Walkable West Palm Beach


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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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“Trollgate” a reminder of bold actions taken to remake city

Did you know that the underside of the Royal Park Bridge is fit for a troll?

Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post recounted an episode of West Palm Beach history that could be known as “Trollgate.”

Here’s the city livable transportation engineer at the time, Ian Lockwood, recalling the bridge design process with FDOT.

“I had to meet with the state people and I had a list of 10 things that I wanted, things like lower railings to make the sightseeing better,” Lockwood remembers. “And everything I wanted they said ‘No.’”

Hula's painting, "Clara". Photo: The Palm Beach Post

Photo: The Palm Beach Post

This story demonstrates the ‘people first’ values that were part of the West Palm Beach engineering department in the past.

At one time, we had a livable transportation engineer advocating for troll sculptures under bridges (can you imagine??), and creating amazing community assets in the form of the pedestrian/bike path underneath the Royal Park Bridge. Now our city engineering establishment is so timid that even going below 11′ width travel lanes in downtown is a very difficult sell to our city engineers.

In our recent history, a similar bike/ped pathway was not able to be built under the Flagler Bridge to the north, although it’s unclear to me why this could happen at the Royal Park Bridge and not the Flagler Bridge. The FDOT bridge intersection at Flagler doesn’t appear to have any elevated level of bike/pedestrian accommodations even though it is certain to be used by many people on foot and bike and is a crucial link in a waterfront bike/ped pathway.


“We don’t have any rules against it”

 

Unless we have city staff advocating for (and not just tolerating) more livable streets and walkable neighborhoods, how are we to realize these opportunities when they arise? You don’t even know they exist unless you’re on the front lines working for more livable streets, pushing for change and asking the right questions. The Flagler Bridge buffered bike lane is a tiny citizen victory, but larger victories require the credibility, knowledge, and support of city staff in order to make change happen, in collaboration with citizen advocates.

FDOT is hardly known for its nuance when it comes to neighborhoods and street design. How ironic if our own city staff, at one time almost revolutionary in remaking West Palm Beach as a place for people (see Exhibit A), were to cede the high ground to FDOT?

It shouldn’t be this way, especially at the city level, where we have much more design discretion. Safe, livable streets should be the default rather than the exception.

No troll superstitions necessary.

 

Exhibit A: WPB was revolutionary in remaking neighborhoods as places for people


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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


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Walkable West Palm Beach featured on WPTV

I was featured today in a piece by reporter Brian Entin of WPTV. The report focuses on FDOT’s decision to provide better bike facilities on the Flagler Bridge; a change Walkable WPB has been advocating since earlier this year.

Link to the video.

From the story:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It’s proof one voice can make a big difference.

A downtown West Palm Beach bicyclist and walkability blogger wrote the Florida Department of Transportation concerned about the small shoulder serving as a bike lane in the new Flagler Memorial Bridge plans.

And the response he received in the mail shocked him.

“It is always kind of surprising when FDOT responds positively to a request like this,” Jesse Bailey said.
// In a letter to Bailey, FDOT engineers acknowledged his ideas and even implemented most of them.

“The project is well underway, they have already commenced construction, and for them to make the changes at the last minute is very commendable,” Bailey said.

Among the changes to the 94 million dollar project include reducing the vehicle lanes from 12 to 11 feet, adding a two foot buffer, and also including a six-foot bike lane.

News of the changes spread to area bike shops.

“We are thoroughly happy. It will make the bridge safer not only for competitive cyclists, but for moms, dads, and children,” owner of Top Cycle Palm Beach Patrick Poupart said.

The Flagler Bridge project is expected to be finished in 2016.


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Thank you, FDOT, for designing a more bike friendly Flagler Bridge

Good news, friends. We recently received an email from new FDOT District 4 Secretary Gerry O’Reilly, in followup to our requests for a better, safer design on the Flagler Bridge reconstruction. Here’s the email reply, pasted below, along with a typical bridge section.

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

2015-07-02 16_36_09-Flagler Roadway Plan Updated 02-19-15.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

This is a very substantial improvement in bike facilities compared to the prior design, which was essentially a bike lane that shared space in the shoulder, as we wrote about in a prior blog piece titled “Why Johnny still won’t be able to ride to the beach”. This new design narrows the travel lanes from twelve feet to eleven feet, provides a striped buffer, and a generous bike lane of 6 feet wide.

