St. Augustine's 1st pedestrian lane installed along South Street

After trial period, decision to be made whether to keep lane or install sidewalk

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Those who walk or bike in St. Augustine's historic Lincolnville neighborhood will notice a change in the next few days.

The city's first pedestrian lane is being installed along South Street.

Heals and wheels sharing the pavement of South Street has been an ongoing concern for neighbors. 

"We have been concerned for years that there will be a pedestrian, auto accident on South Street," John Hagarty, who lives in Lincolnville, told News4Jax on Wednesday. "We do need to separate cars from people on South Street."

City officials said pedestrians and vehicles have to share the roadway since there is no continuous sidewalk along South Street, even though it is a primary route for vehicles traveling between Riberia Street and M.L. King Avenue, St. George Street and Marine Street. Pedestrians, forced to use the roadway, have simply had to do so carefully, and drivers have had to exercise extra caution and keep an eye out for pedestrians. 

Trees and houses near South Street and the character of the neighborhood have prevented the Community Redevelopment Agency from installing sidewalks, so it's taking a different route: Installing the city's first pedestrian lane.

But in the next few weeks, South Street users will see a designated pedestrian lane beside the lanes for vehicles. The designated pedestrian lane will stretch a half-mile along the north side of the street the full length from Riberia Street to Maria Sanchez Lake. 

As the pedestrian lane is installed, South Street has shrunk by 4 feet. That space will now be for people walking or riding bicycles. 

"It seems like it's pretty narrow," said Kevin Blair, who lives in St. Augustine. "(But) I think it's a good idea. I think it will help with safety."

Support on the project is split.

"I'm not sure that it's really necessary because I don't think traffic or pedestrians are that heavy on this stretch," St. Augustine resident Erin Flynn-Blair said.

During the first week, city officials said, the pedestrian lane will be delineated with traffic cones with stripping set to start Nov. 8.

But Lincolnville neighbors were quick to point out one problem: No signs. Many said they came outside to find cones blocking part of South Street and ended up walking outside the path created for their safety.

"We thought, maybe, it was just a construction project because we hit it cold," St. Augustine Jim Mercready said. 

The pedestrian lane will be in place for a 60-day trial period after which evaluations will be made on the use and function of the street. Following that trial period, there will be consideration to installing a permanent sidewalk in place of the lane. 

Pedestrian lanes, although new to St. Augustine, are common in other cities as a temporary accommodation for areas where a sidewalk may not be possible and yet pedestrian use is high. Initially, there will be traffic cones marking the area so drivers will become familiar with the new lane, but it will eventually be stripped just like any other lane along the roadway.