Friday, December 28, 2012

Before and After Cycle Tracks

As the nation's most dangerous metro area for bicyclists and pedestrians, Central Florida's local governments--and the FDOT--should fully explore and implement, where appropriate, innovative infrastructure improvements.  Grid Chicago posted the following video featuring the City's new Dearborn Avenue Cycle Track, showing "before and after" conditions.  The difference--in the heart of Chicago's loop--speaks for itself....

Absent dedicated traffic signals for bicyclists, cycle tracks can exacerbate unsafe conditions in dense urban areas.  Municipalities have learned from these types of mistakes and are installing separate signals for bicyclists and motor vehicles.  In addition, green paint, where the cycle track crosses an intersection, is intended to make motorists more aware of bicyclists and to reduce motorist encroachment.  In any event, even cyclists who prefer to ride in motorist traffic concede that cycle tracks are generally safe when conflicting motorist movements are absent.

The second video posted by Grid Chicago, aside from extolling the economic benefits of cycling infrastructure, shows the City's dedicated bicycle signals:

I'll look forward to visiting Chicago and trying it out.

UPDATE Jan. 7 -- A consortium of more than a dozen state departments of transportation posted a blog entry about cycling traffic signals at THIS LINK.  

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has released guidelines for cycle track traffic signals:

(Click to enlarge)

Exercise Reduces Risk of Alzheimers

Click HERE for an interesting news item from NBC linking increased exercise with reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't Decimate the LPA

Orange County Mayor Jacobs' Development Streamlining Task Force released its Final Report.  It contains good ideas, including converting the County's outdated zoning code into a hybrid form-based code, allowing online filing of development applications, making traffic capacity reservations available online, appointing a project manager for planned development applications, and relaxing onerous parking requirements. 

It also contains a very bad idea--eliminating the County Land Planning Agency's Comprehensive Plan adoption hearing.  The Land Planning Agency consists of citizen volunteers who make recommendations to the County Commission.

During the three and one-half years that I served, a number of County Commissioners told me how much they rely on the LPA's analysis and recommendations.  Because proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments often change between transmittal and final adoption--and because changes to the Comprehensive Plan warrant careful consideration--eliminating half of the LPA's job would not serve the public interest.

As I told the Orlando Sentinel, "Streamlining should not come at the expense of citizen oversight."  Here's reporter Dave Damron's article on the Task Force recommendations:

(Click to enlarge)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

GOP Can Go Urban to Win

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the GOP's intellectual leaders, opined that the sharp disparity between Republican and Democratic support in urban areas was a principal reason why President Obama won a second term.  A suburban strategy worked for the GOP during the Reagan era in the 1980's, but floundered beginning in 1992.  Looking back a quarter century from the end of President Obama's second term in 2016, Democrats will have controlled the White House for 16 years, compared to 8 years for Republicans.  The tide shifted most strongly a half a decade ago, when young people started moving back into urban environments, turning their backs on suburban tract living.  The fact that Democratic support is getting younger and Republican support is getting older is not a welcome trend to those concerned about the GOP's long-term future.   

It's not a matter of "communicating better."  The communications were quite clear.  The GOP Platform embraced the nutty notion of opposing a non-existent United Nations conspiracy with local officials to implement sustainability called "Agenda 21."  The GOP, and Rep. Ryan's own budget, called for severely cutting funding for Amtrak, even though its subsidies are only 15% compared to more than 50% for highway projects.  High speed rail was mostly jettisoned due to opposition from GOP Governors in Ohio, Wisconsin, and here in Florida and by GOP members of Congress, ensuring that our intercity transportation infrastructure will remain far behind Europe and many developing countries.  (Private industry would have operated the Florida system and borne any cost overruns--guaranteed by a surety bond.)  An America where kids can't walk to school is an America that has lost part of its heritage.  Yet Republican members of Congress tried to gut funding for bicycling and pedestrian safety, including the popular Safe Routes to School program, which funds sidewalk construction to protect children. 

