Walkable West Palm Beach


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2016 West Palm Beach Wish List

At the end of 2015,  the community answered the question “What are you most excited for in West Palm Beach in 2016?” in the Engage West Palm Facebook group.

I took this opportunity to focus on ideas that I believe merit attention and focus. Not all of these projects are city led, but most of them are.  Many of these we’ve discussed extensively on the blog (South Dixie, Flagler, Okeechobee. Use search box at right to find old content)

Here’s my list, and I thought I would share it here. What is yours?

 

Continuing to build upon what I consider our city’s greatest competitive strength in the region, our traditional walkable neighborhoods. To that end:

1. Humanizing Flagler Drive, creating more space for people and bicyclists and connecting to Palm Beach via the new Flagler Bridge and Royal Park Bridge and the Lake Trail. A protected bike path connecting both sides of the intracoastal waterfront would be a tremendous win.
2. Construction of a street easement over the FEC tracks at 7th Street in the Northwest will create conditions for revitalization
3. Securing funding for the first phase of the South Dixie Corridor project to Albemarle
4.. Carrying out a project with Gehl Architects such as the long discussed Turquoise Necklace bike/pedestrian pathways
5. Reconstruction of Okeechobee Boulevard medians so the moat between CityPlace and Convention Center can be crossed more easily and safely.
6. Moving Olive and Dixie two-way project ahead
7. All Aboard Florida station completion and Coastal Link funding secured
8. Downtown parking wayfinding signage finally implemented
9. Development of vacant parcels fronting Currie Park. Creation of a ‘public living room’ where people coming/going provides the park with activity, interest, and natural surveillance.
10. Street trees downtown. ‘Nuff said.

Perhaps most of all, I’m wishing for a Livable Transportation Engineer to be hired to design and implement these transportation projects throughout the city!

 

 


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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)


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The time is right for time of day parking

Time of day parking is a simple low-cost high return on investment solution that has been utilized in other cities with great success to provide on-street  parking  at off-peak hours. How it works is that one of the two travel lanes in the same direction become on-street parallel parking during off peak hours and weekends. For example,  all lanes would be open to cars during rush hour from 7 AM – 9:30 AM and from 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM. At other times of the day one travel lane would become curbside parking. Here is a picture of it being applied in Miami.

Time_day_lane_parking_miami

North Miami Avenue isn’t quite as pretty as the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but allowing on-street parking in unneeded travel lanes is one of the first steps in the recovery from stroad to street.

There are plenty of locations where this strategy could benefit West Palm Beach. Here are a few locations:

  • Olive Avenue (Federal Highway) from Evernia to Clematis. There is already a nascent out-door restaurant scene developing and most of the buildings contain ground floor walk up retail that could benefit from having mid-day, evening, and weekend on-street parking.
  • Flagler Blvd. in front of Clematis park. I would love to see those unneeded lanes turned into on-street parking for the Saturday Green Market. The on-street parking might convey the proper context to slow cars down on Flagler so you don’t have to take your life in your hands to cross from the park to get to the water.
  • Dixie Highway south of Okeechobee. This section should go on a four to three lane road diet, but that won’t happen overnight. There is a lot of great stuff going on in this area and simple strategy like this could be the tipping point. In a recent Palm Beach Post article one observer dubbed this area the next Greenwich Village.
  • Quadrille – five lane section from 3rd to Dixie.

Still not convinced? The reference section of the blog contains a report from the Hillsborough County MPO on this concept. The report includes case studies from Miami, Richmond Virginia, and Washington D.C. It should be noted that all of the case studies had great success. From the study, the only thing Miami would have done differently would be to “Provide this opportunity sooner.”

What are we waiting for? This is a low risk experiment.

P.S. It would be nice if the City employed some Donald Shoup principles and not charged for this newly found parking.

 

 


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Let’s make West Palm Beach a Bicycle Friendly Community

I’m always on the lookout for ways to spread the good news about West Palm Beach’s status as a walkable and bike-friendly oasis of urbanism in a sea of south Florida sprawl. Here’s another way for our city to brag: Become a Bicycle Friendly Community. It’s not just about earning an award, though, but a commitment to supporting bicycling in our community.

This award from the League of American Bicyclists showcases communities that have committed to the “five Es” of Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation. I used the checklist the League of American Bicyclists provided, and we already check off a lot of these boxes. Getting a few more of these boxes checked shouldn’t be too hard.

Let’s work on what we can to earn inclusion into this list. I will gladly volunteer on a bicycle advisory committee and help work on a comprehensive bicycle plan with the City. Would you be willing to volunteer to help West Palm Beach become a Bicycle Friendly Community?

