‘Complete street’ design allows for safer road experience for recreational cyclists and commuters, city staff says
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, the City of Sarasota will celebrate “enhanced bicycle safety and expanded multimodal opportunities,” as a City of Sarasota news release puts it, when the Ringling Trail “complete street” opens.
Members of the community are invited to join city leaders on the north side of Ringling Boulevard at the intersection of The Legacy Trail, which is just east of School Avenue, the release says.
The Ringling Trail complete street features protected bicycle lanes along 1 mile between Lime and Pineapple avenues, “creating a safer road experience for recreational cyclists and commuters,” the release explains. The lanes also provide connectivity between the terminus of The Legacy Trail at Payne Park and the downtown core, the release adds.
Work on the project began in May.
“It’s an exciting time to be a cyclist in Sarasota,” said Mayor Kyle Battie, “an avid cyclist,” the release notes. “Whether you ride to work or for recreation, protected lanes give bikers peace of mind,” Battie continued. “This was the missing link to take riders safely between The Legacy Trail and downtown,” Battie added in the release. “Already, there’s more activity along the corridor, and we expect it will translate into increased customers and economic growth for our downtown merchants.”
The protected lanes are painted a bright green “to alert bicyclists and e-scooter riders they are approaching an intersection or potential conflict point,” the release explains. The color “also serves as a reminder to drivers to remain in their travel lane,” the release notes. The bike lanes are physically protected with 6-foot-long, bright green concrete wheel stops and 4-foot-tall flexible delineators, the release says. Those features have been placed between the bike and travel lanes.
Representatives of the nonprofit Friends of the Legacy Trail and the Sarasota/Manatee Bicycle Club are expected to be among the guests at the grand opening celebration, the release adds. Immediately following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, bicyclists will be able to experience the new protected lanes “with a fun, organized ride along the Ringling Trail,” the release points out.
“Historically, traffic volumes along the Ringling corridor have been declining,” the release notes. After a 2020 traffic study showed traffic “will continue to flow at an acceptable level during the next 20 years, one travel lane was repurposed as a bicycle lane in the complete street design,” the release explains.
That study, undertaken by the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota, found that the daily traffic volumes on the four lanes of Ringling Boulevard from Pine Place to Shade Avenue represented “approximately 30% of the maximum available capacity,” for example.
The highest count of daily vehicles on that stretch, Kimley-Horn reported, was 7,900 vehicles between U.S. 301 and Shade Avenue; yet, the capacity allowed for 30,420.
Reducing that segment to two lanes, the report noted, still would allow for a capacity of 14,742 vehicles a day.
A complete street is unique to a community, the city news release adds. It promotes age-friendly, safe travel, whether an individual is biking, driving a vehicle, walking or riding a bus.
The Ringling Trail construction schedule was accelerated to coincide as closely as possible with the opening of The Legacy Trail North Extension to downtown Sarasota, the release notes.
On March 3, Sarasota County commissioners marked the completion of the North Extension with a ceremony near Payne Park. Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, pointed out to attendees that that final, flat segment of the Trail was two years and nine months ahead of the original schedule.
“I would say that’s probably a personal best for most people in a race,” she added.
During the November 2018 General Election, more than 70% of the voters who cast ballots in a referendum authorized the county to issue up to $65 million in bonds to link The Legacy Trail from its terminus at that time on Palmer Ranch, at Culverhouse Nature Park, to downtown Sarasota and to North Port.
Funding sources for the City of Sarasota’s $2.7-million Ringling Trail included the Sarasota County Surtax III program, which derives revenue from a voter-approved, additional penny of sales tax; City of Sarasota economic development funds; multimodal impact fees; and federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, the city news release says.
Other improvements made for the Ringling Trail included the addition of landscaping and the adjustment of signal timing to improve traffic management, the release adds.
Learn more about the Ringling Trail complete street at https://www.sarasotafl.gov/government/public-works/engineering-and-cip/ringling-trail.
In preparation for the Dec. 15 event, city staff is strongly encouraging drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to use caution, be alert and follow safety guidelines with the new traffic patterns:
- Bicyclists using the bicycle lane or roadway are considered to be operating a vehicle and must obey all traffic laws, including stopping at red lights and yielding at yield signs and yielding for 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.