Is this the ideal outcome? No. We had hoped for a protected bike lane, with a physical barrier between cars and bicyclists. We will continue to advocate for FDOT to implement safer designs on bridges that physically separate both pedestrians and bicyclists from fast-moving cars, so that little Johnny will indeed be able to ride to the beach comfortably and safely one day.

Nonetheless, as this design was already well under way and FDOT showed a willingness to take our concerns seriously for better bike facilities, Mr. O’Reilly and staff are to be commended for hearing the community’s voice.

 

 

 


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FDOT embraces buffered bike lanes and narrower lanes

Roadway Design Bulletin 14-7 is a very dry sounding title for a very important policy shift at the Florida Department of Transportation. The bulletin allows for narrower lanes and makes a 7’ wide bike lane (2’ buffer + 5’ bike lane) the default choice for projects in or within one mile of an urban area.

For divided roadways with a design speed of 45 miles per hour and less within one mile of an urban area the default lane width for new construction has been reduced from the interstate standard width of 12’ to 11’ in width. For the 10′ lane lovers the commentary includes an especially notable teaser:

In the case of urban arterials it was determined, through an expert panel review process, that lane widths between 10 and 12 feet are acceptable on urban arterials and do not cause safety problems. There is no significant correlation between lane width and safety performance for the range of facilities studied.

From the bulletin it appears that the main reason why the new standard lane width wasn’t reduced to 10′ was due concerns about the safety and performance when a high percentage of truck and bus traffic exists.

The new standard for bike lanes in or within one mile of an urban area is 7’. The previous standard bike lane was 5’ in width. The new bike lane will consist of a 2’ wide buffer and a 5’ wide bike lane. Next to on-street parking  a 3’ wide buffer will be provided in the door zone of the parked car and the bike lane will be 4′. The buffer will be hatched on a 10’ diagonal spacing. It is commended that FDOT standards now acknowledge the door zone issue.

Here are a few details of the new buffered bike lane standard:BufferedBike1 BufferedBike2

It should be noted that this standard is for new construction. The bulletin also improved the decision making matrix on how to attempt to fit these bike lanes into existing roads.

During a January 21st webinar on the new policy, FDOT cited improved sight distance at driveways and the ability for cyclists to exhibit lane control if a vehicle were to use the bike lane as a right turn lane. (Note: A passenger car is 6’ wide so it is possible that some cars will use the 7’ wide lane as a deceleration lane).  When asked about physical buffered bike lanes such as placing bike lanes behind parallel parked cars, FDOT stated these methods are still experimental (30 years of practice in the Netherlands doesn’t count!) and they are waiting on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to complete a report on cycle tracks before they consider changing policy.

This new policy is a welcomed improvement and it will address poor designs such as what is proposed for the new Flagler Bridge. The new Flagler Bridge is proposed to have 12’ wide travel lanes with 5’ bike lanes and 35 MPH posted speed limit. One of Walkable West Palm Beach’s proposed solutions is to reduce the two travel lanes in each direction from 12’ to 11’ and provide a 2’ buffer for the bike lane. It isn’t too late to correct this mistake. Please, contact FDOT and request that the 12’ lanes are reduced. After all the existing Flagler Bridge had 10’ wide lanes for 75 years.

ACTION: Send emails to the below addresses, to ask for design changes to the project to make it bike-friendly and safe:

flaglerproject@nmdceng.net

Public Information Officer: Tish.Burgher@qcausa.com

Jim Wolfe, FDOT District 4: James.Wolfe@dot.state.fl.us

FDOT Pedestrian and Bike coordinator: Billy.Hattaway@dot.state.fl.us


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Flagler Bridge – Why Johnny still won’t be able to ride to the beach

Rendering of Proposed Flagler Bridge

Rendering of Proposed Flagler Bridge

This post discusses the proposed bicycle and pedestrian accomodations on the new Flager bridge, the implications of the Flagler Bridge to overall bicycle network, and some low cost suggestions to improve the bicycle and pedestrian accomodations on the new bridge.

For  a walker or cyclist the new bridge will be very similar to  the Royal Park Bridge to the south. The bridge will feature 8′ wide sidewalks and 5′ of the 8′ wide auto shoulder will have a painted white line to designate it as a bike lane. This will be an improvement over the existing bridge which lacks shoulders and has narrow sidewalks. Here is a cross section of the proposed bridge:

Proposed Flagler Bridge Cross Section (Dimensions in red added by walkablewpb)

Proposed Flagler Bridge Cross Section
(Dimensions in red added by walkablewpb)

New bike lanes will be provided from Olive Ave. (Federal Highway) to Bradley Place / Cocoanut Row. The east end of the bridge has been designed to allow for the future passage of the Lake trail. In the future, Lake Trail could extend from its current terminus at Sunset Avenue, through Bradley Park to the south side of  Royal Poinciana Way. Also, notable is that the grade separation at Flagler Drive will be replaced with an at grade intersection. Here is map depicting the proposed bridge bike lanes and the potential to expand our nascent bike network out from  the Flagler bridge.

