Follow @theurbancountry on Twitter Find us on Facebook Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via e-mail Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via RSS
Follow @theurbancountry on Twitter Find us on Facebook Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via e-mail Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via RSS

Beach Cruisers and Grey-Haired Bicyclists 19

Tampa Area Planned Retirement Community

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

For many retirees, retirement is a time to stay healthy and enjoy the simple things in life. For some, this may involve a round of golf, a game of ping pong, or swimming in a pool. For others, it’s the joy of riding a bicycle.

I returned tonight after spending 4 nights visiting my newly retired father in his new community near Tampa, Florida. My Dad is a Canadian ex-pat who has been living in the United States for more than ten years. The quiet streets in his gated community coupled with Florida’s climate makes this an ideal place for using bicycles to get around.

Residents in the community regularly take advantage of these ideal bicycling conditions. Hardly a moment goes by during the day where you can’t spot some grey hair blowing through the wind while pedaling about the community.

The community includes a golf course, a swimming pool, a gym, billiards tables, poker tables and tennis courts, among other features. The neighbourhood layout reminds me of the houses in the movie The Truman Show and the extensive rules and politics remind me of the Del Boca Vista scenes in the TV show Seinfeld.

Nonetheless, it seems to be very nice place to retire and spend the last decades of your life – with endless activities within walking & biking distance – and a nice warm climate to boot.

Within the community, plenty of residents use bicycles to transport themselves to the recreation centre. The bike rack outside the facility was never empty throughout the day – featuring bikes of various shapes and styles. The most common style of bicycles used by residents are the beach cruiser style and the three-wheel trikes with a rear basket.

Tampa Area Planned Retirement Community

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Tampa Area Planned Retirement Community

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Tampa Area Planned Retirement Community

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Tampa Area Planned Retirement Community

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

On the route toward the recreation centre I spotted this sign that reads “CAUTION: DANGEROUS INTERSECTION”. I suppose the word “dangerous” is subjective, but this is pretty hilarious because the sign is displayed on a community street with a speed limit of 15mph (24km/h) and very little traffic.

Tampa Area Planned Retirement Community

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Although other residents in the community use bicycles to get around, my Dad’s garage was lacking any sort of two wheel mode of transportation. So on Saturday I set forth on a two-day mission to source out two beach cruisers to provide my Dad and Step-Mother a stylish way to transport themselves throughout their community (the recreational centre is about 1.6km from their home).

I first tried to source a couple beach cruisers at a local bike shop, but the bike shop seemed focused primarily on performance/racing bicycles and the only cruisers were Trek bikes, which didn’t quite have the wide, curved cruiser-style handlebars, nor did they come equipped with fenders or chain guards.  I was also keen on purchasing bikes without any gears or hand brakes to reduce the maintenance requirements.

Next I visited Craigslist and found a pair of brand new beach cruiser bicycles that somebody had won in a contest sponsored by Bud Light Lime. The bicycles were still in boxes unassembled, and were coloured with the Bud Light Lime colour. If nothing else, I figured my Dad – a consumer of beer – would get a kick out of these beer-sponsored beach cruisers. Not to mention that the bikes were stylish and looked fun to ride.

These lime beach cruisers were being sold by a pawn shop more than 70 kilometres from my Dad’s home. I drove down to the pawn shop by myself on Sunday and arrived to discover a sign on the door that read “NOTICE: ALL GUNS MUST BE OPEN AND IN FULL VIEW BEFORE ENTERING”.

Since I wasn’t carrying a gun, this didn’t apply to me. Though truth be told, I was tempted on the car ride down to drop into one of the several gun stores I drove past – if for nothing other than satisfying my curiosity.

Tampa pawn shop

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

The pawn shop owner had been at an NFL football game the night before, and he had just finished church when I met him at his shop (he’s closed Sundays). He seemed like the token stereotypical American. This  also reminded me of the scene in The Simpsons where Homer Simpson listens to the football game while attending a church sermon, cheering out loud every time his team scored.

Nevertheless, the pawn shop owner was a good guy and he helped me pack the two boxes into my Step Mother’s Ford Fusion. On the way home I stopped at a little store called Target and it seemed like I walked 1500 metres to get to the bicycle section to pick up a bike tire pump, a cheap cable lock and two coffee mug (beer) holders to affix to the beach cruisers for added style.

Three hours later I arrived back at my Dad’s house and spent the next couple hours assembling the cruisers. There were a couple small nuts missing, but a quick trip to the hardware store the next day solved the problem and the cruisers were thus ready to ride.

Tampa beach cruiser bicycles

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Tampa beach cruiser bicycles

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Tampa beach cruiser bicycles

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

Tampa beach cruiser bicycle

Photo by James Schwartz / The Urban Country

We took the cruisers out on Monday and discovered that these single-speed bikes were comfortable and fun to ride. There’s something exhilarating about riding with wide, curved, beach-cruiser handlebars. It made me feel as though I was riding on a beach, even though the nearest beach was more than 10 kilometres away – and probably still tainted by the BP oil spill which unleashed 210 million US gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Sadly, the joy and convenience of bicycle transportation that these retired folks have discovered in my Dad’s neighbourhood is far too uncommon outside this type of planned community. In Florida, bicycling is largely seen merely as a recreational activity or a mode of transportation for poor folks who can’t afford a car. In Tampa every road seems to be a highway and driving is the single mode of transportation that people rely on to get everywhere.

