Longboat Key Letters – February 2011

Updated Feb. 27, 2011.

Signage Longboat Key

To: Editor

I have worked on Longboat Key since 1996. In all that time I have never noticed excess signage, and clearly never remember noticing signage centered around this bicyclist issue. Adding even now with the issue making front-page headlines, I cannot notice excess signage when driving to and from work. What surrounds my drive is the beauty and peacefulness, the tranquil gulf or bay surrounding my drive everyday. Clearly noticing all the bikers enjoying the same peaceful surrounding and loving nature, and choosing this beautiful key for a better lifestyle and healthier life.

This is why we call this paradise! Why many visitors find this to be a permanent home! As well, I do believe our visitors find the same beauty in the surroundings, easily avoiding bikers, and they are not counting the signage on the key when they arrive.

The traffic flows, the signage is not counted when you can look beyond all the Longboat Key has to offer.

In driving home this past week, I still could not count the signage for I am more focused on all the people enjoying nature, enjoying a more relaxing, peace of mind and the many bikers I can move around in my drive to and from work.

Linda Cullen

To: Editor

I wrote the other day about the signage. Never noticing the signage for bikes until mentioned. I now have noticed that almost at every private entrance way there is a bike sign. This has to be a great expense and why is it needed at almost every private entrance of a resort, condo property? It is up to the defensive driver to stop at an entrance and watch for the biker approaching any roadway and entrance. It is then up to a biker, riding on a sidewalk, in which you see many, to slow and even stop at each entrance. As well, for drivers to inch there way out of a driveway and watch for the biker.

As previously mentioned, I never paid much attention to all the bike signage. However, once I drove from work yesterday I agree with the many complaints that the bike signage is overkill, at almost every private entrance, the length of the key is not needed.

Linda Cullen

Driving force behind bike sign initiative

To: Editor

In reading your Feb. 18 article, I was disappointed in the decision to reduce bicycle signage on Longboat Key. I guess I’m late to the game but I can’t understand why the existing signage would be considered unnecessary or superfluous. The argument of removing it to make it match signage on Sarasota bike lanes is seriously flawed. The vast majority of Sarasota streets with bike lanes carry nowhere near the auto traffic density seen on Gulf of Mexico Drive. Gulf of Mexico Drive has lots of cars and lots of bikers; neither group is going away. How could reducing safety enhancements in any way lead to improved conditions on the road? By this logic, additional safety for motorists and bikers alike could be achieved by removing the stop signs and traffic lights on Longboat Key. Even better, paint over all the dividing lines on the road. Doesn’t make sense, does it? I just wish someone would tell me the real driving force behind this initiative.

Dave Landsperger

Not in favor of signage reduction

To: Editor

The Town Commission Workshop Thursday Feb. 17, where the commissioners did not know how they were supposed to vote on two bike signage reduction options, that were virtually identical, was the distasteful end to a deeply flawed process.

When Joe Moccia and I, as fellow cyclists, were asked to meet with two P&Z Board members Nov. 10, 2010, to discuss bike signage reduction on Longboat Key, we were eager to help. While the meeting went well, we were concerned that at a previous meeting Oct. 27, decisions had already been made. We left the meeting feeling that the town was committed to a one sign per mile option.

Mr. Moccia and I suspected that we were somehow being exploited after the Nov. 10 meeting, which I addressed in writing Nov. 16, 2010. We were sure that was the case after the P&Z meeting Jan. 4, 2011, where we both felt we were being fed to the lions. We only continued on with this process because we have a commitment to do what we felt was correct for the town and public safety.

Over the next three months we tried to start meaningful dialogue with P&Z and FDOT, only to fail. Even after we enlisted the assistance of the president of the Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club (450 members) and the owners of two major area bike stores, it was obvious that Mr. Moccia and my role at P&Z meetings was to be present, keep quiet and agree. This, for the sake of Longboat Key, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists, we were unwilling to do.

Over the next several months we were to discover:

• Rather than involve Mr. Moccia, who is the chairman of the Longboat Key division of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisor Committee (BPAC), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) talked to the Florida Bicycle/Pedestrian Partnership Council, which according to a committee member, is mainly composed of concerned citizens who are not cyclists.

• This member said he was the only one familiar with cycling on Gulf of Mexico Drive and Longboat Key, and only a few times. He was outvoted on a discussion whether Gulf of Mexico Drive should be considered a rural or an urban roadway. By designating Gulf of Mexico Drive a rural roadway, the signage could be every one mile. If the designation was an urban roadway, then the signage would be every quarter-mile or half-mile. During “season” with traffic coming from many directions, it is doubtful that many people would consider Gulf of Mexico Drive rural.

• The one-mile bike signage option for Longboat Key would provide more signs than the half-mile option. How could that be? The explanation by the FDOT on how that could be was unconvincing. At the Feb. 17 Commission Workshop the commissioners seemed genuinely perplexed.

• Mr. Moccia and I could not understand the relationship between the P&Z and FDOT, who initiated what, and who pushed for the one-mile bike signage reduction. Nor do we understand town official’s obsession with aesthetics and beautification. Except for a few obvious bike signs that could be removed or moved, Longboat Key has had these signs helping to promote public safety for more than a decade. Why risk a reduction?

• One representative of the FDOT said he did not believe signage reduction compromised public safety. His colleague on at least two occasions has been quoted at the P&Z Board meeting as early as May 2009, saying that “reducing the number of bike signs is not advisable.” On Jan. 4, 2011, at the P&Z meeting he was quoted saying “This is a compromise between safety and what is actually needed on Longboat Key.”

• Longboat Key and the FDOT did not present any safety studies to justify a change in the number and placement of bike signage. Without these facts and data, the decision is arbitrary and capricious.

• As one commissioner said, “he was against unnecessary signs fouling our roadway.” His comment seemed to represent the attitude of town officials. However, the primary responsibility of any governing body is public safety.

• The reduction of bike signage will happen at a time when the state of Florida is having an ongoing discussion about bicycle accidents and safety.

• And finally, the P&Z meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15, titled “Continue Discussion Regarding FDOT Signage on GMD,” which Mr. Moccia and I were personally asked to attend was abusive. The meeting began with a statement that no discussion or questions would be allowed. The real question that should be asked was not about the ruckus that ensued, but what was the reason that Mr. Moccia and I were even at a meeting about discussion, without discussion allowed.

• A golden opportunity for public safety may have been lost as the Feb. 17 Town Commission Workshop was the first meaningful discussion of all parties concerning signage, aesthetics, safety, and rights for cyclists, pedestrians and automobiles. This should have been done at the beginning of the process, not the end.

• One speaker said that while all of us agree that safety is foremost, the main point of contention of bike signage reduction is that the cycling community is not willing to risk one person injured or killed to test the value of the existing bike signs. Town officials, without any data or safety studies, have publicly stated they do not believe this will be a problem. We all pray that town officials are correct and the cycling community is mistaken. Let the lawsuits begin.

Paul Skversky
Longboat Key

To: Paul Skversky

First and foremost, I understand the cyclists’ concerns and welcome them to our paradise, but I do not equate the magnitude of signs we have on Longboat with increased cyclist awareness and hence increased safety.

Your summary of events leading to the commission’s decision regarding placement of bike signs along GMD no doubt represents your (and probably the bicycle community’s) perspective. Other involved parties provided different perspectives.

The commission “not knowing how to vote” regarding two virtually identical sign reduction begs the issue. What the Commission did know is that sign reduction appeared reasonable and could be done without compromising safety. Sometimes, too much of something can result in the opposite of its intention. In this case bike signs may have become “invisible” because of their frequency, and judicious planning and sign placement may actually increase awareness.

