Posts by: JM Palacios

On Wednesday, the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) and the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) hosted a transit summit in Fort Lauderdale. The event, attended by several hundred transportation professionals, featured short speeches from the directors of all the South Florida transit agencies as well as some words from other transit advocates and “luminaries.”

The FPTA also took the opportunity to highlight their foray into social media, the IM4Transit campaign. Roughly akin to a Facebook “Like” or the too quickly forgotten Facebook groups, their goal is to sign up 100,000 Floridians who support transit. If you care to, sign up at IM4Transit.org or head over to Facebook and spread the like. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) also expressed their support for the IM4Transit campaign, which serves as their pilot program in social media.

Harpal Kapoor, director of Miami Dade Transit, defended himself (perhaps in response to recent criticisms) by talking up his success as a leader.

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Yesterday it was on Flamingo Rd. near Sunrise Blvd. Today another life was snuffed out on Sunrise Blvd. near I-95. Once again, the Sun-Sentinel provides an article with few details. When will the carnage end?

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The new year hasn’t seen anything new yet with traffic
safety, as a bicyclist was killed this morning on Flamingo Rd. near
Sunrise Blvd. The Sun-Sentinel has the story
with few details.

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We may soon have a ciclovía event in the Fort Lauderdale area, closing down some streets on a Sunday to fill them with people bicycling and walking. Even if you didn’t make it to the initial planning session last month, it’s not too late to get involved in making an event like this happen. The discussion continues tonight at the Broward County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting, which starts at 6:30 PM in the Broward County Government Center in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The BPAC meetings are always open to the public and happen the second Wednesday of every month, same time, same place.

A big thanks goes out to Katherine Moore for a great presentation at the September BPAC that got everyone enthused and ready to go! With your help, perhaps we can come close to what she accomplished by starting Bike Miami Days.

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Governor Crist signed HB 971 today. Though I had called before, I wrote a last minute letter to him that was clearly of no avail. I wanted to share it with you so you are aware of some of the issues this bill brings up, and the changes it will now mean. If you are one of the ones with questions about what the problem is with the mandatory bicycle lane law, please give this a read.

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Treehugger wrote a good piece on how biologist Janine Benyus wants to take her work in Biomimicry to the city. Biomimicry, if you are not familiar with the term, looks at nature in order to apply some of the ways the natural world functions to manmade products or systems. One well known example of biomimcry would be robotics, where robots are often modeled after living creatures. The concept can and has been applied to other fields as well.

Transportation, for instance, could learn from ants. Ants in a trail travel in close proximity to one another at a pretty consistent distance, and never seem to get lost. They use pheromones to communicate with each other and mark their trail. If we made our transportation systems like this, with vehicles communicating with each other and with the guideway, they might see improvements in efficiency. Some of these aspects are being researched in systems like IntelliDrive, but no word yet on whether the ants provided any input on these automobile communication systems.

Hit up the link for more info on the areas Janine Benyus wants to tackle. The article doesn’t discuss transportation so much as environmental, landscape, and building aspects, but transportation is inseparable from the city and will inevitably need addressing in any projects she participates in. Janine mentioned in the article that the question being asked in applying biomimicry to cities is, “How can you have a city perform like an ecosystem?” Chew on that thought for awhile.

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Yesterday the League of American Bicyclists released it’s ranking of Bicycle Friendly States. Florida moved up the scale to number 12 for 2010.

There was some snafu with the documentation submitted by Florida to the League last year, making Florida rank much lower in 2009 (32) than 2008. If you want to know how well we’ve improved, the accurate comparison would be with the 20th place ranking in 2008, upon which we have still improved significantly.

This year the ranking breakdowns (PDF link) by category are worth looking at. The categories include legislation, policies and programs, infrastructure, education, evaluation, and enforcement. Florida scored third place in policies and programs, but ranked lowest in education and enforcement.

