10604886863?profile=RESIZE_710xThe town hopes 13-mph signs will encourage drivers to slow down on Old Ocean Boulevard, which during the season is crowded with people walking dogs, riding bikes and skateboarding. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Larry Barszewski


Ocean Ridge town commissioners hope “13 mph” speed limit signs on Old Ocean Boulevard will bring the town good luck in reducing the growing tensions among the pedestrians, cyclists and motorists competing for space on the popular oceanside roadway.
The oddly numbered limit won’t be enforceable from a statutory perspective, but it could catch motorists’ attention and be a touch-off point for police patrolling the promenade-like boulevard to have discussions with them about the need to go slow there.
“I know it’s not enforceable, but we thought it was a clever way to get people to slow down,” said Carolyn Cassidy, who heads a citizens task force looking for solutions to the road problems.
The task force came about due to safety concerns on Old Ocean, a nearly mile-long road between Corrine Street and Briny Breezes Boulevard, with a few stretches of unobstructed ocean views. It attracts crowds of people — on foot, on bikes, on skateboards, in golf carts and in cars and trucks.
In addition to lowering the speed limit posted on street signs, commissioners agreed at their June 6 meeting to have some of the roadside vegetation cut back. The trimming will provide space for pedestrians to step off the road when cars pass in both directions, leaving not enough room on the road. Earlier that day, commissioners had agreed to set aside $3,800 in the town’s upcoming budget for the work, officials said.
But commissioners put off — at least for now — other suggested changes that they fear might ruin the ambience of the town’s signature boulevard or create new problems. Those ideas included placing speed humps to slow cars, painting a center line down the road, installing electronic digital signs that track the speed of oncoming vehicles, and putting up “resident only” signs.
Despite the commission’s reluctance to install lighted digital signs, it did agree to allow Police Chief Richard Jones to place the town’s portable devices on the stretch of road temporarily to encourage motorists to slow down.
“It is kind of like a country road,” Commissioner Geoff Pugh said, with walkers vastly outnumbering drivers at peak times. “I’d say most of the people that drive down there know that if you drive down there at a certain time of day, you’re going to get the stink eye every time.”
Commissioners and some residents said that drivers aren’t the only ones to blame for the road situation. Many pedestrians don’t keep to their left and face oncoming traffic; instead they block the road for the cars coming up behind them.
“I think more than cars being the problem are pedestrians that are the problem,” said resident Debby Belmonte. “They’re walking all over the place. … I think just a couple of signs maybe, for stay to your left, or walk against traffic for your own safety, just some nice signs, it’s a start. Let’s move the pedestrians and get them flowing right.”
Walkers oblivious to the cars trying to get by can be frustrating, said 92-year-old Betty Bingham, a longtime resident who frequently drives on the road.
“I go over Old Ocean all the time. I drive 10 miles an hour. If the people don’t get out of my way, I’d like to bump them,” Bingham said. “A little civility might cure a lot of the problems there, seriously.”
In other matters, town commissioners:
• Approved a one-year extension for the owner of 6273 N. Ocean Blvd. to finish construction started in 2015. Under the agreement, the owner still has to get necessary town approvals for all modifications, has to put up $450,000 to cover the town’s costs in tearing down the building if the work isn’t completed on time, and has to reduce the size of a planned rooftop deck to about 2,200 square feet — which neighbors say is still too large. The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Martin Wiescholek opposed.
• Learned that Town Clerk Karla Armstrong will be leaving to attend law school.
• Approved spending $59,844 to repair the Porter Street beach crossover, quadruple the $15,000 the town had budgeted for the work, with increased costs Town Manager Tracey Stevens said were “due to inflation from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The town will also spend $27,026 repairing brick sidewalks on Ocean Avenue east of the Intracoastal Waterway bridge. That cost is actually less than the $50,000 budgeted for it, because expected permitting through the Florida Department of Transportation will not be needed.
• Learned that the town was the victim of a $29,100 check fraud incident — one that may involve Postal Service employees. The checks in question were hand-delivered to a mail carrier at Town Hall, Stevens wrote in her commission report. Police are investigating.

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  • Education is key. Since covid, there has been way more foot traffic on old ocean and too many don't know that they are supposed to walk against traffic when no sidewalk is present, as is true for beachway and most of old ocean. Another issue I have noticed since Covid is all of the inconsiderate dog owners who walk their dogs up and down the beach, many off the leash, which is even more problematic with our seabird and sea turtle population. There is a state statue for several very good reasons, yet these entitled, selfish people choose to ignore all of tbe signs that say NO DOGS ON THE BEACH. What happened to the beach ATV patrol that was so frequent before 2020? Enforcement and fines might encourage people to make less selfish choices. 

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