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Foot traffic moves into driver's seat

(ran East, South, Beach, Seminole editions)

Pedal-pushers and foot-sloggers are getting serious attention these days from city planners.

Try these official ideas on for size:

+ Reduce vehicle traffic lanes both in number and size.

+ Make motorists obey speed limits with traffic-calming measures.

+ Provide more sidewalks; fix the broken ones.

+ Convert one-way streets to two-way.

+ Use specially designed paths, canopied sidewalks and waterways to link parks.

+ Balance needs of cyclists and pedestrians with those of motorists.

All are identified as goal statements as the city government works on a bicycle/pedestrian master plan, due to be finished early next year.

Many are almost certain to please cyclists, walkers and runners. The plan's major purpose is to make city streets friendlier to those folks.

But the ideas may be equally likely to irritate motorists happy with city streets the way they are.

The subject falls wide open for public discussion on Tuesday.

An unusually structured, free public workshop takes place from 4:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Bayfront Center, 400 First St. S.

Rather than sit and listen to speakers, attendees can come and go as they please. They'll move at their own pace through a series of topic stations designed to explain a new way of thinking about transportation in the city.

"Basically what we're trying to do is institutionalize bicycling and pedestrianization into every fabric of what the city does," said Michael Frederick, neighborhood transportation manager.

The master plan is carrying forward the Vision 2020 project, a future-planning exercise conducted last year. Transportation was a major element.

Producing the bike/ped plan will cost $150,000, including $50,000 in city money. The rest comes from a grant.

One of the statements Vision 2020 produced took a pointed swipe at motor vehicles: "Automobile-focused transportation practices have impacted St. Petersburg by negatively shaping development patterns, affecting pedestrians and reducing access."

Planners like to cite a national safety study that identified a four-county Tampa Bay area region (including Pinellas) as the most dangerous for pedestrians.

Even with safety issues underpinning much of the plan, Frederick acknowledges it won't go over well with all.

"There have been individuals who say bikes should be on the Pinellas Trail, that roads are for cars," he said.

The leader of a neighborhood organization suggested other opposition could emerge, too.

"I think philosophically it's a good idea (to accommodate bikes and pedestrians)," said Steve Plice, Jungle Terrace president. "But I think it's going to be a long, hard chore (to persuade) people to have bike paths in front of their their houses. When you're trying to go through residential streets, it's going to be tough."

Frederick estimated that city roads include fewer than 10 miles of designated pedestrian and bicycle lanes. Those who favor more have identified up to 100 miles of roadway as potential laning candidates.

High-profile cycling advocate Kimberly Cooper is optimistic.

"I'm very excited about the bike/ped master plan," Cooper said.

"I appreciate how the consulting organizations are letting us citizens give input. They know that one size doesn't fit all bicyclists. We need plans made for all ages and abilities, women commuters, male commuters, recreational bicyclists, family bicycling, tourists, and the world-class athletes," Cooper said.

On the web

The city's Web site includes a page with links to information about the bicycle and pedestrian master plan, including questionnaires to help determine how friendly your neighborhood is to bicyclists and pedestrians. Point your browser to www.stpete.org/bikeped.

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