Walkable West Palm Beach


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Southern Boulevard bridge: Another bridge that needs an underpass

FDOT is holding a public meeting concerning the Southern Boulevard bridge replacement project.  On this blog, we’ve been calling for physically protected bike lanes on this bridge as well as an underpass in a series of blog posts written when the project was in design phase in 2015:

We can do better. One only needs to look north to the West Palm Beach side of the Royal Park Bridge for an example of a world class project executed by FDOT and the City of West Palm Beach.

We need to insist on a great Southern Boulevard Bridge. If you don’t insist on a great project then you are going to get the bare minimum in pedestrian and bicycle accommodations. Remember that the new bridge be will around for at least 75 years. Many of us will not be around to see the replacement of that bridge. Right now the current plans are just lines on paper that aren’t set in stone. FDOT has recently decided to spend an additional $12 million on the project to build a temporary bypass bridge. How about spending a little more to have proper bicycle facilities for the next 75 years?

How to make a great Southern Boulevard Bridge over the intracoastal

How to make a great Southern Boulevard Bridge – Part #2

The bridge design currently calls for unprotected “buffered” bike lanes and 6′ sidewalks. Adequate, but not ideal.

The good: 7′ buffered bike lanes over the bridge. This is an improvement over early renditions of the bridge which had unbuffered 5′ bike lanes sharing the shoulder.
The bad: Still no physically protected bike lanes on the bridge.
The ugly: Zero thought given to bicyclists at the intersection with Flagler Drive. Ideally, this could have been a place to put another underpass such as under the Royal Park Bridge that completely separates bikes and pedestrians from the vehicular traffic. Disappointing to see the city miss another opportunity to create more world class walking/biking facilities. Ultimately, this is an FDOT bridge, but if it was possible on the Royal Park bridge, why isn’t it possible here?

We need to demand more from FDOT, even if that involves some cost sharing from the city. Bridges have a long lifespan and we only get one shot to get it right. Adding an underpass later is sure to be more difficult and more costly, if it is possible at all.

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Meeting details below

 

Southern Blvd Bridge  Invitation Flyer.PNG

 

Southern Blvd Bridge Invitation Flyer


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Sunday: Paint a mural in an intersection!

This Sunday, a group of volunteers will be painting the intersection at Fern Street and Tamarind with the mural pictured below. It’s a joint effort by The Knight Foundation, StreetPlans, Dreyfoos School of the Arts, the City of West Palm Beach, and the Downtown Development Authority. Hope to see you there Sunday from 11 am – 2 pm!

To participate: Fill out this form and email to Brandon Zicker, City of West Palm Beach.
bmzickar@wpb.org

Tamarind and Fern mural design.jpg

 

INTERSECTION REPAIR PROJECT

FREE FUN LIVE ART MUSIC FOOD COMMUNITY

Background:  Street Plans, an urban planning business, received a grant from the Knight Foundation to implement an Intersection Repair Project and they selected the City for its pilot program. Intersection Repair is a creative means to “purpose a neighborhood street intersection as a community space.”  

Who?  Working with the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Visual Arts Department students were invited to participate as teams to create proposals for the first Intersection Repair to be painted in the city.  

Why?  The main objective of this project will be to demonstrate the impact that this creative intervention Intersection Repair model can have on the community.  It is intended to draw attention to the context of this intersection and to place emphasis on the routes of other non-auto oriented forms of transportation: walking, bicycling, and public transit.  

How?  Six teams of visual art students, grades 9-12, submitted proposals – Art in Public Places selected the design

When?  Sunday, March 5, 2017 11am – 2pm  

Where?  At the intersection of Tamarind Ave. and Fern Street

The Art Team: The selected team is made of four young ladies, Ania Johnson, Jessica Raia, Megan Tachev and Dani Walters

The Intersection Repair Design:    

The selected design incorporates different species of native palm trees mixed with silhouettes of active people biking, walking, etc. wrapped in warm, vibrant colors reflective of our environment.  


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Enlightened County Engineering professionals wanted!

There are only two days left to apply for two positions that greatly impact the future trajectory of our county: County Engineer/Public Works Director and Palm Beach County Director of Traffic. This is a critical hire, and I would urge blog readers to write the county commissioners and County Administrator Verdenia Baker to implore the county to hire someone who reflects your values. This position will have far-reaching impacts on the future shape of Palm Beach County. Do we continue to follow the status quo of prioritizing auto level of service above all else, or do we shift our approach to reflect the context and needs of communities? A new commission and relatively new county administrator make this an opportune time to change from business as usual.

Write the commissioners now to tell them what qualities you want to see in these new hires.
All county commissioners email: BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org 
Verdenia Baker, County Administrator, email: vbaker@pbcgov.org

Please forward this post to anyone you think would make a good fit and share widely.

