“Here’s Your New Bike Lane. Oh, Did You Want It to Go Somewhere?”

“Here’s Your New Bike Lane. Oh, Did You Want It to Go Somewhere?”

Photo: Matt Roth for WSF

“…City officials across the U.S. are installing hundreds of miles of bike lanes as they respond to a cycling boom that began during the pandemic and capitalize on federal grants, including from the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure law.

But car culture and political realities—anything that makes driving or parking harder doesn’t tend to win a lot of voters — mean these routes are sometimes counterintuitive, unsafe and just plain pointless.

Kate Drabinski, a Baltimore bike commuter, said she couldn’t wait to try out the newly painted lane down North Avenue. When she did, she was underwhelmed. ‘It just sort of ends,’ she said. ‘And then there you are, on your bike, surrounded by cars.’ [the southbound on-ramp of Interstate 83]

While commuters stayed home at the start of the pandemic, bike lanes sprang up seemingly everywhere, and more people began using them. Now, as cities come back to life, the mixing of car, bike and foot traffic is proving a bit rocky…

In New York City, cyclists are furiously ringing their bells and dodging guys in suits who don’t seem to be aware they’ve stepped into two-wheeled traffic. But the cyclists don’t all signal their presence, or stop for red lights, so on some streets it has become pedestrian beware.

The U.S. has more than 18,000 miles of bike lanes, low-traffic roads good for biking and off-road paths, according to the Adventure Cycling Association, which is assembling what it calls the U.S. Bicycle Route System. New York City alone has added about 120 miles of bike lanes since 2020, according to transportation officials…

The U.S. isn’t the only place building more bike lanes. Some are head-scratchers. The central England town of Kidsgrove recently got its very first bike lane. It is 20 feet long.

‘I wasn’t sure what they were doing with the road closed for construction, and then when I saw the end result I thought—Blimey! That’s it?’ said nearby resident Bill Priddin. ‘It’s ludicrous. I have to smile every time I drive by it.’

The tiny lane links two sections of an off-road cycle path, and county officials say it offers a more direct and safer cycling route through town.

Even as cities try to do more for cyclists, there’s no denying urban areas are still dominated by drivers. ‘It’s like a commandment: ‘Thou shalt not upset drivers,’ ‘ said Jed Weeks, head of the Baltimore cyclist group Bikemore.

On the other side, pro-driver groups, including the National Motorists Association, are urging cities not to make pandemic-era pedestrian and cycling accommodations permanent—and to cool it with the bike lanes. They’ve taken to calling cycling advocates ‘Big Bike.’

‘That was a term I coined because it’s just unbelievable how these bike lanes are being constantly pushed on us,’ said Shelia Dunn, a spokeswoman for the motorists group.

Should cities build more bike lanes? Or fewer?…

‘I get roasted all the time by Twitter folks who say, ‘What about Big Car?’’ she said. ‘Yeah, true. But the whole reason we have streets is because cars are the engine of the economy.’

The various modes of locomotion leave city officials ‘stuck between two camps: the biking enthusiasts and everyone else,’ said James T. Smith Jr., a former county executive who was chief of staff to the Baltimore mayor during development of the North Avenue project and other lanes.

‘You end up with compromises,’ he said, ‘and I don’t see that as such a bad thing.’

But those tweaked routes, cyclists say, are a big reason cities end up with bike lanes to nowhere and other impediments to a smooth ride…

This summer, L.A. opened the Sixth Street Viaduct connecting the Boyle Heights neighborhood to the city’s arts district and downtown—a half-billion-dollar project celebrated for its wide, pedestrian access and bike lanes.

Only one problem: ‘Uhhh, how do we get onto this?’ said Eli Kaufman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, who biked it on opening day July 10.

To access bike lanes on the new bridge, cyclists face 200 or so feet of street riding with car traffic where there is an on-ramp.Photo: Eli Kaufman

To access the eye-catching new bridge, with its spectacular views of the city and its appealingly safe bike lanes, cyclists must first weave through lanes of traffic with scant signage for bicyclists, let alone dedicated pathways.