If the GOP wants to win national elections, it should adopt pro-urban policies consistent with Republican ideals--lean, efficient government, with responsibilities and funding mechanisms shifted from the Federal to the local level.   Republican Rep. Daniel Webster, one of our most decent local elected officials, realizes that small town values resonate inherently with the GOP, as seen in this political ad, featuring the safe, walkable streets of downtown Winter Garden:


As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Webster has an opportunity to take over the mantle of departing Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette and outgoing Republican Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who recognize the reality that communities designed for walking and bicycling are essential elements of efficient and cost-effective transportation networks.  Funding sprawl is expensive and inefficient.  Moreover, the GOP cannot maintain its ascendancy in small towns when highways plow them over, devastating central business districts.  The GOP cannot credibly talk about enabling people to rise out of poverty while, at the same time, cutting transit funding, a vital link for those living under the poverty line to get to work.  Development patterns making it impossible for kids to walk or bike to school safely undermine the conservative value of self-reliance.  The bipartisan Complete Streets movement, dedicated to making our thoroughfares safer, is one that Republicans should more fully embrace as part of a wider urban strategy.   

You can find more thoughtful analysis of the urban political divide HERE, HERE, and HERE.

11/26/12 NOTE: Locally, the Republican Mayors of Orange County, Florida and Winter Park, Florida, both of whom are fiscal conservatives, have publicly supported Complete Streets.   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter Park Fire Department Respects Narrow Streets

Phelps Avenue, Winter Park, FL, is narrower than the typical 24 foot or wider roads found in newer suburbia.    Narrower roads slow traffic and are safer for kids, although the curb radius shown in the photo above is somewhat excessive and induces higher speed turns than necessary.    
Fire departments around the country often oppose construction of narrow streets out of concern such streets could delay a life saving response.  Unfortunately, wide streets make vehicular travel faster and more dangerous for kids playing, bicyclists, and other motorists.  I have heard more than one planner lament that fire departments do not purchase smaller and more maneuverable trucks.

Winter Park, Florida has many beautiful, tree canopy-covered narrow streets, many paved with bricks generations ago.  The Winter Park Fire Department recently purchased a new fire truck to better maneuver those narrow streets.   The story below, summarizing a City Commission meeting, appears in the Winter Park-Maitland Observer at this LINK:

  More than a year ago, the department initiated discussions that led to a change in the type of aerial apparatus it would purchase to replace the existing unit. Seeing an opportunity to improve efficiency and mobility, the modern design of this unit will offer the department the following efficiencies and added benefits:
• Increased maneuverability through traffic,
• Quicker access to some of the city’s narrow streets and turns which are more difficult to negotiate,
• Additional 300-cubic-feet of storage space
o The use of a long trailer design where one firefighter sits in the rear allows for the consolidation of existing tools and equipment onto one unit
This new firefighting unit combines the technology of today with the proven maneuverability of tiller-driven trucks. The new tractor-drawn aerial truck represents the return of an apparatus style that is seeing resurgence around the country. Winter Park joins other Florida cities such as Tampa, Jacksonville and Clearwater, which have recently returned these maneuverable units to their fire apparatus fleet.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Paint Bike Lanes Green

One of the green bike lane configurations approved by FDOT for  State-maintained thoroughfares.

Various studies conclude that bike lanes painted green are safer than conventional bike lanes.  The Florida Department of Transportation determined that more motorists signalized their intention to turn and a significantly higher percentage of motorists yielded to cyclists after painting a bike lane green.  In another study, painting a bike lane green reduced motorist encroachment on the bike lane by 40%.   The Portland Bike Lane study supports coloring bike lanes and cites additional studies from around the world.  Green paint (or in some cities, blue paint) undoubtedly makes motorists more aware of bike lanes.   

By visually narrowing the drive area, motorists will slow-down somewhat, improving safety for everyone.  Motorist speeds at Prospect Park, where New York City installed a protected green bike lane, declined by about 25%.  Green buffered bike lanes--also known as "cycle tracks"--will significantly increase bicyclist use.  One study concluded that the green buffered lane increased cycling 52 percent overall, 250 percent overall on weekends, 100% overall among women, and 650% among women on weekends.  Cyclists obviously feel safer with this type of infrastructure, and one study showed cycle tracks as the safest available biking infrastructure in an urban setting.  New York City reports cycling increased more than 50% after installation of a protected bike lane, while  car crashes decreased by more than a third.  Yet another study found a strong correlation between adding this type of infrastructure and economic development--in fact a 49% increase in retail sales on one street.  

Prospect Park Buffered Green Bike Lane ( -- inspiration for Central Florida.

The Florida Department of Transportation has approved of green bike lanes on State Highways, but only where the lanes conflict with turning motorist traffic.  Take a look at Chapter of FDOT's Plans Preparation Manual.  It's a start. 

