Those who walk and bicycle in St. Petersburg have one more reason to be thankful this November. On the morning of November 10, 2018 the City of St. Petersburg, in partnership with Coast Bike Share, hosted Tour de MLK, a reception and bicycle ride celebrating the completion of a key component of the city’s bicycle-pedestrian transportation network: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street (MLK).
Mayor Rick Kriseman, Councilperson Darden Rice, and Shawn Hannan, President of the MLK Business District, welcomed more than 100 event participants. Presentation highlights included celebrating the businesses in the district and thanking community members for their outspoken support of the project. When the ceremony concluded, Mayor Kriseman, with the assistance of Coast Bike Share, led a large procession of bicyclists of all kinds along the recently reconfigured street.
“This is a wonderful turnout and it shows that a lot of people really do care…All you have to do is look around here and see there are a lot of people who support this decision,” said Mayor Kriseman. “It’s all about giving people options and choices, slowing people down, and letting people actually know there are businesses along this corridor.”
Mayor Kriseman went on to say that the city is continuing to monitor the results of the street reconfiguration. According to the city’s Transportation Department, there has been no reduction in the number of vehicles passing through the district, however, drivers are going slower than before the reconfiguration, better aligning average vehicle speeds to the posted speed limits. Slower speeds mean safer conditions for those walking and bicycling and enables drivers to better see the businesses they are passing by.
“It’s really fantastic to see so many from the bike community and the business community all in one place!” expressed Kerry Bailey, Regional Program Manager for Coast Bike Share. “Creating safe streets for all residents, no matter their preferred mode of transportation, is a huge benefit to all who live, work, and play in St. Petersburg. Today is a wonderful demonstration of that.”
“Now, when I walk on the sidewalk, I don’t feel like cars are whizzing by me a foot or two away. A little extra space makes a big difference!” said a local resident who owns a home on MLK. Moving forward, additional safety features will be added to MLK between 7th and 30th Avenues, including five additional crosswalks with Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons to help alert drivers.
“Through the process it was a great opportunity to bring the community and business owners together to make our district better for everyone,” said Shawn Hannan. Shawn spent numerous hours as a volunteer connecting with neighboring businesses to help facilitate a productive dialogue with the city and share information and address concerns about the process. When all was said and done, several businesses came out to support the event, including Shawn’s family business, Tampa Bay Furnishings. Banyan Café provided coffee at the reception and Gypsy Souls Coffeehouse, Salt Works, and others set up tables along the route and offered special promotions to event-goers. Rollin’ Oats Market & Café hosted the end of the ride in its parking lot and provided water and fun giveaways for ride participants.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to explore the “new” MLK yet, it’s a great excuse to dine and shop in the MLK Business District more safely and comfortably.