‘It’s actually funny, if it wasn’t so upsetting,’ said Mr. Kaufman. ‘The logic is, there is no logic.'”

— Julie Bykowicz, WSJ

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“Walton County OKs local funding for Inlet Beach pedestrian underpass.”

“Walton County OKs local funding for Inlet Beach pedestrian underpass.”

Photo: Northwest Florida Daily News
“Walton County commissioners took another step this week toward making a pedestrian underpass at U.S. Highway 98 and County Road 30-A a reality

In a unanimous Tuesday vote, commissioners authorized Chairman Bill Chapman to sign documents conveying $1.25 million in county funding for its share of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)-led project. The project has an estimated price tag of $6 million, including landscaping, sidewalk installation and other work.

Providing the county portion of the funding for the project is a prerequisite for construction to begin on the pedestrian underpass, for which design work began in 2018.

The project is being installed to improve both pedestrian and vehicular safety in the area. Currently, people living or vacationing on the south side of U.S. Highway 98 at County Road 30A in Inlet Beach must cross the busy four-lane U.S. 98 to get to shops and restaurants on the north side of the highway… Under the agreement, Walton County is responsible for lighting, landscaping and painting of the underpass, with FDOT being responsible for maintenance of the structure itself…

According to Commissioner George Anderson, in whose district part of the project is located, the local arts community has expressed interest in being involved with decoratively painting the underpass…”

— Jim Thompson, Northwest Florida Daily News
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Complete Streets: Ft Lauderdale ranked one of five cities nationwide in “Made to Move” grant program

Complete Streets: Ft Lauderdale ranked one of five cities nationwide in “Made to Move” grant program

Photo: Prnewsfoto/Degree, Forbes

“Five cities in the United States are going to make it a little easier for their residents to be healthy.

On September 18, 2019, Degree Deodorant announced the five winners in the brand’s first Made To Move grant program, a national competition that will dedicate $500,000 in funding for city projects that encourage healthy, active lifestyles…

After reviewing applications submitted from 46 communities representing 28 states, the following cities were selected to receive funding and project support: Hartford, Connecticut; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jersey City, New Jersey; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Richardson, Texas…

Fort Lauderdale

Within the past five years, ‘A Complete Streets Policy’ Plan was adopted and more than 28 new miles of bike lanes, 11 miles of new sidewalks, and 102 new or enhanced crosswalks were installed. This grant will enhance accessibility and connections to the Flagler Greenway in a designated Transportation Equity Zone with bike and micro-mobility parking, adding both recreation-based and utilitarian-based transportation opportunities. These changes will transform the infrastructure into a comfortable and inviting experience for all ages, abilities, and modes of transportation.”

— Alan Kohll, Forbes

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Walkable Cities: Pensacola:”Maritime Park development plan to utilize world-renowned consultants”

Walkable Cities: Pensacola:”Maritime Park development plan to utilize world-renowned consultants”

Photo: Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal
“Urban planning expert Jeff Speck told the Pensacola City Council on Thursday that creating and executing the right master plan for Community Maritime Park could ‘turn the corner’ on the revitalization of downtown Pensacola.

The City Council tapped Quint Studer and his company Studer Properties to develop a master plan for the remaining seven undeveloped parcels of the park. The master plan would also tie into the development of the former Emerald Coast Utilities Authority site that Studer owns, and connect that site and the park to the public water access at Bruce Beach…
Speck said the biggest challenge to developing any good plan to create a vibrant and walkable urban environment is how it conflicts with city codes that were written for a more suburban community.

‘It’s legally impossible almost everywhere in America to do that because the zoning ordinances and subdivision ordinances that most cities have are imported from suburbia,’ Speck said. ‘They’re auto-centric. They’re organized around an automobile, and they don’t let you build the kind of places we love…'”

— Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal

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“Titusville’s Hopkins Avenue to get total makeover, businesses brace for impact”

“Titusville’s Hopkins Avenue to get total makeover, businesses brace for impact”

Photo: Jessica Saggio Wochit, Florida Today
“Hopkins Avenue in Titusville has long served as a hub for the city’s small businesses and a main thoroughfare for motorists.