Because it has a wide span of openness with trees and sidewalks set far back, cyclist visibility is extremely good along GMD, much more so than our neighboring islands. Our island has a higher than normal aging population with vision, hearing and reflex impairments that do not lend themselves to safe driving under any conditions. Often, they tend to watch the road straight ahead to keep their vehicle within the lines and pay little attention to anything else, including a plethora of signs.

Bike signs on poles are not the only markings we have to increase cyclist awareness. Numerous bike symbols are painted along the bike lane, or at least they will soon be again once the repaved road has “cured.” According to the FDOT representative, painted bike symbols alone, sans signs, are sufficient to satisfy state requirements, and the commission’s willingness to supplement painted symbols with an extensive number of pole signs evidences its concern for bicycle safety. Also, since obtaining a Florida driver’s license presumes knowledge of the laws, which clearly states that vehicles are to yield to cyclists, one could make a case that any bike sign is superfluous.

I am disappointed regarding the innuendos and implications of your comment, “Let the lawsuits begin.” Typically, a resort ‘fighting words” denotes the end of any conversation, and I wonder what purpose is served by your invocation, other than perhaps an expression of your frustration.

Many of the cyclists appearing before the commission were from Sarasota or Manatee, where signs on their islands are virtually non-existent. After sign realignment, Longboat will still have an untold number of signs more than the surrounding islands. If the cyclist community is as serious about cyclists safety as indicated, turning their attention toward increased safety awareness on the surrounding islands could be far more productive and belie an implication that Longboat, which already has and will continue to have a pronounced emphasis on cyclist safety, has perhaps been unfairly singled out.

Commissioner Phill Younger
Longboat Key

To: Commissioner Phill Younger

I stand by every word in my letter! Please read it again. The town seemed committed to the one-mile option as early as 10/27/10. There was no valid reason to ask Joe Moccia and me to be involved. We knew we were being exploited, but the 2/15/11 P&Z meeting, in particular, was a disgrace. I wish you were there to observe.

Joe and I stayed in the process only because we care deeply about Longboat Key and Bike Safety. We hoped to start a dialogue not only about Bike Signage, but rights and responsibilities of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists, plus addressing safety on our sidewalks. It may yet succeed.

Because of what I considered a flawed process, I am concerned about my town. After each accident, we may be opening ourselves up for lawsuits. I spoke of this at the Commission Workshop Feb. 17, 2011. This is not about frustration but about caring for Longboat Key and its citizens. I thank you for all your assistance.

FYI – So far I have received responses from many people mostly non-bikers and they are all positive.

Paul Skversky
Longboat Key

Department of Piecemeal Planning

To: Commissioner David Brenner

It is unlikely that one would find “Department of Piecemeal Planning” on the agency directory of any city or town hall. Planners like to do “it” (meaning planning of course) comprehensively. Yet all too often, despite the best of intentions, planning often proceeds piecemeal with less than beneficial or optimal results. Sometimes the proverbial cart goes before the horse and sometimes the horse has not been directed as to where to go.

In my view, case in point is the recent decision to examine in conjunction with FDOT reductions to the signage particularly bicycle signs along Gulf of Mexico Drive. The Vision Plan, adopted by the commission, calls for a beautification plan for Gulf of Mexico Drive (Goal 6 -Task No. 7) and suggests a committee, including the Garden Club, landscape architects and citizen representatives, to develop such a plan. So before FDOT does its signage plan and reports back to the commission on this narrow issue, shouldn’t the commission appoint this committee and refer the FDOT to work with this committee on the signage issue in conjunction with the development of an overall plan for Gulf of Mexico Drive?

We need a vision for the future of Gulf of Mexico Drive and all the pieces or actions items must fit and be compatible within that plan. The trees planted last year block the view of existing signage. Not only is there no consistency in the signage there is no consistency in the plantings, driveways, turning lanes or much of anything else along our main and only artery. We need to address safety not only concerning conflicts between bicyclists and auto drivers but also between bicyclists and pedestrians and certainly pedestrians and cars as people try to cross the Gulf of Mexico Drive. So there is a mix of larger issues that needs to be comprehensively addressed by a committee charged with doing so and delivering in timely fashion a complete package — indeed a vision of what Gulf of Mexico Drive could look like and operate to insure the well being of Longboat Key — its residents and visitors.

Further, with regard to the entire Vision Plan, I still believe there is a need for a coordinating committee to manage and monitor how all of the recommendations contained in the plan can move forward coherently. There is no sense of priorities or critical dates in the plan or the sense that some items need to be completed before others.

In this vein, and speaking of carts and horses, it is premature to start drafting comp plan language or zoning ordinances to provide for a possible Town Center or Whitney Plaza. In my experience as a planner, when we got good development supported by the community, it was when we first did site feasibility analysis, developed concept plan alternatives and met extensively with all interested parties before we wrote the Comp Plan sections and developed ordinances. Not doing so gives the developer little guidance as to what the affected parties want or allows the developer to define through his/her own design what he/she wants leaving the Town in a reactive position with possibly little consensus. We need to flesh out the Vision Plan so it has substance and using the Vision Plan to amend our Comp Plan and our Land Use Regulations -otherwise the Vision Plan may never get to see or to realize what it envisions.

Larry Grossman
Longboat Key

To: Larry Grossman

Thank you for your thoughtful email. It gives us much to chew on.

Commissioner Dave Brenner
Longboat Key

Keep Longboat Key safe

To: Vice Mayor Jim Brown

I’ve been a Sarasota resident for many years, and one of the activities I enjoy the most is to ride my bike on Longboat Key. It is such a pleasure to know that I can take my bike on a beautiful safe ride without worrying about cars and trucks not noticing the cyclists riding. Longboat Key is, I believe, the only place in Sarasota (as well as in the most of the cities I know) where cyclists can enjoy a safe scenic and pleasant bike ride. Please do not jeopardize the joy, safety and pleasure of thousands of Sarasota and Longboat Key residents who love their safe bike rides. Keep Longboat Key safe and please do not remove the signs that ensure our safety.

Tuly Martelo

Flight paths at Sarasota/Bradenton Airport

To: Rick Piccolo

About a month ago when I saw you at the Sarasota County swearing in ceremonies, I mentioned the particular interest of my constituent, Andy Aitken’s interest in this issue. We are both on Longboat Key. You mentioned that your chairman had asked for a review of the issue as well. I don’t know where the review stands, but Andy would like the opportunity to provide input. I would appreciate it if you could bring him into loop, even if the opportunity for his involvement is limited. Thank you.

Commissioner Dave Brenner
Longboat Key

To: Commissioner David Brenner

I wanted to update you and Mr. Aitken now that I am back in town, as I promised last week in my email. To ensure there is no misunderstanding I reviewed the verbatim transcript of the Jan. 24 board meeting. The board directed staff to return to the next Regular Board Meeting April 18 with a work up on how the airport is doing with compliance with the noise turn and to check if is it true that Tampa Departure Control is turning the pilots early as stated by Mr. Aitken. To that end I am having our Environmental Affairs office review the flight tracking data and I have also requested a meeting with the SRQ Air Traffic Control Tower Manager to seek his input as well. Although the Board did not direct staff to consult with Mr. Aitken I want to assure you both that once the airport completes its review and has met with the ATCT Manager we will make sure that he is invited out to the airport to review and discuss his concerns with us before the April 18 Regular Board Meeting. Thank you for your input and assistance in this matter.

