City Planner: Traffic Lanes on Okeechobee Boulevard Should Be Narrowed So Drivers Go Slower

Traffic downtown ain't no joke!
Traffic downtown ain't no joke!
Photo by osseous via Flickr CC

By Michelle de Carion

Correction: The original version of this story identified Speck as a traffic engineer. He is a city planner.

A city planner writing in The Atlantic minces no words when he accuses the Florida Department of Transportation of the "greatest pedestrian massacre in U.S. history."

FDOT and similar agencies "have blood on their hands, and more than a little," he says.

Jeff Speck says the agency's implementation of 12-foot-wide lanes instead of ten-foot lanes encourages drivers to go faster than they should, making Florida streets unsafe for bikers and pedestrians. He calls out Okeechobee Boulevard in downtown West Palm Beach as an example and suggests its lanes should be narrowed.

Florida is currently home to the top four deadliest cities for walking. According to a study done by the National Complete Streets Coalition, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami were the highest on the list (in their respective order).

Florida also has the most fatalities of cyclists in America. In 2011, the National Highway Transportation Association (NHTSA) reported that bicycling deaths in Florida totaled more than 5 percent of all traffic fatalities -- 125. Our total number of cycling deaths is also the highest of any state.

Speck says wider traffic lanes are a huge contributing factor to pedestrian and cycling deaths. In his diatribe on, Speck argues that the lanes of Okeechobee Boulevard in downtown West Palm Beach should be narrowed from 12-foot lanes to 10-foot lanes.

Speck says the change would enact three things: Cars would drive more cautiously, there would be eight feet available on each side of the street for creating protected bike lanes, and the presence of the bike lanes would make the sidewalks safer for pedestrians to walk along.

He calls out FDOT's bike and pedestrian coordinator, Billy Hattaway, saying he "is one of the good ones. But does he have the power to move FDOT to a 10-foot standard?"

And he continues to basically accuse state transportation officials of murder: "[E]very urban 12-foot lane that is not narrowed to 10 feet represents a form of criminal negligence; every injury and death, perhaps avoidable, not avoided -- by choice."

You can read Speck's entire article on The Atlantic's CityLab site.

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