Walkable West Palm Beach

Leave a comment

Your input needed! Shape the future of Dixie in WPB – This weekend and next week

South Dixie is undergoing a positive transformation. Significant private investment has been made, with an assortment of restaurants and retailers opening along it – but this has been in spite of the highway, not because of it. South Dixie has the advantage of a great stock of prototypical old buildings – the type of buildings necessary for entrepreneurship to flourish, as Jane Jacobs explained so well.

What it doesn’t have going for it is a hostile sidewalk environment with cars flying by at 45 mph and very little shade. A plan for a better public realm has been crafted and if executed I believe South Dixie will achieve an even greater level of success.

Highways are not places for people. What should the new name be? Dixie Avenue or something completely new?

Vested stakeholders have come together on a vision for a road diet on South Dixie that would transform it into more of a place to linger and enjoy — al fresco dining, shopping, etc. — and tame the dangerous car speeds. Many stakeholders have been involved in the process to date, including City Commissioner Paula Ryan, merchants, neighborhood associations, and residents who live adjacent to South Dixie. Read more about efforts in past posts.

Rumor is that FDOT is pushing for bike lanes up and down U.S.-1 (aka Dixie in most of the county), contradicting the well-established consensus that emerged in the South Dixie charrettes. In those charrettes led by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC), the community determined that due to the limited right of way on Dixie, volume of traffic, and priorities for placemaking, it would be best to prioritize sidewalk space and on-street parking here. Importantly, this design would slow cars more than striped bike lanes. Striped bike lanes next to travel lanes give a perception to a driver of a wider travel way than does a row of parked cars right next to the travel lanes.

Let me be clear: I’m a huge advocate for biking. I bike myself all over town and I want to see WPB embrace Dutch style biking for everyone. Dutch guidance is clear: In no case should a roadway that carries more than 15,000 cars per day consider using a bike lane. Nor should a cycle lane be considered if speeds are at or above about 30 mph. This is a good article from Cycle Toronto that explains some of these nuances in Dutch guidance. The Dutch have been doing this better than anyone for the past 40+ years, and we would be wise to learn. This simplified chart (kilometers per hour) shows the relationship between car speed and volume and separation. In short: As speeds and volumes go up, more separation is needed.



A compromised bike lane sandwiched between heavy traffic (including many Palm Tran buses) and on-street parking does not serve people on bikes well, and will only be used by the competent few – it will not attract new riders. No bike lane should be added on this stretch unless it is a physically protected bike lane (behind parked cars or a physical barrier) due to the very heavy traffic volume. Because the right of way is limited and there are issues with curb cuts/driveways, a physically protected bike lane isn’t possible unless on-street parking is removed. Maybe at some point in the future, this will be a possibility, but in the meantime, I think we should focus our resources on creating world class north/south bikeways on Lake and Flagler instead of a compromised design on U.S.-1 that will never attract anything beyond a paltry share of bike riders.

I support the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council’s designs and I hope you will too. Please attend these very important meetings this weekend and voice your opinion in favor of the road diet, and furthermore, for the plans created by TCRPC and the community. The same could be said for sections of Dixie north and south of the TCRPC study area — the MPO should listen to the input of residents and stakeholders. Dixie is no longer a highway, it is becoming a place with distinct characteristics along its length.

Workshop is this Saturday 9 am – 2 pm at South Olive Elementary
Open studio charrettes are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm at City Hall. Final presentation 5 pm on Wednesday, August 30th.

Hope to see you there.




West Palm supports US1 redesign with $2.5m grant filing

Yesterday was a milestone for the City of West Palm Beach: The City Commission voted unanimously to support the TCRPC application to the MPO to redesign South Dixie from Okeechobee to Albemarle.

This project is a great example of community leaders and institutions organizing to advocate for a more livable and more walkable street. Very excited to see it moving forward. Many kudos to Commissioner Paula Ryan for her leadership in this effort.

Story: West Palm supports US1 redesign with $2.5m grant filing

Leave a comment

Feds: Build protected bike lanes and narrow lanes!

It’s not easy getting livable streets built. Many engineers still operate under a ‘move the cars’ mindset that does not acknowledge the fundamental differences between a street and a road.