Fredrick (Rick) J. Piccolo AAE
President & CEO
Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport

To: Rick Piccolo

Thanks for your prompt response to my concern.

Commissioner Dave Brenner
Longboat Key

Pension accountability

To: Editor

Regarding pensions, if you underfund pensions on the basis of making 8 or 9 percent a year return on the money and the economy falls apart, then you (whoever you are) own the problem. Not the taxpayers. Unfortunately, so many politicians are voted in and out of office but are never held accountable.

Jim Treonis
Longboat Key

Detroit on the Gulf?

To: Editor

We are not retirees. We are working weekenders who love coming here. And we care greatly about the future of Longboat Key. Since 1994 (17 years) our property taxes, along with our property values, have more than quadrupled. Yet just this year we were advised of another increase in the millage rate by an additional 26 percent. Now you report that pension costs have more than tripled in only the last seven years. (By the way, as a pension and investment consultant, I suspect there are probably millions in cost and fee savings that could be recaptured. Similar to the $44 million I found for the city of Orlando’s then $650 million pensions.)

Is there any correlation between these pension costs and unionization? Is there any correlation with unreasonable or unrealistic pension goals? Or with unrealistic market performance expectations? Or with the town manager’s doubling of salary? Or with the decimation of our tourist industry? Something to think about.

There have been at least two beach renourishments in the last 17 years. The last one resulted in the horrible, ugly, dark, hot, nearly-impossible-to-walk-on sand. Is that because we could not afford the sugar white sand that attracted most of us? Would that have anything to do with the pension crisis’ affect on the budget?

The number of hotel beds are decimated. Our retail shops are gone. The “no-growthers” have won. The big government-types have won. Not only on Longboat Key. Are we now “Detroit on the Gulf?” Just this morning, we discussed selling and leaving this once-wonderful island. What a shame. Shame on the town government.

Mitchell Levin MD, CWPP, CAPP
CEO and managing director
Summit Florida

Trolley route

To: Steve Jackson

I have attached a PDF of the story, which appears in this week’s Islander. I am not sure about the correctness of the information provided by Mr. Van Pelt — the new schedule is not yet in place and when it is I believe the hours will be reduced. He states the route did not meet MCAT expectations and then points out there is a charge for it, but Anna Maria’s trolley is fare-free and its schedule is unchanged — the flip side of this statement is that despite the fare and a previously reduced schedule now to be further reduced, the Longboat Key Trolley attracts a range of rides annually of 81,395 to 152,570 using the lowest and highest daily counts (my calculation from the ridership data provided). Nonetheless, the strategy of the Working Group to increase awareness and ridership is still the correct one.

Tom Aposporos, president
LLSA Chamber of Commerce

To: Trolley supporters

I have the following notes from Steve Jackson, who was kind enough to chair the meeting of the Working Group in my absence:

“The meeting of the Working Group was held at 9 a.m., Feb. 14, 2011, in the Chamber of Commerce office. Sarasota County is placing in service a new unit that is more a trolley than a bus. Route 18 is also called ‘the Longboat Key Trolley route.’ As a result, the working group voted to change our name to ‘Take the Longboat Key Trolley.’

The recent meeting with representatives of Manatee and Sarasota transit officials made clear that the most constructive effort our group can commit to is increasing ridership of the trolley, therefore, our plan is to distribute the new schedule now planned to be in place on March 12 to all Longboat Key condominiums and accommodations facilities. (Sarah Blanchard of Sarasota transit, in a post meeting telephone call, indicated she would share with us the artwork once it is completed.) In addition to the schedule, we want to produce and distribute an ‘Attention Getter’ to draw people to pick up the schedule and ‘Take the Trolley.’ The Chamber of Commerce has offered to help in the creation of these documents. Jackie Salvino will be contacting Diana Corrigan of St. Armands Circle Association to identify who orchestrates the local art and craft fairs to get to these people to add to their promotions the ‘Take the Trolley’ message. Shantell Mankowski is also looking at Web sites where we could get advance knowledge of upcoming functions.

Freda Perrotta felt the best way to help people realize where their bus stop fell in the published Time Stop was for times before or after the hour for north or south routes to be attached to the Trolley Stop pole (an example is the one near CVS in the Publix shopping center south on the key). I presented that idea to Sarah Blanchard who believes it to be a good one. Marking the poles is a project that will take time.

All in attendance are excited to do everything possible to educate and increase ridership. The meeting adjourned at 10:10 a.m.”

Tom Aposporos, president
LLSA Chamber of Commerce

Vision Plan comments

To: Julian Hansen

Please see goal No. 5 of the Vision Plan, which has been there from the first draft. You and your colleagues would better serve the town if you would suggest strategies to carry out that goal. Copies of the Vision Plan can be found on the town Web site or a copy can be picked up at Town Hall.

Commissioner Dave Brenner
Longboat Key

To: Commissioner David Brenner

In response to your e-mail, I am aware of goal No. 5. Perhaps you should reread it! It clearly pertains to the North End of the town and specifically to the Village Association. That “our colleagues” would better serve the town by suggesting strategies to the Village Association is clearly misplaced — by about 10 miles.

Goal No. 5 does not discuss any vision for enhancing or maintaining the quality of residential living currently achieved elsewhere on Longboat Key. While goal No. 5 is about two lines long, goals 3, 4 and 8 covering tourism and commercialism are extensive. You should be aware that Sands Point is “behind the gates” on the south end of the town. Our “vision” was to maintain the “original master plan” for Islandside, which unfortunately is threatened to be drastically altered and damaged by the commission action regarding the monstrous expansion currently granted to the Longboat Key Club & Resort.

Julian Hansen, president
Sands Point Condominium

Putting the cart before the horse

To: Mayor George Spoll and Commissioner Hal Lenobel

I write as a community development sociologist, after reading a news article entitled “Longboat Key worries about its future as a tourist and retiree magnet” by Dale White. Without any substantive detail or history, I still applaud Commissioner Lenobel for his single dissenting vote regarding the adoption of a “Vision Plan.” As I understand the plan’s emphasis on commercial development, it is a matter of “putting the cart before the horse.” Commercial development will pursue (and chase) opportunity, and opportunity anywhere, but particularly on an island community is a stable residential population base.

I find flaws with the article’s account of the “Vision Plan,” but not with the Vision Plan itself since I have not had the privilege of reviewing it firsthand. First, if the plan actually places primary (great) emphasis on expanding tourism, it is advocating a gamble that is more a long shot that is more short-term than long-term. Second, with respect to attracting (baby-boomer) retirees, the demographic trend that is leaning toward smaller households desiring homes with more square footage is also short-term. The medium- and long-term demographic anticipates a desire for smaller homes (square footage). This is the case for both second homes and primary homes, and is consistent with the uncertain economic climate.

One might think of it this way. A municipality might make little distinction between 1,000 residents paying $9,000 each in property taxes and 3,000 residents paying $3,000 each in property taxes, but commercial development would rather chase 3,000 permanent consumers, plus tourists, than 1,000 permanent consumers, plus tourists. In this sense, combining property lots would yield only a short-term gain, and predictably a small gain. You might even consider experimenting with the zoning of substandard lots and the trend toward “Katrina cottages.”

Predictably, my thoughts will be discounted since they were not solicited, and that is understandable. Regardless, I wish both of you well, and I wish the community of Longboat Key well.

