A brief history about the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club
We all take well-deserved pride in the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club's (SPBC) Saturday morning gathering. Often, more than a hundred riders assemble in brightly colored jerseys and an array of bicycles.
The SPBC makes a significant contribution to the culture, physical fitness, and cycling safety in the Tampa Bay area. As one would expect, the beginnings of the club were quite modest. The author is indebted to Audrey and "Gib" Gibson, as well as George Biermann in compiling this brief outline of events that shaped this Club.
Cyclists began gathering for rides in 1964. Ralph Shilling initiated the gatherings. The number of riders would generally not exceed 25. The group would meet at the Family Restaurant on Ninth Street traveling around Crescent Lake and dispersing at the Pier.
In the early 1970's a Board of Directors and bylaws were established. One of the practices at the time was a probationary period. A prospective member would have to complete three rides, after which he or she would be elected to the club by vote of the club members. The club surpassed 100 members around 1975.
I personally believe that a factor in further interest in cycling may be attributed to the arrival of John Sinibaldi to the area in 1974. He joined the club in 1975. He participated in the cycling races of the 1932 and '36 Olympics. In addition to his stamina and athletic ability, he was also a man of physical courage. One, day he and another member were riding to North Shore Park. The rider was attacked by a dog, resulting in wounds that caused her to be hospitalized. John pulled the dog away and used his bicycle to prevent further injury. John deservedly got a lot of "ink" in the St. Pete Times for his accomplishments and also for the club, enhancing the membership. Due to the increase in interest, the SPBC began gathering in North Shore Park in the mid 1980s.
In a conversation with "Gib" and Audrey Gibson, I learned that SPBC was involved in the organization of many Tours in the Bay Area and Central Florida. At one time the Club ran the Hilly One Hundred. Unfortunately, the ride lost sponsorship and is no longer held.
That brings us to the Spring Classic. This event was started by Past President Ernie Foster and then Board Member George Biermann in 1981.This was in the days before GPS and other software. Hence, the route required much activity in establishing the three different ride lengths. The Classic is not only a fundraiser for SPBC, but contributes greatly to the cycling culture of the Bay Area. It would be impossible to list all the members who continue to make this event a success. The Club acknowledges the sacrifice of time and effort by all, and we will continue making the Spring Classic the supreme Tour in the future. Well, maybe the Tour de France is a little bigger.
We are aware that cycling is not popular with all the citizens of Tampa Bay. in the 1980's, it was proposed to ban bicycles on the Pinellas Bayway. SPBC did not take such an imposition lying down. Thanks to the effort of Club President "Gib" Gibson and State Senator Henry Sayler (an SPBC member) the authorities eventually abandoned the move. Charlie Shaw alerted the Club to an attempt to block cyclists from certain Gulfport streets. The city was thwarted by a group of irate cyclists with two attorneys in tow. You guessed it, the motion was tabled.
In addition to the Classic, members of the club participate in other social activities organized by the club. Individual club members often arrange other activities such as special rides to Tarpon Springs. There have been tours to Europe and the western US. A few years ago we had picnics at Fort Desoto Park. Now we have Club socials after the Saturday rides at Paciugo Gelato & Caffe or along the waterfront.
In 2001, we organized the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party. All those who have volunteered at any time are eligible to attend as well as ad sponsors and club members. Listing the names of those winning the Volunteer of the Year award would be too numerous for this article.
The annual Christmas Party began as a gathering in individuals home. For many years we engaged the Pasadena City Hall and had wonderful times. In the recent past, we were fortunate that club member Brian Wilder graciously allowed the club to use the Lyceum for our gathering. It was an excellent site with no charge to the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club. The club Christmas Party is currently hosted by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
Pages and pages could be written about our history. This encapsulates the years of our existence. Unfortunately we could not cite everyone who has made contributions to our success. Please be aware that you all are deeply appreciated.
The SPBC Board of Directors publishes the next scheduled meeting on our Facebook group ahead of the meeting and keeps past meeting agendas available for download.
When and Where: Time and location in most cases is the 1st Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. at Red Mesa Mercado, 1100 1st Ave N, St. Each month the Board determines what works best for all. See announcements on our Event Calendar and Facebook group.
What: Board meetings are chaired by the current President and attended by all Directors. It is open to members and the public. A typical meeting involves reviewing and approving minutes, listening to the treasurer's report, following up on old business, and discussing new business. Members are welcome and encouraged to attend. Only current members may participate in discussions, and voting is limited to the Board of Directors.