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A lovely reason to ride a bike in downtown St. Petersburg awaits

City employee Alton McKinnon removes dirt behind the Museum of Fine Arts for what will become the 10-foot-wide leg of the Pinellas Trail along Tampa Bay. The “North Bay Trail” will allow cyclists to connect to Coffee Pot Boulevard and to that park if they wish.

DIRK SHADD | Times

City employee Alton McKinnon removes dirt behind the Museum of Fine Arts for what will become the 10-foot-wide leg of the Pinellas Trail along Tampa Bay. The “North Bay Trail” will allow cyclists to connect to Coffee Pot Boulevard and to that park if they wish.

Kimberly Cooper relies on her bike.

She hasn't driven a car since the 1980s and is a staunch advocate of bicycle safety. So Cooper, 52, who lives in St. Petersburg, was thrilled to hear about the plans to connect the Pinellas Trail and Coffee Pot Park.

The new trail, which will be dubbed North Bay Trail, will provide panoramic views of the waterfront as sidewalks are extended to accommodate bicyclists. Construction is under way for the extension on Bayshore Drive NE between Second and Fifth avenues N.

The additions will take St. Petersburg trails to a vast 83 miles that can be traveled and explored by bicycle.

Money for the project came from a federal Transportation Enhancement Grant administered by the state that the city's transportation department applied for in 2006.

The city is footing $450,000 for the project, and the federal government $650,000, according to Cheryl Stacks, who works with the department and is helping to coordinate the efforts.

"We get complaints all the time that the sidewalks aren't wide enough in that area," Stacks said. "There's so much pedestrian area downtown and along the waterfront, so this trail will add a wider lane."

Stacks said the plan for the expansion was going well. "As you can imagine it, in a downtown urban environment you're kind of restrained for space," she said. "The design is very unique, though."

The additions were welcomed by frequent cyclists like Cooper, who serves on the Mayor's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

"It will be perfect for families with children who want to go on long bike rides together," she said. "It will be a beautiful year."

The extension will be completed in mid March.

According to the city, the Pinellas Trail was used by bicyclists more than 872,000 times last year and more than 906,000 times in 2002.

Austin Bogues can be reached at abogues@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8872.

A lovely reason to ride a bike in downtown St. Petersburg awaits 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 3:58pm]

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