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Bike path usage 56 percent higher

By Staff | Jun 8, 2012

JIM LINETTE Since the first city survey in 2006, use of Sanibel's Shared Use Paths by bicyclists has risen more than 56 percent while pedestrian use is up more than 76 percent, according to a new survey taken this year.

In the interest of assembling historic data for future use, Sanibel City Manager Judith Zimomra reported the results of a recent Shared Use Path survey to City Council on Tuesday.

“This was not an interactive survey like the first survey (2006) where we actually stopped individuals and asked them questions,” said Zimomra. “This was just a site count. The next step is an analysis of the accident history from the police department. Then we would have to look at areas we have to make hard improvements and educate the public.”

Since the 2006 survey, overall bicycle usage of the paths around the island has increased by 56.1 percent while pedestrian usage increased by 76.5 percent. Cyclists outnumber the pedestrians by a 3-to-1 margin.

“It’s good to have this data in case an opportunity comes up for grants and things,” said Zimomra. “It’s not necessary to take a survey annually unless we make some major improvements. Like the Sanibel Plan, it is good to monitor it every three to five years.”

More than 4,500 bicyclist utilized the paths in 2012 during the survey’s four-hour sampling on a Thursday afternoon and four hours on a Saturday morning at six different intersections. The largest increase in bicycle traffic was at Middle Gulf and Donax with a 93 percent rise.

The percentage of pedestrians at every intersection was much greater than the overall percentage of increase for bicyclists. The number of bicycles rented also increased by 49 percent compared to 2006 indicating 62 percent of bikes or skates are privately owned.

“When you see the thousands of people using the paths and how few accidents, I think we really have a safe system,” said Zimomra.

While the number of people using the paths is up dramatically, the percentage of bicyclists wearing helmets remains constant at 38 percent, up just one percent from 2006. Florida law only requires that a bicycle rider or passenger under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham updated council on the progress he is making with the regional water quality legislation he proposed several months ago. He is winning the backing from the Florida League of Cities, the Regional Planning Council, the Sierra Club and several other organizations.

“I think by the end of September we should have everything in place,” said Denham.

The city is moving forward with approval of the 149-foot communications tower project with Verizon Wireless on city wastewater treatment property on Donax. A Verizon representative presented the design details on a flag pulley system to be constructed inside the tower with down lighting for the flag if one is flown atop the tower. The tower itself will be constructed with a “stealth design” as a flag pole with antennae on the inside of the pole.

Ruane updated council of the status of playground equipment to be installed at The Sanibel School. He suggested phasing in the “add-on” equipment funding over two budgets while working in conjunction with county and city parks & recreation officials.

The a few points of the city’s contract renewal with Community Housing Resources (CHR) came under discussion due to changes requested by CHR.

The five-year contract, slated to take effect on Oct. 1, includes a 3 percent annual funding increase starting at $275,000 for the first 12 months. That amount now includes a $4,500 reimbursement for office supplies that was a separate item.

The contract also calls for city compensation in the event CHR must relocate while their current building undergoes major renovations. The compensation is estimated at no less than $3,000 per month plus all moving expenses.

The city also bears the one-time payment of $2,500 for CHR to establish and implement a new informational website.