Walkable West Palm Beach

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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Dutch to copy revolutionary American separated bike lane planning guide

Stating it would “totally revolutionize” bike facilities in the United States, John Forester of the Federal Highway Administration spoke to various bike and walk advocates on Monday to answer questions about the new FHWA separated bike lane planning guide.

“With this guide, we’ve unleashed American ingenuity and know-how to solve a problem that no one else has considered. Actually, we didn’t consider if anyone else had considered the problem, because from the outset this was about getting the best in good ‘ol American design, and we want our bike lane guide to become part of Americana lore. Our hope is that Don McLean writes a song about our manual some day.”

The creators of the manual noted that crashes at intersections made up 90 percent of the crashes that did occur — up from 70 percent before the facility was installed — indicating that intersections are where they need to put their focus. They did just that. Diagrams below from the manual show some of the intersection treatments. We rode with a Chevy Suburban driver, who answered our questions while fumbling with her cellphone. “This is great. I expect that next time I make this right turn going 25 mph, this green paint will stop me in my tracks. After all, someone’s kid could be riding in that lane”, said Kailyn Smith. “Knowing this is here would encourage me to get my 8 year old biking”, she stated as we drove to pick up her daughter from soccer practice a half mile from her house.

“Our new guidance will apply everywhere in the same way. Want to ride your bike on State Road 7? There’s an APP (Applied Principle for bicycle Parity) for that. Page 2,343 specifies how to make a safe bike lane in this intersection. Just add a mixing zone!” Photo below shows where this might apply: The bike lane is between the triple left turn lanes and 4 through lanes, and the double right turn lanes.

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State Road 7, Western Palm Beach County

Asked about the proven Dutch and Danish designs that have had 30 plus years of real world testing, Forester scoffed at the notion. “That might work in Europe, but this is America. Here, we expect ice in our iced tea, and a certain level of challenge in our bike lanes. It’s the American way.”


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Skydrive proposed for Okeechobee Boulevard

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has unveiled a solution to the problems plaguing Okeechobee Boulevard: A ‘Skydrive’ that will serve to elevate drivers above the throngs of pedestrians who have overtaken the streets below.

“We looked at the pedestrian traffic counts and realized that the numbers were extraordinary, with all the crossing traffic to and from the Convention Center, Hilton Hotel, CityPlace, and the Grandview Heights neighborhood”, stated Jim Wolfgang, FDOT District 4 Secretary. “The County has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing a world-class convention center and hotel that is across the street from CityPlace, a premiere shopping and dining destination. The amount of pedestrian traffic is enormous and rising steadily. It’s like a “people sewer” down there, with all those… people… we need a bigger pipe to fit them all through. We considered the idea of a pedestrian bridge, but our cost-benefit analysis shows a vehicular Skydrive will be a better solution.”

Some have speculated the all-powerful “Bipedal Lobby” is behind FDOT’s decision, but it appears the relatively feeble “Road Building Lobby” may have had more influence. A local transportation official who wishes to remain anonymous admitted, “To solve our public opinion problem, we are planning to spend a lot of money on a wonderful new piece of expensive infrastructure to give the perception we have solved the problem. Otherwise the public will keep yelling at us.  If… well… when, it doesn’t solve the problem, it’s a great opportunity to up our budget and spend even more.”

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The Skydrive F.U. would load cars for passage over Okeechobee Boulevard

 

Drivers: Simply press this button to cross

Drivers: Simply press this button to cross

Wolfgang expects the new Skydrive to be well-received by the currently besieged drivers. “To use it, simply queue at the intersection, wait for your turn in line, drive onto the lift, roll down your window, press a button, and our Funicular Unit (F.U.) will convey you expeditiously across the mass of pedestrians below. Very convenient.”

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Champs Elysses

FDOT’s partner on the project, Palm Beach County Engineer Jorge Webb, had this to say regarding the design: “We attempted to arrive at an elegant solution for this highly trafficked pedestrian corridor. We considered making a multiway boulevard in the style of the Champs Elysses, but consideration of bizarre European ideas was a nonstarter. So we settled on an unproven technological solution that applies American know-how and ingenuity: The Skydrive was born.”

Some visitors wondered whether the Skydrive would relegate drivers to second-class citizens. “Sounds great, but why only one Skydrive? What about all the other intersections that need to be crossed? Isn’t this just an admission that the ‘Pedestrian is King?” stated Jimmy Leadfoot of Loxahatchee.

But something needs to be done, he said.  “You’re really taking your life into your own hands driving across this street. You never know when the errant pedestrian might jump into your path, and a 2,200 pound vehicle moving at 45 mph stands little chance against a hungry convention-goer on a short lunch break.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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County Engineer George Webb: Okeechobee Boulevard to be reconfigured to multiway boulevard

In a major policy shift at last night’s county workshop, County Engineer George Webb announced that Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 will be reconfigured into a multiway boulevard design similar to those that have been successfully implemented on other American arterials.

Citing Victor Dover & John Massengale’s new book and a recent meeting with livable streets transportation engineer Ian Lockwood as inspiration, Webb says reconfiguration is scheduled to break ground by end of year:

You know, I heard a lot from the New Urbanists at Congress for the New Urbanism 20 at the West Palm Beach Convention Center. The convention center is a county project and so is the new hotel going up next to it, and Okeechobee Boulevard is a county road. My Twitter feed was inundated with folks who couldn’t cross Okee safely and comfortably and I’ve been mulling over the problem ever since. The Palm Beach Post has been doing a series of stories on the fact that we have one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country. This is simply unacceptable. No more of this “stroad” masquerading as a boulevard.

East of I-95, the land uses are dense and urban enough to support a multiway boulevard. The value capture potential is there. West of I-95, it’s lined with strip malls, constant access points, and parking lots. I’m afraid there is little that can be done for that stretch of roadway until adjacent land uses fundamentally change. That area needs a complete do-over. That will be the career-defining work of my successor and the challenge I pass to them.

Webb cited examples of successful reconfiguration of the earthquake-damaged Central Freeway in San Francisco, which became Octavia Boulevard, as well as Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. “Ironically, the side access lane will permit cars to flow freely in the through lanes and capacity will be increased, along with a huge boost to property values along the access lane frontage. It will become a place for people” says Webb.

Some example photos of successful multiway boulevards that Webb cited:

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