Walkable West Palm Beach

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Walkability talk, with Eric Jacobsen

Next Thursday, UniverCity is hosting author and pastor Eric Jacobsen for a free talk on walkability.

This should be a very interesting conversation that bridges various communities in the city. Eric Jacobsen has been featured on the Strong Towns podcast, in which he discusses his book “The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with The Built Environment”.  He also wrote the highly regarded book “Sidewalks in the Kingdom”. From the Amazon book review:

Christians often talk about claiming our cities for Christ and the need to address urban concerns. But according to Eric Jacobsen, this discussion has remained far too abstract. Sidewalks in the Kingdom challenges Christians to gain an informed vision for the physical layout and structure of the city. Jacobsen emphasizes the need to preserve the nourishing characteristics of traditional city life, including shared public spaces, thriving neighborhoods, and a well-supported local economy. He explains how urban settings create unexpected and natural opportunities to initiate friendship and share faith in Christ.

Eric is a member of the Congress of the New Urbanism and resides in Tacoma, Washington, where he is Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. A big thanks to Palm Beach Tech Association for hosting this event in their collaborative workspace in downtown WPB and to UniverCity for organizing the event. UniverCity is an initiative of Providencia Church in West Palm Beach. More details are available at the UniverCity website.

See you there!


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Your input needed! Shape the future of Dixie in WPB – This weekend and next week

South Dixie is undergoing a positive transformation. Significant private investment has been made, with an assortment of restaurants and retailers opening along it – but this has been in spite of the highway, not because of it. South Dixie has the advantage of a great stock of prototypical old buildings – the type of buildings necessary for entrepreneurship to flourish, as Jane Jacobs explained so well.

What it doesn’t have going for it is a hostile sidewalk environment with cars flying by at 45 mph and very little shade. A plan for a better public realm has been crafted and if executed I believe South Dixie will achieve an even greater level of success.

Highways are not places for people. What should the new name be? Dixie Avenue or something completely new?

Vested stakeholders have come together on a vision for a road diet on South Dixie that would transform it into more of a place to linger and enjoy — al fresco dining, shopping, etc. — and tame the dangerous car speeds. Many stakeholders have been involved in the process to date, including City Commissioner Paula Ryan, merchants, neighborhood associations, and residents who live adjacent to South Dixie. Read more about efforts in past posts.

Rumor is that FDOT is pushing for bike lanes up and down U.S.-1 (aka Dixie in most of the county), contradicting the well-established consensus that emerged in the South Dixie charrettes. In those charrettes led by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC), the community determined that due to the limited right of way on Dixie, volume of traffic, and priorities for placemaking, it would be best to prioritize sidewalk space and on-street parking here. Importantly, this design would slow cars more than striped bike lanes. Striped bike lanes next to travel lanes give a perception to a driver of a wider travel way than does a row of parked cars right next to the travel lanes.

Let me be clear: I’m a huge advocate for biking. I bike myself all over town and I want to see WPB embrace Dutch style biking for everyone. Dutch guidance is clear: In no case should a roadway that carries more than 15,000 cars per day consider using a bike lane. Nor should a cycle lane be considered if speeds are at or above about 30 mph. This is a good article from Cycle Toronto that explains some of these nuances in Dutch guidance. The Dutch have been doing this better than anyone for the past 40+ years, and we would be wise to learn. This simplified chart (kilometers per hour) shows the relationship between car speed and volume and separation. In short: As speeds and volumes go up, more separation is needed.



A compromised bike lane sandwiched between heavy traffic (including many Palm Tran buses) and on-street parking does not serve people on bikes well, and will only be used by the competent few – it will not attract new riders. No bike lane should be added on this stretch unless it is a physically protected bike lane (behind parked cars or a physical barrier) due to the very heavy traffic volume. Because the right of way is limited and there are issues with curb cuts/driveways, a physically protected bike lane isn’t possible unless on-street parking is removed. Maybe at some point in the future, this will be a possibility, but in the meantime, I think we should focus our resources on creating world class north/south bikeways on Lake and Flagler instead of a compromised design on U.S.-1 that will never attract anything beyond a paltry share of bike riders.

