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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.

southern intersection.PNG

Meeting details below

 

Southern Blvd Bridge  Invitation Flyer.PNG

 

Southern Blvd Bridge Invitation Flyer


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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

 


True safety lies with design

Great article on the primary importance of good design to the safety of bicyclists, with photo examples of Utrecht, Netherlands. Having been able to cycle in Utrecht myself in 2007, I can attest to the extremely pleasant and safe conditions in this Dutch university town. Everyone rides a bike to get everywhere. It’s simply part of everyday life.

From the article:

“… the safety record of the Netherlands for cycling is almost entirely attributable to the physical environment people cycle in, and that it isn’t down to exemplary behaviour (either of people cycling, or of people driving), or down to clothing, or safety equipment, or special lighting, or any other kind of gimmick.”

Source: True safety lies with design


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Feds: Build protected bike lanes and narrow lanes!

It’s not easy getting livable streets built. Many engineers still operate under a ‘move the cars’ mindset that does not acknowledge the fundamental differences between a street and a road.

Whether asking for protected bike lanes, narrower travel lanes, or trees in the public right of way, too often the answer is “We can’t do that, it’s not in the manual!”

This new Federal Highway Administration document makes clear: We should be building high-quality bike and walking infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes (There’s a guide for that! For those technicians engineers out there), narrower travel lanes, and trees.

This guidance should help our engineer friends get over their hangups and start designing the places we want on projects such as the South Dixie Corridor, Flagler Drive, and Okeechobee Boulevard. Story from Streetsblog USA.


Reblogged from Streetsblog USA, by Angie Schmitt

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies that federal money can be used on them.

3. Engineers are allowed to use design guides other than the AASHTO Green Book for projects that receive federal funds. 

The AASHTO Green Book — published by the association of state DOTs — is a behemoth, but its crusty old street design standards aren’t the only game in town. The protected bike lane templates in the design guidepublished by the National Association of City Transportation Officials are totally kosher. Go ahead and use them. FHWA says it supports a “flexible approach to the planning and design of bike and pedestrian facilities.” That means “It’s not in the Green Book, so we can’t do it” isn’t a valid excuse.

Peter Koonce, a transportation engineer with the City of Portland, said this clarification should make designing quality bike infrastructure easier.

“Agencies like ours occasionally encounter resistance to the use of treatments in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, the FHWA Separated Bike Lane Guide, or other Guidance documents from reviewing agencies [] because there is a lack of familiarity with new treatments, thus a difficulty to apply engineering judgment,” he said. “An example of this is bicycle traffic signals.”

4. “Highway” funding CAN be used for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

It’s not only the Transportation Alternatives Program that can be used to fund bike and pedestrian infrastructure, FHWA says. Many other sources of federal funding can be used to support safer biking and walking in the right circumstances, including funds from the huge pot in the Surface Transportation Program.

5. Vehicle lanes DON’T have to be a certain width to receive federal funds.

No, lanes don’t have to be at least 11 feet wide on the National Highway System or at least nine feet wide on local roads. According to FHWA: “There is no minimum lane width requirement to be eligible for Federal funding.”

FHWA refers to blanket adherence to typical lane-width standards as “nominal safety,” but using engineering judgment based on the particular circumstances as “substantive safety,” urging engineers to practice the latter.

Also: “In appropriate contexts, narrower lanes, combined with other features associated with them, can be marginally safer than wider lanes.”

6. Curb extensions, roundabouts, and trees CAN be used on streets in the National Highway System.

“There is no prohibition on incorporating these features on NHS projects,” FHWA says. “Curb extensions, also known as bulbouts or neckdowns, can have significant benefits for pedestrian safety.”

7. Speed limits DO NOT need to be set using average vehicle speed. 

Another common myth the FHWA addresses is the idea that the speed limit for federally funded roads must be set using the “85th percentile” rule — which means that the limit is based on the speed that the fastest 15 percent of drivers exceed on a road. FHWA calls the 85th Percentile rule “just one part” of an approach that should consider other factors like pedestrian traffic. FHWA has its own tool for calculating appropriate speed limits.


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South Dixie, Waterfront plans present opportunity to implement protected bike lanes

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

Photo: aGuyonClematis

Photo: aGuyonClematis

‘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.

StreetFilms – Physically Protected Bike Lanes

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Palm Beach Post story: Florida deadliest state for bicyclists

Another reminder of how much work needs to be done to make our state truly safe for bicyclists. Great quotes from West Palm Beach DDA Director Raphael Clemente.