Links to the positions —-

PBC County Engineer (closes 2/24):

http://pbcgov.com/OnlineApplication/Asps/App/ShowJobNotice.aspx?JobAnnouncementSeq=3853

PBC Director of Traffic (closes 2/24):

http://pbcgov.com/OnlineApplication

 


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Shore to Core Wellness Survey needs volunteers

Shore to Core, a CRA funded initiative, needs volunteers for its Shore to Core Wellness Study next week. I hope you’ll join me and other volunteers in helping to better understand how public space impacts wellbeing. See below for details and to signup to volunteer.

Shore to Core asks: How can we recreate an urban core so its design is intelligent, flexible, and responsive to the needs of residents and visitors? Many aspects of our lives are shaped by the environments in which we spend our time, and by developing a better understanding of these relationships, we can use design to improve wellbeing in cities.


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Flagler Bridge update

 

In February 2015, I sent a letter to FDOT requesting that the new Flagler Bridge design comply with new guidelines for buffered bike lanes (at a minimum). This was after a series of blog posts written by another contributor to the blog, which discussed how to make Flagler Bridge a better, safer link between the island of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach by including a protected bike lane.

In June, FDOT District 4 replied and agreed to modify the original design to accommodate buffered bike lanes on the bridge. As we reported at the time:

Mr. Bailey,

We appreciate your interest in the bike facilities on the Flagler Bridge project.  The project team has reviewed your February 14, 2015 request and will implement the following lane configuration. A depiction is shown in the attached bridge typical section.

  • Reduce the vehicle travel lanes from four-12ft lanes to four-11ft lanes.  This will align with the proposed 11ft lanes east and west of the bridge.  This change provides an added benefit of increased space for bicyclists near the drainage inlets that collect storm water runoff from the bridge.
  • Provide a 2.5ft striped buffer between the travel lanes and bike lane.
  • Provide a 6ft bike lane.
  • Provide a “gutter stripe” 1.5ft from the roadway side of the barrier wall located between the bike lane and the sidewalk.

Thank you again for your continued interest in the successful completion of the Flagler Bridge project.  If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Jim Hughes, the Department’s project manager, at 954-777-4419 or via email at james.hughes@dot.state.fl.us.

Gerry O’Reilly, PE
District Four Secretary
Florida Department of Transportation

The new bridge just opened. Here is what the new bridge section looks like at this stage:

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You might be wondering where the buffered bike lanes are. I spoke with a construction foreman at the site, and he said this is just the first phase of the bridge reopening. A second phase will restripe the bridge lanes and will include buffered bike lanes, I’m happy to report.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!


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It’s not easy being green

The Palm Beach Post reports on the bright green bike lanes that have received both praise and pushback from some residents in Delray Beach.

I made the following comment on the Delray Beach community Facebook group, Delray RAW:

As much as I’m a supporter of human powered transportation modes, I think these green painted lanes are ugly. Victor Dover in his book Street Design speaks of the importance of streets that are more than utilitarian – they should also be beautiful.

I much prefer the Dutch approach, actually putting down a red asphalt during resurfacing. It wears much better than paint and isn’t obnoxious.

…I’m not saying I would be *opposed* to this green treatment altogether if the only option. I just think it’s regrettable that we have to follow dumb standards that prescribe bright green paint, rather than something that reflects the community desire better.

The Post story suggests that there may be more leeway in the design book for colored bike lanes that fit the context of the street better. I hope that we will apply a little more creativity in the future. I’m a big fan of the Dutch approach to bike lane coloring, as described by the excellent Bicycle Dutch blog. Here is what a typical Dutch bike lane looks like after some years of use. Still easily demarcated from the road, but not so bright that it overwhelms the character of the street.

bikes-side2-12346.jpg

 

Contrast that with the bright green lanes being built in the U.S. and it feels a little bit like a case of “bikewashing”: putting in infrastructure that calls attention to itself more than necessary in order to win praise from bike advocates.

The road and bike path at Delray’s Del-Ida Park Historic District are now open to traffic — in case you haven’t already noticed. The bright green bike paths along the recently renovated roadway have captured the …

I’ll take these green lanes if no other option is available, but I wish these bike lanes would fit better into the context of the street.

Do you like these green lanes as-is or wish they were a little more understated?

 

 

 

via Is the green color of Del-Ida bike paths in Delray Beach too ‘jarring’? — Southern Palm Beach County


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Why I do not support a pedestrian bridge over Okeechobee Boulevard

Building a pedestrian bridge over Okeechobee Boulevard comes at a high price, trading pedestrian convenience for commuter convenience. In this post, I provide a number of reasons why I think the Okeechobee pedestrian bridge is the wrong solution to the challenge of crossing Okeechobee at Rosemary Avenue.

