Walkable West Palm Beach


Leave a comment

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

History

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.

1964_aerial_streets_labeled

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.

sanborn

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.

current_aerial

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

20170324_172454

Pedestrian ramp tower to top of bridge to cross railroad tracks

20170324_172413

Pedestrian ramp tower to top of bridge to cross railroad tracks

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

Precedents

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:

5901_PflugerBridge_over_LadyBirdLake_LoRes.jpg

Pfluger Bridge Austin

new_york_high_line

New York, New York High Line

long_street_columbus_street_view

Long Street, Columbus Ohio

Proposal

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.

Prop_3_lane_no_parking

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_section

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.


Leave a comment

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


1 Comment

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


Leave a comment

“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

 

The answer was under our noses all along

Leave a comment

Sharing another brilliant cartoon by Ian Lockwood, former West Palm Beach livable transportation engineer. Follow Ian on Twitter for more.


Leave a comment

Slow streets are key to a livable city | StreetFilms video on Copenhagen

The vibrant public life in Copenhagen is featured in this video from StreetFilms. It’s difficult to describe the livability and life in public that makes this city special without going there, but this film does it justice. Great urbanism, at its core, is really about a quality of life in public spaces. Fostering that life in public requires a shift in values, from one prioritizing the needs of cars, to one prioritizing the needs and wants of people living life in public. Taming the automobile so that is a guest in a public realm dominated by people is key to any successful public space, whether a square in Copenhagen, Clematis Street, or the Flagler Waterfront.

From StreetFilms.org —

In Copenhagen, you never have to travel very far to see a beautiful public space or car-free street packed with people soaking up the day. In fact, since the early 1960s, 18 parking lots in the downtown area have been converted into public spaces for playing, meeting, and generally just doing things that human beings enjoy doing. If you’re hungry, there are over 7,500 cafe seats in the city.

But as you walk and bike the city, you also quickly become aware of something else: Most Copenhagen’s city streets have a speed limit of 30 to 40 km/h (19 to 25 mph). Even more impressive, there are blocks in some neighborhoods with limits as low as 15 km/h (9 mph) where cars must yield to residents. Still other areas are “shared spaces” where cars, bikes and pedestrians mix freely with no stress, usually thanks to traffic calming measures (speed bumps are popular), textured road surfaces and common sense.

We charmed you last month with our look at bicycling in Copenhagen, now sit back and watch livable streets experts Jan Gehl and Gil Penalosa share their observations about pedestrian life. You’ll also hear Ida Auken, a member of Denmark’s Parliament, and Niels Tørsløv, traffic director for the City of Copenhagen, talk about their enthusiasm for street reclamation and its effect on their city.


1 Comment

Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes – A Streetfilms production

In anticipation of Gehl Architects coming to West Palm Beach next week, we’ll be sharing numerous videos of Danish cycling, starting with this fantastic video from StreetFilms, titled “Cycling Copenhagen, through North American Eyes”. Having had the fortune to ride a bicycle with my wife for several days in Copenhagen while staying with friends, I can attest to the accuracy of this video. Mayor Muoio and DDA Director Raphael Clemente no doubt experienced something similar on their recent trip to Copenhagen.

Enjoy.

If you’ve never seen footage of the Copenhagen people riding bikes during rush hour – get ready – it’s quite a sight, as nearly 38% of all transportation trips in Copenhagen are done by bike. With plenty of safe, bicycle infrastructure (including hundreds of miles of physically separated cycletracks) its no wonder that you see all kinds of people on bikes everywhere. 55% of all riders are female, and you see kids as young as 3 or 4 riding with packs of adults.

Much thanks to the nearly two dozen folks who talked to us for this piece. You’ll hear astute reflections from folks like Jeff Mapes (author of “Pedaling Revolution”), Martha Roskowski (Program Manager, GO Boulder), Andy Clarke (President, League of American Bicyclists), Andy Thornley (Program Director, San Francisco Bike Coalition) and Tim Blumenthal (President, Bikes Belong) and Yvonne Bambrick (Executive Director, Toronto’s Cyclists Union) just to name drop a few of the megastars.