Whether asking for protected bike lanes, narrower travel lanes, or trees in the public right of way, too often the answer is “We can’t do that, it’s not in the manual!”

This new Federal Highway Administration document makes clear: We should be building high-quality bike and walking infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes (There’s a guide for that! For those technicians engineers out there), narrower travel lanes, and trees.

This guidance should help our engineer friends get over their hangups and start designing the places we want on projects such as the South Dixie Corridor, Flagler Drive, and Okeechobee Boulevard. Story from Streetsblog USA.

Reblogged from Streetsblog USA, by Angie Schmitt

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies that federal money can be used on them.

3. Engineers are allowed to use design guides other than the AASHTO Green Book for projects that receive federal funds. 

The AASHTO Green Book — published by the association of state DOTs — is a behemoth, but its crusty old street design standards aren’t the only game in town. The protected bike lane templates in the design guidepublished by the National Association of City Transportation Officials are totally kosher. Go ahead and use them. FHWA says it supports a “flexible approach to the planning and design of bike and pedestrian facilities.” That means “It’s not in the Green Book, so we can’t do it” isn’t a valid excuse.

Peter Koonce, a transportation engineer with the City of Portland, said this clarification should make designing quality bike infrastructure easier.

“Agencies like ours occasionally encounter resistance to the use of treatments in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, the FHWA Separated Bike Lane Guide, or other Guidance documents from reviewing agencies [] because there is a lack of familiarity with new treatments, thus a difficulty to apply engineering judgment,” he said. “An example of this is bicycle traffic signals.”

4. “Highway” funding CAN be used for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

It’s not only the Transportation Alternatives Program that can be used to fund bike and pedestrian infrastructure, FHWA says. Many other sources of federal funding can be used to support safer biking and walking in the right circumstances, including funds from the huge pot in the Surface Transportation Program.

5. Vehicle lanes DON’T have to be a certain width to receive federal funds.

No, lanes don’t have to be at least 11 feet wide on the National Highway System or at least nine feet wide on local roads. According to FHWA: “There is no minimum lane width requirement to be eligible for Federal funding.”

FHWA refers to blanket adherence to typical lane-width standards as “nominal safety,” but using engineering judgment based on the particular circumstances as “substantive safety,” urging engineers to practice the latter.

Also: “In appropriate contexts, narrower lanes, combined with other features associated with them, can be marginally safer than wider lanes.”

6. Curb extensions, roundabouts, and trees CAN be used on streets in the National Highway System.

“There is no prohibition on incorporating these features on NHS projects,” FHWA says. “Curb extensions, also known as bulbouts or neckdowns, can have significant benefits for pedestrian safety.”

7. Speed limits DO NOT need to be set using average vehicle speed. 

Another common myth the FHWA addresses is the idea that the speed limit for federally funded roads must be set using the “85th percentile” rule — which means that the limit is based on the speed that the fastest 15 percent of drivers exceed on a road. FHWA calls the 85th Percentile rule “just one part” of an approach that should consider other factors like pedestrian traffic. FHWA has its own tool for calculating appropriate speed limits.


South Dixie, Waterfront plans present opportunity to implement protected bike lanes

Tonight was a proud moment for West Palm Beach. Dana Little, Urban Designer at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, presented the preliminary concepts for South Dixie from Okeechobee to Ablemarle. [past coverage here including link to the study]. What I’m most impressed with is the community coalescing around this shared vision for more livable, walkable streets. This event was sponsored by the WPB Downtown Neighborhood Association, hosted at Palm Beach Dramaworks, with cosponsors the El Cid Historic Neighborhood Association and the DDA. A diverse audience came out to hear about the latest design plans, and all five commissioners were present. It’s great to see such a show of support.

