ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s an idea gaining traction in the growing downtown area: fewer cars and more walkers and bikers on select St. Pete streets. The St. Pete group Car Free St. Pete said it could be a great solution to increase pedestrian safety, decrease traffic and bring more foot traffic into local businesses.
The idea is called a Straza, since it’s part street, part plaza. Car Free St. Pete envisions a three-mile loop in downtown St. Pete connecting the Dali Museum, St. Pete Pier, Tropicana Field, Mirror Lake Park and the Pinellas Trail. Some streets would be shut down to cars and others would have traffic slowed to make walkers and bikers the top priority.
“We envision creating a safe place for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy the street and be connected to major institutions around downtown St. Petersburg and just enjoy our city,” Nicole Roberts of Car Free St. Pete explained.
A proposed map of the Staza loop project shows the loop running down 2nd Avenue North (Burlington) and 5th Avenue South then along 13th Street and along the downtown waterfront.
“The more people that are getting out of their cars and onto scooters and bikes and other ways to get around St. Pete means less traffic for you. So, we’re not asking everybody to give up their car we acknowledge that people need their cars to get around but we’re really looking to reprioritize some of the streets in St. Petersburg to really put pedestrians and bicyclists first,” Roberts added.
The plan would involve removing curbs, expanding sidewalks, adding landscaping and slowing traffic speeds. Similar concepts like the Clamatis Streetscape in West Palm Beach and the proposed Green Loop in Portland, Oregon are popping up nationwide.
Is it really doable in St. Pete? ABC Action News took your question to St. Pete City Council Member Richie Floyd. “There’s going to have to be a plethora of studies. Traffic, environmental impact and I’m sure every business is going to have something to say,” Floyd said.
And all of that will take time. “This is going to be years and a years-long process but it’s an exciting thing to even just begin this process. One of my top priorities for my district is street safety. We had an incident last year where two pedestrians were killed on Central Avenue in an important place where pedestrians are and I think this could contribute to that conversation as well as take the conversation to the next step that says not only do we want streets to be safer for pedestrians but we want more public space for pedestrians in general,” Floyd elaborated.
Car Free St. Pete points to their Holloween on Central event, which attracted 50,000 people to 22 blocks of Central Avenue, which was shut down to cars, to highlight the need for a more permanent solution.
There are still a lot of questions that need answers like how much would this cost? Which streets would the city have to shut down for traffic? Where would that extra traffic be diverted to?
Car Free St. Pete hopes to get the conversation started now in order to start working through those questions.
You can read more about the proposed project by visiting www.carfreestpete.com/stpetestraza.