On most days after work, Police Chief Al Hogle rides his bicycle to the north end of Longboat Key and then heads south to the Sarasota Sailing Squadron before hopping in his sport utility vehicle and heading home.
An avid bicyclist, Hogle calls Longboat Key “the premier bicycling venue in the area.”
Hogle said he does not take issue with the recommendations by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to reduce the number of bicycle-related road signs along Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“I tend to want to believe that what FDOT is saying is reasonable,” said Hogle, who says that being a defensive bicyclist is the only way to prevent accidents.
But a group of approximately 20 bicyclists, called the Palma Sola Peloton, are upset with town officials and town commissioners for what they perceive as a lack of understanding about bicycle safety. Other bicycling groups in the area are also upset with the decision.
Key resident Joe Moccia, the town’s appointed bicycle pedestrian representative to the Sarasota Bicycle Advisory Board, says that both his bicycle group (Palma Sola Peloton) and bicyclists from all over the area are not being treated fairly.
At a Gulf of Mexico Drive Signage Committee meeting Tuesday, Jan. 4, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials agreed to take out 53 state road signs the department deemed unnecessary.
Thirty-two of those signs are bicycle-related signs; there are a total 126 bicycle signs currently on the Key.
“Those signs are needed to protect novice bikers who don’t know how to ride defensively,” Moccia said.
FDOT has agreed to add back in approximately 18 bike signs near congestion hot spots.
The remaining 94 bicycle signs already on the Key will be spaced out in one-mile increments along the Key on 55 posts (some posts will hold more than one sign).
Hogle says those recommendations are more than reasonable.
But Moccia and Key resident Paul Skversky, also a member of Palma Sola Peloton, want a sign before and after each hotspot, for a total 36 additional signs. And they would also like to see bicycle signs at every half-mile.
Moccia and Cortez resident Steve Bayard exchanged e-mails with Vice Mayor Jim Brown last week. Brown believes the signs are excessive and told the bicyclists to ride elsewhere if they don’t feel safe.
“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,” Brown said.
The commission will formally discuss the matter at its 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17 regular workshop. Another sign meeting has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15.
Bicyclist Safety Tips
• Go with the traffic flow; ride in the same direction as other vehicles.
• Obey all traffic laws.
• Yield to traffic when appropriate.
• Be predictable; signal your moves to others.
• Stay alert at all times.
• Watch for parked cars; and look before turning.
* Information courtesy of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Motorist Safety Tips
• Bicyclists are different but equal. Treat them as slow-moving vehicles.
• Exercise patience.
• Exercise respect for bicyclists.
• Do not pass a cyclist until you can safely do so.
• Watch for bicyclists when attempting a right turn.
• Watch for bicyclists before backing out of a driveway.
• Do not honk at bicyclists in close proximity.
• Stay at least three feet away from bicyclists at all times.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]