Teen's death sparks paths petition

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 7, 2011
Kirt Smith, 15, was struck while bicycling at night in southern Palm Coast and died days later.
Kirt Smith, 15, was struck while bicycling at night in southern Palm Coast and died days later.
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Following a fatal crash in August, on Seminole Woods Parkway, a petition was created for paths and lighting.

Following an Aug. 26 crash on Seminole Woods Parkway that killed 15-year-old bicyclist Kirt Smith, a public outcry has been ignited by residents rallying for more lighting and sidewalks in underdeveloped areas of Palm Coast.

Made live Aug. 31, a Facebook petition was created for the cause (see sidebar). As of Sept. 6, it has 303 electronic signatures.

Mayor Jon Netts said he and Vice Mayor Frank Meeker also have received several emails and phone calls on the issue, but ultimately, sidewalk projects are paid for by the state.

“It’s ludicrous to say on the one hand that you’ve got to cut government spending, and then on the other say you want more and more of these expensive projects,” Netts said. “We can only do so much.”

City Manager Jim Landon noted that, since 2006, Palm Coast has spent $10 million, not including the paths along northern Belle Terre Parkway or southern Old Kings Road, on paths and trails, which is about one-third the total cost of the projects. The bulk of the funding, he said, comes from state and federal grants.

“Currently, we have about 100 miles (of paths and trails),” he said. “For a city this size, that’s almost unheard of.”

There are also 30 other path, trail and sidewalk projects scheduled in Palm Coast’s Pedestrian/Bicycle Master Plan. Between the 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 fiscal years, four of the seven planned projects are to occur in the south side of the city, along Belle Terre and Seminole Woods parkways.

When Landon was hired as city manager in 2007, he had staff develop the plan, outlining every path project past, present and future.

Priorities for future paths were set by usage. Residential, school and shopping areas have high usage and therefore were listed first — it’s about getting the most “bang for your buck,” Netts said. Seminole Woods, when compared to the Palm Coast Parkway or Belle Terre Parkway areas, experiences less traffic and thus was placed lower on the list.

The list then was submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation, which allocates funds for design and construction.

Landon said the path on Seminole Woods has been approved by the state but doesn’t have funding yet.

“The project is next in line; it’s the No. 1 grant request from the city to the state,” he said.

But as Netts pointed out, FDOT is under the same financial pressures as Palm Coast.

“This is almost totally contingent on FDOT,” Netts said. “You think we’re the only city clamoring for money?”

He elaborated on how project preference is decided.

“Keep in mind that ITT designed this city without sidewalks,” Netts said

And so, to some extent, project priority has been “complaint-driven, or history-driven.” But plans were also designed to connect isolated sidewalk segments, which exist because it’s easier to get funding for a partial sidewalk than for a full.

“If you put in for the whole thing, you probably won’t get funded. If you put in for half, you probably will get funded,” Netts said.

Landon said the purpose of the paths is safety. Some of the key arteries for the city were designed through residential areas, and they aren’t safe for bicycling or walking.

“The city’s goal is to construct a path along every major street that doesn’t have residential driveways connected to it,” he said. “We’re getting it done as quickly as we can.”

— Brian McMillan contributed to this story.

A petition was created on Facebook by Dede Siebenaler on Aug. 31, for the addition of streetlights and sidewalks to underdeveloped areas of Palm Coast.

The following was written with the petition:

“A young boy’s life was tragically lost, but it quite possibly could have been saved, had there been adequate lighting and sidewalks available …

“The taxpaying citizens of Palm Coast MUST contact their elected officials, starting with Mayor Jon Netts, and DEMAND that street lights and sidewalks be put in place, so that no other life is lost so needlessly.

“The residents of Palm Coast pay taxes to support their city, and should have their voices heard in the decision-making process on where to allocate funds …

“R.I.P. Kirt Smith. You’ll never be forgotten, and hopefully something positive will result from our tragic loss ... ”
As of Tuesday, Sept. 6, the petition had 303 signatures.

• Always wear a helmet.
• Wear light colored, reflective clothing.
• Ride with lights at night.
• Pedestrians: Walk/run against traffic.
• Bicyclists: Ride with traffic.
• To indicate turning direction, extend left arm: out for left turns, angle at 90 degrees for right turns.
• Make eye contact with motorists before crossing the street.
• Be aware of your surroundings.
• Do not wear headphones or ear buds.


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