Altis, Moderne Boca, and the possibility of the Midtown project will no doubt increase congestion along Military Trail. With all of this new development, the city needs an effective pedestrian/bikeway plan to encourage residents to leave their cars behind to enjoy these close-by amenities. However, right now crossing Military Trail, as one resident put it at the recent Planning and Zoning meeting, “feels like playing frogger to get across the street safely”.
Sure, some of these development projects offer an opportunity for increased convenience to residents who are in walking or biking distance from these new areas. For example, Moderne Boca residents are next door to the Spanish River library and the restaurants at Shoppes at Blue Lake. Residents living in neighborhoods located near Yamato are now close enough to bike to the new Altis shopping center including the Fresh Market grocery store.
But the missing piece here is setting up a system for pedestrians to safely travel to these places without the fear of getting run over by a car whizzing by on heavily traveled roads in the area like Military Trail, Yamato Road, and Spanish River Boulevard.
City’s Track Record on Supporting Pedestrian-Friendly Ideas
The rate of development is superseding progress being made to ensure Boca is more pedestrian friendly. The city website states the following goals:
“The City of Boca Raton’s Bicycles/Pedestrians Program is designed to improve and enhance access to existing facilities and programs, and to increase the public awareness of bicyclists and other pedestrian users of pathways and roadways. The City is actively pursuing the improvement of the physical facilities that bicyclists and pedestrians now, and in the future, will utilize. The City is taking bold steps to provide safer road systems and sidewalks that will make Boca Raton truly “Bicycle and Pedestrian Friendly.” The concept of a comprehensive network that links and connects recreation facilities, environmentally sensitive lands, neighborhoods, work places and commercial areas will allow not only recreational use of these facilities, but will provide an alternative means of transportation for all of our residents. There are four basic facilities: bike lanes, shared-use paths, bike routes and sidewalks.”
However, at a recent City Council meeting regarding changes for the St. David Armenian Church on Yamato Road, several City Council members stated that they are interested in reducing the required width of the sidewalks along Yamato from 8 feet to 6 feet.
What is their reasoning? They claim the sidewalk is underutilized. How is that within the scope of their goal to make Boca more pedestrian friendly? They should be fighting to retain the current sidewalk requirements and following their plan to educate and incentivize residents to walk or bike more often. One good sign is that they did mention adding a bike lane to Yamato, but this should not be a reason to minimize the sidewalks, which are safer for families to travel on.
Pedestrian Concerns Raised About Midtown Project
A huge concern about the proposed Midtown project is how will this area be developed in a pedestrian-friendly way?
At the recent Planning and Zoning meeting on December 22, a resident from Paradise Palms talked about how challenging it is to cross Military Trail, so much so that during events the police are brought in to help pedestrians cross the street safely. Another resident mentioned how unwelcoming the sidewalks are along Military Trail, explaining that mothers find it dangerous to walk their baby stroller along the sidewalk even if they live in an adjacent neighborhood. Then another resident pointed out that we need wider sidewalks and crosswalks to make the area more pedestrian friendly. It was also mentioned that special barricades may need to be set up to provide a safer walking environment along Military.
Then there was the discussion about the building setbacks for this proposed mini-city. It is critical that the buildings are far enough away from Military Trail to ensure that pedestrians can get around safely, especially if they are trying to make this area a Planned Mobility Development zone. Yes, each developer will be required to address making the area in front of their project pedestrian friendly, but that leaves out the remaining sidewalk. Who will ensure a seamless pedestrian-friendly sidewalk throughout this area?
Proponents are trying to build up the area to connect buildings on the east side of Military to those on the west side, but if pedestrians are currently scared to walk along the sidewalk and to cross this busy road, how will more buildings and more traffic ease their concerns? Having a shuttle sounds helpful, but it doesn’t solve the entire problem. We need to drastically improve walkability before additional development is approved.
What Needs To Be Done By The City’s Leadership
Some important steps can be taken to address these concerns.
- Get innovative. It’s time to set up a creative, effective pedestrian plan in the western part of Boca to encourage residents to take advantage of the opportunity to walk or bike instead of always sitting in traffic. There are numerous examples in other towns to look to for creative ideas, including raised crosswalks, better technology for crosswalk signs, and manipulating the traffic signals to provide more time for pedestrians to cross the street safely. Why not consider a pedestrian bridge or tunnel?
- Educate. Now is the time for the city leadership to better inform the public about the opportunities for walking and biking around town. This can be down through social media and at the numerous city-sponsored events.
- Incentivize. The city could be forming public-private partnerships with local businesses to award their staff for walking or biking to work. There is a huge opportunity for those living and working along Military Trail to take advantage of such an incentive programs like National Bike Month. Or what if stores and restaurants offered a coupon or contest for those customers who choose to walk or bike?
Voice Your Concerns
- The Citizen’s Pedestrian and Bikeway Advisory Board is expected to be posting a public survey for both bike and pedestrian users. Please look out for it. We will share it with you as soon as it is made available.
- Attend upcoming meetings addressing the Midtown project and other projects impacting pedestrians.
- Contact the following representatives with your questions, ideas, and concerns:
Members of the Planning & Zoning Board:
William Fairman, Chair – WFairman@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Arnold Sevell, Vice Chair – ASevell@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Rick Coffin, Secretary – RCoffin@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Larry Cellon, Board Member – firstname.lastname@example.org
Glenn Gromann, Board Member – GGromann@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Kerry Koen, Board Member – KKoen@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Janice Rustin, Board Member – email@example.com
Mayor Susan Haynie – firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh – email@example.com
Councilman Mayor Robert Weinroth – firstname.lastname@example.org
CRA Chair/Councilman Scott Singer – email@example.com
Jeremy Rodgers – firstname.lastname@example.org