  • People will not use it. Pedestrian bridges can work when they get you from point A to point B without adding more time and distance to your walk (such as a third level parking garage connected to an office building’s third floor via a pedestrian bridge). In the case of the Okeechobee Boulevard crossing, pedestrians will have to ascend and descend a set of stairs just to cross the road. Most people will choose to cross at street level rather than take a significant detour up and down steps in order to cross. See: Pedestrian bridges, from Pedestrians.org

  • Wheelchair users and moms pushing strollers won’t be able to use it unless it has an elevator. Elevators that are exposed to the outside elements become unpleasant in short order (see: the Tri-Rail elevators or the Banyan Garage elevators) and have significant costs in ongoing maintenance. Elevators and escalators are expensive and prone to breakdown. They would have to operate 24/7, because there is a constant stream of people who need to cross at Rosemary and Okeechobee. Not just conventioneers; also the service workers from adjacent neighborhoods such as Grandview Heights who need to get to work at all hours.
  • A bridge at Rosemary/Okeechobee isn’t going to help people who aren’t crossing at this intersection. What about those who need to cross at Dixie, Quadrille, Sapodilla, and Alabama Avenue? To expect them to walk 500+ feet out of their way is not realistic.

Cheap short-term fix

A cheaper and more effective short-term treatment would be to reprogram the pedestrian signals to give an added 5-10 second headstart for pedestrians to make the crossing. Ten seconds would be nearly enough time to cross to the refuge median in the center of Okeechobee. This is a simple, cheap, and effective solution. This video from StreetFilms is a good overview of how LPIs work. If they can work for a very busy arterial in Manhattan, they can work here.

There are other very good suggestions made in the Jeff Speck Walkability Study (September 2014) that anticipated the challenges here and suggested ways to make the crossing better. Summary of these recommendations:

  1. Reduce driving lanes to 10 feet in width, using the extra space for curb extensions/protected bike lane. When is the next FDOT RRR resurfacing for Okeechobee scheduled? This should be expedited. This change could likely be done as part of routine resurfacing. For those wide lane lovers out there, we’re talking about perhaps a half mile stretch of Okeechobee that would have lane widths reduced: The urban context east of Tamarind. The rest of Okeechobee can remain as it is.
  2. Close the slip lane at Rosemary northbound onto east Okeechobee.
  3. Plant large street trees in the median to shelter and cool pedestrians. This will help make the crossing more pleasant and the perceived time to cross will decrease.
  4. Revised signal timing to prioritize pedestrian crossings. Note: Some changes have been made, but they are largely half-measures and LPIs have not been implemented. From my personal experience, it isn’t apparent what the pedestrian signals do, rendering them almost useless. We need automatic walk signals with LPIs.

 

Building a pedestrian bridge consigns a fast changing urban corridor to a conduit to solely move cars. A pedestrian bridge places auto throughput above all else and relegates pedestrians to second class status, putting the onus on them to climb stairs up and down to cross the street. If a minor change such as implementing LPIs at this crossing is not done, it will not have been due to budgetary constraints or an engineering quandary, but from a lack of prioritizing the safety and convenience of pedestrians in favor of car speed.

The Bigger Picture

Yes, Okeechobee carries a lot of traffic as one of its functions. But it is also much more than that in its urban (east of Tamarind) context: A concentration of walkable urban destinations, foremost among them the Convention Center, CityPlace, and the Kravis Center, along with densely populated condominium towers (with more coming). Note: each of those condo dwellers who doesn’t rely on a car to get to work is one less commuter to clog up the morning/evening rush hour. Substantial public money has been invested in this area (pitched largely under the auspices of “economic development”) in order to generate economic activity that results from arts, culture, and convention events within walking distance of one another and fueling retail sales at CityPlace/downtown West Palm Beach. Putting a mixture of uses in close proximity, where people can meet, socialize, and engage in business, is really the whole point of cities. Look no further than the positive impact the adjacent Hilton Hotel has had on the success of the Convention Center to see an example of why proximity matters. People book a stay there because it is walkable to the convention center, CityPlace, and downtown destinations. The urbanity of Downtown West Palm Beach results in a highly productive tax base (both property tax and retail tax), supporting the highest retail sales per acre in the entire county. Go to minute 33 of the video below for a visualization of retail sales in the county.

A pedestrian bridge takes us in the wrong direction.  It forecloses on the possibility of developing an even more productive urban fabric along this corridor, consigning Okeechobee to a car sewer instead. What we need is more placemaking and more destinations people can walk to, not less. The last thing tourists and conventioneers want is to visit a city that has lost its soul, as Arthur Frommer put so well. The soul of a city isn’t found behind the windshield of a car or walking across a traffic moat; it is found in the streets and public spaces that make great city neighborhoods.

The modest changes suggested in this blog post have been suggested for some time; they’ve only recently received more attention and urgency because the crossing situation has become more dire with the hotel opening. In the longer term, there are many ideas for maintaining Okeechobee’s ability to handle traffic while making it into a better place; some fanciful, some out of the box, some inspired by grand Parisian boulevards. But we don’t have to wait. Short term changes can be made now to make the crossing safer and more comfortable for pedestrians, and in a manner that doesn’t pay lip service to the needs of those crossing on foot.