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City gears up for Fruitville Road changes

With the city planning to design a more pedestrian-friendly Fruitville Road, residents and businesses offered their thoughts on how the street could evolve.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 19, 2015
The city hopes to transform Fruitville Road from an intimidating thoroughfare for pedestrians to a more friendly road.
The city hopes to transform Fruitville Road from an intimidating thoroughfare for pedestrians to a more friendly road.
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A discussion regarding the future design of Fruitville Road Tuesday night focused largely on cyclist-related issues, making one thing clear: There is not a universal “cyclist point of view.”

Although more experienced riders said they like the existing bike lanes, others said they wouldn’t dream of traveling down the high-speed road under current conditions.

“If you’re not scared of that bike lane, you can hop in it, and you can zip down it so fast,” said Andrew Noune, who formerly led a bike advocacy group. “It’s scary, though — absolutely terrifying — if that type of thing scares you.”

The meeting was the third in a series of stakeholder workshops as the city lays the groundwork to redesign Fruitville Road. Not every meeting was as bike-centric, but Tuesday’s meeting highlighted the challenge the city is facing as it attempts to balance occasionally competing interests.

The city wants to tame Fruitville Road, a street criticized as intimidating for pedestrians and undesirable for development. Officials also want to encourage travel between downtown Sarasota and areas north of Fruitville.

At these meetings, a few recurring ideas have been discussed. The four-lane road could be reduced to two. More parking and wider sidewalks have also been mentioned as possible amenities.

The responses can be muddled — some attendees embraced the idea of an urban boulevard, while others worried about congestion and safety impacts. For now, the city isn’t tied to any concepts.

“We’re remaining open with everything on the table,” Chief Planner Steve Stancel said. “We want to build consensus on this project, so we want to hear from the public.”

On Nov. 30, the city will hold another meeting, sharing its findings with residents and honing in on desired amenities or changes. Stancel said construction could begin as soon as 2017. For now, the goal is to continue the design process through early next year.

“Hopefully, we’ll get an idea of what the vision is for the corridor from everybody,” Stancel said.


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