Cyclists say new plan would help with safer routes

By Lauren Belcher |
Photo Illustrations by Josh Weaver

The North Florida Transportation Planning Organization is funding a comprehensive St. Augustine bicycle study.

“The plan is three major intended outcomes,” said Chris Fellerhoff, a hired consultant of the TPO from Sprinkle Consulting. “The first, and probably the most substantial is, a recommendation of bike routes that could be signed throughout the city of St. Augustine.”

Local bicycle rider and Flagler College student Paige Denkin thinks that providing a map dedicated to bikers would be a big hit in this city. “The city is so small that everyone chooses biking anyways,” she said. “I think we have a large enough biking community that they would support bringing awareness to different parts.”

The routes are contributed by bike riders in the community. North Florida TPO has a large map of the city with yellow highlighted paths and red and yellow pins. The pins represent specific areas that may be dangerous for bike riders.

“We’re going to take that information from the public and use our own professional analysis,” Fellerhoff said, “come up with a draft network of bicycle routes and share that with the project committee and then, upon their approval, we’re going to do some on the ground validation of those routes.”

During the “ground validation” Fellerhoff said the analysts are going to ride bikes up and down the paths, checking for physical dangers such as pot holes and hanging branches.

“Anything that could be tweaked a little bit on the roadway to make it better for bikes we’re going to identify and include in our report,” Fellerhoff said.

The second major intended outcome that Fellerhoff listed was an “analysis of past bike crashes in the city leading to recommendations on how to avoid similar crashes in the future.” He said they are going to look at historical documents of past crashes going back for a few years.

One of the main areas that every bicyclist interviewed mentioned as a biker’s death trap is San Marco Avenue.

Bicycle rider and Flagler College student Samantha Moloney rides from The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind to Flagler everyday. She said there are times when she will go out of her way and take US Highway 1 instead of San Marco Avenue to avoid the chaos of having no bike path.

“Riding down San Marco’s the worst because there is no bike path and you have to either be on the road or on the sidewalk,” Moloney said. “People don’t want you on the sidewalk and people don’t want you on the road, so it’s really hard.”

She said a comprehensive bike plan would help her change her biking paths.

Denkin agrees, “San Marco is one of the worst ones, especially with that curve right by the Fort,” Denkin said. “Whenever you go on the sidewalk, in your head you may think, ‘oh that’s the easiest route’ but, all those pedestrians are going to hate you, so it’s kind of a lose-lose situation.”

She also said that with all the construction in St. Augustine, it would be nice to know where bicyclists can and cannot go.

The third, and final, major intended outcome Fellerhoff listed is “recommendations about locations for improved bicycle parking.”

Bicycle rider and Flagler College student Morgan Campbell agrees with St. Augustine’s need for bicycle parking. “They should have bike racks everywhere! I don’t like parking my bike on a random post that someone can just take my lock off,” she said.

She said, aside from Flagler’s designated parking, there really is no bicycle parking in St. Augustine.

“The bike parking is going to involve looking at where we think there is a demand,” Fellerhoff said. “It’s going to be more of an on-the-ground study looking at where we observe people biking.”

Fellerhoff said the study will begin in March. When finished, the study will be submitted to the North Florida TPO and to the City of St. Augustine. It is then up to the city to make the changes the study suggests.

Campbell said the consultants need to take into consideration, traffic during the day and the condition of the road in order to get an accurate idea of biking in St. Augustine.

Denkin said the final product should be turned into a map for tourist and local bicyclists in St. Augustine. “I would look into the bike renting places around town, maybe hook up with them and strike up a deal offering the map,” she said.

“We’re looking for input from the public,” Fellerhoff said. “Where they are currently riding; what roads they have found that work better for biking so that we can maybe use those for selecting which route would be preferred for bicycle use.”

To contribute to the St. Augustine Bicycle Plan, go to the TPO’s website and fill out the comment form and the map.

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