Dana explained how a protected bike lane (aka cycle track) could work for the southern section of the study. The term

Photo: aGuyonClematis

Photo: aGuyonClematis

‘protected bike lane’ refers to a bike lane with some sort of physical protection between the bicyclist and vehicular traffic. Given the space constraints on Dixie, I must admit I wasn’t sold at first on whether a bike lane would be the best use of the right of way or not. However, as Dana explained, the right of way is wider in the southern section of the study, which allows room for a protected bike facility of the type that is common in the most bike friendly countries. I’m impressed we are advocating for the gold standard of bike facilities instead of settling for FDOT ‘check the box’ buffered bike lanes (which merely provide a thin white stripe of paint as a ‘barrier’ to cars). Given the ability of this section to fit a protected bike lane along with on-street parking and street trees, it makes imminent sense to do so as it will be putting excess asphalt to better use that would otherwise serve to induce speeding. It’s worth mentioning that South Dixie continues in this wider right of way configuration all the way to the spillway, and therefore holds huge potential for an eventual rightsizing project and protected bike lanes potentially all the way to our border with Lake Worth. [Previous post on South Dixie design concepts]

The downtown walkability study also calls for such a protected bike lane on the downtown waterfront, which would provide bicyclists with a world-class bike facility on our waterfront at low cost, connecting easily with the Lake Trail on Palm Beach to comprise a loop from the Palm Beach to the West Palm Beach intracoastal waterfront. Imagine the value we would capture from this project. West Palm Beach could quickly go from a laggard in bicycle infrastructure to one of the leaders in our state.

We’ll need to get FDOT to allow protected bike lanes on Dixie, but Lake Avenue and Flagler Drive are 100% in the City’s control and could serve as valuable demonstration projects to build momentum for the change to Dixie. These projects need not be expensive capital projects, either, but could be tested through restriping and plastic sticks before any curb is built out. The City recently announced its participation in the 8-80 Cities program. There’s no better way to demonstrate a commitment to 8-80 streets and livable design than protected bike lanes that can be used by everyone from 8 year olds biking to school to 80 year old retirees.

Given the talk about protected bike lanes, I thought it would be a good time to share this video from StreetFilms. It’s an 8 minute film on protected bike lanes in New York City and why they are far superior to buffered bike lanes.

StreetFilms – Physically Protected Bike Lanes


[Don’t miss a post. Subscribe to the Walkable West Palm Beach email list on the homepage.]



Leave a comment

Preliminary South Dixie Corridor plan presented

In case you missed it: The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) has released the draft plan for the South Dixie corridor (Okeechobee to Albemarle). Most notably, the plan has arrived at a strong consensus for a road diet and provides detailed renderings for what that would look like. A 4 to 3 road diet constitutes the highest return on investment change that can be made along South Dixie and we are glad to see this strong consensus to move forward.

Link to the draft study.

What is a road diet? Watch this excellent explainer from StreetFilms.

Let’s move this process forward as quickly as possible. It’s likely to take a very long time for funds to be raised, designs to be finalized, and construction to begin. Perhaps we can start this redesign in a cheaper and more inexpensive fashion much sooner. How about we start testing with some inexpensive tactics like paint and signage? That’s what Delray Beach did with its project to narrow 5th and 6th Avenues from 3 to 2 lanes. Here is a photo of a cheaply constructed cycle track in Salt Lake City. We need better infrastructure and more livable streets now, as opposed to waiting a decade.


Image courtesy StreetFilms.org

Leave a comment

Meeting reminder: South Dixie Corridor Design Workshop – Saturday March 28th

south dixie meeting

Leave a comment

Person crossing South Dixie hit and killed by vehicle Thursday evening

Sad news this morning. The Palm Beach Post reports that a person was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing South Dixie last night.

A pedestrian, who was struck by a vehicle in West Palm Beach Thursday, died in St. Mary’s Medical Center from injuries, authorities said.

The vehicle was traveling north on the 7100 block of South Dixie Highway and hit the pedestrian, who was pushing a shopping cart across the street, West Palm Beach Police spokeswoman Detective Lori Colombino said. The driver didn’t see the pedestrian and will not face charges at this time.

The crash occurred at about 7 p.m., and police did not release the name of the driver or the pedestrian.

Here was the tweet by WPTV report Juan Diasgranados and the community response (click on the timestamp for the full thread):

We are going to request the police report once it is released to the public after 60 days. A forthcoming series of posts about South Dixie will analyze challenges and opportunities along this roadway. Stay tuned.