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Bike signs to be reduced, yet consistent

The Town Commission decided to take the recommendation of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and will reduce the number of bicycle signs to one every mile in each direction, with additional signs at so-called dangerous ‘hot spots.’ CREDIT: Stephen Reid

“The cycling community is not willing to risk killing one person because of bike signs.” — Arlene Skversky

“The removal of signs waives Longboat’s immunity from lawsuits; you are inviting a lawsuit.” — Paul Skversky.

“The bike community firmly opposes the removal of any safety signs from Longboat Key.” — Joe Moccia.

“I would like to talk with some people about those reflective bump things.” — Lynn Larson

“I don’t think signs have anything to do with safety — they are a distraction.” — Larry Grossman

“Removing signs reduces awareness.” — Kristen Prokasch

“The next person hit and killed could be your daughter or granddaughter.” — Stave Bayer

“Sometimes I see bicyclists in groups of four, with two jutting out in the roadway. Other times I see drivers who think the bike lane is the third lane.” —Rusty Chinnis.

Sign committee member Walter Hackett, left, told Longboat Key News that sign inconsistencies will be cleared up, and if the commission adopts the future recommendations the town will see a 27 percent reduction in overall signposts on the roadway.

STEPHEN REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Following a tense and emotional hearing over the idea of reducing bike signs on Gulf of Mexico Drive, the Town Commission decided to take the recommendation of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and will reduce the number of bicycle signs to one every mile in each direction, with additional signs at so-called dangerous ‘hot spots.’

The policy discussion grew out of a desire by the town to remove unnecessary or superfluous signs along the town thoroughfare. To the chagrin of area bicyclists, who amassed and generally protested the idea of removing any bicycle signs, the FDOT informed the town last fall that all of the bicycle signage could be reduced and replaced with stenciled signs on the actual bike path. It is in this context that the commission was charged with making a decision.

An FDOT official presented at the meeting three clear options, all of which they said would be acceptable from a regulatory and safety point of view. The first method considered would be to place two signs on a post every half-mile with one sign alerting motorists to yield to bicyclists when making right-hand turns. The other sign the FDOT necessitates simply states ‘bike lane.’

FDOT representative Keith Slatterly said the other option would be to have the same signs at one-mile intervals, but with additional signs placed along the ‘hot spots.’ As stated previously, the third option was to have road stencils and no bicycle signs along the roadway.

The commission, in a room partially-packed with bicycle advocates, decided to go with the one-mile option, with the advocates warning that removing any signs may lead to accidents, death and inherent liability.

Part of the confusion and lack of consistency of bike signage on Gulf of Mexico Drive was explained by town Planning, Building and Zoning Director Monica Simpson. She explained that three separate resurfacing projects with three separate engineers left the roadway with inconsistent signage.

Sign committee member Walter Hackett told Longboat Key News that these inconsistencies will be cleared up, and if the commission adopts the future recommendations the town will see a 27 percent reduction in overall signposts on the roadway.

Part of the reason FDOT recommended the one-mile interval with the two types of signs is because it would then be consistent with the signage already in place in Sarasota.

The net effect in bike signs through this commission action is 20 ‘Bike Lane’ signs will be removed, a hidden driveway sign will be removed and 24 ‘Right Turn, Yield to Bike’ signs will be removed.

“One-mile is a very safe application of signs,” said Slatterly.

He said one-mile intervals provide a reasonable repetition and a recognition that has proven effective in driver awareness.

But the majority of bicyclists in the audience had little patience with the idea of removing any signs intended to enhance safety.

Arlene Skversky said, “The cycling community is not willing to risk killing one person because of bike signs.”

Her husband Paul Skversky expressed a legal concern. He said the town’s creation and invitation to use bike lanes has attracted bicyclists and that the removal of such a large percentage of warnings will open the town to negligence and liability. He said the town is not protected by sovereign immunity for the decision.

“The removal of signs waives Longboat’s immunity from lawsuits; you are inviting a lawsuit,” Skversky.

For Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission representative Joe Moccia, the town should have performed a safety study and brought the bicycle discussion into the community before making such a decision.

“The bike community firmly opposes the removal of any safety signs from Longboat Key,” said Moccia.

Kristen Prokasch, president of the 450-member Sarasota/Manatee Bicycle Club, said, “Removing signs reduces awareness.”

Her group schedules two rides per week on the island.

Steve Bayer of Cortez said he would like the town to increase the number of bicycle signs if anything. He called Longboat Key “The prettiest 10 miles in Florida” and implored the commission to make safety the paramount concern.

“The next person hit could be your daughter or granddaughter,” said Bayer.

Ed Levins, owner of Sarasota’s Village Bikes, suggested the town also place ‘Three Feet, Share the Road,’ signs to make drivers aware of proper distancing. The FDOT spokesman explained those signs were not mandated nor approved by the FDOT and must therefore be installed by the town.

Levins said Longboat and Lakewood Ranch are two of the best places to ride and he sends the majority of his customers there, but added that Lakewood “doesn’t have the beauty and tranquility of Longboat Key.”

For Longboat resident Larry Grossman, the issue needed to be looked at differently.

“I don’t think signs have anything to do with safety — they are a distraction. The road stencils work, whereas bike signs really are not helpful,” said Grossman.

As a follow-up, Commissioner David Brenner asked Slatterly if there was an alternative to what he described as the “slippery paint” the FDOT uses in creating its stencils. Slatterly said there is another option, regular paint, but the thermo-plastic that is generally used lasts up to five years, whereas the regular paint will fade in about five months.

Longtime resident Rusty Chinnis said he sees the bicycle-motorist dilemma as cutting both ways.

“Sometimes I see bicyclists in groups of four, with two jutting out in the roadway. Other times I see drivers who think the bike lane is the third lane. The police should have a conversation with these folks,” said Chinnis.

For his part, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Aposporos said his organization will help publish and publicize any new rules or information.

After the commission decided on the one-mile option, Commissioner Lynn Larson asked to look into another safety measure.

“I would like to talk with some people about those reflective bump things,” said Larson. Larson was referring to the noise-generating reflectors when drivers veer off the roadway. Slatterly explained that such methods are usually used in more rural settings and along interstates because they tend to be very noisy.

The bike sign decision by the commission will become part of the overall Gulf of Mexico Drive signage-reduction effort, which will be discussed in its entirety at a future meeting.

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Longboat Key News

4 Responses for “Bike signs to be reduced, yet consistent”

  1. John Wild says:

    After all was said and done, I noticed there remain all those “right turn yield to bicycle” signs along both the Islandside golf course (southbound lane) and the Harbourside golf course (northbound lane). When you think of it, and how foolish a place it was to stick a sign where absolutely NO right turns (unless you’re contemplating a “lawn job”) would EVER occur because nobody lives on a golf course, nor are there any driveways, well you got to chuckle. Speaks to the blind following of a bureaucratic traffic manual, with absolutely no room for independent judgment by FDOT officials, let alone highway maintenance crews who have open eyes. And people wonder why citizens hate government. Any body want to bet how long it will take to remove said signs? 2012? 2013?

  2. Bob White says:

    While I am a long time cyclist, I disagree with the majority of bikers regarding the signs and believe the Commission made the right decision in removing many of them. I suggest that the review of the number of signs be continued with DOT with an eye toward eliminating other roadway signs that are unnecessary.

  3. Ross P. Alander says:

    Real bad idea to remove the signs. Doesn’t LBK have more pressing problems?

  4. John Wild says:

    Hopefully, a next step is to explore the idea of how many trolley stops (with their attendant signs) are really needed along Gulf of Mexico Drive. By locating stops adjacent to business or tourist areas, but not as many perhaps near full time resident neighborhoods, we could perhaps do more (beauty) with less (stops). We need only view the mostly empty trolleys to question the need for so many stops along SR 789.

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