Marco committee overseeing $100K budget to improve bicycling in city

How to spend $100,000 to make Marco Island a bike-friendly city is among the top priorities set by an advisory committee.

"We have $100,000 sitting in the bank that we have to figure out how to spend or we'll lose it," said Patrick "Pat" Neal, chairman of the city's bikeways committee.

Committee members met earlier this month to set goals and establish priorities for next year.

The group's priorities include finishing a list of road segments where the bike paths could go, holding at least two workshops to get public comment, reviewing all the city's bike signs, drafting the proposed master plan for the pathways project and creating a map of the proposed routes.

Also on the top of the priority list, Neal said, is figuring out how to appropriately spend the $100,000 that the Marco Island City Council budgeted from the capital improvement fund toward the committee's efforts.

But getting Marco residents excited about bike paths will be an uphill battle, committee member Al Musico said.

"Whoever's street you're planning to put the paths, they don't want it," he said.

Neal echoed Musico's comments.

"We're going to take some punches for this," he said.

The 12-member ad hoc committee was created in response to Marco bike enthusiasts who urged the Marco Island City Council in August to find new ways to make the island a more bike-friendly city.

Marco is the latest Collier County community making strides toward becoming more friendly to bicyclists.

Earlier this year, Collier County approved its Comprehensive Pathways Plan Update, which laid out the county's plans to make Collier more accessible and safe for bike riders and pedestrians.

Multilane intersections and poor bicycling conditions on the county's main road network contribute to the perception among some residents and visitors that bicycling is unsafe along several key routes in Collier County, the report stated.

The report also proposes several bike paths, but the county won't be paying for the construction.

"It's an unfunded mandate," Musico said.

However, city liaison Jim Miller said the committee could use the report as a springboard for its own report by going through the county's proposed pathways.

The purpose of doing that is "to see if what was proposed before matches with what you want," Miller said.

Plans for various bike-related projects are under way in Marco, including a shared-use pathway along Bald Eagle Drive and a bike-way along the Leland Way corridor connecting to the YMCA, city officials said.

Other city goals include developing a shared-use pathway project linking the Racquet Center, Mackle Park and the open space areas along Winterberry Drive.

The committee's next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 12 at Marco City Hall, 50 Bald Eagle Drive.

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