I hope we are all interested in improving Florida’s rankings in these weak areas, but there is no simple solution. It will require extensive partnership and cooperation between different government and law enforcement agencies and even private organizations, advocacy groups, or individuals. The “Ride Right, Drive Right” campaign is an excellent example of such an education campaign in Florida, a partnership between a private company, an advocacy organization, and a government agency. Enforcement will need similar partnerships with local law enforcement agencies.

Perhaps we can learn from this example and build new partnerships for both education and enforcement. Let’s hear your ideas in the comments. We all can work together to make Florida a better place to cycle.

If you haven’t heard, Denver launched their B-Cycle Bicycle Sharing program last week, on Earth Day. They have about 400 bicycles at 40 stations around the city. It would be great to get something like that down this way, right?

Turns out South Florida is not far behind. This morning a selection commitee met to rank companies to implement a bicycle sharing program for Broward County. B-Cycle, a partnership between Trek Bicycles and Humana, got the top ranking. Their proposal is to provide at least 200 bicycles with 18 stations in downtowns, beaches, and transit hubs in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood Beach, and Pompano Beach areas. The system could grow to potentially 575 bicycles with 52 stations in five years. The contract still needs to be negotiated and approved, but this project is exciting for the future of bicycling in this area. B-Cycle hopes to get a system installed within six months of signing a contract, so if we keep our fingers crossed we might have a bicycle sharing program in place by the end of this year. Hit up the gallery for B-Cycle’s renderings of potential bicycle sharing at key locations.

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Lest we forget that Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach are considered one metropolitan area, here is some news for Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is developing a Bicycle Master Plan for the county and would like your input. Public Workshops are scheduled for April 14 and April 15 in multiple locations, from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM both days. You don’t need to stay the whole time, just come out for a bit to share what your needs are as a cyclist.

Locations for Wednesday the 14th include the Bryant Auditorium of the Palm Beach County Office Building in Belle Glade and the Jupiter Community Center. Locations for Thursday the 15th include the Vista Center County Building in West Palm Beach and the Boca Raton Community Center. Flyers are available in English and Spanish, and for more info you can contact Bret Baronak, the MPO Bicycle/Greenways/Pedestrian Coordinator at bbaronak at pbcgov.org or (561) 684-4170. I hope to make it to the Boca Raton meeting myself, so I look forward to seeing you there if you ride in Palm Beach County!

I didn’t get in on the discussion about bicycle lanes in Bayshore Monday night, but I discussed the same subject at the Martin County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting. A representative from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) presented a plan for Indian River Drive in Jensen Beach that did not include bicycle lanes, and the Committee got very fired up about the lack thereof. I’m not going to recount the discussion here, but I will bring up some of the same points as I try to show how they can apply to other projects.

The project in question proposed a typical section with on-street parking on both sides, wide sidewalks, and two 10′ travel lanes, with a design speed of 25 mph. The intent was to integrate bicycles into the flow of traffic, as speeds of bicycles and motor vehicles would be similar. This makes sense because bicycle lanes are not a one-size-fits-all feature, but should only be installed on the right roadways.

Let’s ask ourselves why bicycle lanes exist in the first place. Sure, they create a designated space for bicyclists to use. But why do we need that? The primary purpose of bicycle lanes has been to maintain motorist travel speeds. Bicycle lanes get the slower-moving bicycle out of the way of the automobile. They also keep bicyclists from getting startled when impatient drivers come up behind them and lean on the horn or perform other road-rage fueled criminal acts.

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Transit Miami would like to announce that one of our writers, JM Palacios, has taken on the role of Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for Florida Department of Transportation District 4. District 4 includes Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties. (FDOT is split into seven districts, and Miami-Dade County falls into District 6.)

I look forward to doing what I can to ensure that District 4 does a good job implementing bicycle, pedestrian, and transit features on state roadways. I want to see Complete Streets that further the part of the FDOT mission to enhance economic prosperity and preserve the quality of our environment and communities. Too often engineers focus more on simply moving people and goods with cars and trucks, and it takes a long time to expand that mindset. As a commuting cyclist as well as an engineer, I hope I can bring a good perspective to the table.

