Cutting GMD bike signs causes concern

CREDIT: hahastop.com

Associate Publisher

The road on Longboat is paved with bicycle signs, and their possible removal from Gulf of Mexico Drive is cause for concern, say some bicyclists and residents.

The concern stems from the town’s recent decision to request the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) remove some of the approximately 47 bicycle road signs on Longboat Key, and whether the removal of these signs may cause more bike accidents.

At a series of subcommittee meetings, the town has determined with FDOT that it is possible to remove 45 percent of the bicycle signs on Longboat Key, along with other road signs, thereby reducing the number of signs cluttering the right of way on Longboat Key’s Gulf of Mexico Drive. This would increase the distance between signs from a sign every half-mile to a sign every one mile, with a small adjustment in distance being made when a sign falls close to a side street where a motorist may turn right.

While this may reduce the clutter along the roadway, some bicyclists are concerned that it will actually increase the number of accidents. One Longboat bicyclist, Joe Moccia, chairman of the Longboat Key Division of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission, wrote to Longboat Key News that the large amount of signage that exists does not desensitize people to the signs.

“If the commissioners agree to the removal of some 40 percent of the signs, (Right Turn Yield to Bicycles), then everyone — not only bicyclists, but also joggers, skaters and walkers — all those who use our paths and sidewalks will be unprotected…Removal of these signs, signs meant to remind drivers to be careful when making a right turn, is without a doubt compromising safety and strikes at the core of why people come to Longboat Key.”

Another supporter of keeping the existing number of signs is Longboat resident Paul Skversky who pointed out in an email to the town that many vacationers may not see the bicycle signs if almost half of them are removed due to the distance between them.

“Many non-cyclists are unaware that Gulf of Mexico Drive is a popular bike destination as well. It is vital that non-cyclists are made aware that they share the road with cyclists. Visitors and guests traveling short distances between their hotels, meals and activities could possibly see only one or two bike signs on their drive,” said Skversky.

Two avid bicyclists, Commissioner Robert Siekmann and Police Chief Al Hogle, utilize the bike lane on Longboat Key frequently and have indicated that the reduction in signs will not necessarily have a negative impact on bicycle safety.

“In general, Longboat Key is a very safe place to bicycle. I know people who leave their cars at the southern end of Longboat and bicycle all the way up the key, because they consider it a safe place to ride,” said Police Chief Hogle.

According to the Longboat Key Police Department, in the last five years there have been 35 bicycle accidents involving vehicles. There were eight accidents in 2006, nine accidents in 2007, six accidents in 2008, two in 2009 and five accidents in 2010. There have been five accidents to date in 2011. According to the Public Works Department, the current bicycle signs have been in place for approximately 10 years.

Mike Lasche, who heads the Sarasota Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocacy group and who was appointed in May 2010 to the Florida Bicycle and Pedestrian Partnership Council that makes recommendations to the FDOT, told Longboat Key News that perhaps the best sign is the stencil demarcations on the bike lane itself.

“If you have a bicycle lane there and stencils on the lane itself, I think it would alert motorists. I think that’s enough,” said Lasche.

Lasche also said that Florida is the number one most dangerous state in the United States for bicycle accidents, and that Manatee and Sarasota counties are the number three and four most dangerous counties in the state, respectively. With this grim reality, however, Lasche feels Longboat Key does not have a large problem with its bike lanes.

“If we were having problems I think more signs would be needed, but it’s not necessarily a large problem. The placement of signs may be more important than the frequency,” said Lasche.

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Longboat Key News

5 Responses for “Cutting GMD bike signs causes concern”

  1. Mike Smith says:

    The bicycle signs should stay up for safety sake! Someone please wake up! and save a life and money this is an open long space-remove something else. Write the city Mayor and council members to keep the signs up!!!!!!!!

  2. Georgie McFarland says:

    It would help to have signs instructing bycyclists to stay in the bike lane and not wonder out in front of cars heading in the same direction.

  3. Ross P. Alander says:

    Leave all of the signs up. Even if they save one life that is more valuable than the new sign ordnance. It would be different if the signs were going up for the first time. The town has much more important things to deal with than the removal of especially these signs.

  4. John Wild says:

    FDOT, in it’s infinite wisdom chose to place “right turn yield to bicycle” signs in the southbound lane alongside the golf course at the south end of the island – where there are no right turns unless a motorist chooses to drive onto the course or into a bunker or water hazard without benefit of a street being present. That is one egregious example of the unnecessary signage that pollutes our island. I applaud the town wishing to “dial back” the amount of signage along GMD – too bad they couldn’t get DOT to remove more. Perhaps when the trolley stops disappear, another 75 or more signs will be eliminated. To drive past Bayport and the mobile home courts is to witness a forest of signs, few of which are needed, but all defended by some interest group. Signs don’t protect bicyclists as much as eye exams for all drivers over a certain age. Let’s beautify the island by using common sense – use a minimum of signs to inform, not a maximum to visually pollute.

  5. Mighk Wilson says:

    By failing to put cyclists deaths into context, and not bothering to look into the actual causes of cyclist/motorist crashes, you are making a very safe activity look insanely dangerous. And your photo is absolutely over the top, to the point of being irresponsible. (BTW, it’s from a bicycle race; the cyclist was being assisted by his support vehicle and lost control.)

    Cycling on roadways is very safe as long as you obey the rules of the road. With cycling being such a great means of improving health, the environment, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, you do a great disservice to the community by making is appear dangerous.

    For more information on safer cycling, see CyclingSavvy.org

    Mighk Wilson
    Florida Bicycle Association

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