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Safety First For East Palmetto Park Road

by Katie Barr

Boca begins at the beach – awareness of this simple statement grows daily. 

Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists are choosing to spend the day on Boca’s barrier island in increasingly greater numbers.  A year of Covid-19 lockdown has brought new appreciation for our ocean front amenities and tourists coming to our fine city are visiting our beaches in droves.

The stroll along Palmetto Beachside is about 1400 linear feet from the bridge to A1A, but the road here gets more foot traffic than any other section of Palmetto.  Aside from one crosswalk and light at the corner of A1A and Palmetto there are no other safety measures in place east of the bridge.  

Because of these concerns, local homeowners have been sounding the alarm for over two years. 

We have installed cameras and taken videos of the dangerous conditions caused by this lack of crosswalks.  We have taken photos at all hours of the day, met with all interested parties and brainstormed with architect Doug Mummaw and his associates to imagine a safe and pleasing alternative for East Palmetto.

Knowing that this portion of the road belongs to the county we have met with Commissioner Robert Weinroth, and while Palmetto Beachside is a county road, all traffic issues – such as crosswalks, signage, parking etc. are the city’s responsibility.  

To that end we have met with the Mayor and City Council members, with the Planning and Zoning Board and with Commissioners from the Greater Beach and Parks Department.

As residents, we have presented to the Riviera Civic Association and enlisted the support of the Beach Condo Association’s president Emily Gentile. We have held conversations with commercial property owners as well as local merchants. 

Our concerns impact everyone who lives, works or visits the barrier island. Some safety issues:

  • No crosswalks on Wavecrest Way or Olive Way
  • Narrow south sidewalk unsafe for pedestrians, child strollers and handicapped
  • Corner curbside parking blocks drivers’ line of sight when accessing Palmetto from local neighborhoods. 

Now for another issue that requires urgent attention – cyclists safety. 

East of the bridge cyclists frequently seek safety by riding on the sidewalk. The road is only 70 feet wide and there are no bike lanes . Installing bike lanes would require eliminating all curbside parking.

Commercial property owners are required to provide ‘on site parking’ for their tenants on East Palmetto Park Road. Curb side parking is a bonus. 

East of the bridge Palmetto Park Road is zoned B1, it might actually be referred to as the ‘Beach B1’ because aspects of this zoning are unique.  Requirements are in place to limit height at 30 feet and density (for parking spaces required ) to .5 floor area ratio.

This parking bonus is no longer practical and is in fact adding to the dangerous conditions frequently confronted by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.

The consensus among small business owners confirms that people parking east of the bridge are going to the beach not frequenting their businesses in fact, the daily use of these parking spots block store front windows.

Currently there are 46 parking spaces along East Palmetto.  Alternative beach parking is a topic for another day, suffice it to say that the curbside parking on East Palmetto is no longer a viable amenity.  

A compromise might be to eliminate parking on the south side of the road to provide a bike lane and reduce the spaces on the north side of the road allowing for corner landscaping and bump out benches.

Coincidently – plans were already percolating for a project to redesign Palmetto Park Road from NE 4th Ave through the downtown, adding Palmetto to A1A completes the flow. 

It is wonderful to know that we are finally making some headway, but we fear that our concerns will be lost with this scope creep. Palmetto 4th to Dixie, Palmetto US1 to SE 5th Ave and Palmetto Beachside are three distinct sections. Safety must take precedent over aesthetics.

In February I made a Zoom presentation to City Council during their workshop. All council members agreed that our safety issue would be a top priority during the mid-May Goal Setting Session and on May 5th the Planning & Zoning Board will fine tune suggestions to city council.

Residents will be anxiously following these meetings. If you are concerned about pedestrian safety on Palmetto Park Road, please let your elected official know that you support our efforts.

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