City Planning Department staff has drafted an amendment to the Land Development Code for the purpose of establishing bicycle parking standards on Sanibel. A report on this draft was presented to the Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The report cited a significant increase of 56 percent bicycle traffic on the island's Shared Use Path from a survey taken in 2012 compared to a similar one in 2006. It also cited a 76 percent increase in pedestrian traffic.
Staff made comparisons of standards in use in other communities to make recommendations for Sanibel's code.
A comb style bike rack is provided for cycling shoppers at Periwinkle Place. The Sanibel Plan Commission is in the early stages of setting standards for cycle parking for new development and redevelopment projects.
Jim Fricke, the chief planner on the project, considered standards such as the number of spaces required, the type of space to be provided short term and long term parking, type of racks as well as size and location of bike parking spaces.
"Staff recommends that parking be required for all uses except single family and duplex residential development," said Fricke. "We recommend a 10 percent ratio of bikes to automobile parking spaces."
According to the standards recommended, the "comb" style bicycle rack that is in predominant use on the island at city businesses and even public areas would not meet those standards for access and securing bikes.
Commissioners shared the view of, "What problem are we trying to fix with this."
"I'm not aware of a problem with the number of spaces and racks out there," said commissioner Chris Heidrick, who also had concerns of the cost to businesses to change racks and being able to dedicate more real estate area to bike parking.
"While I think we need a bicycle standard of some form, I think bike safety is of more concern than bike parking," said commissioner John Talmage.
"I think this is a bit premature until we hear from residents and businesses," said commissioner Holly Smith.
"I'm concerned about the cost burden on businesses," said commissioner Chuck Ketteman. "I'm reluctant to reduce the number of car parking spaces on this island to convert them to bike parking. I also want to make it clear that there should be no exemption for the city on this. It would not be fair to apply something to businesses and not the city."
"You are very vulnerable out there on a bike, especially the east end density where the paths have not been widened and are bumpy," said vice-chair Dr. Phillip Marks. "Safety is the more important issue and there does not seem to be a problem with stolen bikes. I would say 75 percent of bikes on the path are rentals ridden by tourists who are here for the day, or a week, or a month."
There was plenty of public comment on the matter from residents who use the path, avid cyclists, Sanibel Bike Club members and Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy's Bike Rentals.
"Our society today has changed from years ago," said Kirkland. "People today go biking for exercise. They are a different breed. The problem is 99 percent of racks out there would not qualify for this new standard. I think this is a step in the right direction, but we should not limit it to one rack style."
"For myself, I have never had trouble stuffing my bike anywhere, whether there is a rack or not," said resident Doug Dietrick.
"I commend the city for being proactive because there definitely is an increased usage of the path," said resident Claudia Burns. "It would be better to educate the public on the rules of the road. I take a bike a lot of places, but I avoid areas that are more crowded. I think city easements should be used at various business locations instead of on their property which is already stretched to the limit."
"I am an avid cyclist," said resident Mike Miller. "Rack style has no preference to me, but I'd rather have a comb rack somewhere than no rack at all."
Kirkland also agreed that bike safety is the biggest thing for cyclists.
"Anything we can do to make is safer should be done," said Kirkland. "If you look at the number of spaces and racks out there today, there are not enough. But look at it in September and it is more than enough. If this moves forward a lot of work still needs to be done."
Kirkland pointed out that many resorts on the island don't have rack spaces and was surprised that the Little League field provides no bike parking at all.
"I like the idea of using public easements for bike parking," added Heidrick. "And I think this is the best meeting we've had since I've been on the commission."
Planning Director Jim Jordan said the notes and ideas presented would be used to revise the recommendations and presented to the commission perhaps at its next meeting on Feb. 26.