Residential bike path on commission agenda

Holmes Beach bike path 10 feet
The red line in this photo taken along Marina Drive shows where the proposed multi-use path would end if measurements are taken from the street side of the existing sidewalk. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners are ready to discuss some bike and pedestrian path improvements at their Aug. 16 meeting, however, the discussion on where new and widened paths are going is still on hold.

Residents of Marina Drive and 85th Street came to the July 23 commission meeting to discuss their concerns over a proposed multi-use path that would wind along the eastern and northern edges of their roads. The proposed path is 10-feet wide, about twice as wide as the existing sidewalk.

If commissioners vote to agree to the plan, it may restrict access for residents to their homes, driveways and boat docks. City Engineer Lynn Burnett said the proposed path isn’t something residents need to worry about right now. According to Burnett, putting in new facilities for a bike path in any area of the city is at least a few years away. Her plan suggests beginning installation of new multi-use paths in fiscal year 2020-21.

The residential multi-use path plan is part of a larger plan to improve bicycle and pedestrian paths throughout the city. One use of the residential path would be to divert walkers and cyclists during construction of the Anna Maria Island SUNTrail, a complete streets project planned to go along main thoroughfares including Gulf, Marina, Palm and East Bay drives, another aspect of the plan that local residents couldn’t get behind.

Holmes Beach bike path bus stop
On this section of Marina Drive, near 72nd Street, if a 10-foot wide multi-use path comes through, it could take up all of the area from the edge of the road to the outer edge of the existing sidewalk. – Kristin Swain | Sun

Resident Maro Lorimer warned commissioners that they “will have some resistance from people whose property is directly affected” by the widened multi-use path. She said she would prefer to not have a wider concrete path in the area or more signs along the residential streets. Another concern for Lorimer is the safety of private property, including leased dock space at the city-owned docks, if a multi-use path were to butt up against private properties and dock accesses.

“The name of the street is Marina, and I think the marinas deserve priority,” she said. “Any community can have a bike path.”

Resident Bob Robinson said if the multi-use path goes in, he will no longer be able to park his truck in his driveway because the end of the vehicle will protrude into the pathway. Robinson was one of several homeowners with a property built under previous setback rules close to the road whose access to their residence would be impeded by a wide bike path. He also expressed concern that United States postal workers would have to drive in and out of the multi-use path to deliver mail which could pose a safety hazard to those on the path and workers.

“I’m just very, very concerned,” he said. “I hope you listen to the residents of Marina Drive.”

Resident Deb Sneddon said she’d looked into requirements for a path of that size and that she believes a large multi-use path should be a separate facility versus a street improvement. In her research, she said such a path should be separated from the street by at least five feet or have a 40-inch high barricade separating the path from the road, which she said would be an issue to place in people’s front yards and along their driveways.

Commissioner Pat Morton, a recreational cyclist, said he agrees with much of what the residents had to say.

Commissioner Carol Soustek said while the plan isn’t fully formulated yet, when Burnett is ready it will be presented to commissioners, and she hopes that residents will come to that meeting and lend their voices to the conversation.

“It’s a big thing, it’s a costly thing, and I want people to be a part of the discussion,” she said.