It’s also an aging road that’s been neglected for decades, peppered with patched potholes, without bike lanes and lined with uneven sidewalks.

‘Whoever patched this road must work for Disney, because it’s a pretty good ride coming down here,’ said Gary Hall, who is the ‘sauce boss’ at Smokin’ Oaks BBQ on Hopkins.

But that may all change in the coming months as the city moves forward with major plans to overhaul the road, repaving it from State Road 50 to where it intersects with US 1 near downtown.

The $7.4-million Hopkins Avenue Complete Streets Project will also add bike lanes, improve pedestrian and bus stop areas, add a marked center lane, upgrade traffic signals and add landscaping, among other additions…

Complete Streets projects are funded through the Florida Department of Transportation…

Once the Complete Streets project is completed, lanes may feel a bit more narrow, he said, due to the addition of the bike lane, but ‘the corridor will feel comfortable for everyone to travel (regardless of their mode of transportation).’…”

— Jessica Saggio Wochit, Florida Today
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Jacksonville: A sense of place: The human experience is vital for Downtown’s success

Jacksonville: A sense of place: The human experience is vital for Downtown’s success

Illustration: Elkus Manfredi Architects
“You can find your way to Downtown by looking for our striking skyline of tall, grand buildings, even from miles away over the St. Johns or from the interstate. But once you’re there, on the ground, about all you see are the bottoms of those tall, grand buildings and their parking lots. What people are there hustle from car to office and back to car, coming and going on those efficient one-way streets…

The current campaign to revitalize Downtown includes more grand buildings within a master plan and public-private partnerships and the politics of city subsidies and all that, but this time, the builders also need to think about the essential ingredient: people.

After all, the ‘vital’ in revitalization refers to life, having good energy, liveliness or force of personality. So revitalizing Downtown means repeopling it.

Much of that will be residents, as apartments and condos are sprouting or being planned all around Downtown, toward the goal of a critical mass of 10,000 people.

But it also must include people who come Downtown because it’s fun, interesting or comfortable, just to hang out, maybe lingering after their workday before beginning the trudge back out to the suburbs or the beach…

Everyone focused on revitalization must understand that what we are after is a Downtown that, rather than just being building-defined, is people-fueled.

‘Public places are a stage for our public lives,’ says the Project for Public Spaces, a non-profit that helps cities create and sustain such spaces to build community.

‘They are the parks where celebrations are held, where marathons end, where children learn the skills of a sport, where the seasons are marked and where cultures mix. They are the streets and sidewalks in front of homes and businesses where friends run into each other and where exchanges both social and economic take place.

‘They are the ‘front porches’ of our public institutions — city halls, libraries and post offices — where we interact with each other and with government.

‘When cities and neighborhoods have thriving public spaces, residents have a strong sense of community; conversely, when they are lacking, they may feel less connected to each other.’

Placemaking can be happenstance or a sort of human engineering that can be used for an entire community or for a piece of a city block. ‘It’s a spectrum,’ said Tony Allegretti, executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. ‘On one end, just throw a chair out, and on the other end, a multi-faceted experience cluster of retail, outdoor dining, etc. I’m more grassroots: It’s not about infrastructure at all, just something that gets the community together.’

Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision, offers a more structural definition: ‘To me, placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.’

When 140 Jacksonville leaders went on a fact-finding trip to Toronto in November, they heard Rob Spanier, a partner in an international real estate firm called LiveWorkLearnPlay, talk about creating ‘iconic and thriving’ mixed-use neighborhoods where ‘people love visiting and wish they could live that life,’ college and resort towns, for example.

Spanier’s work, some of it for Tallahassee, focuses on placemaking for entire communities, built around strategizing to attract people and engage community. One approach is to actually compete with malls through innovations like ‘interactive retail,’ pop-up shops and adventure experiences, ‘things to do, not just buy things.’

‘It’s happening everywhere,’ he said, and ‘Jacksonville is perfect.’…”

— Frank Denton,The Florida Times-Union

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