St. Pete: a people friendly city

After having lived in Sarasota for 8 years, St. Petersburg is now my official home in Florida.  Not only that, but I live right in the downtown area in an apartment on Central Avenue.  Although a suburbanite in Sarasota, I was on a fabulous bus route and only 3 miles from downtown.  I didn’t own a car and routinely went to meetings, ran errands and got groceries using my bicycle or electric bicycle.  But there is something different about living downtown.

Streets of St. PeteSt. Petersburg has a completely different vibe than Sarasota.  Whereas Sarasota’s downtown can feel a bit “closed off” at times, St. Petersburg is a city built for the people.  The sidewalks on Central Avenue are not made of square, grey blocks but of colorful swirls, bubbles and shapes.  There is a trolley that, for a quarter, will take you from one end of Central Avenue to the other about every 20 minutes.  When you walk down the street, you see people of all ages, shapes and sizes.  There are a lot of homeless people there, but they’re not troublesome… in fact, they are human beings, just like you and I.  They engage you in conversation and give you some pause to reflect on what’s important in life.

There are bike lanes in St. Pete, but not just any bike lanes.  These are bike lanes that are separated from traffic by a barrier.  In other words, you can safely ride without worrying about getting run over by an errant driver.  There are tattoo parlors, art galleries, second-hand shops, restaurants… all inviting to everyone.  Nothing seems “out of my league” here.  The streets have a friendly, welcoming vibe.

Protected bike lanesAs I walked out of a restaurant one afternoon, a man on a stool asked for my leftovers.  But he wanted to give me something in exchange and so asked if he could recite me a poem.  I was giddy at the prospect – how often do you get to hear live poetry?  He asked if I preferred rhyming or non-rhyming, and I, of course, said “non-rhyming.”  He then proceeded to recite a beautiful verse for me, and, in return, I handed over a delicious portion of spanikopita that I’d planned to have for the next day’s lunch.  As it turns out, this poetic fellow is responsible for the colorful chalk drawings you see on the sidewalks of downtown St. Pete.  His name is Jacob, and he stole my heart that day.  I walked off feeling alive and in love with the world.

On the way back to the apartment that same day, I met a man as I boarded the trolley, and, as it turned out, he’d also read David Byrne’s book about bicycles.  We discussed it until we reached my stop.


It is these interactions with human beings that energize my life.  If you dig the people scene, you’ll find St. Pete to be a people friendly city.

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