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Slowing down the 'exercise highway'

Readers suggest ways to make Bayshore Boulevard safer for pedestrians, bikers, bladers and motorists.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 19, 2002

Last week in City Times, we asked readers for thoughts on improving busy Bayshore Boulevard.

Bikers, bladers and joggers responded. Suggestions varied, from painting a stripe down the center of the sidewalk to adding bicycle police. Bill Jenkins, a contributor to our weekly SoHo Scribbler, even immortalized the issue with a cartoon.

Here's a glimpse of what people had to say.

* * *

ANTOINETTE D'ORONZIO said changing the traffic signal to help pedestrians crossing at Howard Avenue tops her Bayshore "wish list." The light currently stops cars headed toward Gandy Boulevard, but stays green for those heading downtown.

"It would be great to have one of those push buttons on a pole at the median so pedestrians could change the traffic light to red," she wrote.

She also favors adding sidewalks to the southbound lanes of Bayshore and slowing cars to reduce the noise.

"When I walk to Bayshore listening to my Walkman, I have to turn the radio volume up once I get to the bay," said d'Oronzio, who lives in Parkland Estates.

BILL DUDNEY, a frequent Bayshore bicyclist, said the biggest problem has the cheapest solution: stripe the sidewalk to encourage users to behave like motorists, passing on the left.

"If striped, 'heels' and 'wheels' would know to stay on the right and pass on the left, just like a highway. After all, it is a highway, an exercise highway," he wrote.

Dudney, a psychiatrist who often prescribes exercise to his patients, said the current arrangement breeds disaster. Fast-moving bicyclists and skaters can't predict whether others will move left, right or stay in the same spot, resulting in collisions and near misses.

He knows first-hand. Dudney recently broke some teeth when he fell off his bike trying to avoid a jogger who stepped into his path, he said.

"Using the Bayshore should be a pleasure, not a demolition derby," he wrote.

KYLIE ITALIANO of Old Hyde Park said widening the sidewalk would help, even if it means sacrificing some of the grassy median.

Each morning, Italiano runs with a jogging stroller or bikes with her child in a seat. It's pretty busy, and she always makes a point of alerting people before passing.

Some seem annoyed to see her on the sidewalk, she wrote.

"But if they think I am riding on the road with a baby on board and the cars traveling at warp speed, they are crazy!" she said.

She proposed doubling the width of the sidewalk and adding dividing lines. But she knows the realities.

"I can't see the city putting out the money for that though, so (it) looks like we will just have to keep dodging the crowds," she wrote.

ED DAVIS, a daily Bayshore user who lives on Watrous Avenue, said a few "Keep to the right" signs would help traffic flow.

"Keep to the right, no matter what you're doing. Don't complicate it more than that," he suggested.

Davis also suggested deploying bicycle cops to enforce the rules and dissuade reckless behavior. More traffic lights would help pedestrians and slow down cars.

Speeding led as a chief complaint among many Bayshore users. Without frequent stops, drivers can easily accelerate to 60 to 70 mph.

Police periodically crack down on speeders but, most of the time, Bayshore is a speeder's paradise, said KEN KISTER of Palma Ceia.

"My solution: speed humps, bumps and tables -- something to slow down the Dale Earnhardt wannabes," he wrote.

Others pointed out that cars were using Bayshore long before any fitness fans. A longtime jogger, LARRY THORNBERRY, said he has rarely seen people driving too fast. He also never waits long to cross Bayshore.

"The road is a major artery for people going to downtown or Brandon from the south end. I'm not inclined to inconvenience these drivers (many of them coming from a hard day of defending the country at MacDill Air Force Base) for the benefit of some tenderfoot Rollerblader with weak ankles who wants to cross Bayshore at 4:30 p.m.," he wrote.

Thornberry, who lives in Old Hyde Park which abuts Bayshore, opposes slowing down traffic to accommodate recreational users for fear it would attract even larger crowds.

"The people who live here have some right to peaceful enjoyment of their homes," he wrote. "It's not in the neighborhood's interest to make Bayshore such a people magnet."

Bayshore buffs like Davis said no plan is foolproof.

"I would hate for us to come up with more solutions than we have problems," he said. "Certainly, things can be improved but, until then, I'll continue to enjoy Bayshore."

-- Compiled by staff writer Susan Thurston

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