A1A runs along the oceanfront through most of Southern Brevard County. From the end of Melbourne Beach to Sebastian Inlet, it’s a scenic stretch of highway with no stop lights and just a few pockets of commercial development.
It’s also adjacent to a black-topped path popular with both pedestrians and cyclists. The path – sometimes called a pedway – and the road are part of the East Coast Greenway, a 2,900-mile bicycle route from Key West to Calais, Maine, near the Canadian border.
Officials from the East Coast Greenway Alliance recently met with bicycling enthusiasts and municipal officials at Sebastian Inlet Surf & Sport along A1A in the South Beaches. The meeting was intended to drum up support for the greenway and get a grassroots effort going to add safe, off-road lanes for bicyclists along the route.
Mayors Jim Simmons of Melbourne Beach and Dave Berkman of Indialantic, listened to the discussion and concluded that for the most part, they have little say over the Alliance mission through their towns, since A1A and the pathways belong to the state. “Moral support is all we can offer,” Simmons said.
Alliance Board of Trustees Chair Robert Spiegelman said that might be true in terms of direct development of the off-road paths, but it doesn’t mean municipalities are powerless.
“Our job is to meet with local visionaries” who can push the people who can develop the greenway, he told the gathering.
The greenway traverses diverse landscapes, from city streets around the art museum in Philadelphia to the mall in Washington, D.C., to former railroad beds to Highway A1A in Brevard. To date, only 31 percent of the greenway is separated from car and truck traffic and wide enough to accommodate bikes in both directions.
Likewise, less than a third of the Florida greenway is up to optimum specifications. “There are some terrible sections on Route 1,” said Paul Haydt, newly selected Alliance coordinator for the state. “Other paths do not always meet standards but are still rideable. But we want the greenway to be safe for all abilities.”
Sarah Kraum, who is with the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization, said much of the East Coast Greenway through Brevard has been proposed, but “it is unfunded and thus alignment has not been finalized. The East Central Florida Regional Rail Trail through portions of Brevard is a segment of the Greenway that will be complete in July. Also, there is a proposed trail along the SR 528 Bridge and causeway that is currently under design . . . The ultimate goal of the greenway is to have a 10- to 12-foot-wide paved multiuse trails.”
Simmons said the paths adjoining A1A may be good enough as is for the casual rider. “But the pedway is obviously inadequate for speed and serious riders since bicyclists are legally required to stop at each driveway and each cross street,” he said.
Also the greenway lacks signage in places like A1A. “There should be signage in every area” with a listing of local restaurants and attractions, said John Robson, owner of Sebastian Inlet Surf & Sport.
Supporters say the greenway has been a boon in a number of ways where it is fully established. Putting abandoned canals and rail beds to use can contribute to other redevelopment efforts, and cyclists who use the trails “get outside, promoting better health habits, and help relieve auto congestion,” Haydt said. “It’s a win-win for the community.”
Kraum said the total cost to establish continuous off-road access through Brevard has not been calculated. Funding can come from a variety of sources, but the lead agency would likely be the state DOT. The county and the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization could be other sources.
The East Coast Greenway is also eligible for various grants, including through the SUN Trails, a Florida state trail program. Spiegelman said every dollar raised by the Greenway Alliance generates $60 in public funding towards the greenway’s goals.
“At this point, it is not on our priority projects list so we are unable to put money in the project,” Kraum said. “Our committees and boards prioritize projects for funding after they have been submitted by municipalities.”
How do you make it a priority when the municipality has no jurisdiction?
For Berkman, it means getting consensus from other stakeholders. “If we get the Space Coast League of Cities onboard, we get all 16 towns it represents to support it.”
Added Simmons, “The Space Coast League of Cities is part of the Florida League of Cities, which would then represent us to the state. This would be much more effective than each municipality individually lobbying the state.”