Home Content CategoryPedestrian/Bike Advocacy Three Tactical Urban Projects Boca Raton Can Do For 2024-2025
20th St as a two car lane pedestrian corridor

Three Tactical Urban Projects Boca Raton Can Do For 2024-2025

by Les Wilson

As the expression goes, “Talk is cheap”. As it regards “mobility”, Boca Raton scores low with its residents and in comparison to other cities. It’s time for less talk and more action. Anyone attending Council and CRA meetings knows attitudes are changing away from the old guard. Something that’s going to help is Tactical Urbanism. It’s a fast, cheap, action oriented approach to improving the quality of life throughout a city. But something happened by accident recently that gave some spark to the idea.

While Boca Raton trundled about with a citywide sewer maintenance project, it accidentally did something ingenious along Boca’s 20th street. In blocking off the outer lanes of the underutilized 20th Street, it prototyped what a modern 20th street pedestrian corridor could be. Pedestrians, bikes and scooters took to the nice wide path to get from the many point A’s to point B’s. The impromptu pedestrian and bikeway gave birth to more ideas.

A buffered Bike Lane
A two lane road, buffered bike lanes, curbs, swales for shade trees and wide pedestrian sidewalks. This technique could be done quickly and cheaply on some of Boca’s underutilized streets like 20th St..

Three Ideas for Tactical Urbanism Demonstration Projects

Boca Raton’s Citizen Pedestrian Advisory Board has been busy. This past February, the board chair Holli Sutton presented four long term strategic projects to improve our pedestrian and bike infrastructure (see: Cool stuff happening in Boca’s Citizen Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Board). Those projects will take many years to complete.

In the interest of trying out some of the underlying concepts, we polled our BocaFirst Bike Advocate subscribers for suggestions on how the city could quickly and easily do some demonstration projects to test some of the strategic principles ahead of time. The idea is that a project is implemented to test the effects of an infrastructure change without it being permanent. It’s constructed quickly (days) using temporary materials, evaluated and taken down. It’s a win-win for the city and residents as it saves years of planning and construction for something that might turn out to be ineffective or horribly fantastic. In industry, it’s the idea of “failing fast”. That is, find out if something is great or stinks before getting too invested in it. These are the three demonstration project ideas our bike advocates put forth:

  1. Create a “Protected Intersection” at Potomac & St Andrews using paint and temporary barriers for the kids riding and walking to school.
  2. Shutdown the outer lanes of 20th St between Federal and FAU to car traffic and create buffered pedestrian roll and stroll lanes for getting around the residential areas, FAU, 5th Ave Shops and the many small businesses without a car.
  3. Paint sharrow markings on Spanish River Blvd east of Federal Hwy where the bike lanes disappear.

A Protected Intersection Design for Potomac and St. Andrews

Statistics show the majority of pedestrian and bike incidents occur at intersections. NW Boca has some of the best and highly connected shared-use paths in the city. In particular, the residential neighborhoods served by Potomac Rd with dual shared use paths connecting to Blue Lake Elementary and Don Estridge Middle School. Walk/Ride to school participation at these schools is low partly due to the dangerous crossing at Potomac and St Andrews Blvd. Several principles of Protected Intersections can be done to this intersection as a Tactical Urbanism demonstration project, evaluated and removed if necessary.

Potomac & St Andrews designed as a sage intersection
Potomac & St Andrews with protected intersection design elements

20th Street Could be a Place

We learned that the 20th Street corridor is underutilized. In riding it, we found it’s current sidewalks are plagued by homeowner hedges growing over the aging sidewalks making the simplest passage difficult. With low car utilization, mixed residential and commercial zones and access to FAU, 20th St. is an ideal place to demonstrate some quality of life improvements for the permanent residents and ever growing off campus housing for FAU.

20th Street with a buffered roll and stroll corridor
20th Street with a buffered roll and stroll corridor

The recent accidental creation of a way for people to move around safely that was made by the sewer construction showed how ideal the corridor is for tactical urbanism. It would reclaim space from cars and provide modern wide paths for pedestrian and micro-mobility traffic to move safely from the many points A to B that exist at each end and all along 20th St. Long term, it could use more shade but the eastern most third is already marvelously shaded with mature shade trees.

20th St as a two car lane pedestrian corridor
20th St is surrounded by a mix of single family homes, multi-family condos and off campus housing for FAU

Access to A1A via Spanish River

Our third proposal is on Spanish River Blvd between Federal Hwy and the ICW bridge. Like Palmetto Park and Camino Real, Spanish River Blvd is a main route to A1A and used by the many Boca Residents living north of Glades. All three of these routes lack safe means to get there by bike or scooter. While there’s nothing protective about painted lines and markings, they do help driver awareness to be cautious of non-vehicular traffic sharing the road. Greater awareness and caution make it safer for everyone. While the County and City work on a long term solution for Spanish River Blvd, it is the City who is responsible for road signage and marking. So in the spirit of Tactical Urbanism, sharrow markings along the eastbound and westbound outer lanes of Spanish River Blvd are much better than the nothing that’s there now.

Westbound SRB East of Federal as a sharrow
Westbound SRB East of Federal if painted with Sharrow markings

To learn more about the Do’s and Dont’s of quickbuild projects, see Jim Wood’s sister article Vision Zero Demo Project Do’s and Dont’s.

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