Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Raphael Clemente: Okeechobee Blvd.'s wide lanes are "begging you to go 50"

Tony Doris at the Post has this news which also appears on the front page of today's paper (11/3) above the fold. Jesse Bailey at Walkable West Palm, Jeff Speck, and many others will not be happy to learn that narrowing of the lanes on Okeechobee Blvd ARE NOT being considered by FDOT which, in my opinion, negates many of the changes being proposed in the first place.

Following Jeff Speck's presentation before the West Palm Beach city commission on walkability/bikeability and the inherent danger of 12' lanes in cities I met briefly with Mr. Speck and thanked him for all the work he had done. Also spoke with Raphael Clemente who was still recovering from his bicycle crash when he was hit by a car on Okeechobee Blvd as you'll read about in the excerpt from Tony Doris below.

The interesting thing is FDOT sees the obvious need to narrow lanes on a bridge for safety but doesn't see the same advantages on one of West Palm Beach's main arterial roads. So how do pedestrians and bicyclists benefit from 12' lanes on Okeechobee Blvd.? Lowering the speed limit from 40 to 35 is an improvement but doesn't solve the problem. Wide lanes encourage higher speeds; lowering the speed limit by 5 mph seems like FDOT is pandering to the 'Complete Streets' movement. The underlying message: the car is still "king".

Here is the excerpt from Raphael Clemente in the Post:   
     Clemente, with his 7-year-old daughter Kaia on the back of his bicycle, was hit by a car in 2013, while heading to a performance of “Mary Poppins” at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. A car making an illegal U-turn struck them. She broke her left arm and he needed knee surgery.
     Clemente points to a federal chart showing that pedestrians have an 85 percent chance of dying if a car hits them going 40 mph, 45 percent at 30 mph but just 5 percent at 20 mph.
     “Look at the difference between speeds and likelihood of fatality,” he says. “This does not account for what is termed ‘incapacitating’ injury, which skyrockets as speeds go up.”
     Keeping lanes almost as wide as on an interstate highway only encourages speeding, Clemente adds. That’s a well-studied phenomenon and it’s why there’s a move on nationally to narrow lanes, add shade trees and create a sense of scale in road design, he says. When the lanes are wide and clear, he says, “it’s begging you to go 50.” [emphasis added]
And the work continues. . .