ScreenClip


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Road diet for Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard

Today’s guest, Baron Haussman, was a French civic planner whose name is associated with the rebuilding of Paris. Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809–1891), who called himself Baron Haussmann, was commissioned by Napoleon III to instigate a program of planning reforms in Paris. Haussmann laid out the Bois de Boulogne, and made extensive improvements in the smaller parks.  A new water supply, a gigantic system of sewers, new bridges, the opera house, and other public buildings, the inclusion of outlying districts – these were among the new prefect’s achievements, accomplished by the aid of a bold handling of the public funds. (Planetizen)

Enter the Baron.
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The battle for a walkable city must be fought block by block inch by inch. Little projects can make a big difference in transforming a City. Transforming unneeded travel lanes into curb side parking is one of the highest return on investment a City can make. The portion of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. from Dixie Highway to Flagler Drive is a perfect example. The intersection of Dixie and Palm Beach Lakes is shown below. At the intersection with Dixie, one of Palm Beach Lakes eastbound lanes becomes a drop right lane. Someone took the time and expense to construct a landscaped bulbout in front of the Burger King to make this happen. Just east of the intersection the thru lane makes a reappearance and continues approximately 1,000′ to the intersection with Flagler. The take away is that you have one thru lane at the intersection feeding two lanes.

PalmBeachLakesDixie

Also notable is that a westbound right turn lane was removed. You can see the white stripes on the hospital side at the location of the former right turn lane. Palm Beach County’s website has aerial photos back to the year 2004 online. This incomplete road diet has been there since at least 2004. Why? The only benefit of the bulb-outs is that it reduces the crossing distance for pedestrians from Burger King to the hospital. We can do so much better than an incomplete road diet.

The bulbouts point out the fact that from Dixie to Flagler, you have more lanes than you need. Traffic is so light in the one lane that this person felt comfortable walking in the street:

PB_Lakes_Street_view

Even more interesting is that there are faded no parking signs. Apparently the volume is so light that motorists must have been parking in the unnecessary lane.

PB_Lakes_Street_view2

What to do with the unneeded pavement? My suggestion to turn the unneeded lane into on-street curbside parking. Here is a quick before and after using streetmix. (Note: dimensions are approximate.)

palm-beach-lakes-existing

palm-beach-lakes-remix

The cost of a surface parking space, excluding the cost of real estate, is approximately $5,000 a space. How many spaces can you fit on the south side of Palm Beach Lakes? Assuming you follow FDOT’s sight line criteria you lose a few spaces near the driveways and the intersection with Federal Highway. Also, conservatively assuming that you wish to provide an eastbound right turn lane at Flagler you still would be left with approximately 23 curb side parking spaces. The infrastructure necessary for a surface lot to provide 23 parking spaces would cost  $115,000 (23 X $5,000). All that is necessary to create these parking spaces is some paint and a few signs. This portion of Palm Beach Lakes is maintained by the City of West Palm Beach so the City doesn’t need approvals from any outside agency. What about bike lanes, street trees, and decorative street lights? These things can wait. What can’t wait is a $115,000 asset sitting idle and providing zero benefit to the public. You have a hospital, a park, and a fantastic waterfront walking trail within walking distance of the potential on-street parking spaces.

In addition to the physical parking spaces, curbside parking provides a buffer between cars and pedestrians and also a traffic calming as it provides a cue to drivers that they are on a street and not an expressway.

P.S. The streetmix section also shows the elimination of a lane on the north side of this section of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. Unfortunately, the number of driveways really limit the number of parking spaces you can add. From both a curbside parking yield and a walkability standpoint it would be really beneficial to combine some driveways. Unfortunately we will be haunted for years by the poor site planning decisions at this location. Why was a building built at the intersection with Federal? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have an access road at the Federal / Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. traffic signal?


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The Bus Loop tests trolley line expansion between Northwood Village and Downtown

Last night’s Bus Loop was a smashing success. If you weren’t there, the Bus Loop is a transit-powered pub crawl, hop-on, hop off style, that runs between Cityplace, Clematis Street, and Northwood Village.  The Bus Loop benefits the Palm Beach County Gator Club and the West Palm Beach Downtown Neighborhood Association (WPB DNA). I serve on the board of the WPB DNA and this is the main source of fundraising we’re doing to do things like tree plantings downtown, public art projects, bike repair stations, and hopefully ground cover plantings near this garage. Here is a gallery of projects completed or in progress using Bus Loop fundraising:

[If you’d like to volunteer with the DNA, please get in touch. We need you!]

This is the third bus loop to run downtown, and may have been the biggest yet. In addition to helping fund some cool projects, it also demonstrates what a trolley running between downtown and Northwood Village would look like.  We used the old trolleys that used to run downtown before the massive, smoke-exhaust laden new trolleys unfortunately replaced them. It has been a huge success everytime, bringing hundreds of people between Northwood and Downtown. The route looked like this, running north along Flagler Drive up to Northwood, and back downtown:

IMG_3739

The sidewalks were filled with people, many of whom had never been to The Garage VV or Northwood Village for that matter. And downtown restaurants were similarly packed with people.

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This could be the beginnings of a more extensive trolley network between the walkable neighborhoods of West Palm Beach. For my part, I would gladly pay a couple dollars to ride such a system to get around the traditional neighborhoods of our city. Just another way West Palm Beach can capitalize on its core strength in the region: Its walkable street grid and livable streets.