Walkable West Palm Beach


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Draw on this map, provide input on mobility plan

The West Palm Beach Mobility Study has kicked off, and an online interactive map has been published to gather public comment about mobility needs and desires in the city. If you’ve ever thought “I just wish there was a protected bike lane here” or “This street really needs a bump-out and marked crosswalk”, now is your time to provide this input for use in the mobility plan and the bike master plan.

Click this the link below to access the map. On the left side, scroll down to the button “Get Started” to draw your routes and add points that need attention.

WPB Mobility Plan Map


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300 block of Evernia restriping could signal watered-down implementation of Walkability Study

 

The 300 block of Evernia Street has been restriped with angled parking on the north side of the block. The Walkability Study called for angled parking on both sides of the street, but WPB Engineering informed me that the number of driveways precluded this from being achievable, in addition to concerns about meeting minimum lane width standards.

evernia

Jeff Speck proposal from Downtown Walkability Study

Although I’m ecstatic to see the progress, the statement about minimum lane width standards is very concerning. Most if not all the recommendations in the Speck Walkability Study are not possible without 10 foot lane widths or less. An 11 foot minimum standard is a highway/suburban standard. If anything, a walkable downtown core should be more concerned about a maximum lane width, above which the street becomes hostile to people on foot, rather than focusing on a minimum. A minimum lane width is a testament to street priorities: Making sure cars feel comfortable as possible driving through. I’m not sure where or when this policy came about, as it certainly wasn’t the case when Ian Lockwood and the New Urbanists were working in the city.

I understand there are reasonable street widths that need to be attained for purposes of public safety, ie, Fire Department (although Fire Departments are notorious for going overboard). However, we should be striving for streets that are as skinny as possible, more worried about creating more pavement than needed than we are worried that cars might have to slow down a bit. Restriping our lanes isn’t just about getting more parking yield, although that’s a great benefit. It’s about the many benefits in walkability and urbanism that come from having slower, more humane streets.

Slowing the cars is exactly what makes a place livable and desirable in the first place.

#SlowStreets #SlowTheCars

PS – I hope I’m wrong about this block and our street design standards. If a West Palm Beach engineer is reading this, perhaps they can respond on the blog to quell our fears that they will insist on 11′ minimum lane widths on downtown streets.

 


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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

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Palm Beach County: 0.5 | City of West Palm Beach: 0

Recent interactions with the County have been refreshingly positive. The County, which apparently controls signalization and (some?) striping at intersections, has responded in a prompt and serious manner about pedestrian safety concerns in downtown. Bravo, County Engineering! No, this is not an early April Fool’s joke.

 

Case one was a missing crosswalk connecting the Hyatt Place hotel on Olive Avenue and Lakeview to the Two City Plaza condominium building across the street, and CityPlace further east. This is a frequently crossed intersection for residents of 2CP as well as guests at the Hyatt Place, and although there are pedestrian signals, the crosswalk was missing, leading to a potentially dangerous situation for right-turning cars headed west on Lakeview. The crosswalk will help alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians here.

Case two is a pedestrian pushbutton issue for the Quadrille and Hibiscus Street intersection. The response I received is pasted below.

 Thank you for bringing your traffic concerns to our attention. You are right about the street light. they are the jurisdiction of the State and the City.

 We pulled the pedestrian signal activation log and found that a lot of people cross at this intersection. Most of the crossing happened on the south leg with the number of activations exceeding 210 on Saturday. Quite a few cross on the north leg as well, and only few cross north and south.

 Staff has increased the “WALK” signal phase time from 7:00 to 10:00 seconds on all approaches. They also increased the “FLASHING DON’T WALK” time to cross Quadrille from 16:00 to 18:00 seconds. The maximum green signal time for the east/west movement was also increased to make sure there is enough time for pedestrians to cross even after the end of the pedestrian signal phase.

 We don’t think it is a good idea to put the pedestrian signal phase on recall so it’ll come up automatically during each signal cycle. This will cause an unnecessary disruption to the vehicular traffic on Quadrille. Moreover, the turning traffic may not pay attention to pedestrian in the crosswalk because they’ll  get used to seeing the pedestrian signal display coming up when there are no pedestrians in the cross walk.

 As an intersection with high pedestrian activity, we’ll replace the existing pedestrian signals with countdown signals. this work should be done in few weeks.

 Fattoush,

Can you please issue a WO to replace the existing pedestrian signals at the intersection of Hibiscus and Quadrille with countdown signals?

 Thank you.

 Motasem Al-Turk, Ph.D., P.E.

