BELLEAIR BEACH – Many Belleair Beach residents were inconvenienced on Sunday, September 25, by hobbyist bicyclists who apparently supplied wrong information to county authorities and caused Gulf Boulevard to be virtually unusable.
Such behavior on the part of bicylists is not unfamiliar to motorists who have to contend with their arrogance and road hogging throughout the county.
A group called Triathlon USA, from another state, was sponsoring an event that put bicycle riders on the road from Sand Key down Gulf Boulevard, across the Belleair Causeway and then return.
Lt. Timothy Pelella of the Sheriff’s Office, in an explanatory e-mail last Thursday to Lora Strong of the county’s Public Works Regulatory Services, said that he had spoken to the officer on duty that Sunday and was told that the race coordinator, Fred Ryzmek, told the sergeant Gulf Boulevard was to be closed.
“This of course was incorrect information,” Pelella wrote. “When I did a drive through with Fred I had suggested two separate cone patterns that would be as safe as we could have it with traffic flowing”
Then the key words appear in Pelella’s message – “(Ryzmek) was told to instruct all riders that traffic would be flowing throughout the race and law enforcement officers would have to handle cross traffic.”
The idea of continued traffic flow was ignored by the bicycle crowd which decided to make arrangements to suit their convenience, residents of Belleair Beach take the hindmost.
Pelella, who was in Mississippi in connection with the disaster there, said he could not be there to ensure “something like this did not happen.”
He re-emphasized how the road was to be kept open in his e-mail to Strong. “As we discussed before when I had meetings with Ryzmek we never spoke of closing the road . . .”
One person who observed the proceedings in Sand Key on September 25 told Pelella, he said, that she had heard an officer on a PA system announcing that Gulf Boulevard was closed.
Pelella told Strong that none of his officers advised people of that.
Pelella wrote – “I know it caused major problems . . . but it will not happen next year because either I will refuse to have our office involved in the race (unless ordered) or I will be doubling the amount of deputies and make sure (Ryzmek) knows the road WILL NOT be closed.”
Pelella added that he thought these kind of events should be restricted to the Pinellas Trail or at Ft. DeSoto.
Belleair Beach police said they could do little about the inconvenience because deputies had control of the road. One police source agreed that bicycle riders are often a nuisance describing how a squadron of 50 or so of them breeze through the light at the causeway.
There are many complaints on weekends about bicycle riders who jam up the road and seem to delight in preventing motorists from passing them.
As one observer pointed out, “our gas taxes pay for these roads. They were not designed for or intended for bicyle riders. The answer is to restrict their activities to certain areas. Why was the Pinellas Trail created?”
Many Belleair Beach residents were prevented from pursuing their usual Sunday activities like going to church or to the store, etc.
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