Safety Harbor looks to future of its sidewalks, bike paths

Safety Harbor residents and visitors can look forward to improvements in the city’s sidewalks and bicycle paths over the next several years.

SAFETY HARBOR — Safety Harbor residents and visitors can look forward to improvements in the city’s sidewalks and bicycle paths over the next several years.

A master plan outlining short- and long-term improvements and additions to the city’s sidewalks and bike paths was presented to the City Commission at its July 18 meeting by Jared Schneider, a consultant with Kimley Horn planning and design consultants.

For the past year, consultants have been conducting field reviews, talking to local residents, holding focus group meetings with the commissioners and other stakeholders and examining potential funding sources for additions and improvements recommended.

In examining the existing sidewalk system in both downtown Safety Harbor and surrounding neighborhoods, Schneider said that apart from a few gaps, the system was adequate. Some improvements are needed to sidewalk ramps to make them compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. 

They also examined bicycle paths and lanes and saw some room for improvement in the future.

“We really looked at the bicycle facilities and ways you can enhance what you have today,” Schneider said.

The priority would be to create a bicycle network that serves all ages and abilities; improves the visibility and safety for bicyclists; and focuses on east-west and north-south connectivity, according to the report presented.

Schneider said the cheapest and easiest way to improve bicycle access would be by creating dedicated routes through existing neighborhoods, which would allow bicycles to safely share streets with car traffic.

“We looked at neighborhood greenways, which are slower speed streets where you could put up bicycle signs and pavement markings to create a full network of greenways on slower speed streets,” Schneider said.

Vice Mayor Nancy Besore had some concerns about bicycles and cars sharing the streets and how it would impact vehicle traffic flow.

“Anything for safety I’m all for,” she said. “But when they (drivers) are trying to get to the grocery store, they don’t want to be behind that guy on a bike.”

Commissioner Andy Steingold raised questions about the possibility of adding bike lanes or trails on major roadways.

“When I ride through the city on my race bike, I notice a lot of the roads don’t have bike lanes,” he said. “Are there any of these roads where you would find the potential for adding bike lanes?”

Schneider responded that engineers have included the possibility of adding dedicated bike trails from Phillippe Park north to SR 580 along Phillippe Parkway, and also along Enterprise Road as part of a long-range plan.

Mayor Joe Ayoub questioned the feasibility and the cost of dedicated bike trails, pointing out that the budget for road widening could top $5 million.

“Is that why the cost is so much, because you would have to widen the road?” he asked.

Schneider responded that the cost is a factor in why adding bike trails would be included in tier three of the master plan rather than tier one, which included more short-term solutions. But he did indicate that there is enough right of way along Phillippe Parkway to create a dedicated bike trail.  

“There is a solution, it would just take time,” he said.

The city is anticipating using the master plan as a framework to apply for federal and state grants and other funding in the future.