Gary S. Foster PhD
Emeritus chairman and professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

To: Gary Foster

One would hope that a man of your background would not comment on an issue unless he had actually read the document you are attacking. Saying that Longboat Key’s Vision Plan puts an emphasis on commercial development and tourist couldn’t be further from the truth. The only discussion of commercial businesses in the Vision Plan is to try to restore the business levels of the past that provide much needed services for the residents of the premier residential community.

Commissioner Jim Brown
Longboat Key

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

I sincerely appreciate your response, and I absolutely agree with you. That was, indeed, my point. I acknowledged in my private e-mail that I had not read the Vision Plan, and I would never make any public comment, even if I had the privilege of reading it. My implicit point was that the news article was skewing the likely content of the Vision Plan and that was my intent when I indicated that I found flaws with the article’s account of the Vision Plan. It was not my intent to convey any attack or critique of the plan, per se, but to illustrate incorrect interpretations from incomplete accounts reported in the media, and it was that media’s report that the plan placed an emphasis on commercial development. Your summary of the Vision Plan is completely consistent with what the vast majority of community development/revitalization experts would encourage.

I am not sure how you received my e-mail since my tracking system indicated that Commissioner Lenobel did not receive it, but I am grateful that you did. I want to assure you that had you been identified in the news article, I would have certainly copied you as well, and I would also say that I thank you for the dedication that you as a commissioner have invested in your community. Sometimes, “eggheads” like myself think we have much to offer, but then we expect councils and commissioners like yourself to make the hard decisions and do the heavy lifting.

There is, in my opinion, no finer residential community that you and your colleagues could be working to improve and enhance. I wish you and your fellow commissioners and Mayor Spoll well in your efforts. I sincerely apologize that you found my communication offensive or with issue, but I also sincerely appreciate the gracious and informative nature of your response.

Gary S. Foster
Longboat Key

Removing signs puts cyclists at risk

To: Town Commission

I understand you are wanting to remove the bike signs on Longboat Key for beautification purposes. I have been biking your key for the 18 years I have lived in Cortez. Removing these signs will put many cyclists at risk as there are many visitors driving up and down the key this time of year and hopefully they will heed the signs’ warning.

As to your many Longboat Key residents who “are nervous when they are faced with the choice of getting too close to a group of cyclists or running head on into the approaching vehicle,” perhaps your commission should work on making the roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike by getting these drivers off the road. You further state that these aging drivers have vision and hearing impairments. Why allow them to drive if they indeed are impaired as you state in your response to Mr. Bayard’s e-mail?

1. Are you aware that our state of Florida has passed a “three-foot law,” meaning motorists are not allowed to be within three feet of cyclists when passing. If these aging motorists can’t obey the traffic rules, they should not be on any roads.

2. Are you aware that Conte Nast Traveler Magazine recommends LBK for a biking vacation? Having the Commissioners state they are opposed to cyclists on the key will only distract from the tourist revenues, which in part pay your salaries.

3. Are you prepared to have on your conscience a cycling accident/fatality because you wanted to eliminate signs for beautification purposes?

4. I personally don’t think red stop signs are very pretty either, perhaps next week you will agree with me and remove them as well.

5. I would like to remind you that as commissioners you are required to perform your duties with the best interest of the citizens that have elected you. I believe you will be derelict in your duties if you fail to protect your citizens now that you have admitted the unsafe conditions of biking LBK with regard to the aging, impaired drivers.

6. As cyclists we too are taxpaying citizens, we have the right to the use of the public roadways, and cyclists are aware of the inherent dangers of our sport. Making LBK safer for cyclists would be a much better project for your office, not working on removing the bike signs.

Kathryn P. Kridel

Three feet law

To: Town Commission

I am writing concerning the possible removal of bicycle signs on Gulf of Mexico Drive. I live on north Lido Key and frequently bicycle onto the mainland for various appointments and activities, as well as up Longboat Key to do my grocery shopping at Publix. I ride in the summer and the winter and everything in between. I have ridden out to Myakka State Park regularly. I have commuted to work on bicycle. I have worked from a bicycle. All here in Sarasota County.

Outside of Sarasota County, I have ridden in urban areas, in National Parks, on multi-day bike trips, in the suburbs, through farmland, in the Western United States, in the Eastern United States and in the Midwest. I have ridden in bicycle-friendly towns, such as Boulder, Colo. I have ridden in bicycle-hostile areas. I have ridden in areas where more people ride bikes than drive cars, such as Copenhagen. I have ridden where people drive on the left side of the road, such as in India. I have ridden where the rules of the road are not really utilized, such as in China.

In my experience, what minimizes injury to adults riding bicycles in the face of automobile traffic is the awareness and sense of responsibility of those behind the driver’s wheel. If drivers are aware of bicycles and drive safely around them, those on bicycles are at significantly less risk. So, instead of removing signs, why not take a bold step forward and make use of the existing signposts to educate drivers for safety. If there really is extra sign space out there, use them to educate the driving public about the three-foot law — that a motorist is required to safely pass a bicyclist no closer than three feet.

There is an opportunity here. Let’s move forward and be proactive! In the end, my principle concern is that bicycles, and the people who ride them, easily get from here to there without injury. I hold the same view about cars and the people who drive them. I have no idea if there are more signs than needed. I have no idea whether there are any studies that demonstrate that these signs actually improve bicyclists’ safety. But signs do provide an indication that the community cares about people on bicycles. I would say that whoever wants to remove these signs should prove, via research, that it will be just as safe for bicycles with fewer signs. As far as I can tell, this has not been done. For the time being — case closed.

Diane Desenberg
Lido Key

Safer cyclist infrastructure

To: Town Commission

It is my understanding that you are considering removing the biking road signs on Longboat Key. All responsible communities should have biking road signs for roadway safety. These signs like any road signs are a low-cost safety message, which is simple and quick. Motorists should respect the fact that cyclists are a normal component of traffic. The dominant motorist has the duty of care for the more vulnerable road user cyclist and pedestrian alike. The time has come to not look at the cyclists as an alien when looking through the windshield.

Biking signs have been designated by our government’s “Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.” These signs have been adopted by the state of Florida for roadway safety. Our goal should be to develop a safer cyclist infrastructure. In the future due to the increased cyclists use trajectory, there will likely be more signs or different signs but not less signs. If the motorists cannot properly integrate the roadway, a separatist approach may be necessary. This separation would require unsightly barricades and the possible purchasing of property at community expense. I urge you to allow the signs to remain.

Dr. Dick Chapman

Solution is to aggressively enforce driving laws

To: Mayor George Spoll, Vice Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioners

As you know, the Planning and Zoning Board was asked to look into the issue of sign pollution on Longboat Key. After some discussion, it was determined that the best way to proceed was to establish a committee that could do some research and provide information to the town on this issue.

The committee realized that they had to know what parameters the town was working in. To address that issue they met with representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation.

After gathering information, the committee met Jan. 4, 2011. At that meeting a number of sign pollution issues were discussed. The abundance of “No Parking” and “Soft Shoulder” signs in front of the mobile home communities, “Yield to Bikes when Making Right Turn,” which were placed on the south side of Gulf of Mexico Drive along the golf course where there are no right turns that could be made and signs that were placed in such a way that they were unreadable due to landscaping or the proliferation of signs in one location.

Also present at that meeting were the Planning & Zoning Committee members, two cyclists, representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation, town staff and one newspaper representative.

FDOT officials told the group what signs could be reduced or moved and gave the group two alternatives regarding bicycle signs — “Signs every mile, with additional signs at hot spots” or “signs every half mile.” All at the table seemed to be in agreement with the suggestion of every mile with additional signs at hot spots. The committee also discussed the other signs — “No Parking on Public Right of Way,” “Soft Shoulders” and the bus stop signs (which FDOT has no control over).

