Drive 25 at Presque Isle
It's better for the bikers, better for the turtles, and even better for the drivers.
Spring has been slow to bloom this year, but cracked robin eggs and relentlessly growing grass blades show us it is indeed time to strap the kayak racks to the Subaru. Time to replace those awful, frayed beach blankets or invest in that shiny hybrid bike ideal for Presque Isle (PI) roundabouts. In other words, the time to pack the charcoal and Frisbee and head down to one of the country's most beautiful and unique water-fringed state parks has arrived.
Neither the preparation for park visits nor the 25 mph speed limit is new this year, but the emphasis on and attention to driving 25 is.
The Drive 25 initiative began in the fall of 2015 when Carla Orlando, DMD and wife of an avid cyclist, started thinking about ways to improve safety at Presque Isle.
"I grew up with tremendous respect for the park as an ecological preserve," Orlando stated. "My grandfather was a custodian of Presque Isle. I wanted to increase public awareness about safety without peppering the park with more signs."
Enlisting the help of elected officials, cyclists, and graphic artist Meranda Moser, Orlando developed the idea of the Drive 25 initiative to help all park visitors associate decreased vehicular speed with increased safety for wildlife, cyclists, and pedestrians. Moser developed a logo of a turtle superimposed with Drive 25 to emphasize the park's speed limit and to remind motorists of the ecological fragility of the park.
"Our hope with the turtle logo is that visitors will remember and respect the park as a natural habitat to hundreds of species of wildlife," Orlando said.
"Over two million visitors will come to Presque Isle between the two [summer] holidays," said Mathew Greene, Park Operations Manager, PI State Park. "We are hoping that the [Drive 25] information we are getting out will have more of an impact on speed this year."
According to Greene, information regarding Drive 25 and park safety will be posted on park bulletin boards, the park entrance banner, and the VisitErie and Presque Isle Partnership websites.
"There is a misunderstanding about Pennsylvania bicycle law and what Share-the-Lane means," Greene continued. "We want to get the correct information out to the broad public and get everyone thinking about safety."
By law, motorists are required to leave a 4-foot clearance around cyclists at all times, including when passing, which means that passing in the other lane is the best option. Likewise, cyclists should remember their responsibilities as riders: Look both ways when crossing crosswalks, use the road when traveling at speeds greater than 5 mph, and when using the road, follow vehicular driving laws.
"My wife and I are active at the park year-round," said State Representative Pat Harkins, who took part in Orlando's safety mission from the start. "We want everyone to enjoy Presque Isle – just slow down a little bit and make it a safe experience for all."
This summer, when packing the kite for Sunset Beach or the cooler for Beach 11, remember that taking an extra few minutes to arrive will not negatively impact the course of the day, but injury to a cyclist or any of the park's wildlife will. Plan for all aspects of the day, including the leisurely drive to the destination. Choose to Drive 25.
Ti Sumner can be reached at tsumner@ErieReader.com