Sarasota Explores Legacy Connection to Ringling Blvd.

Todays News


Ringling Boulevard could soon provide the connect the Legacy Trail to the Sarasota Bayfront by way of the heart of Downtown.

Sarasota engineers have studied the best potential pathways to provide a critical connection to a trail network that sees 350,000 cyclists roll through annually. Dan Ohrenstein, assistant city engineer, said there’s a number of options to join regional assets, but a plan that turns Ringling Boulevard into a “complete street” for pedestrians, cars and cyclists seems the one that can be forged the soonest. City officials would like to have improvements to the roadway completed by the time a Legacy Trail connection opens next Fall.

“It’s one of the great pieces, and one of the most interesting pieces, in bicycle planning in Sarasota,” he said. “What is the best way to connect the Legacy Trail to downtown?”

It’s not just a casual fancy. Increased shifts to multi-modal transportation methods in the community create a significant reason to connect the bike trails to the city core. Cyclists could bring traffic to local eateries and restaurants Downtown. The connection could also provide a long-desired improvement in connectivity between the commercial center Downtown and the tourist-attracting Bayfront, which become all the more of a draw as plans for The Bay come together.

Normally, a plan like that for the Ringling Boulevard corridor would have been presented in public meetings or workshops, but the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the normal process. Right now, the city is in the midst of an online survey gauging public opinion on a plan to put dedicated bike lanes on Ringling. Results will be accepted through Nov. 15. But a City Commission meeting on the plan in the future will have to serve as the public meeting on the plan.

The roadway notably has seen car traffic decline substantially in the past two decades. Traffic counts dating back to 2002 showed 12,000 to 14,000 car trips per day on the road segment. In 2019, before the pandemic, counts found traffic more in the neighborhood of 7,200 to 7,900 trips to date. Ohrenstein said the vast majority of traffic doesn’t use Ringling for more than a two-mile stretch.

Than calls for the complete street design on Ringling through Downtown until Pineaplle, at which point cyclists will be able to share lanes with cars during the slow-moving section of downtown. With a plan for a roundabout on 41 on the horizon, that provides the connection for cyclists to get to the waterfront.

There’s already cyclists using Ringling now, but improvements will likely increase the interest. And a connection to a popular trail network will make an easy downtown access for the close to 1,000 rider already frequently the Legacy Trail on a daily basis.

Rendering courtesy City of Sarasota

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