In June 2011, the American Journal of Public Health published a study whose authors conclude, "To prevent crashes at intersections, we recommend installation of 'bike boxes' and markings that indicate the path of bicycle lanes across intersections."  You can view the abstract HERE.      

Finally, here is a LINK to the Federal Highway Administration's interim approval of green bike lanes.

In Winter Park, green bike lanes should be considered for next to Brookshire Elementary School (under reconstruction), Fairbanks Avenue (an FDOT thoroughfare set for reconstruction with a new sewer system),  and where cross streets intersect the Lakemont Avenue bike lanes.

Green paint costs pennies per linear foot.  It's well worth the lives it could save.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Government Subsidies for Highways Far Exceed Amtrak's

The Atlantic Cities is running an interesting piece by Eric Jaffe about Amtrak's record-setting ridership.  Notably, ticket purchases cover 85% of Amtrak's costs overall, and the northeast corridor turns a profit.  The 15% subsidy given to Amtrak--which primarily sustains long-distance interstate travel--pales in comparison to the 54% subsidy the Federal Government gives for highway spending in excess of gas tax receipts.   

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Federal Housing Administration Raises Cap on Commercial Space

The Congress for the New Urbanism ("CNU") won a battle with the federal government to loosen a pernicious regulation restricting commercial space in mixed-use residential buildings.  The new regulation, which increases the cap on commercial space from 25% to 35%, will enable U.S.-government chartered Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac to purchase mortgage debt on the secondary market for a larger variety of mixed-use buildings.  The goal is to make primary lending for such development more attractive.  Here is a LINK to the CNU write-up and related press coverage. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rise in Childhood Obesity Concerns U.S. Military

Reuters is running a story that concern is growing within the United States military about the impact of childhood obesity on future recruitment.  Here's the LINK

Friday, September 21, 2012

Life Expectancy Declining in U.S.

The New York Times today published a story at this LINK about declining life expectancy in the United States over the last decade, particularly among lesser educated segments of the population.  Remarkably, more than 40 countries have achieved a longer life expectancy than those of us living in the United States.  Our sedentary lifestyles resulting from suburban development patterns are a chief cause of this trend, along with the prolific availability of high-fat, cheap fast food.  Very concerning. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Complete Streets Spreading in South Florida

Here's a LINK to a recent article about the spread of "complete streets," that is, streets designed for all modes of travel, in South Florida. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chicago's Ambitious Pedestrian Plan

The Chicago Department of Transportation has released an extensive plan with an ambitious goal of eliminating pedestrian fatalities within a decade.  Here's a LINK to the Plan.

Page on Road Diets from the Chicago Pedestrian Plan

I took this photo of a pedestrian plaza outside the Wrigley building.  Chicago is one of my favorite walking cities. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A More Sophisticated "Level of Service" Needed

The Florida legislature repealed Florida Statutes § 163.3180(10), which required the Florida Department of Transportation to adopt rules for Levels of Service on highways and thoroughfares maintained by the FDOT.  FDOT is in the process of repealing the regulations that implemented the repealed statute.

In Florida, the concept of Level of Service grades thoroughfares on a scale of "A" though "F," based on standards set by the Transportation Research Board Highway Capacity Manual and the FDOT's Quality/Level of Service Handbook.  Level of Service "A" generally means free-flowing motorist traffic while "F" means gridlock.  The concept seemed like a good idea in 1992, when the Florida adopted the statute.  However, along with other factors, including transportation concurrency, the concept of Levels of Service resulted in ever-widening thoroughfares that have become incredibly expensive to maintain.  In fact, Levels of Service became a measure impossible to attain in many instances, based on available financial resources. Interstate 4 is an "F," while the cost of raising its grade to a "D," much less an "E," as required by the Florida Administrative Code, reaches into the billions. 

Walking and biking have become increasingly unpleasant and hazardous, with hundreds of Floridians (including dozens of children) killed each year.  The wider thoroughfares ironically made driving more stressful and generated increased traffic.  A simple crossing of the roadway became hazardous, if not in a car.

The goal of enabling traffic to pass through an area quickly--think Pine Hills--facilitated economic disinvestement.  Access to properties at corners became more difficult, resulting in gas stations and other corner businesses closing and creating highway slums. 

