KEY LARGO -- The first step in improving cycling safety on County Road 905 was taken last week as the Monroe County Commission voted unanimously to have staff begin the design of a paved route.
Monroe County Director of Engineering Services Judy Clarke said commissioners were somewhat unsure whether they desired a bike path, which would be separated from the roadway, or bike lanes, which would be connected to the roadway and striped off. The wording on the agenda read "bike lanes."
The commission suggested that a separate path would cost more and called for public input before a final design is approved.
"There is a difference," Clarke said. "If they support a bike path separate from the roadway, the cost may be higher since the roadway is constricted by wetlands at the far end close to the three-way stop [where C.R. 905 and Card Sound Road intersect]. That might require some mitigation which would cost more.
"If they support bike lanes that would extend the roadway on both sides with cyclists traveling in the same direction as traffic flow, the cost might be less," she said. "Before anything is completed we will hear from the public."
Clarke expects design and construction of the 11-mile project to cost $1.67 million and be covered by local impact fees.
"This money cannot be used for maintenance of existing transportation facilities, so this is a proper use," she said. "We will select one of our [seven] consultants for a cost proposal."
Because the project would be less than $2 million in total construction costs, the county would not have to seek outside bids.
"We hope to be under construction within a year," she said.
Cyclists said either a bike lane or path would be much safer for them.
"There are a large number of Ocean Reef [Club] members who want to use [C.R. 905] but are afraid to use it," said David Ritz, president of the Ocean Reef Community Association. "I have over 50 letters from members of Miami bike clubs who want to come here for cycling but who are afraid of this road."
Last April 7, a cyclist was killed on C.R. 905 when struck from behind by a pickup truck.
Richard Smit, vice president of the Everglades Bike Club, which brings hundreds of riders to the Florida Keys every year, said he is pleased that the county is interested in providing safe cycling in that area.
"This will give us a little room and the drivers a lot of room on the road," he said. "Nowadays a lot of drivers are on their phones or texting and not really paying attention. Motorists get angry and yell at us, 'Get out of the way.'"
Richard Ginsberg, who cycles from the Ocean Reef Club down C.R. 905 to U.S. 1, then up the 18-Mile Stretch to Florida City and down Card Sound Road to complete a giant triangle, says the commission is fulfilling an important obligation.
"The county has a responsibility to provide safe passage for all cyclists and pedestrians," he said.