1. Archive

Bicyclists don't belong on sidewalk

Re: Chronic offenders may pay a steeper price,

Sept. 3.

When bicyclists ride in the street, many motorists get mad and yell at them to get on the sidewalk. The motorists don't know that in some parts of St. Petersburg, it is illegal for the bicyclist to be on the sidewalk. According to Florida state law, a bicycle is a vehicle with the same rights and duties as a car. So, bicyclists do belong in the road.

Many sidewalks are in such bad shape that they cause crashes, including broken sidewalk surfaces, hex-blocks with gaps between them, overhead limbs hanging too low, and low plants hanging over the sidewalk; toys, lack of curb cuts, or parked cars block the way so that you can't use the sidewalk.

Curb cuts, if they don't smoothly connect with the street pavement, can catch your tire and toss you onto the pavement. Some curb cuts are smack-dab on the corner to feed you into the intersection instead of the crosswalk.

Often, sidewalks just aren't there. And at night, sidewalks aren't lit so that you can see the hazards. But the worst problem is that almost all motorists, when driving over sidewalks and crosswalks, don't look for sidewalk users.

Pedestrians travel at 3 to 4 miles per hour; they have time to stop if a motorist fails to see them on the sidewalk. Adult bicyclists travel between 7 and 40 mph. Adult bicyclists don't have time to stop.

To safely use the streets, a bicyclist needs to slap on a helmet and learn and obey the vehicular bicycling laws. Most Tampa Bay motorists and bicyclists think they know the vehicular bicycling laws, but few really do.

Also, bicyclists need to learn bicycle safety tips and motorist safety tips. The safety tips include which bright-colored shirts make you most visible and how much space a motorist should leave between the car and the bicyclist. Your local bicycle shop owner can tell you how to contact on-road bicycle clubs or the nearest Effective Cycling instructor.

On-road bicycling is safer than you think. I've met bicyclists who have been riding Tampa Bay's roads for five, 10, 20 or even 30 years. They are living proof.

Kimberly Cooper, St. Petersburg

A disregard for safety, desires

I have been increasingly alarmed and astonished at the tactics employed by the St. Pete Beach City Commission to achieve its end of closing streets along Blind Pass Road, regardless of the will of District 1 residents most affected by the change.

First, there was the disregard for safety. It is well known that Gulf Boulevard floods in times of high water, and in the past, when evacuation was needed, Gulf Boulevard was completely blocked to traffic. To close off other roads and leave Gulf Boulevard as the only means of exit for hundreds of residents endangers public safety. In addition, many residents are endangered by increased travel times to hospitals and delays in the arrival of emergency vehicles.

Second, there was the campaign of misinformation about the road closures. The City Commission would have the residents believe that the Department of Transportation is insisting that the side roads be closed. In fact, it was the City Commission, not the DOT, that initiated discussions regarding closing the roads, and DOT has no stake and no real interest in the issue of the side-road closures. DOT has stated that it will install a traffic light at the intersection of 84th Avenue and Blind Pass Road only if the traffic flow warrants it. But it was the city's idea to close the roads in an effort to jack up the Blind Pass traffic flow sufficiently to then qualify for a light instead of waiting for natural growth in the area to increase traffic to the point where a light might be warranted.

Also in the realm of misinformation is the omission of the fact that the city will be paying for the construction of the barriers that will close off the roads _ payment for these closures is not included in the DOT project to widen Blind Pass Road.

Third was the unwillingness of the commission to abide by its own promise to the community that it would not close the roads unless neighborhood residents agreed with "the change." When pressure from residents finally forced the commission to send out a survey, the language on the document clearly indicated a retreat from the prior commitment to have the neighborhood agree with a change. Specifically, the survey was labeled a "straw poll," and it stated that input from the survey would "assist the commission in this important decision," not determine the commission's decision.

Fourth, the commission seems truly uninterested in doing what the residents want in this matter. There was no neighborhood outcry for closing the roads, no claim that there was too much traffic or anything else that would warrant changing our community. Indeed, at the public meetings, there was virtually no support for the proposition. And now, even more questions have been raised by this "straw poll" because some have not received their survey; there are no identifiers on the survey cards which could prevent inappropriate parties from casting a vote; and there are concerns about how the votes will be tabulated and considered, as City Hall has apparently refused to allow citizens from the neighborhood to be present when the votes are counted.

Why could it possibly be that closure of the side roads along Blind Pass is so important to the commission that it would disregard safety considerations, promote misinformation, go back on a pledge and be unconcerned about true neighborhood sentiment? It does not seem right or fair, and it leaves me wondering what is really at play here.

Diana J. Elmes, Esq., St. Pete Beach

Speed humps hinder residents

Back in July I went out of town for two weeks. Upon my return, the city had installed speed "humps" on my street.

The prior posted speed limit was 25 mph. I was slowing down for the expected bump, and noticed the 15 mph sign right at the hump. I was going 18 mph when I hit it and thought both my car and I were going to the chiropractor. Over the next hump, I slowed to 14-15 mph with the same result. Note the scrape marks on the pavement.

A couple days later, both the Times and Bay News 9 ran a story about two locations with the humps. City officials reported a significant decline at one location in speeding and "shortcutting" motorists. That is, those using it as shortcut between Seminole Boulevard and 113th Street. Now that officials have accomplished their goal, guess who is stuck using the humps? The citizens who live on the street _ who do not speed or use it as a shortcut. Not only that, but we can now listen to the sound of utility trucks jouncing, the squeal of brakes, and the acceleration of engines, as well as the added wear-and-tear on our own vehicles.

While I appreciate the safety concern and the fact that rarely a solution exists which satisfies all, this seems a less-than-optimal answer to the problem. Since many streets experience similar problems, how about if we cover all of Pinellas County with speed humps? Doesn't sound enticing, does it?

Steve Krall, Seminole