Following the meeting I have learned that the bicycle representatives called the chairman of the meeting and said they were no longer in agreement with the suggestions made at the meeting.

Town staff wished all communication to be on the record regarding the sign issue. They convened a meeting at 8:30 a.m., Feb. 15.

At that time one member of the cycling community repeatedly interrupted Monica Simpson as she read the material into the record and also interrupted anyone else who attempted to speak at the table. He stated that he was the Town Commission’s representative and had not been invited to the first meeting and therefore wanted the work that had been done to be thrown out and started over. While staff attempted to explain that the session with FDOT was an educational opportunity and not a meeting where any decisions took place and that the P&Z Committee had no power and no authority to make any decisions, only to provide facts to the Town Commission, per their request, he was not appeased.

Several things are abundantly clear to me. I did not know that the town had a “bike representative who serves in an official capacity.” I believe the Planning & Zoning Board members who worked diligently to learn as much about the issue as possible have done an outstanding job and have provided you with a great deal of useful material.

Upon leaving the meeting I had to be in Sarasota. Leaving my neighborhood I watched two cyclists ignore a stop sign and continue making a left turn from Harbourside onto Bay Isles Road. While waiting at the stoplight at Bay Isles Road and Gulf of Mexico Drive, two bicyclists ran the red light. While waiting at the stoplight at Longboat Key Road and Gulf of Mexico Drive one bicyclist ran the red light. Upon finishing my work on the mainland I came back via Cortez Road and drove the length of the key. Two cyclists were traveling northbound in the southbound lanes in front of Cedars. In the week prior to the meeting I encountered three cyclists traveling northbound in the southbound left lane of Harbourside Drive with landscape trucks blocking the right lane. I had to come to a complete stop and move onto the grass because the cyclists continued their violation of the moving vehicle laws.

If we are to believe your bike representative, that signs will solve the problem of moving violations, we will need to add signs about “Bikers — Stop at Red Lights,” “Bikers — use the appropriate lane going the appropriate way,” “Bikers — Do Not Ride Two abreast and put yourself and vehicles in danger by being in the vehicle lane,” “Bikers — pedestrians have the priority on the sidewalks, not you.”

Personally, I do not believe adding signs will make these violations diminish. The only way we can solve these problems is to ask Chief Hogle to aggressively enforce the laws regarding bicyclist travel and ticket offenders. I hope we are already doing that for vehicle drivers breaking the laws.

In another municipality where I have worked, the majority of crashes between vehicles and bikes were the fault of the cyclist. That fact does nothing to diminish the pain for the vehicle driver who has hit someone that has violated the law.

BJ Webb, chairwoman
Planning and Zoning Board
Longboat Key

Vision Plan should consider marketing residential

To: Town Commission

The Vision Plan, which you will be voting on in Monday’s meeting, needs some modification. The document is too focused on tourism. Goal No. 4 expands the marketing and development of the tourism component, yet establishes no goal for marketing the residential attribute. While promoting tourism may be an appropriate part of the marketing strategy, the primary emphasis in marketing Longboat Key should be as an upscale residential, second-home community. While the residents of the key have agreed that maintaining a historic level of tourism is desirable, expanding the intensity of tourism has not been a community desire. The Vision Plan should be modified to include marketing the key primarily as a premier residential, second-home and retirement community. I hope you will add this goal to the plan.

Bob White, president
Islandside Property Owners Coalition LLC

To: Mayor George Spoll

I have seen Bob White’s comments on the Vision Plan. Irrespective of desires regarding the Key Club proposal, his comments are well stated and warrant your consideration.

Dave Decker
Longboat Key

To: Mayor George Spoll

I heartily endorse the suggestions made by Bob White regarding the “vision.”

Julian Hansen, president
Sands Point Condominium
Longboat Key

To: Julian Hansen

Please see goal No. 5 of the Vision Plan, which has been there from the first draft. You and your colleagues would better serve the town if you would suggest strategies to carry out that goal. Copies of the Vision Plan can be found on the town Web site or a copy can be picked up at Town Hall.

Commissioner Dave Brenner
Longboat Key

Serves all the interests

To: Town Commission

I have listened to the presentations of the Vision Plan, have read the document and have also followed the recent public discussion. I believe it to be a comprehensive document that fairly represents the multiple points of view that always exist in any community. It attempts to serve all of those interests and does not overtly favor any one. In that regard, I consider it to be balanced and trust that the commission sentiment in favor of the Vision Plan at your recent workshop will result in the plan being formally adopted.

Tom Aposporos, president
LLSA Chamber of Commerce

Safety should trump aesthetics

To: Vice Mayor Jim Brown

I understand an effort is under way to remove some of the signs, which indicate the bike lanes on Gulf of Mexico Drive and which prompt drivers to watch out for bikes. I fully appreciate any effort to improve aesthetics along this beautiful drive, but I also feel strongly that safety should trump aesthetics. This was underscored for me when just a few days ago a woman cycling on Whitfield Avenue near Lockwood Ridge Road was struck from behind by a pickup truck and killed in broad daylight. Whitfield, as I am sure you are aware, has bike lanes similar to Gulf of Mexico Drive.

My conclusion is that signs warning drivers of bike lanes and bikers are essential, and to cut down on the number of signs can only jeopardize safety.

One thing that keeps us Cape Cod people coming down to Sarasota year after year (and incidentally, supporting the economy and housing values) are efforts to make Sarasota bike friendly. I would hate to see that change.

Bill Carley

Three feet, it’s the law

To: Town Commission

It has been brought to my attention that Longboat Key is considering a proposal to remove 50 percent of the signs reminding motorists that they share the road with cyclists. This is deeply disturbing. I probably do not need to remind you of the numerous bicycle accidents in the last several months on Longboat Key. In fact one of the women who was hit in August 2010 can just now walk without the aid of crutches or a walker. She will never run or cycle again.

Longboat Key is a beautiful gem in the Sarasota-Manatee area. It is a beautiful place to drive, walk or bicycle. However, it is this beauty that also distracts drivers from their main task: driving. As an avid cyclist, I can no longer tell you how many times I have been honked at, cursed at and buzzed by, even while I was in the bike lane. Motorists need to know that bicycles have the right to be on the roads and are protected under Florida law. Rather than removing these signs, Longboat Key should be helping to protect these cyclists. A perfect example is Lakeland’s recent addition of numerous “3 Feet — It’s the Law” signs around some of their more popular biking roads. Longboat Key should take a key from Lakeland and embrace their cycling community.

There has been some argument that motorists have become desensitized to the current signage. I feel that the replacement of the current signage with these signs would reinforce the message that there are bicycles sharing the roadways. Longboat Key will continue to be a popular destination for cyclists whether you remove these signs or not. If you do, I fear there will be more accidents. I feel it is your duty as commissioners to help protect these cyclists while they are on your beautiful island. Please reconsider your plan to remove 50 percent of these signs. Also please look at installing these “3 Feet” signs. Help save a life.

Sean Dotson PE, president
RND Automation & Engineering

Reconsider proposal

To: Town Commission

Longboat Key Planning Board has lobbied to the FDOT for the removal of over 50 percent of these signs, as to not “distract from the beauty of the key.”

I strongly encourage the residents and leadership of Longboat Key to reconsider this proposal. Florida is already ranked as one of the least bicycle friendly and most dangerous states in the country for pedestrians and cyclists. Please reconsider this proposal — it would be far better PR to be part of the solution than to contribute to making the situation worse.