I support the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s designs and I hope you will too. Please attend these very important meetings this weekend and voice your opinion in favor of the road diet, and furthermore, for the plans created by TCRPC and the community. The same could be said for sections of Dixie north and south of the TCRPC study area — the MPO should listen to the input of residents and stakeholders. Dixie is no longer a highway, it is becoming a place with distinct characteristics along its length.

Workshop is this Saturday 9 am – 2 pm at South Olive Elementary
Open studio charrettes are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm at City Hall. Final presentation 5 pm on Wednesday, August 30th.

Hope to see you there.



New FDOT policy: Physically protected bike lanes on Florida bridges

Back in 2015, FDOT pledged to provide buffered bike lanes on the Flagler Bridge between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach, a scenic bike route that connects the WPB waterfront and the Lake Trail on the island of Palm Beach. Great news: FDOT has outdone themselves again, as they’ve provided the Holy Grail of bike infrastructure over bridges: A physically protected bike lane. Video is below.


The barrels work well to provide a protective barrier between bicyclists and fast moving vehicles. Although we’d be happy to see the barrels remain in place, we suspect FDOT and Palm Beach are working double time this weekend to install a more attractive permanent treatment in time for Monday’s ribbon cutting event. Dignitaries on hand Monday have much reason to celebrate, as not only will the bridge provide enhancements to traffic movement, better sidewalks, and aesthetic improvements, it will also mark the first (to our knowledge) such protected bike lane design over a bridge in the state.


It’s great progress to see FDOT putting bicyclists behind physically protected barriers over high-speed bridges such as the Flagler Bridge. No doubt this new design will be the new standard across the state and be implemented on such bridges as the Rickenbacker Causeway and the 17th Street Bridge in Vero Beach in order to prevent the needless tragedies that have claimed the lives of so many Florida cyclists. Bravo, FDOT.
Note: At press time, we could not reach an FDOT official to actually confirm the policy change.

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Crossing Okeechobee

There have been numerous studies of the Okeechobee Boulevard intersection at Rosemary Avenue over the past several years (Jeff Speck Walkability Study, Tom Hall study, FDOT road safety study), but I thought the conversation could benefit from a non-expert, citizen’s perspective on the crossing. So this weekend I shot some video in order to provide a first-person perspective of the crossing with voiceover narration to describe the conditions as they exist on the ground. I used an iPhone and very amateur video skills to create this short video – apologies in advance for the shaky video. I timed the total crossing on each crosswalk – the eastern crosswalk and the western crosswalk. The last part of the video describes simple changes that can be made quickly and cheaply to improve the safety and crossing experience – many of which have already been noted in the FDOT road safety study and/or the Jeff Speck Walkability report.

The focus in this video is providing observational data and facts to bolster the conversation ongoing about Okeechobee. I purposefully skipped over costly or longer-term solutions to focus on things that can be done now or in the short term with the current configuration.

One of the big takeaways is how much better the eastern crosswalk crossing experience is compared to the western crosswalk  – if it’s working properly, I was able to get across in less than 60 seconds. When it works right, it’s a great thing – a pedestrian can get across in under 2 minutes and in many cases under 60 seconds. However, frequently the crosswalk signal doesn’t work properly, and pedestrians are stranded in the median or waiting to get the walk signal.

While the crossing at Okeechobee and Rosemary has a long way to go to be up to the safety standard residents, visitors, and conventioneers should expect, it has also come a long way from its condition a few years ago. Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) are a great addition. The reshaping of the nose of the median has improved conditions somewhat (although done much more modestly than the Speck plan) and the walk signal timing is better, but still lacking.

Hope to see many blog readers at the Okeechobee Corridor and Mobility Plan meetings this week at the Convention Center (starts today at 5:30 pm). Your input is critical.