There is safety in numbers, and the more people we can get bicycling in our downtown, the better off we will be. It’s crucial we begin to create an integrated bicycle network in and around downtown West Palm Beach, as shown in the Jeff Speck study (see page 67 of the PDF).  This network would provide safe, useful, comfortable facilities for bicyclists to use as transportation in and around downtown, as well as connections for riding bikes along the waterfront and to the town of Palm Beach. A shortlist of benefits:

  • Support SkyBike
  • Increased tourism
  • Safer streets for all users
  • Supports non-vehicular modes of transportation which help the city reduce air pollution and meet Transportation Currency Exception Area (TCEA) goals
  • Helps reduce driving and helps residents live car-free or car-light.  More circulation of money into the local economy and increased household savings

 

Even with very little to no bicycle facilities on our streets in downtown West Palm Beach, the mode share of bicyclists is significant and likely underrepresented. Let’s build on this positive trend by supporting the nascent bicycling scene with a network of bike facilities to allow residents and tourists to bike from bridge to bridge on safe and comfortable facilities. This would be a tremendous benefit to our City.

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Story: The Palm Beach Post

A recent study told Joseph LaRocca what the pavement had already painfully taught him: Florida is the most dangerous state for bicycle riding.

In January, a car struck the 65-year-old cyclist while on his way to the gym, leaving him with lasting injuries and unable to get back on his bike. A study released by the Center for Disease Control on Thursday reveals that accidents like LaRocca’s are common in Florida.

“Have you seen those bike lanes on roads?” LaRocca said Thursday. “If there’s even six inches between the bike lane and the car, I’d be surprised.”

LaRocca was riding on the sidewalk along Gateway Boulevard near Savannah Lakes Apartments when an unlicensed driver turned right too quickly and struck him. LaRocca, who used to bike three to four times a week, had surgery on his knee and needs to have shoulder surgery, he said.

He hasn’t been on a bicycle since the accident.

Rafael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority and avid cyclist, says Florida’s big roads, multiple lanes and high speeds are not suited for cyclists.

“Unfortunately when you have a lot of people biking on roads that are not well-designed, accidents happen,” said Clemente, whose background is in urban planning.

According to crash data from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 4,542 crashes involving bicycles in Florida in 2014, 117 of which resulted in fatalities. In Palm Beach County, there were 334 crashes and seven fatalities.

“Florida has a lot of suburban development with big roads that are straights and encourage high speeds,” he added. “They’re designed unfortunately to prioritize the motor vehicle, not the bicyclist.”

Billy Hattaway, secretary of the southwest district of the Department of Transportation, travels throughout Florida to teach local governments what they can do to improve roads for bicyclists.

“It’s always about doing the best you can based on existing conditions,” Hattaway said, adding that the state is focused on widening current sidewalks on busier, high-speed roads and widening bike paths to at least seven feet on slower roads.

Patrick Halliday, president of the Delray Beach Bicycle Club, spends his spare time advocating locally for safer land development for bikers and pedestrians as vice chairman of non-profit Human Powered Delray.

“I’m a cyclist so I know the pitfalls,” Halliday said. “I’ve had an opportunity to see just about every unfortunate situation and generally it tells me that there is a drastic need for education and compliance.”

Halliday coordinates bicycle and driver safety workshops in Delray Beach and advocates to local governments for more education on operating safely with cyclists on roadways.

“One of the things that drivers don’t understand because its not taught to them is the rules of the road for the safety of the cyclist,” he said. Halliday says drivers should keep at least three feet from a cyclist when possible and always check their rear view mirror before making right turns.

Halliday also points out common mistakes that cyclists make causing accidents, such as driving against traffic, ignoring red lights and following a car too closely when it’s about to make a right turn.

Clemente and Halliday have both noticed a recent spike in the number of people choosing to ride bikes instead of drive cars, particularly in urban and downtown areas.

“It’s something that cities are planning for and designing their public spaces for,” Clemente said.

Despite the spike in the number of bikers, the CDC’s data shows that the number of fatalities involving cyclists in Florida has gone down 9.7 percent since 1975.

LaRocca has only one piece of advice for cyclists: “Always assume that someone is gong to not see you on the road,” he said.


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Bridges, bike lanes, and Tri-Rail bike cars: Recent media coverage

In case you missed it: Walkable West Palm Beach was interviewed for two stories this week that ran in local newspapers. Angel Streeter of The Sun Sentinel wrote a story on bike lanes and bridges, and Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post did a story on the new bike cars on Tri-Rail trains.

bike-car-one

New Tri-Rail bike car has space for 14 bikes. Photo: The Palm Beach Post