James Ross

Please stand your ground

To: Vice Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioner David Brenner

“Oh, people, look around you, the signs are everywhere” –Jackson Browne
Signs, signs, everywhere signs, blocking the scenery” –Five Man Electrical Band

Please stand your ground (or stay in your lane, as the case may be) on the very reasonable reduction of signs — including bicycle signs.

It appears that many of these “spokes” people have learned from the NRA handbook that any concession is to be opposed unyieldingly (oops, another sign reference).

When the commission has done the nearly impossible by getting FDOT to agree to reduce their precious signs and posts, it would be a shame to take a step backward because a small group, for whatever reason, desires overkill.

Terry Gans
Longboat Key

Please do not remove signs

To: Town Commission

Please do not vote to remove signage on Longboat Key that pertains to bike lanes, yielding to bicycles and other related signage. I bike many roads in Manatee and Sarasota counties on a regular basis. We bicyclists are well aware that motorists are not familiar with laws pertaining to sharing the road with bicyclists. Signage can only help protect bikers. There are far too many accidents involving motor vehicles and bicyclists in Florida. The signs on Longboat Key are not only reminders to local residents who drive the roads there every day, they are also educational in nature to notify tourists and snowbirds that bicycles are present and they must share the road with bikers.

Travelers to foreign countries rely on signage to help them navigate unfamiliar roadways. The bicycle signage on Longboat Key provides the same direction to drivers unfamiliar with our roadways and laws. The signs were installed for a reason. You would not consider removing stop signs, slow curve signs and other such warning signage for automobiles, which removal would imperil safety.

I witnessed the aftermath of an accident on Longboat Key where two bikers, biking within the bike lane, were struck by a motorist and seriously injured. I watched them being put into a medivac helicopter for transfer to a trauma hospital. If you choose to remove the bike signs from Longboat Key, you are increasing the chances of additional bikers being injured or killed by motorists unfamiliar with “Share the Road” Florida rules just to appease a few local residents who are not happy with the number of signs on the Key.

The safety of all residents and visitors to Longboat Key is at stake. I doubt if you would want to chance increasing the number of bicycle fatalities by removing the much-needed bike signs. Do you want the negative consequences of your actions on your conscience? I suggest you get on a bike and ride the island to experience first-hand the bikers’ point of view of this matter. Take a “walk in the moccasins.” Isn’t it your responsibility to act in the best interests of all Longboat Key residents and visitors? Please consider my concerns carefully before voting, and I urge you to keep in place the current bike signage.

Lynn Henneman

To taxpayers of Longboat Key

To: Editor

If it was once deemed by the town, that there was a need to place warning signs to motorists, instructing them to yield to bicyclists, and these signs are taken down by the town, the town will have to show, in a civil law suit, that the one-time need to warn motorists no longer existed when the signs were taken down. It will cost you millions.

Al Janssens
Berlin, Germany

Inattentive, dangerous motorists on LBK

To: Town Commission

As residents of Longboat Key and avid cyclists who frequently ride our tandem on the key and in other parts of Florida either alone or in a brightly-clad group, my wife and I have been following closely the discussions concerning the GMD signage, with particular attention to that concerning cyclists, and feel compelled to join in.

Due to the abysmal driving standards of many who drive on the island, I would think that any move to reduce motorists’ awareness of cyclists and of their rights is a retrograde and dangerous step. How many times do we see vehicles traveling along the key with two wheels in the bike lane? How many times do we see motorists entering GMD who look right first and then left, instead of vice versa?

How many times do we see motorists pass a line of cyclists by using the opposite traffic lane (like apparently some of [Commissioner Jim] Brown’s friends do), or pass very closely when three feet of clearance is the legal requirement? How many times do we as cyclists have cars slow down alongside us instead of waiting behind to turn right? How many times do we see drivers on the phone or texting or reading or fiddling with something on the passenger seat or attending to their make-up or hair? How many times do we see motorists turn without giving any signal? How many times do we see drivers who can barely see over the steering wheel? It happens all the time, so anything to attract the attention of these dangerous motorists to cyclists is absolutely essential.

As examples of inattentive and dangerous motorists on Longboat Key, I recently experienced the following: I was cycling north alone in the bike lane wearing a bright yellow shirt, as I believe it is also the responsibility of any cyclist to be easily seen. On approaching the Centre Shops a car slowed down alongside me (this always very disconcerting for cyclists who are traveling at 16-20 mph, wondering what that driver is going to do next), so I assumed, but was wary, that they were waiting for me to pass before they turned into the shopping center. But no, they moved ahead, gave no signal, and turned right, directly in front of me, causing me to brake hard to avoid hitting the side of the car. I followed it into the parking lot and told the (lady) driver that she could have killed me by her action and asked if she had seen me. She said, “Yes, I saw you.” I asked her why she had turned directly in front of me without warning so that I almost hit her car, to which her response was “Oh, aren’t my flashers working?” I suggested that what was not working was her brain!

But that’s not all. On my way back, I was behind a car in the turn lane waiting to turn into Bay Isles Road. The car made its turn and as the road was clear I began to cross, but at the same time a car that had been waiting at the stop to enter GMD began to move toward me. I shouted and waved but it still came on. I took evasive action but was so close I could have touched the car. The (lady) driver still did not see me because she was looking at something on the passenger seat as she drove across GMD. She’s still oblivious to the fact that I was there.

Fortunately these are not daily occurrences and they will not deter me from riding the key, but they are examples of driving standards here and of how careful cyclists have to be.

In spite of what been has written by others, there is ample room for motor vehicles to pass cyclists riding in the bike lane without having to cross into the opposite lane. If drivers cannot judge distance, they should not be driving. Having signs may not completely deter some drivers from behaving as they do, but it most certainly helps.

Since Longboat Key is such a popular place for cyclists of all ages and abilities, why not put large signs at each end of the island warning motorists of cyclists and reminding them of their responsibilities. There are various other signs at each end. “Beautification” should not come at the expense of safety.

We retired to Longboat Key about 12 years ago for the weather, the cycling and the boating, so in spite of what Commissioner Brown arrogantly suggests, we will not go away. Share the road!

Arthur Wood
Longboat Key

To: Town Commission

Please reconsider the removal of the bicycle lane signs from Longboat Key. As a business owner, taxpayer and longtime resident I feel this is a poor decision on behalf of our citizens and guests. I was hit by a car on the “bike path” on the key and nearly lost my arm in the mid-1980s and have seen too many other accidents over the years to think it prudent to reduce the signage. Thank you for your consideration

Tommy Klauber, proprietor
Polo Grill, Pattigeorge’s and Fete Catering

To: Editor

I sincerely hope the Longboat Key commissioners will not vote to reduce the bike signage on Longboat Key. I sent the following e-mail to the commissioners. Perhaps your paper could write a weekly column on bike laws directed toward the motorist and the bicyclist. Education may reduce the number of auto-bike accidents.

Lynn Heneman

Opposed to cameras on key

To: Editor

We are appalled by the suggestion that cameras should record all vehicles coming on and off Longboat Key. Do we not value individual rights and freedoms? This is an extreme response to what? Fear? “Others?” We are blessed to live in a free and open community where all are welcome anonymously. This would in effect create a gated community and not all residents have made that choice. This plan has more far-reaching implications and ramifications than have been thought of or discussed. Please re-think this plan.