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Shape the future priorities for mobility in WPB – Meetings start Monday

The city’s Okeechobee Corridor Public Meeting and Charrette is kicking off this Monday, June 12th at the Palm Beach County convention center, lasting through Thursday, June 15th. If you’re a local citizen who cares about making this city more livable, walkable, and bike friendly, it’s critical to come and express your opinion. These meetings will shape the mobility plan and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of pedestrian/bike/transit advocates providing input, as well as newer and younger residents to WPB, who are typically underrepresented in public meetings. Want to learn more about the Mobility Plan and how Mobility Fees work? Listen to these podcasts. The crucial thing to understand is these plans are designed specifically to allow the city to use fees (impact fees) otherwise pledged to road expansion to be used for multimodal mobility projects. Crucially, it ties plans to funding.

Gabe Klein on the Okeechobee Corridor Public Meeting – City Voice Podcast by Bill Newgent
Jesse Bailey on Mobility Issues in the city – City Voice Podcast

Hope to see you Monday. City press release follows.


WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (JUNE 2, 2017)– Members of the public, community innovators, and municipal leaders are invited to attend “Mapping the Future”– a charrette and public meeting to discuss and plan the future of the Okeechobee Corridor. This four-day interactive event, which invites stakeholders to bring ideas and map solutions, kicks-off on Monday, June 12 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Gabe Klein–nationally known cities expert, co-founder of CityFi, and TEDx speaker–will headline the kick-off event and set the stage for the forum. Alta Planning + Design, tasked with conducting the City’s mobility study, will present initial findings. Klein will then open the floor to public discussion and collaboration, as attendees will be split into groups and challenged to design ideal solutions for infrastructure concerns. The hands-on activity is intended to spark inspiration and provide real solutions. Alta Planning + Design will give serious consideration to all proposed solutions and incorporate the ideas into their findings on Thursday, June 15.

“We are so pleased to have a nationally-recognized expert like Gabe Klein working toward solutions on behalf of the City of West Palm Beach,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio. “We encourage anyone who has a voice and a vested interest in the vibrant downtown community to join us – come for one day, or come for them all, but please make sure that your voice is heard.”

Klein will kick off the charrette by sharing his experiences as the former Commissioner of the Chicago and Washington, D.C. Departments of Transportation. In both cities, he revamped technology platforms and government processes while focusing on putting people first. He honed his creativity and leadership skills working in business, including Zipcar, where he served as Vice President for four years; Bikes USA, where he served as the national Director of Stores; and his own electric powered, organic food truck chain, On The Fly. He is a consultant who works on behalf of Alta Planning + Design, the urban design agency analyzing the City’s future mobility.

On Tuesday, June 13 and Wednesday, June 14, the public is welcome to visit the convention center to track progress during “Creating the Vision.” The meetings will be open from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., and a team of engineers and city planners will be onsite to listen and provide feedback on the forum.

On the final evening, the mobility experts, with input from the community, will be “Presenting the Vision.” The design team will unveil the ideas and concepts developed during the charrette and share actionable next steps for the future of mobility in the City of West Palm Beach.

The City of West Palm Beach is embarking on a bold initiative to enhance and improve how people move in the City. The initiative and its supporting planning efforts will serve as a road map to create a modern, well-balanced transportation network that provides mobility choices that are engaging and efficient. During the last several months, the City has engaged the following stakeholders: Metropolitan Planning Organization, Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, Palm Beach County, Florida Department of Transportation, Town of Palm Beach, Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, homeowner, condo and neighborhood organizations, and Florida Atlantic University.

All events will be held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, second floor room 2B. To preregister for these events, please email:mobility@wpb.org. To learn more about the City’s mobility study, visit www.wpbmobility.com. To learn more about Gabe Klein, please visithttp://www.gabeklein.com/.

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Draw on this map, provide input on mobility plan

The West Palm Beach Mobility Study has kicked off, and an online interactive map has been published to gather public comment about mobility needs and desires in the city. If you’ve ever thought “I just wish there was a protected bike lane here” or “This street really needs a bump-out and marked crosswalk”, now is your time to provide this input for use in the mobility plan and the bike master plan.

