by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly
–There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the need to make Pensacola, particularly areas near the urban core, easier to navigate for bicyclists and pedestrians, of tilting the landscape in favor of people as opposed to the automobile.
On Wednesday evening, folks got a chance to offer input on this concept to Mayor Grover Robinson’s transition team, which is currently assessing various aspects of city government in order to provide the mayor with recommendations heading into his term. During a meeting at the downtown library, Drew Buchanan, the team’s member charged with looking into traffic and walkability, heard from a number of citizens on the matter.
A majority of the people in attendance at the meeting appeared to be from Pensacola’s bicycling community. They relayed experiences from the road and offered potential suggestions aimed at creating a smoother, safer experience.
One basic suggestion came from Trish Price, a member of the West Florida Wheelmen. She told Buchanan that a lot of people — cyclists and drivers — may not be clear on what exactly the rules of the road are and wondered if there might need to be a public education campaign on the issue.
“I want there to be sort of a public service announcement,” Price said. “What are the rules?”
Designated bike lanes, and interconnected routes flowing through town were also suggested. As examples, people pointed toward cities with thriving cycling cultures, like Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas.
Another cyclist, Dan Bowers, said he thought efforts like infrastructure improvements and education campaigns may take time, but that the city could immediately begin enforcing existing rules of the road.
“It can happen immediately and it would make the roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians and people in cars,” Bowers said.
Other input offered at the Dec. 19 meeting included the potential for launching a bike-share program, doing away with free parking on Palafox Street, creating a lengthy, unbroken bike lane traversing across town, designing bike lanes protected by parked cars, crosswalks equipped with blinking lights to permit pedestrian crossing, ticketing drivers, including commercial vehicles, that park on sidewalks or block roadways, and standardizing the way in which cyclists are treated across jurisdictional boundaries.
The topic of money also came up during the meeting. Remedies to address issues of traffic and walkability could get pricey, a man pointed out, wanting to know if Mayor Robinson would be willing to spend the necessary money to realize them.
“That’s absolutely a priority to the mayor, and it’s our job to tell him how much,” Buchanan said.
While this represents the first public input session dedicated to the topic of traffic and walkability, Buchanan said he planned on conducting more meetings. Each, he said, would be scheduled for a different neighborhood or area of the city.
Information gathered in such public input sessions — on this topic, or others being studied by the mayor’s team — will be synthesized into recommendations offered to Robinson as part of the transition team’s final report due by March.
To learn more about the team, or offer input, visit transitionpensacola.com.