Anne Mock
Joan Spalding

Longboat Key

Your recent column and my great-grandfather…

To: Commissioner and Columnist Hal Lenobel

It was quite a pleasure to have a quote made by my great-grandfather and namesake, Ben Sayers, show up because of a Google Alert I have set for his name. Many of the others are good quotes, but it’s wonderful to see his name with the other greats of golf.

You may find a few short articles that I wrote for my blog worth a read and a chuckle.

When I was about 13 I had the pleasure of meeting Lady Nancy Astor. Granddad Sayers taught Amelia Earhart how to play golf. In 1925, the George Sayers Company made a custom putter for a man, which at today’s prices would cost more than $100,000 for the one putter.

The General called to say “Hello.” The commanding general of the United States 3rd Army called one day.

Thanks for the connection to my childhood and the great game of golf!

“A good player who is a great putter is a match for any golfer. A great hitter who cannot putt is a match for no one.” –Ben Sayers

Bernard Sayers
Longboat Key

Support for cameras

To: Commissioner Phill Younger

We object to the news coverage general tone regarding putting cameras at both ends of the key, as suggested by our chief of police. It is a great idea that is very simple and will be cost effective. We want to go on record with you that we wholeheartedly and without reservation support the chief’s idea.

Ted and Thelma Eisch
Longboat Key

Bike signs

To: Bruce St Denis

Please find attached the inventory provided by FDOT. According to the document, there are currently 126 bicycle-related sign faces (on 99 separate posts — some posts obviously have more than one type of bicycle sign on them). Initially proposed by FDOT is 94 bicycle related sign faces (on 55 separate posts), this is at one-mile increments, with an additional maximum of 16 signs to address the eight “hot spot” concerns raised by Messrs. Skversky and Moccia. Hope this helps.

Monica Simpson, director
Planning, Building & Zoning Department
Longboat Key

Bike signs helpful, beneficial

To: Town Commission

As an avid cyclist I am writing you and requesting that no action be taken to remove any ‘Bike Lane’ signs and ‘Yield to Bike – Right Turn’ signs. These signs are essential to promoting safety for cyclists and motorists alike.

Longboat Key is a very pretty key and beautifully maintained. I commend you for this. Longboat Key also features one of the best cycling routes in the entire U.S.A. As such it attracts a huge number of cyclists.

While some of the cyclists are quite skilled in ‘preventive’ cycle skills, I still see many, many other individuals who are quite ‘amateur’ in their bike handling skills and awareness of fast moving traffic around them. Likewise the motorists who travel on Gulf of Mexico Drive range from very knowledgeable locals who are aware of the high frequency of cyclists on this busy road, to our seasonal guests who are totally unfamiliar with this road, where they want to go, and that many, many both skilled and amateur cyclists share the roadway.

The frequency of ‘Bike Lane’ signs is quite helpful in reminding many, many drivers of how they should share the roadway. Many non-cyclists have a very limited understanding of how effective these signs are in promoting a much safer cycling/motorist environment.

A further benefit of the ‘Bike Lane’ signs is that it makes statement to many active people that Longboat Key is a friendly, energetic and safe place to visit and to invest in real estate.

The condition and appearance of virtually all the bike signs rate a positive 10 on a scale of 10. Thus they do not distract from the beauty of the roadway. I wish I could say the same for many of the other signs, utility posts, etc., that seem often in need of some ‘tender, loving care.’

While some people may claim the bike signs are unneeded, is the removal of these bike signs a ‘sufficient trade off’ for even one seriously injured cyclist, not to mention a fatality? Please remember even the ‘safest, most alert’ cyclist is no match for a 3,000-pound automobile. Please keep the bike signs up.

Steve Bayard

To: Paul Skversky

Below is a letter I wrote responding to Mr. Bayard’s letter. I think it covers the same subjects you discussed. Please understand that I am not against safe biking, I am against unnecessary signs fouling our roadways. I challenge you to prove that the proliferation of signs makes the roads safer. Would you suggest that we also erect signs saying, “Yield to Pedestrians” every 100 feet?

Commissioner Jim Brown
Longboat Key

To: Steve Bayard

While I completely understand your concerns with safety, I’m not sure that Longboat Key is the safest place for everyone in Sarasota and Manatee counties to ride their bikes, especially in large groups, as is very often the case. I have had many Longboat Key residents tell me how nervous they become when they are faced with the choice of getting too close to a group of cyclist or running head on into the approaching vehicle.

When deciding to ride on Gulf of Mexico Drive, the bikers aren’t taking into account the risks of riding on a two-lane road, which is primarily occupied by ageing driver(s) who often have vision and hearing impairments as well as tourist(s) who are unfamiliar with their surroundings and are focusing on looking for an unfamiliar building or turn instead of watching for cyclist.

When the signs were placed on Gulf of Mexico Drive, they were placed there not because it was a state law requiring them, but because they were requested by some cycling group. At that time, the town of Longboat Key should have been brought into the discussion of sign placement not after they have been installed. In my opinion, the number of signs on the road doesn’t make it safer because they become like “white noise.” After a while drivers just don’t notice them any more.

While you and your fellow cyclists may find Gulf of Mexico Drive an attractive place to ride, you have to understand that the road was not designed to accommodate the number of cyclists who have made this their cycling mecca. I would think you might want to consider riding on one of the “trails” that Sarasota and Manatee counties have built for this purpose.

Speaking for myself, I do not support that number of signs currently on Gulf of Mexico Drive and I believe that FDOT and the Longboat Key Town Planning Board have worked out a reasonable solution to the problem.

Commissioner Jim Brown
Longboat Key

To: Commissioner David Brenner

I would like to weigh in on your reply to Paul’s letter. Like you, I do everything possible to protect myself when bicycling on GMD. It is not you, or I, or Paul, or other more experienced bikers who are at risk. We will bike defensively and not allow ourselves to be put into injury resulting situations. That said, what about all the novice, less experienced and older riders using our bike paths? What about the joggers, the skaters and everyone who use our sidewalks, are they entitled to all the protection we can give them? I’m confident that you would agree that they are. Our only visible means of warning drivers to be careful are our signs. And knowing Mike Lasche, I’d bet that he would never agree to removing 40 percent of our bicycle safety signs.

Joe Moccia
Longboat Key

To: Paul Skversky

I took my time responding, since I suspect you will not like my answer. As a long-time bike rider on Longboat Key, I’ve come to learn that the best thing I can do to protect myself is to drive defensively (automobile driving too). For example, biking along GMD in the Country Club Shores neighborhood can be hazardous to your health. There are stop signs at all the streets entering onto GMD, but if I don’t pay attention to those drivers who run stop signs or don’t look both ways I’d have been roadkill a long time ago. As Mike Lasche (Sarasota Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocacy Group) is quoted in the Jan. 28 Longboat Key News, “The placement of signs may be more important than the frequency.” If people don’t know the rules, you can place signs every 10 feet and it will do no good. We’ve had overkill with the signs and they’ve become part of the landscape with little or no impact.

Commissioner Dave Brenner
Longboat Key

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

I’m not sure that you understand Mr. Bayard’s concerns with safety at all. How can you say that you understand, and yet advocate for the removal of some 40 percent of the bike safety signs? It is perfectly clear to almost everyone that Longboat Key is a unique place. At most times we have thousands of visitors and vacationers visiting us. These people are seeing the bike safety signs for the first time or the second time. The point is they are not seeing them every day, and they are not desensitized to them.