Traffic Division

Palm Beach County

Let’s be clear: This solution is far from perfect, and I’m going to continue to push for the signalization regime recommended by walkability expert Jeff Speck [refer to page 22 of the downtown walkability study – main section pasted below]. Pedestrians should have better prioritization from left and right turning cars at this intersection, such as a leading pedestrian indicator. Better light timing and a countdown signal does little to solve the real issue: Cars are king on Quadrille, without exception, and to impede their movement in any way is anathema.  Even though this solution leaves a lot to be desired, and I disagree with the assessment of Mr. Al-Turk, the County is still to be commended for taking the issue seriously and promptly doing something about it that has made the intersection marginally better. At least pedestrians are not stranded in the middle of the intersection as the crossing traffic light turns green.

Jeff Speck Walkability Study, on pedestrian-friendly signals:

A survey of the most and least walkable cities in America reveals a clear correlation: walkable cities rarely have pushbutton signal request buttons. Called “beg buttons” by pedestrian advocates, these signals are alternately annoying and confusing to pedestrians, most of whom do not understand how they are supposed to work—and many of whom end up jaywalking out of sheer frustration.

Here is how these signals work in downtown West Palm Beach: A pedestrian approaches a crosswalk, pushes the button, and waits for the light to change. Typically, a long time passes before the light changes—sometimes more than two minutes. After perhaps 30 seconds, the pedestrian assumes that the light is broken, and jaywalks.

What the pedestrian does not realize is that the pushbutton is not designed to cause the light to change. Rather, it is designed only to lengthen the eventual red light, so that the pedestrian has more time to cross. Given the tremendous amount of jaywalking that these signals cause, these lengthened crossing times are, at best, irrelevant. This dangerous behavior is perhaps the clearest example of the vast difference between traffic safety theory and traffic-safety reality in Palm Beach County, and should be of grave concern to County engineers.

If County engineers want to create a system in which jaywalking is reduced and pedestrian safety enhanced, they will look to other places where cars and pedestrians interact with a much lower incidence of injury, such as Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and the smaller towns that surround these cities. What they will find in these places is an almost complete absence of pushbutton signals, short cycles of 60 seconds or less (total), and “concurrent” crossing regimes, in which pedestrians move with parallel traffic, and turning cars must wait for the crosswalks to clear.

Such signals are made more effective by a technology called the Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI), in which pedestrians receive a 3-second head start to enter (and “claim”) the intersection before cars receive a green light. There are a number of locations where these could be put to good use in the downtown.

In terms of encouraging safe pedestrian behavior, the length of the signal cycle is of great significance. When traffic congestion is the dominant concern, traffic engineers prefer longer signal cycles, as they have the advantage of moving large volumes of cars on each approach. These longer periods of vehicle movement mean longer waits for pedestrians trying to cross a street. This is more than just an inconvenience, because it causes jaywalking. For this reason, the long-cycle signalization regimes that make sense in suburban Palm beach County are ill suited to  pedestrian-heavy areas like Downtown West Palm Beach, and should be corrected at the first opportunity.

 

The irony is that the County, which has historically been no ally in creating more walkable streets in West Palm Beach, has taken more bona fide action than the City of West Palm Beach at this point. And that is a pretty low bar, as these pushbutton timing and crosswalk stripings are superficial interventions by their nature. By superficial, I mean interventions that do little to tip the risk  scale in favor of people on foot versus those driving a car. Nonetheless, it is something.

The City/CRA/DDA undertook the Walkability Study. But to this point, not a single of its recommendations have been implemented, even though the City recently identified 17 recommendations ready to go, now.

Implement this study! Choose one of the 17 recommendations, get some paint, and restripe a lane. Now.

 


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Walkable West Palm Beach action alert: Fern Street changes go before commission on Monday!

[Update: This item was supposed to happen at the last work session, but it got bumped. It is the first item on the agenda for Monday, February 9th, 10 am at City Hall].

The top priority for Walkable West Palm Beach in 2015 is to implement the Jeff Speck study. Fern Street is the first substantial project moving forward that includes recommendations from the Speck study. We need your help to get it moving. Below is the explanation and the action step to take to help.

In order to move the project forward, angled parking spaces need to be converted to parallel parking spaces in order to fit a bike lane or a cycle track (it’s not clear whether there is room for a proper cycle track) on the street. Without conversion of angled parking spots to parallel, there is no room for a bike facility and the most this street will receive is sharrows. This would involve the loss of some of the angle parking spaces on Fern. However, with the implementation of the full Speck study, there are many more parking spaces to be gained in the downtown, resulting in a net addition of around 500 parking spaces total.

The parking administration is not happy about losing some spaces on Fern Street and pushing against the project. We need you to speak up and write the commissioners letting them know you support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces. Suggested verbiage, please tailor as you see fit:

I support the Jeff Speck study. I support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces in order to implement a better, more walkable and bike friendly Fern Street to connect from Tri Rail transit hub, to Cityplace and All Aboard Florida, to the water. Any loss of parking on Fern Street is negligible and the downtown will see a net increase of almost 500 spaces total. Please allow planning staff to see this project through.

The commission work session meeting takes place at 10:00 am Monday, February 9th at the City Hall. It is open to the public and may or may not include public comment. Come if you can, and make sure to write the commission and Mayor.

