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Dunedin bike lanes idea gains traction

DUNEDIN — No final decisions were made on a controversial proposal to paint bike lanes along Pinehurst Road, but early indications point to a win for bicycle enthusiasts who turned out Thursday in support of Dunedin's new bicycle connectivity master plan.

About 20 people — including Pinehurst area residents, a bike shop owner and avid cyclists from around the county — attended a city workshop where staff unveiled the master plan.

The meeting was aimed at gauging the public's interest in redirecting federal grant money that was initially earmarked for a multi-use sidewalk trail along Pinehurst. Residents angrily shot down that proposal in July, saying the sidewalk-widening project would have meant messy construction and traffic woes.

But the Florida Department of Transportation said Dunedin couldn't transfer the grant to another part of the city and gave officials until Dec. 5 to choose one of two options: Use the money to paint bike lanes, or return it to the state.

So the city moved its bicycle master plan workshop up from February, hoping to show residents how Pinehurst bike lanes might fit into the overarching plan for bikers and pedestrians.

The opinions of the 10 people who took to the lectern Thursday were split.

Those in favor of the plan pointed to the potential economic benefit of touting Dunedin as a bicycle-friendly city to prospective residents and vacationers. Unlike sidewalk trails, they said, bike lanes are more likely to alert drivers to watch for cyclists.

Opponents focused mainly on speeders who disobey Pinehurst's 35 mph speed limit. Cyclists can legally use sidewalks, which some said they saw as safer for students. But one resident worried that children, who travel to school at the same time as some adults leave for work, might disregard laws that say they must yield at driveways.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," said Pinehurst resident Marilyn Moser.

Others had mixed emotions.

Bill Dye of Michigan Boulevard is an avid cyclist who said he moved to Dunedin because of its trails and has logged nearly 100,000 miles. Dye said he agrees with the experts and the statistics city staff cited showing on-road bike lanes are safer than sidewalk trails. His wife, however, is among folks who won't use bike lanes because she feels uncomfortable riding so close to cars.

"You can build the safest one," he said, "but what good is it going to do you if people aren't comfortable using it?"

Commissioners will discuss the grant again at their regular meeting this Thursday. In general, they said they were "excited" about the overall citywide plan.

However, Commissioner David Carson said the Pinehurst proposal "to me, is a dead issue" following this summer's neighborhood opposition.

Mayor Dave Eggers, Vice Mayor Ron Barnette and Commissioner Julie Scales, on the other hand, said residents' complaints about safety convinced them that bike lanes, as well as signs and other measures that promote motorist awareness, are just what Pinehurst needs.

Cyclists "do use that road and we need to improve their odds for their using it in a safe manner," Barnette said. "We need to tell people to slow down. This is not just a vehicle community. It's a pedestrian community and a bicycle community."

Either way, officials agreed that there is more work to be done. They want to hold several public meetings to get resident feedback before any bike facilities are installed anywhere.

"Let them know how they and their property will be affected," Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said. "Those are things we really learned upset people, especially if they don't think they're in on the discussion. Now you have to really go out and sell the package."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

>>on the web

Project aims for some connectivity

Read Dunedin's citywide bicycle master plan at http://bit.ly/vE9ora. Watch video of Thursday's discussion at http://bit.ly/tp5a8k.

Dunedin bike lanes idea gains traction 11/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2011 8:19pm]
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