Avid bicyclists fear busy Siesta Key intersection

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A pair of bicyclists walk their bikes due to narrow space and heavy traffic as they approach from the south the intersection of Midnight Pass and Stickney Point roads during a recent sunset. (Photo by John Morton)

By John Morton

Bicyclists Christina Mojeico and Josh Hinzpeter shook their heads in sadness and frustration upon learning of the Feb. 8 death of a fellow rider.

“That’s such a shame, but I’m not surprised,” Mojeico said moments after biking through the intersection of Midnight Pass and Stickney Point roads, where the accident took place. “The traffic here is madness and it gets consistently worse. And that spot is particularly dangerous.”

The incident involved a trolley and a non-helmeted bicyclist who turned in front of the vehicle.

“You’ve got to really be on your toes around here,” said Hinzpeter. “It’s a fun place to bike, but you need to know what you’re doing. So often, the drivers of cars are looking left as they’re turning right. They’re looking for other cars, not bikes.”

The couple were visiting from Oregon, where they enjoy the open spaces suited for bicycling.

“We lived here seven years ago,” Mojeico said, “and that was when Josh got hit by a car on his bike along Clark Road. It’s part of why we left.

“We bike when we come back to visit because we don’t like being stuck in traffic. But we know it’s a risk.”

Jim Wheeler, president of the 750-member Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club, said the South Bridge and the Stickney Point/Midnight Pass intersection are areas he avoids.

“I haven’t taken a group that way in probably 15 years,” he said. “When it’s crowded, there’s really no way through it.

“When we are in a large group, cars can at least typically see us coming. But for an individual bicyclist? No way.”

Wheeler said that biking alongside buses and trolleys is particularly challenging, considering their size, limited views, and frequent stops.

“We’ve been run off the road a few times by them up in Manatee (County),” he said. “Here they have bike racks on them, so you’d think they’d be more conscientious of us, but that’s not always the case.”

Helmets, Wheeler said, are a critical piece of equipment.

“I’ve said it so many times — wear a helmet. You’d think by now people would know,” he said. “Florida has had so many accidents.”

The Ride and Paddle in Siesta Key’s Southbridge Mall is the bike-rental store that is closest to the accident scene, and employees there said helmets are provided free of charge. For children, they are a requirement.

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