Related:

Jeff Speck Downtown WPB Walkability Study [see page 56 for Fern Street]

Ideas for Fern Street/Evernia/Datura from Baron Haussmann


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City: Seventeen Walkability Study recommendations ready to go, right now

The Post reports that the city committee tasked with implementing Speck’s report has a list of 17 recommendations that “can and should” be done right away. This is fantastic news. The faster we do so, the stronger our city will become.

I was especially pleased to see consensus reached on parking signage. Moving forward on this, now, instead of waiting another 10 years for the perfect citywide master plan, is the right approach for a light piece of infrastructure that is relatively low cost and easy to change. Keep it tactical.

As the changes become visible, I will post them on the blog. City Staff: Please contact the blog as we would like to cover these positive changes.

Story from the Palm Beach Post.

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West Palm Beach already putting ‘walkability’ ideas in place

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At least 17 of urban designer and “walkability expert” Jeff Speck’s ideas to improve downtown West Palm Beach can be done right away, and should, a city committee says.

After Speck submitted his 101-page report in the fall, a committee began meeting weekly, Rick Greene, director of development services and a member of the group, said Friday.

West Palm Beach already putting ‘walkability’ ideas in place photo

Allen Eyestone

“There are going to be costs associated with all of them,” Greene said. He noted that something such as narrowing travel lanes to make room for extra parking, require nothing more than some street paint.

Others, he said, will require approval by the city commission because they’re more expensive or because they are weighty concepts.

One of the latter would be the one that probably has drawn the most attention: how to make it easier to cross busy Okeechobee Boulevard

West Palm Beach already putting ‘walkability’ ideas in place photo

Damon Higgins

Some of the 17:

Sapodilla Avenue: Restripe between Evernia and Fern streets to two 11-foot driving lanes and an 8-foot parking lane Restore parking on the east side between Banyan and Datura streets.

Rosemary Avenue: designate as a key bicycle route from the Convention Center Hotel to 11th Street, including across Okeechobee, with bikes mixing with slow-moving traffic. Revert the one-way segment from 7th to 9th street to two-way traffic (would require city commission OK).

Fifth Street: Reinstate seven parallel parking spots that had been eliminated. Restripe a 30-foot section to reduce two 15-foot driving lanes to 11- foot lanes and add an 8-foot parking lane.

Evernia Street: Restripe the roadway between Quadrille Boulevard and Olive Avenue to create two 11-foot motor lanes flanked by two 16-foot-deep angled parking areas.

Fern Street: Replace 10-foot driving lanes with 8foot parking lanes, 9 feet of green space, and 8foot sidewalks. On one side, insert an 8-foot two-way cycle track. Offer merchants the option of small parklet decks for sidewalk dining.

Parking: Hike meter parking rates so there’s always about a 15 percent vacancy of curbside spaces. Use extra money to improve neighborhoods where meters are.

All Aboard Florida: Connect Clematis, Datura, Evernia, and Fern streets with a connector. (Working with All Aboard.)

Seventh Street: reconnect across Florida East Coast Railway tracks to where city hopes to build a “jazz neighborhood.” (Working with FEC.)

Signs: Install prominent signs directing visitors to downtown parking garages.


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Walkable West Palm Beach action alert: Fern Street changes go before commission on Monday!

The top priority for Walkable West Palm Beach in 2015 is to implement the Jeff Speck study. Fern Street is the first substantial project moving forward that includes recommendations from the Speck study. We need your help to get it moving. Below is the explanation and the action step to take to help.

In order to move the project forward, angled parking spaces need to be converted to parallel parking spaces in order to fit a bike lane or a cycle track (it’s not clear whether there is room for a proper cycle track) on the street. Without conversion of angled parking spots to parallel, there is no room for a bike facility and the most this street will receive is sharrows. This would involve the loss of some of the angle parking spaces on Fern. However, with the implementation of the full Speck study, there are many more parking spaces to be gained in the downtown, resulting in a net addition of around 500 parking spaces total.

The parking administration is not happy about losing some spaces on Fern Street and pushing against the project. We need you to speak up and write the commissioners letting them know you support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces. Suggested verbiage, please tailor as you see fit:

I support the Jeff Speck study. I support converting parking spaces on Fern to parallel spaces in order to implement a better, more walkable and bike friendly Fern Street to connect from Tri Rail transit hub, to Cityplace and All Aboard Florida, to the water. Any loss of parking on Fern Street is negligible and the downtown will see a net increase of almost 500 spaces total. Please allow planning staff to see this project through.

The commission work session meeting takes place at 5:30 pm Monday at the City Hall. It is open to the public and may or may not include public comment. Come if you can, and make sure to write the commission and Mayor.

Related:

Jeff Speck Downtown WPB Walkability Study [see page 56 for Fern Street]

Ideas for Fern Street/Evernia/Datura from Baron Haussmann