Another fact of life here is that many of our drivers are driving well into their eighties and nineties. And I can understand their nervousness when passing a large group of bicycle riders. But that is a separate issue and has nothing to do with the bicycle signs. I’m sure that a majority of drivers on Longboat Key would agree that there is ample room to pass bicyclists safely. The impression I get from your reply to Mr. Bayard’s email to you is that you wish the bicyclists to go away and ride elsewhere. You as much as told Mr. Bayard to do so. Fortunately for our key that won’t happen. Longboat Key is thought of as a safe and wonderful bicycle venue. Condé Nast Magazine has recently designated Anna Maria and Longboat Key as premier bicycle destinations. Longboat Key’s roads are fine for both bicyclists and cars. Commissioner Brown, when the gasoline runs out, you’ll be sorry.

Joe Moccia
Longboat Key

To: Mr. Moccia

I think you don’t see the big picture. Your fanaticism for cycling doesn’t allow you to see that there are other factors that have to be accommodated on Longboat Key. Too bad. When the gasoline runs out, I’ll get an electric car. End of debate!

Commissioner Jim Brown
Longboat Key

To: Town Commission

The Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club has been incorporated since 1975 and represents more than 450 active cyclists. Our members have many years of cycling experience, gained not only in Florida but also all over the United States and abroad. Our membership includes qualified professionals. We seek to promote safe bicycling in the Sarasota and Manatee county areas for physical fitness and good health, recreation and transportation.

The Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club recently became aware of the possible removal of a substantial number of bicycle signs from Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key. We understand the removal of the signs is an attempt to “beautify” the area but fail to understand how removing signs will accomplish this. We only can foresee the potential danger this would cause. It is well known that Longboat Key and other area beaches are key tourist destinations. Many visitors may be unaware of the high-cycling traffic in the area, and in our opinion, removal of signs will only reduce awareness. Further, we feel reduced signage will be unsafe for cyclists, increasing the chance of collisions with automobiles, pedestrians, skateboarders and others using the bicycle lanes. Signage alerts everyone to the presence of cyclists, not just automobiles, and we strongly believe it promotes safety for all those on the key.

Since our inception, the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club has tirelessly assisted and trained cyclists in matters of bicycle safety, continually working for safer cycling conditions. Our members, and indeed, many visitors frequently cycle Longboat Key and value the experience because it is currently a safe place to ride. We hope to continue enjoying the beauty of Longboat Key from our bikes and respectfully request that you retain all current signs that increase awareness of the presence of cyclists.

Christine Prokosch, president
Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club Inc.

To: Commissioner Lynn Larson

I just received the email string below and would like to comment. Clearly, it serves no purpose to respond to Mr. Brown and you were the first name on the Longboat Key commissioners list on your website, so here goes. I’m a snowbird and experienced cyclist who enjoys riding on Longboat Key. If you removed the existing bike safety signs, you would be doing a major disservice to visitors and residents alike. As noted below by others, it is the less experienced cyclists who would be at the greatest risk and the less experienced cyclists also tend to be the Longboat Key residents, either permanent or seasonal. The less experienced cyclists tend to stay “close to home” when they ride and I’m sure they would not support any actions, which would put them at greater risk. At a time when many communities are promoting increased cycling safety, it makes no sense for Longboat Key to go in the other direction. Please reconsider this issue.

A. David Landsperger
Landsperger Consulting

Dear Editor:

I was involved with Florida Dept. of Transportation in 2007 to set up a test sign on the Gulf of Mexico Drive. I was assisting the Sarasota County Commission Bicycle/Pedestrian/Trails committee in coordinating a test sign that warns automobile drivers to yield to cyclists or bikes when turning right. These signs were posted within a four-mile radius north of St. Armands Key. The Florida Department of Transportation can create a local sign, and we worked with the transportation people in Bartow to get these signs added to remind automobiles about yielding when turning right. This sign was set up as a test, but I no longer attend the Sarasota County Commission and do not know what the end results were of the test.

My assumption is FDOT decided to keep the sign. Since Gulf of Mexico Drive is a state road, I would assume they should be the ones that make the decision. Over the years many of our Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club (SMBC) members have had a situation were a car passed them and shortly turned right and almost caused an accident, as the cyclist had to run off the road and hope to stop without falling on Gulf of Mexico Drive. I have had this happen to me on Longboat Key and I was able to stop in time. Another cyclist who had a similar incident chased after the truck and royally cussed him out.

We have many tourists that visit Longboat Key, and today many automobile drivers do not realize that bicyclists have the same rights as automobiles.

I also helped in 2005 getting three questions about bicycles put on the Florida Driver’s License handbook given to new drivers when taking the test. I believe many people in the 40 to 70 age group or older do not know about the rights of cyclists until they are required to take a test to drive.

It saddens me that a cyclist was killed recently in a bicycle lane while correctly riding with traffic on Whitfield Avenue near Lockwood Ridge Road at 1:30 in the afternoon. We are still waiting to find out what charges are being filed against the driver. In my opinion it should be vehicular manslaughter.

Rose Gatto
SMBC member

Ninja turtles

To: Editor

I don’t know under what circumstances or conditions turtle-kind will outlive humankind as suggested by Mr. Hershatter, but I guess we won’t be there to see it if it happens. Maybe we should place ourselves on the endangered species list. Unfortunately, it is the loggerhead turtle that is endangered. Rather than the image of an indestructible creature, the loggerheads have the deck stacked against them and we are doing our part in the stacking. We are diminishing and polluting their habitat on land and at sea. But even if we manage to extinguish ourselves without dragging all living creatures with us, the turtle being a turtle has enough to deal with.

Female turtles don’t attain sexual maturity till age 35 to 40. The mothers lay their eggs in a nest in the sand and then abandon the nest. The eggs may be destroyed by a tidal surge that floods them out or by foxes or raccoons looking for a fast food breakfast. If the hatchlings do crawl out they could become munchies for ghost crabs or birds. If the light hits them the wrong way they go the wrong way and may become GMD road kill or starve to death, depleting their egg sac. All this before they even hit the gulf. Once they are seaborne they are then subject to the depredations of the denizens of the sea. All told, the hatchlings may have a one in 1,500 chance of reaching maturity. Yes they have survived but live on the margin.

And while these brave little hatchlings endure or not all that is set against them, is it too much for us humans to move some furniture up towards the dunes during turtle nesting season to perhaps allow the loggerheads that much more margin to survive? For whom do we “nourish” the beach if not to preserve the nesting habitat of these creatures that are compelled to return to their birthplaces? During turtle nesting season the volunteers arrange for folks to see the uncovering of nests, and sometimes hatchlings are released in the early evening into the gulf. Children are excited to see these small creatures scurry over the sand and plunge into the gulf to be hurdled back by waves yet swim on till their small heads disappear and they are off to who knows where. Those children once grown and bearing their own hatchlings may want to bring their children to see the nests on Longboat Key. In doing so both the turtles and humans rest assured will thrive.

Larry Grossman
Longboat Key

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3 Responses for “Longboat Key Letters – February 2011”

  1. Ross P. Alander says:

    For the sake of argument let’s say that 35% of the local, state and federal budget deficit and educational problems are caused by the unions, public sector workers, teachers and the elderly. Guess where the other 65% comes from. interesting.
    Ross (all of the above)

  2. Ross P. Alander says:

    p.s. What’s next check points and vehicle searches? We are in America you know!

  3. Ross P. Alander says:

    Cameras at both ends of LBK is a terrible idea, as it is an invasion of privacy and will end up profiling people. Will we put out an alert if someone drives in a beat-up car on the island by assuming they are bad? This is America! It seems to be that LBK has plenty of other things to work on.

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