CLEARWATER — The city’s senior transportation planner is leaving to start a nonprofit that provides interactive transportation safety education.
Richard (Ric) Hartman, who has served as the city’s chief street planner for 18 months, obtained a $50,000 Forward Pinellas Complete Streets grant to study the redesign of dangerous stretches of road. He also developed an electric scooter pilot program that integrates scooter rental company apps to mitigate scooter clutter and limited parking.
Under the Complete Streets program, Hartman and his staff chose to redesign Fort Harrison Avenue, which runs through downtown and north out of the city. The goal is to improve line of sight and reaction time for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other users.
While there have been no traffic fatalities along Fort Harrison Avenue, the road saw 654 crashes — auto, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian — between 2013 and 2017.
“The faster cars go, the higher the risk is to people who are walking and people who are driving,” Hartman told the Beacon in June. “Two cars hitting at 20 mph is a whole lot different than two cars hitting at 40 mph, so it really does improve safety for drivers as well.”
He and his staff helped obtain Florida Department of Transportation funding for the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail pedestrian overpass bridge and completed a walking audit of Lake Belleview and environs. Neighbors and city transportation folks walk sidewalks to determine unsafe, broken, and disruptive areas. Participants can brainstorm solutions and ways to improve safety. Other improvements under Hartman include traffic arrows painted onto the surface of Woodlawn Street for bicycle routes and enhanced crosswalks along Lakeview Road.
Hartman hopes his knowledge of road design and traffic safety will help his new venture, the nonprofit The Healthy Streets Program, succeed.
“It has the word ‘health’ in its name because the state of Florida has consistently been ranked as the most dangerous state for walking or bicycling for more than a decade,” Hartman said. “The program provides interactive transportation safety education and infrastructure training services, including Complete Streets, that are designed to be easily adapted to local conditions anywhere in the state. The primary audience are vulnerable people, vulnerable because they must walk, ride transit, or bike because of age, abilities, or necessity.”
Gina Clayton, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department’s director, said Hartman has helped develop transportation programs that benefit bicyclists, scooters, pedestrians, users of public transportation, and automobile drivers, of course.
“Ric has been instrumental in developing the city’s transportation planning program,” Clayton said. “The program integrates multimodal opportunities with land uses to provide safe, efficient mobility options that meets the needs of all people. Ric has accomplished a lot in his tenure with the city, and was plugged into the regional transportation conversation and always kept this larger picture in mind as he worked on Clearwater issues.”
Parks and Recreation chief sought
City Manager Bill Horne said he will replace former Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar “as soon as possible” from a field of candidates inside and outside the city staff.
Horne’s comments came after a Beacon article stated the City Council elections in March could determine how quickly the council replaces Dunbar, who was fired on Dec. 3.
The council, in fact, only hires two city employees: The city clerk and the director of the Clearwater Redevelopment Area, Horne said. Horne hires and fires city staff.
Dunbar was fired after a financial audit of the 2018 John Fogerty/ZZ Top concert that was overseen by Parks and Rec. The audit by City Auditor Yvonne Taylor described lack of oversight from Dunbar down, shoddy record-keeping by Special Events employees, poor cash handling and accounting practices, and other financial mismanagement.