Click this the link below to access the map. On the left side, scroll down to the button “Get Started” to draw your routes and add points that need attention.

WPB Mobility Plan Map

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Future of the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard Bridge

As part of the one penny infrastructure sales tax surcharge, Palm Beach County will rehabilitate the overpass of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard over the Florida East Railroad (overpass). On April 4th, Palm Beach County will allocate the one penny sales tax to specific projects. At this time, the County hasn’t shared their proposal for the overpass. This post will explore the history of the overpass and provide a design concept that would be an asset for the adjacent properties instead of a liability.


Aerial shot of overpass


Prior to the overpass construction, Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. was named 12th Street. 12th Street was a local neighborhood street that dead ended at the railroad. An aerial photo of the future overpass location shows on-street parking at the corner of Sapodilla and 12th St. for the corner store. The photo also shows the majority of lots along 12th St. with structures.


This is a Sanborn map from 1952 of 12th St. in the location of the future overpass. Again, note the number of buildings on 12th St.


The existing overpass was constructed in 1965 by the City of West Palm Beach. In order to create space for the travel lanes on the overpass, on-street parking on 12th St. was eliminated and access to 12th St. was maintained via one-way frontage roads.

Today the majority of properties next to the overpass are now vacant.


Today pedestrians and cyclists must traverse a desolate area under the bridge to utilize ramps to cross the railroad tracks.


Pedestrian ramp tower to top of bridge to cross railroad tracks


Pedestrian ramp tower to top of bridge to cross railroad tracks

Clearly, the existing pedestrian and bicycle facilities aren’t acceptable.


There is a better way. Bridges don’t have to be utilitarian structures. They can have planters, trees, benches, and shade structures. The following are all bridges:


Pfluger Bridge Austin


New York, New York High Line


Long Street, Columbus Ohio


If the frontage roads were eliminated and access to the adjacent properties was provided from the alleys, then 80′ is available for the bridge. The current roadway could be reduced from four to three lanes. Two lanes would be provided in the eastbound direction and one lane would be provided in the westbound direction. Pedestrian and cyclists would be provided with a wide pathway to cross the railroad tracks on top of the bridge instead of walking under the bridge. Large landscaped buffers would be provided between the vehicles and the multimodal paths.


Proposed Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard Overpass

Bridges are a long term investment so it is important to get the design right with proper community input. This bridge will be with us a long time and a good design can set the stage for reinvestment, whereas a poor design would be unalterable for another 75 years. Nearby institutions such as Good Samaritan hospital could eventually have the need to expand into new space and the vacant land adjacent to the bridge could be developed under this concept. This concept would make the best of this overpass by making it crossable and comfortable on foot or on bike, and it would be supportive of future development along it when the time is right.

Here’s how it would work. The fourth floor of a building abutting the overpass would be at the same height as the highest point of the bridge.  As shown in the following section, the bridge section would provide for a connection to the future buildings. To those walking or biking on the overpass, the overpass would appear not as an overpass, but rather as a normal street. The overpass would connect to the adjacent land uses and no longer divide them. Imagine healthcare workers living within a five-minute walk of a major employment center. A hospital expansion or medical offices (as examples) could be part of the fabric of the neighborhood, rather than an isolated campus.


Proposed overpass section with abutting five-story buildings

Granted this is an ambitious proposal for the bridge, but it would be an investment in our future. At this time the County hasn’t released its plan for the bridge and this is only one of many options for the overpass. The idea proposed would need to be vetted and gain the support of the neighborhoods adjacent to the project. The purpose of this proposal is to initiate a conversation about neighborhood needs and design options; at a bare minimum, pedestrians and bicycle riders require a safe and comfortable crossing over this overpass. Please, leave your thoughts for the future of the overpass in the comment section.

If you would like to see your sales tax dollars spent to make a great overpass, then you should contact your Palm Beach County Commissioner.