Cutting GMD bike signs causes concern
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.