While Florida remains on a deregulation streak at the State level, I am not aware of any local government with plans to discard the concept of Level of Service.  A more appropriate measure of Level of Service would incorporate all modes of transportation--motorist, walking, and biking--with differing weight to each mode depending on the context of surrounding development.  In a compact urban area--think downtown--walking and biking would have greater weight than on a suburban or rural highway.  The existing model, however, gives no weight whatsoever to walking, biking, or the context of surrounding development. 

As FDOT repeals these outdated regulations, I can only think, "Good riddance."   

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Better Strategy Than Widening Roads

Orange County and FDOT's knee-jerk reaction to traffic congestion is to add lanes.  We know the consequences--wider, faster thoroughfares are more deadly, helping us earn the distinction as the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians and bicyclists in the United States.

Orange County and its municipalities should look to Carmel, Indiana as a model.

Money magazine ranked Carmel, an affluent suburb of Indianapolis, the number 1 small city in America.  An article in the Indianapolis Star reports:

Notice the lack of traffic signals — there are only 38 in a city with about 400 miles of roads. Notice the lack of 4-way stops. Many have been replaced with roundabouts.  .... 
A few years ago, a five-mile trip down Keystone Avenue from 146th to 96th Street took 15-20 minutes and included long stops at several traffic lights — think SUV’s, mini-vans and Toyota’s mixed in with semi’s. It was a mess.  Today, thanks to new roundabout interchanges, there are no lights. And the trip takes about 6 minutes.
Over the past 15 years, Carmel aggressively replaced stop lights with free-flowing roundabouts and roundabout interchanges. The city has 57 roundabouts, more than any city its size in America. And there are 34 more planned in the near future.  .... There has also been aggression in the way the city has attacked traffic congestion, insisting on bike lanes, connecting pedestrian paths and even forcing developers to build roundabouts if they intend to create an intersection that could one day be a problem. 
The result of all this has been an influx of new residents, moving here from all parts of the country, the world....  
 Orange County's resistance to roundabouts represents an old way of thinking.  Windermere is a  wonderful local example of how roundabouts virtually eliminated traffic congestion--despite 20,000 vehicles passing through each day--while keeping the charm of two lane roads.  Carmel, Indiana shows what local governments can and should do on a larger scale.     

Windermere roundabout.  (Photo credit: Max Geller)  Who'd want to sit here if this was a conventional intersection?
As another person put it, roundabouts "vaporize" traffic congestion

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Opposing Rail is Politically Hazardous

In Central Florida's most interesting Congressional race this primary season, Rep. Sandy Adams' attacked Rep. John Mica for "wasting money on things like SunRail," which she called a "boondoggle" in incessant television advertising.  Last night, the voters rejected Adams' message and re-elected Mica by a wide margin:
U.S. House District 7 (Rep. Primary)
147 of 147 precincts reporting
John Mica 61.2% 32,073
Sandra Sandy Adams 38.8% 20,370

Matthew Falconer ran for Orange County Mayor in 2010, stating the race was a "referendum" on SunRail.  Matt came in last place in a four-candidate primary, his anti-SunRail stance winning him just 15% of the vote against three pro-SunRail candidates.

In the spring of 2011, soon after Governor Rick Scott rejected Federal high speed rail funds and a proposed agreement under which the State would have no financial obligation for operating costs, his popularity plummeted to record lows.  Another link HERE.  More than a year later, our Governor remains fighting in recovery mode. 

When Florida Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad toured Central Florida communities before approving of SunRail, large pro-rail crowds met him at the Maitland and Orange County meetings I attended. The opposition was vocal but insignificant.  Having learned from his High Speed Rail experience, Governor Scott realized that the political cost of killing SunRail would far exceed the political cost of disappointing his anti-transit Tea Party base.   

Other factors certainly played a role in each instance described above.  However, I-4 is too crowded, and people spend too much time away from their families commuting to and from work or driving across the State.  The cost of building roads far exceeds the cost of building the same capacity in rail, and rail, if done correctly like Amtrak's Acela route, can even capture huge market share and turn a profit.  If I were a political consultant, and my client told me he or she wanted to run against rail in Florida, I would suggest caution.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Physically Fit Kids Perform Better at School

Another study is out, not yet peer reviewed, but confirming other studies that physically fit children generally perform better at school.  Here's a LINK to the story at WebMD. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kids Who Walk and Bike to School "Least Likely to be Obsese"

According to a study of 1,700 Vermont teenagers, published in the journal Pediatrics, 29 percent were overweight or obese.  However, "As for walking or biking to school, Drake and his colleagues found those who commuted more than three days per week were least likely to be obese."  In terms of numbers, "Those who walked or biked to school four to five times per week were 33 percent less likely to have weight problems."   (You can find an abstract at this LINK  and a July 16 news report at this LINK). 

