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Cyclists call for change in Lakewood Ranch

Bicyclists seek speed reduction, lane changes on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

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  • | 11:30 a.m. July 29, 2020
  • East County
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At 10:33 a.m. July 8, while bicycling southbound on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard from Rangeland Parkway, University Park Country Club resident Richard Garrett was nearly hit by a car.

Less than a minute later, he watched another vehicle come within a foot of his friend, Patrick Henry, who was bicycling ahead of him and had just crossed State Road 70.

“This is just one ride and two very close encounters,” Garrett said as he played back a video captured from the camera on his bicycle.

“That doesn’t only happen to us. That happens to other riders. I’m going 15-20 mph. Cars are going 45 mph.”

Garrett is just one of many cyclists concerned about safety at the intersection of S.R. 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. Previously, there has been a designated bicycle lane southbound along Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, but now it just disappears slightly north of Rangeland Parkway and doesn’t return until south of S.R. 70. It was located between three thru-lanes and one right-turn lane.

In mid-July, Manatee County modified the traffic pattern there by adding a westbound turn lane to S.R. 70 from southbound Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, so there are now two right-turn lanes and two southbound thru-lanes. 

The bicycle lane is no longer there, which leaves a gap in a designated lane from north of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to south of S.R. 70.

“It makes it more dangerous to ride,” said Andrea Sacchetti, who rides through the intersection from her home in Eagle Trace to other group rides. “There’s a lot of cyclists in this area. Our safety is important. We’re moms and dads and daughters and brothers. We should be able to make the streets safe.”

A petition organized by the Village Idiots Cycling Club asks for the speed limit from just north of Rangeland Parkway to S.R. 70 to be reduced to from 45 mph to 35 mph, which is the speed south of S.R. 70, and to add shared-lane markings, called sharrows, to the right thru-lane, so cyclists can use the full lane of traffic.

Since starting July 17, the petition has garnered more than 1,400 signatures.

A group of cyclists travel southbound on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. They said having no designated bike lane creates more opportunity for conflicts with drivers.
A group of cyclists travel southbound on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. They said having no designated bike lane creates more opportunity for conflicts with drivers.

Manatee County Public Works Department strategic affairs manager Ogden Clark said the roadway changes were made to improve vehicular traffic flow after the county received complaints. After traffic analysis, traffic engineers determined the southbound thru-lanes were not being used efficiently and that many drivers were avoiding the westernmost thru-lane. There also was excessive cueing, which contributed to aggressive driving behavior and posed a safety concern for cyclists.

Additionally, the existing bicycle lane did not meet the county’s standard — being a minimum of 5 feet wide when located between a thru-lane and a turn lane — so it was eliminated.

“Given the scope of the project, it was not possible to restripe all the lanes to accommodate a separate and relocated bike lane,” Clark stated in an email. “Therefore, to safety accommodate the cyclists at the intersection, the substandard keyhole bike lane was removed.”

Clark noted bicyclists can use the sidewalk and the vehicular travel lanes.

Village Idiots Cycling Club President Dawn Zielinski agreed that by law, bicyclists already are allowed full use of the lane, but he said many motorists become impatient with bicyclists who do so and express it by honking, yelling or cutting them off. Vehicles also come too close to bicyclists, even though the law requires they stay a minimum of 3 feet away.

The issue has been taken up by the Manatee-Sarasota Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Community Traffic Safety Team, which is composed of representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as planners, engineers and law enforcement from Sarasota and Manatee counties.

MPO representative Corrine Tucker said the item is on its “action” list for follow-up until a resolution occurs.

Zielinski also said she will be working with the Florida Bicycle Association’s Bicycle Infrastructure Assistance representative regarding the intersection.

Clark said county staff is moving forward with plans to install shared lane markings. However the material is not something the county keeps in stock, so it will be a few months before it is received and can be installed.

The county has no plans to lower the speed limit there, which is 45 mph on the north side of the road.

“As with other operational and safety improvements throughout the county, staff will continue to monitor and make adjustments as necessary,” Clark said.


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