The retired folks who are staying healthy and enjoying their lives while using bicycles to transport themselves most likely spent their working years stressed out and enclosed within the confines of an automobile.

A bicycle is something we should be able to comfortably use whether we live in a retirement utopia, an urban downtown, or a suburban city. But to achieve this we need to change our perceptions and re-design how we live and move ourselves around.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

i share the road

Related Articles:

  • Hawkskins

    Is the last picture of the woman your step mom? Way to go!

    But seriously, I’ve been to planned communities like this where the bikes are just plain provided by the Home Owners Association and you just find a bike and ride it, depositing it where you end up. They get a little more rusty though.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      hah, no that would be my wife :) But now that you mention it, I should probably point out that you need to be at least 55-years-old to live in that community. But your spouse can be as young as 22 according to the community rules ;)

  • Hawkskins

    Is the last picture of the woman your step mom? Way to go!

    But seriously, I’ve been to planned communities like this where the bikes are just plain provided by the Home Owners Association and you just find a bike and ride it, depositing it where you end up. They get a little more rusty though.

  • Wilsonstjames

    Reminds me of my grandparents condo in St. Augustine growing up. Come to think of it I never saw a bike there once. Shame. But I would hazard that it has changed now and for the better.
    Enjoyed your post.

  • Wilsonstjames

    Reminds me of my grandparents condo in St. Augustine growing up. Come to think of it I never saw a bike there once. Shame. But I would hazard that it has changed now and for the better.
    Enjoyed your post.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    hah, no that would be my wife :) But now that you mention it, I should probably point out that you need to be at least 55-years-old to live in that community. But your spouse can be as young as 22 according to the community rules ;)

  • Michael Rubbo

    I enjoyed the story on the Florida retirement village. I highly recommend a book which covers an extreme version of that in a most amusing and readable way.

    The book’s called Leisureville. Adventures in a world without children by Andrew Blechman.

    The blurb on the back describes ; The Villages, as ” larger than Manhattan with a golf course for every day of the month and it’s onw newspaper, radio and TV stations, the villages is a city of almost 100,000 people missing only one thing,” children.”

    Sadly, unlike where your parents are, James, golf cars are the mode of transport, not bikes.

    Mike

  • Michael Rubbo

    I enjoyed the story on the Florida retirement village. I highly recommend a book which covers an extreme version of that in a most amusing and readable way.

    The book’s called Leisureville. Adventures in a world without children by Andrew Blechman.

    The blurb on the back describes ; The Villages, as ” larger than Manhattan with a golf course for every day of the month and it’s onw newspaper, radio and TV stations, the villages is a city of almost 100,000 people missing only one thing,” children.”

    Sadly, unlike where your parents are, James, golf cars are the mode of transport, not bikes.

    Mike

  • helena.richardson37

    All of the gears are contained inside the rear hub, making shifting smooth and easyHermosa Beach.
    cruiser bike

  • Tenecia Smith

    Sounds like this pawn shop is worth visiting! I live across town and I’m very interested in these cruiser bikes. I hope they are still available.

  • Tenecia Smith

    Sounds like this pawn shop is worth visiting! I live across town and I’m very interested in these cruiser bikes. I hope they are still available.

  • Dora
  • Dora
  • maia dobson

    This communities seems so quiet and safe but still a lot of ways to deal and have fun with people. If I would retire, i’d want something like this where I could jog, bike or do fun stuff with my neighbors.

    retirement communities New York

  • maia dobson

    This communities seems so quiet and safe but still a lot of ways to deal and have fun with people. If I would retire, i’d want something like this where I could jog, bike or do fun stuff with my neighbors.

    retirement communities New York

  • http://www.beachbikereview.com/ Gary The Beach Bike Guy

    Your cruisers are pristine! I love them, did you build them yourself? I’m looking to build a chopper crusier like this one but I’m a newbie at fabrication. Any experience? Or some tips? Also, yeah the pics above looks very “Truman Show esque” ;) . I’m a huge fan of beach cruisers and have been buying and selling them for a long time. I have a site too all about them where I review them for potential buyers. BeachBikeReview.com

    God Bless,

    Gary

  • http://www.beachbikereview.com/ Gary The Beach Bike Guy

    Your cruisers are pristine! I love them, did you build them yourself? I’m looking to build a chopper crusier like this one but I’m a newbie at fabrication. Any experience? Or some tips? Also, yeah the pics above looks very “Truman Show esque” ;) . I’m a huge fan of beach cruisers and have been buying and selling them for a long time. I have a site too all about them where I review them for potential buyers. BeachBikeReview.com

    God Bless,

    Gary

  • Ray Ashton

    I think different outdoor activities are really in since it’s summer. I remembered buying a hikers backpack last august cause we decided to Grand Canyon Park and next summer we’re actually considering to try biking or cycling as well. The tips are really helpful especially for starters like me.

  • Ray Ashton

    I think different outdoor activities are really in since it’s summer. I remembered buying a hikers backpack last august cause we decided to Grand Canyon Park and next summer we’re actually considering to try biking or cycling as well. The tips are really helpful especially for starters like me.