This is credible evidence that our prevailing development patterns--subdivisions on highways which make walking and biking to school unsafe and undesirable--are contributing significantly to what the American Academy of Pediatrics terms an "epidemic" of childhood obesity. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

City of Maitland Approves Form-Based Code for Downtown

On May 14, the City of Maitland, Florida approved a form-based code, creating a Downtown Maitland Zoning District for the area straddling U.S. 17-92.  Councilman Phil Bonus brought the motion and received the Council's unanimous approval.  You can see the pertinent ordinances as well as a draft Downtown Development Standards Manual at this LINK.  The Manual should help to improve the area's aesthetics.  The predictability resulting from the new Code should, over time, encourage badly-needed economic redevelopment.  Here's an image from the Manual:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wildwood Road to Link Palm Parkway to I-Drive

Orange County posted the following video about the groundbreaking of Wildwood Road.  The new highway will link International Drive to the Palm Parkway, giving Dr. Phillips residents another route to the Premium Outlet Mall.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

80% of Republicans Want to Maintain or Increase Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding

80% of Republicans in a recent national poll expressed that pedestrian and bicycle funding should increase or remain at current levels.  Republican support is commensurate with support among the general population.  Here's a LINK to a summary and a LINK to more comprehensive poll results.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Leon Krier: New Urbanism in its Purest Form

Leon Krier at the Congress for the New Urbanism national conference in West Palm Beach.
Leon Krier belongs in the pantheon of heavyweights who gave the New Urbanism its intellectual underpinnings.  The Luxembourg-native, who designed the Prince Charles' Village of Poundbury, gave a brilliant keynote address last weekend in West Palm Beach at the national conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism ("CNU"). 

The CNU is a non-partisan, big-tent organization, whose members include many who espouse urbanism in its most dense, intense form--think Manhattan.  Then there's Leon Krier.  He urged members to advocate development at true human-scale.  In Krier's view, buildings should never exceed three stories.  "Palaces are two stories," he pointed out.  He characterized skyscrapers as "vertical sprawl."  He compared new skyscrapers to when "you lose your teeth and you go to the dentist and he gives you an elephant's tooth." 

He urged architects in the audience to design buildings in scale and in accordance with their typology.  An apartment complex should never take on the architectural characteristics of an oversize cottage.  Nor should buildings overwhelm an adjacent, historic church.

He said it would have taken 160 airplanes to destroy the 10 million square feet of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, if dispersed as three story buildings. 

He pondered, "What will our cities look like in 2,000 years?  In 3,000 years?" He said that, after humans have depleted the earth's oil stock, skyscrapers, which depend on elevators propelled by fossil fuels, are not viable "unless you have a donkey or a slave on top." 

I appreciate urbanism in all its manifestations, including Manhattan.  But I must concede a bias for cities with strict height limits, including Paris and Washington, D.C., and for lower-rise business districts, including the well-done CityPlace, across from the West Palm Beach Convention Center (which Krier called "a step in the right direction"), as well as Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, whose old buildings house a vibrant night-life.

Krier urged a return to classical architecture, which he described as an "almost scientific system for dealing with the environment." "Classicism is about putting the right shapes and the right materials in the right proportions." Classical architecture's antithesis, concrete-built modernism, is "beyond the human scale. It is not truthful. It is not authentic." 

Urbanism doesn't require classical architecture--see, for example, South Beach in Miami.  The New Urban SmartCode does not mandate any particular architectural style.  However, it's no accident we once called New Urbanist communities "neo-traditional," and that their architecture often displays classical or vernacular elements.  Krier's influence on those communities' planners is undeniable.  Krier represents the New Urbanism in its purest form.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

FDOT and Planning Council Release Safe Routes to School Video

The Florida Department of Transportation and the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council released a powerful new video called Protect the Journey, advocating "Safe Routes to Schools."  The video is intended for policy makers and concerned parents.  Kudos to Tara McCue at the Planning Council for getting the video produced.  You can view below:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Florida Greenbook to Add Chapter on Traditional Neighborhood Development

UPDATE: MAY 15, 2012 - The new "Traditional Neighborhood Development" Florida GreenBook chapter went into effect yesterday, May 14.  