I should give the caveat that the opinions I express on this site do not necessarily reflect any kind of official FDOT statement or position. While that would be nice, I haven’t been able to persuade everyone else to see my point of view. :-)

If you have a bicycle or pedestrian related issue with a state road in any of the counties within FDOT District 4, contact me at john-mark.palacios [at] dot.state.fl.us or (954) 777-4318 and I’ll do what I can to help you.

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Many traffic signals today won’t turn green unless loops in the pavement or video cameras detect a car sitting at the light. I’ve noticed that this detection often fails for bicycles, however. If there is a bicycle lane, there may not be a separate detection zone or loop to pick up a bicycle in the lane. With or without a bicycle lane, pavement loops might not be sensitive enough to pick up your bicycle.

We can discuss strategies for dealing with these issues in another post, but first I want to hear from those of you who ride on the road. Is this a problem in South Florida? Maybe there’s so much traffic that there’s always a car waiting at the light beside you. We invite you to share your experiences in the comments section. Have you ever sat at a light that won’t turn green because you’re the only one there and it doesn’t recognize your bicycle? If so, what did you do? Change directions? Move to the sidewalk? Hit the ped button? Run the light? Storm City Hall waving your bicycle in the air? Please share with us, and let us know where you’ve had this problem.

I’m currently involved in a discussion with an area county engineer on the subject, so the more I hear from you the more I can use to support my case for improvements to signals.

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Now you’re probably asking, what’s the MUTCD? The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices sets the standards for striping, signage, and signalization across the country. If a traffic control feature you want is not in there, you’ll have a hard time getting it installed on your road. The US Department of Transportation just released a long awaited new version of this manual that comes with some changes that many complete streets advocates will welcome. Hit up the press release here, and if you really want to delve into it, read the actual manual at FHWA’s website.

Until now, some new pedestrian and bicycle features have been experimental and difficult to install since they weren’t in the old 2003 MUTCD. Here are some of the additions to the roadway designer’s palette in the new manual:

  • 52295531_cd985b82b7_oShared lane use markings, or “sharrows.” These are like bike lane markings in the middle of the traffic lane, for lower speed areas where bicycle lanes don’t fit. That’s one in the picture next to on-street parking.
  • “Bicycles may use full lane” sign, for use with or without sharrows. It’s a white regulatory sign, which carries more weight with police.
  • “HAWK” signals. These are hybrid signals designed for mid-block crosswalks. These will be easier to install than regular signals since they don’t require as much vehicle traffic or pedestrian traffic.

States have two years to adopt the 2009 MUTCD. It may take a few months before Florida adopts it, but projects that are being designed now (to be constructed once we adopt the new MUTCD) may start incorporating them. We hope designers will use the new pedestrian and bicycle features as soon as possible.

FDOT’s I-95 Express Lanes were recently awarded the People’s Choice Award of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Read the release on the America’s Transportation Award site. Say what you want about the project, but the numbers are in and have shown a definite increase in speed on northbound I-95 where the High Occupancy Toll lanes were installed.

It’s not all about the automobile, either. Articulated express buses should be running on these lanes in January. According to the 95 Express website, the intent is to extend the existing Broward County Transit service running on 441/SR-7 to the Golden Glades interchange to reach downtown Miami. We’ll keep you posted on this new service.

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I vacationed in Key West a while back with my wife. I loaded our bicycles on my car, and once we parked the car at our hotel we didn’t need it again until we left. It was a wonderful experience riding all over town. I wanted to share one way that they have implemented bicycle parking on their narrow streets designed for cars. It’s an excellent use of on-street parking, and very easy for any city to retrofit their parking.

Do bicyclists have to pay the meter to use these spaces?

Bicycle Parking with Meter

This was not the crowded end of Duval St., but the bicycle parking was still seeing use at this time of night.

Full Bicycle Parking

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