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Ringling Trail complete street officially opens to bicyclists

The $2.7 million project to convert Ringling Boulevard from Lime to Pineapple avenues into a "complete street" is now open, providing a protected bike lane from Legacy Trail to downtown.

Bicyclists take the ceremonial inaugural ride on the Ringling Trail bike lane starting at Legacy Trail.
Bicyclists take the ceremonial inaugural ride on the Ringling Trail bike lane starting at Legacy Trail.
Photo by Andrew Warfield
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With a focus on multimodal mobility and greater bicycle safety from Legacy Trail to the bayfront, commissioners from both the city and the county, staff and cyclists gathered Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of Ringling Trail, a “complete street” project along Ringling Boulevard from Lime Avenue to Pineapple Avenue. 

The Ringling Trail features protected bicycle lanes for the one-mile stretch in an effort to create a safer road experience for recreational cyclists and commuters. The project cost $2.7 million with funding sources including the county penny sales tax, economic development funds, multimodal impact fees and the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The protected lanes are painted bright green to alert bicyclists and e-scooter riders that they are approaching an intersection or potential vehicle-conflict point. The color also serves as a reminder to drivers to remain in their travel lane. The bike lanes are physically protected with six-foot-long bright green concrete wheel stops and four-foot-tall bollards placed between the bike and travel lanes.

Bike Riders leave the crossing at Legacy Trail for the ceremonial first ride on Ringing Trail, which connects Legacy Trail to the bayfront.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

To create the bicycle lanes and additional parking spaces in some locations between them and the travel lanes, one vehicle lane was removed in each direction, the capacity reduction justified by a 2020 traffic studies that indicated traffic on Ringling Boulevard has declined and will continue to flow at an acceptable level during the next 20 years.

Other improvements include the addition of landscaping in traffic islands at approaches to intersections and other conflict points, and signal timing adjustments.

Charles Hines, a former Sarasota County commissioner and the director of the Florida Gulf Coast Trail, said the Ringling Trail is an important step in regional trail connectivity. The next steps in Sarasota, he said, are to link Legacy Trail to the city’s Bobby Jones Golf Course and the county’s 17th Street Park — both under development — and eventually to Nathan Benderson Park, a proposed Interstate 75 flyover into Lakewood Ranch and beyond.

At 336 miles, the Florida Gulf Coast Trail is planned to span seven Florida coastal counties from Hillsborough to Collier.

“This is incredible,” Hines said. “What it is is a beginning. It's a connector to fill those gaps from Hillsborough down to Naples. We're lucky that we're in the center, and we're far ahead of other communities. It isn't a dream. It's happening.”

Sarasota Mayor Kyle Battie speaks during the opening ceremony of the Ringling Trail.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

Sarasota Mayor and avid cyclist Kyle Battie, who arrived later than planned because he was given the event location at the south end of the Ringling Trail, pedaled in the bike lane to make it in time to speak.

“This trail does a lot for my travels, particularly from where I live on the north side of Sarasota to the gym that I belong to over here. So to be able to travel that distance and have a safe route is imperative,” Battie said. “I want to say thank you to Friends of the Legacy Trail, the county and the city working in conjunction with one another and making this this happen.”

Safety guidelines on Ringling Trail include:

  • Bicyclists using the bicycle lane or roadway are considered a vehicle and must obey all traffic laws including red lights, yield signs and for yielding to pedestrians.
  • Bicyclists should slow down when entering an intersection even when they have the right of way.
  • Drivers should be alert at intersections and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Traveling within a roundabout, vehicles and bicycles have the right of way. Drivers entering a roundabout must yield to vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Bicyclists on a sidewalk are considered pedestrians under Florida law.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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