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Pinellas Trail extension popular before official opening

The downtown extension of the Pinellas Trail won't officially open until next month, but that hasn't stopped bicyclists from using it.

Take Maurice Haynes, who parked his gas-guzzler pickup after gas prices hit $4 and started riding his beach cruiser to work at the city's water resources department.

He loves using the 2.1-mile extension, which runs from 34th Street to First Avenue S to the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.

"It's a safe way to travel on your bike because I remember coming up, you had to dodge cars," said Haynes, 28, who lives in Childs Park and rides to his check-in station on Burlington Avenue.

"People need a spot to safely ride their bikes, especially with gas prices," he said. "I think it was perfect timing. It really was."

David Segler's motivation for using the trail is more social than economic.

The 16-year-old teen takes it to visit friends and perform bike tricks along the landscaped medians without having to worry about cars.

"I love it," said Segler, a rising sophomore at Boca Ciega High School who lives in St. Petersburg. "It gives me enough space to go really fast."

The city won't start tracking ridership numbers until the extension officially opens, but on one recent Sunday morning, city transportation and parking director Joseph Kubicki noticed at least 20 people riding the extension.

"We've been kind of monitoring, and it's been getting good use," he said.

Nathalia Estrada, 24, an employee at Local Coffee + Tea on First Avenue S, said she sees about four or five bikers using the extension in front of the restaurant in the early morning and again at 5 p.m.

And, "I've seen five cars accidentally drive on the trail," she said.

On July 12 there will be a ribbon-cutting for the extension, which cost $6-million, mostly in federal funds.

"All the traffic signs have not been activated, all the crosswalks have not been completed yet," Kubicki said. "It's very close, but not done yet."

Pinellas Trail extension popular before official opening 06/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:50am]
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