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"Silent one-third' will benefit from bicycle trails

Published Oct. 12, 2005

It needs to be emphasized that New Port Richey's council member Dell deChant is not alone in his support of bicycle trails in New Port Richey. There is a silent one-third to consider.

Consider: The city of New Port Richey has two swimming pools, a recreation complex and many parks. There is a shopping center on every corner. Each has banks, branch post offices, plus the shopping advantages that exceed many major cities. Our down-town area has become vibrant with many specialty shops unavailable anywhere.

Consider: All of the above are not accessible to roughly one-third of our population. I am referring to our children, our teens and young adults and our retired citizens, our silent citizens who cannot own or operate motor vehicles!

There are many simple problems. There is a shocking lack of marked crosswalks. There is a shocking lack of bicycle racks at our recreation facilities and shopping centers. I frequently see elderly women struggling to push shopping carts across jagged or missing sidewalks. I frequently see cyclists forced onto rubble and weeds.

An outdated precedent is a problem: Cycles should not ride on pedestrian sidewalks. I think that is wrong. Much has changed. Bikes, tricycles, shopping carts and wheelchairs, even electrically assisted ones and mopeds, should enjoy pedestrian status. On this question I feel comfortable that common sense will prevail. I am certain the conflicts would be minimal compared to cycles, tricycles and wheelchairs in conflict with motor vehicles.

Our city has many miles of existing sidewalks. The major problem is they do not go anywhere. There are many small but important missing links. Frequently less than 50 yards of concrete prevents the existing sidewalk from connecting with a major intersection. The sidewalk on Massachusetts Avenue west toward the river is a good example. In addition to many gaps, it is in such poor repair that it is hazardous to walk on, much less to ride a cycle on.

Our city has frequent parades and festivals. As a vehicle owner, I and my children would prefer to convoy our bicycles rather than try to push our one-ton van through that mess! It is hazardous for an adult to ride a bike from my home two miles to the recreation center.

Pinellas County's bicycle trail gets used by many thousands each day. It doesn't make a circuit. It follows only the old rail right of way.

Consider the impact if New Port Richey could complete a simple circuit. It would be easy to do! Most of what is needed to complete a "Grande Toure" already exists!

Many of our existing sidewalks need repair anyway. Their many missing links need to be filled in anyway. It would be easy to widen many key sections into a double lane.

Many of our minor boulevards and intersections need crosswalks anyway. All that is required is a few gallons of paint and some signs.

Imagine cycling from the intersection of Congress and Massachusetts avenues to the river, non-stop!

The sea wall along the river and Grande Boulevard already has much traffic. It would be easy to widen it, right along the river, to Simms Park and then to downtown New Port Richey.

From downtown, a few minute's touring would take you past city hall and the library, then on to Van Buren. From there, the recreation center and then continue back to Massachusetts Avenue. Continuing east on Main Street from Van Buren takes you back to Congress. A few crosswalks and missing sidewalk links could connect to the main post office and Francis Park.

Another easy tour would continue west to Grande Boulevard. Perhaps then back downtown or south toward the many medical centers.

It would take very little to grant many thousands of our residents tricycle and shopping cart access to most of our city's facilities.

As it stands now, most of our council members support spending a million or so dollars on improvements to Simms Park.

Our silent one-third would not be able to use them.

Our silent one-third cannot enjoy the bounty most of us now enjoy.

I speculate that the vehicle-owning two-thirds would remain silent on this issue.

Perhaps our council should ask our silent one-third what direction our priorities should lean.

James C. Reynolds is a resident of New Port Richey.