Walkable West Palm Beach


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Community Forum: Safe and Complete Streets for West Palm Beach

Tuesday, July 19th at 6 pm, the FAU Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions (CUES) and the City of West Palm Beach will be hosting a forum to discuss the topic of complete streets in West Palm Beach. I’ll be one of the guest speakers and the agenda includes a number of leaders in the realm of Complete Streets design, implementation, and advocacy. Special thanks to John Renne of CUES for organizing this event.

Hope to see some of you there Tuesday. The forum location is the Flagler Gallery of City Hall, 401 Clematis Street. Flyer embedded below and downloadable here.Safe and Complete Streets in WPB Flyer (2)


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Do you have a great downtown photo you’d like to share?

Walkable West Palm Beach is looking for a new photo to use as a Twitter profile as well as Facebook profile photo. Ideally, it would be a shot of West Palm Beach showing an urban place with people enjoying themselves in public. We’re looking for unlicensed, free photos. Credit and links will be provided as requested. If you have a submission, please me an email.

Thanks!

 

iiCSramblas2


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Ramblas and other center of roadway configurations in the real world

The City is currently studying enhancements to North Broadway from 25th to 42nd St.. One idea that that has been proposed by the City is to convert the center of the road to a promenade / ramblas configuration with a multi-modal pathway and parking in the center. This post will provide precedents for this concept. In a follow up post we will explore some of the advantages of this configuration.

When we think of complete streets we usually think that parking and bike facilities are located on the outside of the street and cars have use of the middle of the street.  As shown in the below examples the middle of street can be used for things other than cars. Bikes, parking, cycle tracks, public plazas or any combination can be accommodated in the middle of the street.

Bicycles:

Tree lined multimodal path in the median of downtown Winter Garden, Fl:

Queens Plaza North, New York, New York

Streetfilms Queens Plaza

Sands St. in Brooklyn New York

Streetfilms Sands St.

Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC

Streetfilms Pennsyvania Ave. story with Gabe Klein

Sweden

Strandvägen Stockholm, Sweden

Erik Dahlbergsgatan Stockholm, Sweden

Bike and pedestrian

Place d’Anvers, Paris

Boulevard de Rochechouart, Paris

Allen Street New York, New York (recent project, street view has great before and after views)

Place making

Passeig del Born, Barcelona, Spain

Rambla de Catalunya Barcelona, Catalonia

Paseo del Prado, Havana, Cuba

Middle of the street used for parking

Clematis St. West Palm Beach

Clematis_PalmsHotel

Clematis Avenue, Looking West from the Palms Hotel State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/152572

Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster CA

Hollywood, Florida

 

 


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The Subculture bike rack story

John Simmerman of Active Towns visited West Palm Beach recently and shot this short video telling the story of the bike rack outside of Subculture Coffee. John created the Active Towns initiative and I always enjoy his perspective, as the changes happening in West Palm Beach are sometimes imperceptible to those of us living here, while John’s once or twice annual trips to our region make the changes more noticeable to him.

This alley was at one time a leftover space that didn’t do much more than provide a sneaky spot for police cruisers to park. With the efforts of the community, small changes compounded to make this alley one of the most loved places in the city. Big kudos to the leadership of Raphael Clemente at the DDA; Sean Scott, owner of Subculture Coffee; and Nicole Henry of CANVAS for being instrumental in making this happen. There are many more people who have contributed in various ways who I’m probably leaving out.

This story is a testament how little changes can build upon one another and lead to a better community, and the power of small actions to get things moving. Thank you John for putting this together!

 

 

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Watch out, ‘jaywalking’ Sunfest patrons!

Earlier today, I alerted the community to the fact that police officers were issuing citations warnings to Sunfest patrons crossing at Quadrille and Clematis Street. For now, it appears that this enforcement activity has stopped.

[Clarification: Fines were not issued today. However, Bob Katzen, downtown neighbor and friend, was stopped by an officer and asked for ID. His information was taken by an officer. An officer stated they would issue warnings today and fines in the coming days. The officer was not approachable and did not wish to engage in conversation with Bob about the law, at one point threatening jail.]

The very term ‘jaywalking‘ deserves its own scorn, as I’ve written about in the past, as do pedestrian enforcement campaigns.  But in this post, I want to focus on the reasons why people cross against the signal and how conditions could easily be improved for pedestrians by implementing Jeff Speck’s recommendations from nearly two years ago.

Anyone standing at this intersection for a few minutes will see people crossing against the light. I do it. City officials do it. Everyone does it. But as it stands, this intersection is prioritized to move cars. Meanwhile, Clematis Street has been transformed into a superb people-centered environment by prioritizing people. Clematis was recently recognized as one of the best main streets in the United States. Taming cars along its length is one of the main factors that led to its resurgence.

Here’s the problem: A main street that invites people on foot to shop, stroll, and dine is combined with an intersection crossing that makes crossing the street a long, boring wait in the scorching sun. What would you do in this environment?

Here is what Jeff Speck had to say about the Quadrille and Clematis intersection in the Walkability Study.

