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.

southern intersection.PNG

Meeting details below

 

Southern Blvd Bridge  Invitation Flyer.PNG

 

Southern Blvd Bridge Invitation Flyer


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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:

img_7323

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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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

 

 

 

I survived the Okeechobee Boulevard closure

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The Palm Beach Post reports that a section of Okeechobee Boulevard will be closed for several days for BrightLine construction. Below is the T-shirt design in remembrance of this horrific day.

 

I SURVIVED


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Crosswalks coming back to Clematis Street

In 2013, pedestrian improvements were made to Quadrille Boulevard, the result of a grant the city secured in 2008. The pedestrian improvements included connecting missing sidewalks along the western flank, planting shade trees, and creating enhanced visibility crosswalks in stamped asphalt. Compared with the previous conditions, this was a significant improvement.

 

Photo: aGuyonClematis.com

Photo: aGuyonClematis.com

 

It took significant staff time to secure this grant, I imagine. The grant money was awarded in 2008 and the project wasn’t completed until 2013. Subsequently, FDOT resurfaced Quadrille Boulevard and removed the crosswalks as part of its resurfacing. Here is what the Quadrille and Clematis intersection looks like today.

IMG_5097

 

 

The good news: According to city staff, the colored, stamped asphalt crosswalks will be back. The current condition is temporary and within a few months, the faux-brick crosswalks will be reinstalled, exactly like those in the first photo above.

These crosswalks took five years to be installed from the awarding of the grant to installation. This doesn’t include time that may have been spent to win the grant itself. If we want to build a stronger West Palm Beach, grants have a place, especially on state roadways such as Quadrille Boulevard. But being dependent on outside money to get projects done is a recipe for underwhelming projects that do not deliver the full spectrum of benefits, are not well maintained, and take a long time to complete. Let’s bear this in mind as the city moves ahead on efforts to create a more livable and more walkable West Palm Beach.


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FDOT Complete Streets Implementation Plan has been published

FDOT sent a tweet this morning, announcing the publication of the Complete Streets Implementation Plan. I’ve uploaded the PDF document to the Reference section of the blog.

[tweet https://twitter.com/MyFDOT/status/674245197434380291]

 

FDOT Complete Streets Implementation Plan

This comes at a opportune moment, as today the Palm Beach MPO is hosting a Complete Streets workshop in downtown West Palm Beach with key stakeholders. Local governments, the Palm Beach MPO, Broward County, and now FDOT have implemented a Complete Streets policy. According to the draft Palm Beach MPO Complete Streets Draft Policy Statement:

The Palm Beach MPO aims to achieve a safe and convenient transportation network by implenting Complete Streets within the context of our county’s diverse communities. The Palm Beach MPO will seek to promote Complete Streets by prioritizing the funding of Complete Street infrastructure projects, providing educational opportunities, and encouraging local jurisdictions to adopt and implement local Complete Streets policies.

One of the most important lynchpins to implementing safer streets is Palm Beach County, as the most dangerous suburban arterials are under county jurisdiction. County adoption of a Complete Streets policy needs to be a focus for advocates. Between MPO, Broward County, and FDOT guidance, there is plenty of guidance and no reason adoption of a Complete Streets policy cannot happen quickly in Palm Beach County. Please visit Complete Streets Palm Beach to get involved. Facebook page

 

 


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Pedestrian bling is part of the problem, not the solution

FDOT tweeted this yesterday.

What’s wrong in this photo? Here are a couple observations.

  • Who is this crosswalk serving? Look at the adjacent land uses. Largely undeveloped other than a few intersecting low volume roadways. There are no visible sidewalks in the photo parallel to the right of way. And there shouldn’t be, because this road section is well designed for high speed car travel. And that’s a good thing. We get into trouble when we confuse roads and streets, which have very different objectives. This is a well designed road, designed for moving cars quickly from A to B. Putting “pedestrian bling” in the clear zone just confuses matters and creates truly dangerous obstacles for high speed vehicular travel
  • The “crosswalk” street name signage is cute, but completely ineffective in this environment. It’s human scale signage designed to be read at human speed (less than 20 mph), not in a car doing 50+ mph.
  • Push button and flashing pedestrian light complete with decorative pole. All the trappings of a safe street environment. None of the effectiveness, in practice.
  • The notion that we should expect cars to stop on a dime for a pedestrian in this environment is absurd. Six lanes, three in each direction, with speeds easily exceeding 50 mph just guessing from the road geometry.

Just as walkability advocates need to be rigorous about the places where walkability makes sense, we also need to be rigorous about places where it doesn’t make sense. FDOT, spare us the pedestrian bling and save your money on creating safer, better pedestrian infrastructure where it makes sense and will be used.

[h/t to Strong Towns for much of the inspiration of this post]

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