The March 9, 2012 edition of the Florida Administrative Weekly reports that Florida's Secretary of Transportation, Ananth Prasad, has approved of revisions to the Florida Greenbook, also known as the Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways.  The Florida Greenbook governs thoroughfare design off the State highway system, meaning thoroughfares maintained by local governments.  According to the published summary, "The amendments include rewrites of the chapters addressing pedestrian and bicycle facilities, work zone safety, and bridges and other structures.  Additional, two new chapters are being added to address Signing and and Marking, and Traditional Neighborhood Developments." 

The fact the chapter is now going forward in the rule-making process is a very positive step.  The new chapter will enable local governments to approve of pedestrian-friendly street designs that will lower government expenditures and improve motorist, pedestrian, and bicyclist safety. 

Here is a LINK to the TND Chapter and a LINK to the accompanying TND Handbook.

Here is a PowerPoint, a little dated but informative, about the TND Chapter:

 Florida Green Book Traditional Neighborhood Development Florida Green Book

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lake Whitney Elementary School Parents Overwhelmingly Support a Roundabout

Conceptual roundabout for Roberson Road and Windermere Road.  Credit: WALC Institute and TDC Design Studio
UPDATED MARCH 13 --  At a Community Meeting last night, Lake Whitney Elementary School parents and nearby neighbors overwhelmingly supported a proposal for a roundabout at the intersection of Roberson and Windermere Roads instead of Orange County's current plans to add lanes on Roberson.  One community leader estimated that about one hundred residents voted for the roundabout proposal in Commissioner Boyd's informal poll.  I didn't count the number of "yes" votes, but can confirm that support was overwhelming and that only two residents voted in opposition.    

Jurgen Duncan, the Canin Associates transportation designer who designed the Windermere roundabouts, explained that single-lane roundabouts can accommodate up to 25,000 vehicles a day.  He said that the County plans only address east and westbound traffic.  He said a roundabout would alleviate north and southbound motorist congestion as well.  He presented the following conceptual drawing:

I'm told that two transportation engineers who looked at the intersection concluded that a roundabout would work.  Kelly Morphy, a Lake Whitney Elementary School Mom and leader of the community effort, gave a wonderful presentation, expressing that the intersection should be a "people place," given the proximity to George Bailey Park, the elementary school, and 3,000 residents within one mile. 

I urged those attending the meeting to get out of the cars and walk around one of the roundabouts in the Town of Windermere on foot.  I said they would find that roundabouts slow traffic so that pedestrians and motorists can make eye contact.  Motorists will slow to a stop and motion pedestrians across.  I said this civility happens virtually everyday in the Town of Windermere.  (Roundabouts not only saved Windermere taxpayers millions in road widening costs, but also the Town's charming character).   Theresa Myers, a resident of the Town, said that she and her children walk and bike the roundabout by Windermere Elementary School, including during rush hour, and that she finds it safe.  Other residents expressed similar experiences. 

I said that the Federal Highway Administration now accepts roundabouts as a "proven safety countermeasure."  I pointed out that the Windermere roundabouts ended mile-long traffic back-ups.  I said, "We know from our common experience that they work." 

Jurgen explained that modern roundabouts have very precise angles of deflection to slow traffic, normally to between 15-20 mph.  County officials pointed to "roundabouts" in Avalon (really a large traffic circle) and near Lake Reams in Horizon West.  Tory Parish disagreed with the latter characterization, calling the Horizon West rotary "a high speed sling-shot." 

Residents expressed concern with the type of development the current road widening proposal would encourage.  Kelly suggested that a roundabout would encourage more desirable development. 

Residents also expressed a willingness to delay relief from congestion at the intersection in order to "get it done right."

Jurgen said a roundabout would cost between $350,000 - $450,000.  Jurgen's plan, as currently laid-out, would require the County to acquire about 500 square feet at a corner, whereas the County's current plans require no right-of-way acquisition.  (The County's current plans would cost about $495,000, including over $100,000 for design work already done).  Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoeffer indicated that the City could contribute funds budgeted for intersection improvements.  Ocoee Mayor Scott Vandergrift said that impact fees from the Belmere development, not yet spent, were another possible source of funding. 