 In terms of its crossings, the highest priority to improving Quadrille is to create more pedestrian-friendly crossings and signalization regimes at Clematis and Fern. At Fern, this improvement would include reshaped corners with a curb radius of perhaps 20 feet, rather than the current 50. Because it is a State Highway, removing the pushbutton requests will be difficult, but the City must fight for pushbuttons that actually activate the crossing signal, rather than merely lengthening the crossing time after a too-long wait.

As already discussed under A Safe Walk, the current signalization regime in place in much of the downtown is not a type that is found in any city that is known for welcoming pedestrians. From a national best practices perspective, it is truly substandard. Unfortunately, changing the current regime requires cooperation from Palm Beach County, which controls it. It is hoped that the evidence already provided will convince the County to recognize downtown West Palm Beach as the exceptional environment that it is, and allow it to implement the signal removal recommendations above, as well as the following comprehensive changes:
• Remove pushbuttons from all signals except those along Okeechobee and Flagler,
where longer crossing times are needed due to excess width. In those locations,
working with FDOT, allow the pushbutton request to preempt the signal cycle, so
that pedestrians are not led to believe that the buttons are broken.
• Implement simple concurrent crossing signals at all intersections, such that the
pedestrian is given the walk signal at the same time as vehicles heading in the
same direction. Use Lead Pedestrian Indicators (LPIs) at intersections with high
pedestrian volume, such as Rosemary & Okeechobee, Clematis & Quadrille,
Fern & Flagler, and Lakeview & Flagler.
• Working with FDOT as necessary, shorten signal cycles to a target length of 60
seconds for the entire cycle at all signalized intersections.

This is really simple stuff and it will make a major improvement. Fixing the signal timing, adding leading pedestrian indicators (LPIs), and ideally, getting rid of pushbuttons so we get an automatic walk signal at the light would be a long way toward prioritizing people at this crossing. It’s been two years since the Speck walkability study was published recommending these changes. The city and the DDA are fully behind it. The county is responsible for signal changes downtown, so the change needs to come from the county.

If you received a citation or are just frustrated by crossing at this unsafe intersection, let’s focus on a productive outcome by addressing the root of the problem: the intersection signalization, which is the responsibility of the county. Email the county commissioners and public officials involved at the links below and copy the city.

County
BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org
ENG-ActionCenter@pbcgov.org

City
jmuoio@wpb.org

 

 

 

Example multiway boulevard cross-section, courtesy Dover Kohl partners


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Want to move lots of traffic in an urban setting? Look no further than the boulevard.

Jeff Speck published an excellent piece today about boulevards and their utility in walkable urban neighborhoods. True boulevards, as contrasted with stroads that are boulevards-in-name-only (BINOs? looking at you, Okeechobee “Boulevard”), are a time-tested solution to moving lots of traffic in urban areas while also creating a safe and people-friendly environment in the sidewalk space.  Some of the most beloved streets in Europe are boulevards as well as some good examples in the United States like Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.

Speck points out the successful track record of boulevards in creating valuable places while moving plenty of traffic, and asks the obvious question: Why aren’t we designing more of our urban arterials like boulevards to achieve their much better outcomes? We have the precedents to do so.

Picture in your mind a classic large urban street, one that will attract pedestrians while also moving a lot of traffic.  Perhaps you are imagining Paris’s Avenue Marceau, Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, or Washington’s K Street? Now look at the image below….
… perhaps of the greatest concern, is the issue of precedent. While there exist a growing number of locations in America with street configurations like this one, it is impossible to name one with street life. Swoopy configurations like this design are found mostly in suburban drive-only locations out by the mall, not in cities. If no attractive place can be found with a similar configuration, then a design should not pass the street-planning smell test.

This image from Mattias Leyrer comes to mind. Read Speck’s excellent article and let’s start building boulevards that enhance placemaking and support the city, rather than eviscerating it.

Champ-Elyse

 

In case you missed it: Here are some of our past writings on boulevards written by none other than Baron Haussmann.


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“Startup City” author Gabe Klein special guest at Palm Beach Tech this Thursday

Gabe Klein, former head of Chicago and DC departments of transportation, will be speaking tomorrow in downtown West Palm Beach at the Palm Beach Tech space on Datura Street. This Streetfilms interview is a good primer on his work, which runs the gamut from entrepreneur involved with Zipcar to revamping the D.C. parking system. If there’s a common thread, it’s  the iterative nature of project implementation. Gabe’s Streetsblog podcast made such an impression on me that I highlighted it on Walkable West Palm Beach when it ran. In his role at Chicago DOT and DC DOT, he had to solve challenges like “How do we build protected bike lanes when we have no budget?” He’s responsible for many of the advances in biking and walking in Chicago and DC in recent years that have led to a more attractive, safe, and livable city that is a platform for private investment.

This event is not to be missed and holds lots of lessons for how to realize the stronger, more livable city we’re all striving for.

Gabe Klein: Startup City Streetsblog interview

RSVP for the event

 

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