Let it complement, not compete
I wish to speak on the subject of the Pier's many lives, how during different historical periods it has contributed to the vitality of St. Petersburg, and how we now have an opportunity to tap the best of historical lessons and better serve today's public need for leisure and commerce.
The Pier has always appealed to the community and tourists. The old pier served everyone as a destination point with leisure and community activities. Those activities also served downtown commerce.
In the '60s there were social reasons for not expanding community facilities, not downtown and not along the waterfront. At the same time there were economic reasons for expanding downtown retail, even if at the expense of downtown's suffering commercial core.
Today, however, downtown commerce is fighting to regain its footing. Downtown's commercial core should not be forced to compete with a city facility. Similarly, the arts and community programs should be protected from further erosion of public funding, which are now threatened because of subsidies to businesses at the Pier.
Whether the Pier remains or is replaced, it and downtown businesses can and should stand alone. Each should and can complement the other. And in this complement the arts will contribute and benefit.
The "how" in this equation has not yet been addressed. We've been excessively focused on design and expense with little regard for the health of other components that are essential to the health of downtown's whole.
During the recent mayoral campaign, a candidate advocated for a comprehensive downtown plan that would evaluate visions, needs, opportunities and costs. At a recent Pier forum, several individuals also advocated for an expanded planning process, a master plan for downtown that would consider the Pier, but in the context of the whole.
Ditto! Let's not ignore the best of history. Let's not rush expensive decisions in the context of narrow considerations. Let's do it right.
John Warren, St. Petersburg
Are bikes meant for roads or sidewalks? | Feb. 24, letter
Some rules of the road for bicyclists
As one of the " 'hobby' bikers who often wear tight outfits" referred to by the letter writer, I would like to answer some of the questions he posed in his letter, which were intended to rhetorically suggest that bicycles are unfairly using and abusing our roadways and sidewalks.
Question: If " … bikes have the same rights on the road as autos … shouldn't that mean that bikes should stop for red lights, that bikes should obey signs, like 'walk your bike across bridge span' ?"
Answer: Absolutely, bikes should stop at red lights and stop signs, and so should motorists! I think we can all agree there are both motorists and cyclists who run red lights, stop signs and show a general disregard for traffic laws. That being said, unsafe driving puts us all at far more risk than unsafe cycling. Given that law enforcement resources are limited, I would much rather they focus their limited resources on unsafe drivers steering 2,000-pound metal killing machines than at 200-pound cyclists who might, at worst, dent your fender.
Question: "Why don't they pay a toll when crossing a bay area bridge?"
Answer: Bicycles take up far less space on the road, and the wear and tear on the road is negligible as compared to a car. Two days a week, I ride my bike 19 miles (one way) to work, so 40 percent of my commutes to work are by bike.
Imagine how much less congestion and wear and tear there would be on our roads if 40 percent of all commuters were on bicycles, as is the case in Amsterdam.
Question: "Do bikes belong on sidewalks or streets or both?"
Answer: This question is a bit more complicated. There are laws in some localities prohibiting bicycles on sidewalks. In other places it is allowed. As a "roadie," I never ride on the sidewalk because I'm going way too fast, and I would put pedestrians in danger.
One day a motorist at Fort De Soto Park shouted out his window at me, "Get on the bike path!" I was going over 20 mph, and had just passed a family of four: mom, dad and two siblings under the age of 10, riding their fat-tire bikes about 5 mph on the bike trail. Where do you suppose they think I should be riding? My opinion is, if you have a fat-tire bike and are going under 12 mph, ride on the sidewalk, but please be courteous and slow down for pedestrians, and leave them plenty of space. That's the same courtesy I ask of motorists when I'm on my bicycle on the road.
Philip Harasz, St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg to debate extending hours for bars | Feb. 26, story
Weigh decision with residents' lifestyles
I wonder if moderation is in the vocabulary of the St. Petersburg City Council, bar owners, and especially those patrons bingeing to maintain a high blood-alcohol level well past breakfast time? On the other hand, moderation probably characterizes most of the new urban pioneer homeowners living in downtown St. Petersburg.
The decision to extend bar hours to 3 a.m. should carefully weigh competing values. It was moderate study, saving, spending, work and other lifestyle choices that no doubt enabled some to afford to live in the city. For homeowners near downtown bars, there is a trade-off between late-night noise and drunken property damage and their freedom of living close to "services." I have no doubt that city action to promote new immoderation will make the trade-off less acceptable — with predictable effects on property values. As for late-night drinkers, listen to your mother and get your rest!
Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg
Islands of waste amid budget cuts | Feb. 28, letter
Decision makes holes unavoidable
I certainly agree with the writer about the unnecessary islands running off 28th Street north from 22nd Avenue N. They are not only a waste of money but a continued expense for keeping up the shrubbery. And I really appreciate the fact that now I can't drive around all the potholes and have to drive through them.
Patricia Young, St. Petersburg