New York, Philadelphia, D.C. and San Francisco have bike courier associations, and they are well known. I think it has to do with the urban sprawl here.

Q. How do you keep your energy up throughout the day?

A. We keep oatmeal and peanut butter in the office. I drink a gallon or two of water a day.

Q. How do you carry all of the packages?

A. I have a messenger bag that holds a lot. I have pumps, tubes, a rain jacket in there. A bungee cord will go a long way.

Q. Why use a bicycle for transportation?

A. I found a ton of personal benefits. It was very empowering to see a huge city by using my own power to get around. ... We've really overlooked that we have this simple machine we can use to do everything we're capable of. Bikes are better. I'm a bike nerd.

Q. How do the cycling conditions here compare to Michigan?

A. I came from the suburbs in the village of Romeo. Coming to the city was a rude awakening. The city planning here is pretty terrible. Drivers don't know how to react to cyclists. They have little patience.

Q. Do you have advice for drivers?

A. Have a little patience. Pass a cyclist like you would another motor vehicle. We have full right to the road just like you do.