FORT WALTON BEACH — Perry Avenue during the latter part of last year received numerous upgrades, including large bicycle markings painted on the road.
Besides the addition of those and other pavement markings, the Florida Department of Transportation-led improvements that were completed last August consisted of milling and resurfacing work, pedestrian signal upgrades, sidewalk construction, drainage improvements and new signage.
Also known as State Road 145, Perry Avenue is about half-a-mile in length and runs between U.S. Highway 98 and Eglin Parkway.
FDOT District 3 spokesman Ian Satter said bicycle markings were painted on the middle portion of the traffic lanes because it does not have room for designated bicycle lanes along the shoulders. Although bicyclists have the right to use the entire lane, they are encouraged to travel along the far right sides of the road.
Nonetheless, Steve Fikar, bike safety coordinator for the Emerald Coast Cyclists cycling club, said the 100 or so members of the club try to minimize travel on busy Perry Avenue.
“If we’re going to go through that part of town, we try to stay on the back roads and away from those cars,” Fikar said. Perry Avenue “is too dangerous to ride on from a bicyclist’s point of view.
“Eglin Parkway has some areas where there is a shoulder marked with a white line,” he added. “It’s safer for bicyclists to be on the outside of that line, closer to the grass. But in general, Eglin is a dangerous place to ride.”
The north side of U.S. 98 between Destin and Okaloosa Island has a wide shoulder that is a “reasonably good” route for bicyclists, Fikar said.
“But the cars are going too fast” there, said Fikar, who added that the bike lane disappears as one approaches Brooks Bridge.
He said he is not aware of any designated bike lane on U.S. 98 in downtown Fort Walton Beach.
“I wouldn’t even think of riding a bike down there,” he said.
Fikar said cycling club members are recreational bicyclists who ride bikes with skinny tires. They prefer to cruise along roads that have very little motorized traffic, such as the 19-mile-long Ranger Camp Road off Lewis Turner Boulevard.