Here's my letter published in last week's Orlando Sentinel:
County should address its roadways' shortcomings
Thanks to Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab for shedding light on West Orange County's transportation-planning shortcomings ("Our suburbs shouldn't settle for risky roads," Sunday).

We shouldn't require children to walk across six lanes of highway to school, especially in Horizon West, where the county's own land-use plan mandates a "pedestrian-oriented" environment.

The county is planning yet another highway for Horizon West's Town Center, which will make residents drive, instead of walk across the street to shopping and dining.

Roundabouts, like Windermere's, cut injuries 70 percent and fatalities 95 percent, compared to intersections with traffic lights. Roundabouts move traffic so efficiently that they eliminate the need for road widenings that cost taxpayers millions.

Lake Whitney Elementary School parents are championing a roundabout for Roberson Road. Yet the county rolls out disco-era road-widening "improvements," which increase danger to kids on foot.

I support the efforts of citizens who are urging a course correction.

Rick Geller District 1 Planning and Zoning commissioner

Here's a LINK to Ms. Kassab's strong column, accompanied by video footage from C.R. 535, site of a six-lane highway school crossing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Orange County on Sidewalk Building Push

The Orange County Commission approved of fifty sidewalk building projects proposed by Mayor Jacobs' transportation planning staff last August, many presently under construction.  The County's press release notes that the sidewalk projects, as well as various roadway and traffic calming projects, "will improve safety at some of Orange County’s most dangerous streets and intersections, which is particularly noteworthy in light of Orlando’s unflattering status as the most dangerous place in the United States for pedestrians, according to a recent survey published by Transportation for America."  Here's a LINK to a list of the sidewalk and other roadway projects. 
Building a new sidewalk in Gotha near the Post Office.
Kids riding their bikes to school on the same street.  The sidewalk, when completed, will make their ride safer.  The  road, too wide for a residential street, induces speeding by motorists. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Street Design and Your Business, School, and Neighborhood--Public Workshops Tuesday, Feb. 28

I don't normally publish press releases, but this one is inviting West Orange County residents to something very informative and worthwhile....


National expert to share best practices in street designs that support economic development, safe access to schools, and neighborhood health

(Winter Garden, Fla.) – The public is invited to a series of free workshops that will address how residents and community leaders in West Orange can leverage streets and transportation investments to create places that are more supportive of economic development, active living, neighborhood health and safe access to schools.

Dan Burden, executive director of the national non-profit Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, will share how communities throughout the country and Central Florida are approaching transportation projects as a means to add value to land and improve quality of life for residents and visitors, while moving traffic smoothly and efficiently.

The workshops will explain how traffic-calming measures, road “diets,” intersections, trails, bike lanes, sidewalks and other street design elements affect commercial districts, school areas and residential neighborhoods. Two of the workshops will conclude with optional “walking audits,” during which participants assess nearby streets to identify firsthand some of the barriers to safe, productive streets, and to discuss ways to overcome those barriers. Members of the public are invited to attend one or all of the workshops, which are scheduled as follows:

·         Street Design & Your Business
8:30 to 9:15 a.m. (with optional walking audit until 9:45 a.m.), Tuesday, Feb. 28
City of Winter Garden City Hall, 300 W. Plant Street, Winter Garden, FL

·         Street Design & Your School
2:15 to 3:00 p.m. (with optional walking audit until 3:30 p.m.), Tuesday, Feb. 28
Lake Whitney Elementary School, 1351 Windermere Road, Winter Garden, FL

·         Street Design & Your Neighborhood
6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28
People of Faith Worship Center, 220 Windermere Road (co-located with Children’s Lighthouse, near Roper YMCA and Southwest Aquatics)

The events are free and open to all members of the public, including business operators, homeowners, students and parents, school officials, elected leaders, healthcare providers, municipal staff, consultants, emergency responders, seniors’ representatives, property owners, parks and recreation providers, and more.

“This area is full of opportunities,” Burden said. “We see some places doing it very well, such as downtown Winter Garden and other locations where streets have brought value and quality of life. But we also see places with incredible challenges to overcome. The good news is that there are many examples of how to overcome those challenges, and that’s what I look forward to sharing with folks during the workshops.”

