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Committee given status update on SUP project

By Staff | Mar 26, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Project manager Christopher Keller, left, reports to the Project Advisory Committee at its March 22 meeting on the work done to date regarding the city's Shared Use Path Master Plan update.

Hundreds of people so far have provided feedback on the city of Sanibel’s Shared Use Path system through in-person and online surveys, according to the firm overseeing the update to the Master Plan.

On March 22, the Project Advisory Committee held its second meeting at the Sanibel Recreation Center. Project manager Christopher Keller, with Tindale-Oliver located in Tampa, provided the eight-member group with a status report on what work had been done to date on the SUP’s plan update.

He explained that intercept surveys were conducted on Feb. 16 with people using the path at eight locations across the island. Pop-up community events have been held at the farmers markets and island festivals, and attendees at an open house on Feb. 19 submitted comment forms and surveys on site.

However, most of the public is providing feedback via a survey at sanibelbikeped.com.

Resident and visitors have until April 30 to fill out the online questionnaire.

At the meeting, Keller estimated that the firm has collected about 1,300 surveys to date. He then jumped into a presentation outlining the findings of the data as of March 11 for the committee.

He reported that about 89 percent of respondents said the SUP system is “very important” to the island’s quality of life and about 7 percent said it is “important” – a total of 96 percent. Respondents were also asked to describe their “general impression” of the SUP system in three words or less.

The top three answers were “maintained” at 165 responses, “crowded” at 99 and “safe” at 89. Other words used were great, convenient, fun, useful and excellent, along with dangerous and busy.

“More positive words than negative words, but there were negative words associated with it,” Keller said, noting that the negative attributes could be potential issues to address as part of the update.

About 76 percent of the respondents reported that they typically bike along the paths, followed by about 17 percent who said they walk. About 3 percent jog-run, while 4 percent selected “other.”

Christopher Keller

He reported that about 81 percent of respondents use the SUP for exercise-fitness, 76 percent for leisure-recreation, 49 percent for shopping-errands and 45 percent to avoid traffic for the top answers.

“So you can get a little sense of how people are using the paths,” Keller said.

As for frequency of use, about 41 percent of respondents use the system daily and 37 percent use it several times a week, followed by about 9 percent a few times a year and 8 percent once a week.

“They’re not only using the path for these things, but they’re using it often,” he said.

“These are responses from people who are frequent users,” Keller added.

He explained that about 59 percent of the respondents rated their overall experience with the SUP as “very satisfied” and about 31 percent rated it as “somewhat satisfied” – a nearly 91 percent total.

“So a really high percentage on that end,” Keller said.

In addition, about 48 percent of respondents were “very comfortable” using the system, while 37 percent were “somewhat comfortable” – about 86 percent. User behavior, visibility, congestion, paths too narrow and motorist behavior were cited when asked what did make them feel uncomfortable.

On the flip side, the survey asked motorists what about the SUP makes them feel uncomfortable. Respondents cited path user behavior at crossings and in general, visibility and users without lights.

Asked about adding to the system, more than half of the respondents were in favor of it.

“We had about 56 percent who said they’d like to see new paths added,” he said.

Keller reported to the committee that the survey also asked for suggestions from respondents.

“There were about 600 responses,” he said. “They were widely varied.”

Common themes for improvement were enforcement, new connections, signage, vegetation, education, new paths, behavior, wider paths, amenities, improved crossings, and maintenance and drainage.

Additional comments ranged from “overall great a system” to “need more police presence.”

“A lot of people had a lot of positive stuff to comment, but there is constructive criticism in there that we can dive deeper into,” Keller said, referring to the process of updating the SUP Master Plan.

The survey also collected demographic data from the respondents. About 95 percent were age 45 or older, while 52 percent were islanders and about 39 percent were U.S. residents not from Florida.

Prior to moving forward with the meeting, committee members and city staff discussed some of the suggestions voiced by respondents, such as adding more paths and new connections. Staff pointed out that any proposals would need to be feasible, that involving private non-city roads could be an issue.

“There’s a stakeholder element,” Community Services Director Keith Williams said.

“When you put it on the plan and it’s nearly impossible, then you have people asking five years later why you haven’t finished the plan,” he added.

City Manager Judie Zimomra explained that in the past, the city had prioritized where to build and expand the system based on how to get people to hot spots, like Bowman’s and the Lighthouse.

“You have the benefit of having the core of your path system on the ground for 30 40 years,” Keller said, adding that deciding what to expand on and improve with what exists will be the hard part.

He continued with the presentation, outlining proposed updates to sections of the plan itself. He suggested combining the project’s history with the introduction and purpose – which the committee opposed, asking that the history just be updated – and dedicating one section only to challenges.

Keller explained that it is because the challenges will likely drive the updates to the SUP.

He also reviewed for the committee what the existing conditions and challenges identified in the system are. The list includes different uses and users competing for space, expectation and compliance on signage and crossings, and social behavior, like sharing the paths, expectations and strategies.

“We’re hearing a lot that bicyclists don’t stop at stop signs,” Keller said.

Following a discussion about the rules for bicyclists using the road compared to the SUP, the committee and city staff agreed that more education is needed for cyclists and motorists.

“We’ve really not educated a lot of people about who gets the right of way and when,” Salli Kirkland, PAC member who is on the Lee County MPO Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinating Committee, said.

Evelyn Stewart, PAC member and representative for the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, suggested involving the chamber and resorts to help spread the educational material to visitors.

Keller explained that the flip side to education and etiquette is engineering and signage, where the update to the plan comes into play by making sure it is clear to the public what the rules are.

He touched on listed improvements on the city’s Capital Improvements Plan.

“There are things that are being planned and are in process,” Keller said.

The next steps for the plan’s update entail the firm completing its field and feasibility review, refining the recommendations and documentation, and developing the design concepts and cost estimates.

The existing Master Plan was adopted in 2009. The current project, which will guide future updates to the system, is being done in partnership with the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The committee will hold its third and final meeting on April 30.

A second open house for the public is set for April 22.

For more information or to complete the online survey, visit sanibelbikeped.com.