Proposed Flagler Bridge bike map and potential connecting routes

Proposed Flagler Bridge bike map and potential connecting routes

These are big improvements, but they don’t go far enough. Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota Colombia, who was instrumental in constructing the City’s bike path network said it best:

We cannot continue to deceive ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bike way. A bicycle way that is not safe for an 8-year old is not a bicycle way.

A recent study has shown, biking will not be adopted by the majority if we continue to construct traditional bike lanes. I’m aware of two fatalities where cyclists were killed on shoulders of FDOT intercoastal  bridges. Both fatalities would have been prevented with protected bike lanes. Placing bike lanes behind the same barrier that protects the sidewalk is the solution. Other DOTs are considering this type of design as shown in the below rendering:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/19699/new-douglass-bridge-could-be-best-bike-bridge-in-dc/

Proposed rendering of Douglass Bridge. Note protected cycle tracks. DDOT

Vancover, BC recently removed a travel lane from the Burrard Street bridge to add a protected bike lane.

Protected bike lanes on a bridge may seem like an new idea, but there was once a time when you could ride your bike safely between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. In addition to the railroad the original Flagler Bridge also had a wheel chair bridge. In that period a wheel chair referred to a human powered tricycle taxi. The wheel chair portion of the bridge was used by pedestrians, cyclists, and wheel chairs. The bridge didn’t accommodate cars. Here is a photo of the original bridge:

Original Flagler Bridge

Original Flagler Railroad and Wheelchair Bridge

The original Flagler bridge may have been West Palm Beach’s first protected cycle track.

So how can we make the proposed Flagler Bridge better? The bridge will be posted for 30 MPH, but it will have 12′ wide travel lanes. This is the same lane width that is provided on I-95. These lanes can reduced and their excess width reallocated to other portions of the bridge. 10′ or 11′ lanes are appropiate for a bridge with a 30 MPH speed limit. In fact the existing Flagler bridge has 10′ wide lanes with no shoulders. Assuming that FDOT will not allow 10′ lanes, two concepts are presented to reduce the lane width from 12′ to 11′ as shown below:

Proposed_cross_section

The left side of the bridge depicts the extra width used to provide a 2′ buffer between the bike lane and the travel lane. This also benefits the motorist as the shoulder is increased from 8′ to 10′ in width. In the highway design literature 8′ is the minimal shoulder for a broken down vehicle to not block a lane, but 10′ is the preferred shoulder width in this situation. This is a very cheap and beneficial change to the design and there is already precedent for this as FDOT has already installed buffered bike lanes on the Blue Heron bridge in Palm Beach County as shown below:

Blue Heron Bridge - Buffered bike lane

Blue Heron Bridge – Buffered bike lane

The second concept, shown on the right half of the bridge is to reallocate the 2’ feet from the lanes to the sidewalk. This would increase the sidewalk from 8’ to 10’ in width. A 10’ wide sidewalk is considered wide enough to be a multimodal path. On intercoastal bridges it is a common occurence to see cyclists use the sidewalk, because they don’t feel comfortable in a bike lane. It really makes sense to provide a sidewalk wide enough to accommodate non-vehicular cyclists and pedestrians. This can also be done at low cost as the width of the bridge remains unchanged from the original design.

Walkable and bikeable cities are tourist meccas. Think about all the cities that people go to for vacation: Savannah, Charleston, St. Augustine, Paris, London. What do they have in common? Hint, it is isn’t for their convention centers, casinos, or stadiums. It is Walkability!

If we are serious about having a transportation system that benefits our economy then we need world class bike facilities that connect the Palm Beach / West Palm Beach Arts and Entertainment District. Building a bridge where a tourist feels safe letting their eight year old ride their bike from West Palm Beach to Palm Beach is going to bring a lot more economic benefit than widening a highway to attract Walmart or Bass Pro Shop.

The new Flagler bridge is going to be around for at least 75 years so it is important that we get this right. Let’s bring back some of the golden age of West Palm Beach with world class bike facilities.

(P.S. if the lanes were reduced to 10.25’ then you could have both an 18” wide bike buffer and a 10’ wide multimodal path)