Tonight was a proud moment for West Palm Beach. Dana Little, Urban Designer at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, presented the preliminary concepts for South Dixie from Okeechobee to Ablemarle. [past coverage here including link to the study]. What I’m most impressed with is the community coalescing around this shared vision for more livable, walkable streets. This event was sponsored by the WPB Downtown Neighborhood Association, hosted at Palm Beach Dramaworks, with cosponsors the El Cid Historic Neighborhood Association and the DDA. A diverse audience came out to hear about the latest design plans, and all five commissioners were present. It’s great to see such a show of support.
Dana explained how a protected bike lane (aka cycle track) could work for the southern section of the study. The term
‘protected bike lane’ refers to a bike lane with some sort of physical protection between the bicyclist and vehicular traffic. Given the space constraints on Dixie, I must admit I wasn’t sold at first on whether a bike lane would be the best use of the right of way or not. However, as Dana explained, the right of way is wider in the southern section of the study, which allows room for a protected bike facility of the type that is common in the most bike friendly countries. I’m impressed we are advocating for the gold standard of bike facilities instead of settling for FDOT ‘check the box’ buffered bike lanes (which merely provide a thin white stripe of paint as a ‘barrier’ to cars). Given the ability of this section to fit a protected bike lane along with on-street parking and street trees, it makes imminent sense to do so as it will be putting excess asphalt to better use that would otherwise serve to induce speeding. It’s worth mentioning that South Dixie continues in this wider right of way configuration all the way to the spillway, and therefore holds huge potential for an eventual rightsizing project and protected bike lanes potentially all the way to our border with Lake Worth. [Previous post on South Dixie design concepts]
The downtown walkability study also calls for such a protected bike lane on the downtown waterfront, which would provide bicyclists with a world-class bike facility on our waterfront at low cost, connecting easily with the Lake Trail on Palm Beach to comprise a loop from the Palm Beach to the West Palm Beach intracoastal waterfront. Imagine the value we would capture from this project. West Palm Beach could quickly go from a laggard in bicycle infrastructure to one of the leaders in our state.
We’ll need to get FDOT to allow protected bike lanes on Dixie, but Lake Avenue and Flagler Drive are 100% in the City’s control and could serve as valuable demonstration projects to build momentum for the change to Dixie. These projects need not be expensive capital projects, either, but could be tested through restriping and plastic sticks before any curb is built out. The City recently announced its participation in the 8-80 Cities program. There’s no better way to demonstrate a commitment to 8-80 streets and livable design than protected bike lanes that can be used by everyone from 8 year olds biking to school to 80 year old retirees.
Given the talk about protected bike lanes, I thought it would be a good time to share this video from StreetFilms. It’s an 8 minute film on protected bike lanes in New York City and why they are far superior to buffered bike lanes.
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