For the past 12 years, John Slattery has been walking five miles a day on a route that includes Cimmaron Drive.
Slattery, 76, begins his walk at 5:30 a.m. in the dark. He carries an LED bicycle light in his right hand and holds it up to cars coming toward him, most of which drift toward the center of the two-lane, shoulderless road to give him room.
But he’s had plenty of close calls.
“Personally I’ve had to leap into a swale six to eight times, in daylight and darkness, to avoid getting hit by a car,” he said during an interview at his Cedarwood Court home the day after the city held a Cimmaron Drive neighborhood meeting on Aug. 4 at the Palm Coast Community Center.
“Personally I’ve had to leap into a swale six to eight times to avoid getting hit by a car.”
JOHN SLATTERY, Cimmaron Drive walker
Before he and his wife moved into their Cedarwood home they lived on nearby Cottonwood Court for seven years and while riding his bicycle during that time he said he was hit twice by cars.
“I was OK. The bike was OK the first time. I had a bent wheel the second time and it forced me into a swale,” he said. “(The car) just kept going.”
Slattery was one of the first residents to speak at the meeting, which was held the week before a City Council workshop that included a staff presentation on options for expanding bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the city.
Staffers used the neighborhood meeting to gather residents’ concerns in advance of the workshop.
Cimmaron Drive is not unique, Carl Cote, the city’s stormwater and engineering director, told residents. It is among 50 miles of residential collector roads in the city that connect to arterials.
“Each section in the city has a similar street,” city planner Jose Papa said.
More than 80 residents attended the meeting, which began with a presentation by the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization that focused on bicycle and pedestrian safety and community outreach.
After about 35 minutes grumbles could be heard in the audience. When residents were finally called on to speak, they expressed their frustrations.
One resident said children wait at a bus stop in what is essentially a ditch.
“It’s a residential street, a busy one with lots of streets feeding into it, and it’s not safe,” she said amid applause.
Cote told the group the city needs to analyze what’s feasible considering costs and funding. A bike lane would likely be more feasible than a sidewalk on the narrow street with not much room between swales and pavement, but it would still need to be ADA compliant, he said.
He gave a timeline for a months-long study that would begin after Oct. 1 in the 2022 fiscal year with findings presented to the City Council by next spring. Actual construction, if approved, would not begin before the 2023 fiscal year. Temporary fixes such as relocating a radar speed sign would be considered, he said.
The city has already installed “Share the Road” signs on the street. Some said they have not made a difference.
Residents spoke about the curve in the road, which some call “dead man’s curve,” that has a speed limit of 20 mph, but cars often race around it at much higher speeds. They noted that Cimmaron is unique in that it links to one arterial – Palm Harbor Parkway – and ends 1.3 miles later at The Sanctuary at Palm Coast, a gated community.
Walking across busy Palm Harbor to the sidewalk on the other side is nearly impossible, residents said.
Slattery believes more studies are a waste of time. He sees children walking to bus stops with earbuds in their ears and their eyes fixated on their phones. In the winter they walk in darkness, he said. Cyclists often ride on the left when they legally should be riding with traffic, and pedestrians often walk on the right, when they should be walking on the left where they can see cars coming, he said.
Slattery said he was told most of the drivers on the road are his neighbors.
“But there are an increasing number of Airbnb’s (in the section), and they’re not my neighbors,” he said. “The service people aren’t my neighbors. You can’t get any place on this part of the C Section without driving on Cimmaron. The kids out there in the morning? I fear for them.”