There are millions of dollars in grants available to improve bike lanes, walking trails and sidewalks in the area — if Sarasota County only had a plan.
Three county engineers and a planner have used traditional survey methods and a user-driven wiki webpage — as well as some guerilla marketing techniques — to gather public input on the Sarasota County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. But, the wiki page on the county’s website has less than five replies.
The latest opportunity to engage the community about the plan came from the much-debated Siesta Key beach improvement project. More specifically, the open house for the project that brought more than 60 citizens and a local TV station to St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church on Midnight Pass Road.
“We figured we would piggy-back on the meeting,” said Sarasota County Transportation Planning Manager Paula Wiggins.
At the open house, Wiggins told residents that suburbs dominated early development in Florida, creating road networks that were unfriendly to cyclists and pedestrians. One of the main objectives in the plan is to educate county commissioners on the need to retrofit county roads to reverse that reality, and the county will inch closer to grant funding from the Florida Department of Transportation for capital projects with the plan in place.
Once the plan is complete, county staff will consider strategies of how to connect Siesta Key with the Legacy Trail, Urfer Park and other county landmarks with bike lanes, which would also ease parking concerns, Wiggins said.
The backbone of the plan, is a survey that garnered more than 800 respondents. Wiggins said they might keep the wiki page open for community input through the beginning of 2013.
Sarasota County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan goals
• More mobility choices in the area
• Connect various modes of transportation
• Enhance facilities for that multi-modal network
• Encourage respect between different users
• Promote equal and safe facilities