Barry Watkins, 12/30/2014
“We’ve known for decades that A1A is a high-crash location for bicyclists and pedestrians…” –Bob Kamm, Exec. Dir., Space Coast TPO
In my Dec. 22 blog entry I gave a short response to a Dec. 20, 2014 Florida Today article, “Brevard is Dangerous for Pedestrians and Motorcyclists” (see my response here). I think this subject is worth some more commentary and discussion so thought I would talk about it some more this entry…
In the article Bob Kamm, the executive director of the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), is quoted as saying, “We’re not looking for silver bullet-type programs or funding. It’s going to take law enforcement, education, maybe some engineering. We need to view these problems in a holistic way.”
My first question here is why not look for “silver bullet-type programs”? I happen to know of a great program that could indeed be described as a “silver bullet” for lowering traffic fatalities in our county. It’s called the SmartCode, a model land development code designed to create walkable and bikeable places and to re-shape car-dominated places into places that are pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly. Officials please contact us and let’s get together to talk about what this model code will do for your jurisdiction. It’s being used successfully in places all over the US and around the world. It was even adopted city-wide recently by the City of Miami, Florida! Click on “SmartCode for Brevard” in the menu at the top of this page for some articles we have written on this subject, beginning with “Why We Desperately Need The SmartCode!“
“…It’s going to take law enforcement, education, maybe some engineering…” Umm,… **maybe** some engineering?! I will strongly suggest here that engineering is the main problem and the main solution! Many streets throughout Brevard have some very obvious problems when it comes to pedestrian- and bicycle- friendliness. Our thru-roads by and large are made to move as many cars as possible thru town at as high of a speed as possible. Wide lanes, no street trees, large turn radii, lots of accel/decel lanes, very infrequent signalized intersections,… Much of this might be fine if the only users of the road were cars, but what about pedestrians and bicycles? Unfortunately for traffic engineers we do indeed have pedestrians and bicyclists using these roads, so we’re going to have to start redesigning them with that fact in mind. We have to slow down the cars in populated areas with traffic calming. We need narrower travel lanes, street trees, fewer turn lanes and accel/decel lanes, more frequent signalized crossings, protected bike lanes,… all at appropriate scales according to their context in the adjacent neighborhoods.
“…We need to view these problems in a holistic way…” Exactly! Now, here I completely agree! The answers to problems with pedestrian- and bike- safety become much more obvious when we do this. We need to view our streets for what they are, part of a community. Any stretch of road in our county, if it has any development within 1/2 mile of it, needs to be treated within the context of the neighborhoods that are adjacent to it. If you have suburban or higher densities of residential or commercial near a road we have to understand that there will be people who will need to walk or bike along the side of the road from time to time as well as need to cross it safely. Hmm, why is this such a big revelation that seems to escape so many of us?
Can we go on? Bob Kamm continues, “We’ve known for decades that A1A is a high-crash location for bicyclists and pedestrians. And it’s really hard to do anything about those roads. They were designed with early-1960s engineering-design standards. There are center turn lanes, and lots of driveways.” Wait, why are we saying it’s hard to do anything? If the problems are the early-1960’s design standards, center turn lanes, lots of driveways,… then why wouldn’t we just say, “Ok, we need to use better standards, reduce the number of center turn-lanes, and reduce the number of driveways?” These things can be done, and I don’t think they’re all that hard.
Let me back up for a second. Part of what makes these roads hard to improve is a perceived lack of funds. Lack of funding? Suburban highways have a terrible return on the investment. In areas with suburban populations and greater we need to convert the suburban highways into walkable smart streets – boulevards, avenues, and main streets! These designs run counter to standard suburban road design, but have been shown to work very well where implemented and have a much greater return on investment than standard suburban roads. Check out some of our articles about street design under “The Street” on this site’s menu like “Walkable Streets“. Smart streets will bring wealth and prosperity with them. Charles Marohn at StrongTowns.org has a lot to say about this.
I know, I sound like I’m picking on Bob Kamm for most of this article. I promise, I’m not. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him or conversing directly with him. He may very well know all the things I’m talking about and have good answers for the things he is saying to Florida Today. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. What I’m trying to say is that I think we need to move the conversation from saying, “we have big problems that are hard to fix,” to, “here’s what we need to do to fix them.” I think together we residents and officials can find good answers, and we need to find them soon! More studies are fine, but I’m pretty sure most of the answers can be found pretty quickly and easily with a little research. The kind of improvements that Walkable Brevard has been championing are perfectly practical and address all of the important issues. Many communities all over the US and around the world have implemented many of these solutions successfully and are many years ahead of us. The results are positive and measurable, and the small investments required are well within our reach.