The workshops are supported by the City of Winter Garden, Safe Streets West Orange and the WALC Institute. For more information, email

About Dan Burden
Dan Burden, executive director of the WALC Institute, has worked with more than 3,500 communities throughout the world to help them get “back on their feet.” In 2001, he was named by TIME magazine as “one of the six most important civic innovators in the world.”  In 2009, a user’s poll by Planetizen named Dan as one of the Top 100 Urban Thinkers of all time.  His efforts also earned the first-ever lifetime-achievement awards issued by the New Partners for Smart Growth and the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Burden blogs about transportation issues for AARP. His work has been covered by regional and national news organizations, including the Associated Press, NBC Dateline, The Discovery Channel, National Public Radio and more. He served as the principal writer for the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning and Design Curriculum and also served as a main instructor for the National Highway Institute’s course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Design.
About the WALC Institute
The WALC Institute is an educational, non-profit organization working to create healthy, connected communities that support active living and that advance opportunities for all people through walkable streets, livable cities and better built environments. The Institute is based in Port Townsend, Wash., and assists communities throughout North America and the world. For more information, visit, email or call (360) 385-3421

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mayor Jacobs' Vision: "Complete Streets and Place-making"

Mayor Teresa Jacobs articulated a vision for Orange County's future of "complete streets and place-making."  At the Orange County Redevelopment Conference on January 20, she said, "I am working closely with County staff on place-making initiatives that bring mixed use, infill development, sustainability, community revitalization, and other redevelopment concepts to life."  She added, "At the heart of redevelopment is economic development and pride of place that make people want to stay in their community."

The Conference's keynote speakers--Galina Tachieva and Hazel Borys--shared many innovative ideas.   

Galina, director of town planning for the Miami firm, DPZ, is author of the Sprawl Repair Manual.  She said, "We love our downtowns, but a lot of people work in the suburbs so it makes sense to re-balance them."  She spoke of the need for zoning reform. 

Galina advised that slowing traffic and allowing on-street parking are essential elements for place-making.  (This is obvious.  People will sit at an outdoor cafe on Park Avenue, but not on S.R. 17-92).  In Galina's words, "Fast traffic kills real estate."  She urged Orange County to allow the full spectrum of thoroughfares once prevalent in urban areas.  For example, she showed graphics of an arterial or collector highway transforming into a pedestrian-friendly multi-way boulevard.  Such a boulevard separates thorough traffic from slower local traffic and on-street parking. (The County should configure New Independence Parkway, in the Horizon West Town Center, as a multi-way boulevard or avenue with on-street parking). 

Galina showed how a developer could retrofit a dying shopping mall into a desirable urban environment: 

Suburban Mall Retrofit (Galina Tachieva)
She showed precedent for her proposal--Mashpee Commons on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Here are the images:

Mashpee Commons Today (Galina Tachieva)
Galina said one of Orange County's biggest challenges is the out-migration of young people.  She opined, "The young generation won't stay because of Disney."  Another presentation, by economist Gregg Logan of RCLCO, demonstrated that young people want more urban experiences. 

Hazel Borys, principal and managing director of the firm Placemakers, worked with Canin Associates in developing a form-based code to improve and redevelop Fairbanks and S.R. 17-92 in Winter Park.  (Today I suggested to Mayor Bradley that the City "pull it off the shelf.")

Borys asked the audience of hundrds how many would allow their 7 year olds, if they had one, to walk alone down the street.  Only 20% of the audience raised their hands, which doesn't say much for the safety of thoroughfares we've created.  She said the character of streets must change as they enter into urban areas.  From a governmental viewpoint, she said that a mixed-use mid-rise development will generate 25 times more tax revenue than a suburban Wal-Mart on a per acre basis.  She also linked higher WalkScores to higher home values.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Video of Windermere, Winter Garden in "Walkability" Videos

Martin County, Florida released the video below, featuring walkability expert Dan Burden, which includes nice video of Downtown Winter Garden and Downtown Windermere.  Here it is:

Walkable 101: The Basics from Martin County CRA on Vimeo.

Here's the follow-up on Road Diets:

Walkable 101: Road Diets from Martin County CRA on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Orange County Sends Message to Development Community: We Want Infill

Orange County is hosting a conference on infill and redevelopment on Friday, Jan. 20.   The keynote speaker is Galina Tachieva, author of the Sprawl Repair ManualHazel Borys, managing principal of Placemakers, is also slated to speak.  Here's the County's promotional video: