Home Content CategoryPedestrian/Bike Advocacy Uninspired and Unsafe
Uninspired and Unsafe. A quantitative analysis of Boca Raton's pedestrian and bike infrastructure.

Uninspired and Unsafe

by Les Wilson

After decades of give aways to developers, getting nothing in return and a strategy utterly devoid of strategic land acquisition, the City of Boca Raton is now going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants for a mobility and transportation safety problem of its own making for which it lacks the skill in house to solve. This article explains how we got to where we are and concludes with a 10 minute screencast of our quantitative analysis of Boca Raton’s pedestrian/bike infrastructure as it regards disconnectedness and safety. We need a better “bike friendly”. We need to do better as a city. Our work at BocaFirst is intended to help residents and the City understand what needs to be done.

In the place where we have the most to gain by people walking and cycling, we have the worst infrastructure and least safety.

A Culture Change in City Hall Is Required

Right now, Council Member Drucker has shown herself to be a take no prisoner proponent of modernizing our pedestrian/bike infrastructure. Council Members Wigder and Nachlas are possibly the only ones in City government who are cyclists. The coming March 2024 election will be consequential for building leadership for a new Boca that will stand up against the car centric concrete focussed old guard.


In addition to our analysis, Safe Roads USA says “Car accidents in Boca Raton are more dangerous than those in other parts of Florida”. Walk Score graded Boca Raton a 38 out of 100. And PeopleForBikes judged Boca a brutal City Rating of 9 (out of 100). So it comes as no surprise that the raw data from the Florida Traffic Safety Dashboard also shows a problem. For a deeper look at that data, see Jim Wood’s analysis of Boca Raton crash data in his article “Our Vision Zero Problem-Part 1“.

Boca is NOT poor. But it IS cheap.

Don’t blame Mayor Singer alone. Boca Raton has a “Council-Manager” form of government. And while the Mayor is responsible for Policy and Priority, infrastructure is a long term concern and handled by City staff on its own. For the decades of operations that put us in our current position, the day-to-day and year-to-year decisions of what to do and when to do it have been made by the same ole people in the City Manager and Assistant City Manager offices. Not constructing Boca’s two bike boxes to state and county standards, taking “decades” to connect bike lanes on SW 18th St to Military Trail, the flat out refusing to do approved, designed and planned improvements along East Palmetto and much much more are the failings of the City Manager’s office. It has been nothing if not uninspiring.

Bike Boxes should be green
City approved Bike Boxes. They should be painted green.

Take for example the newly constructed railroad crossings at Camino Real and at NE 2nd St. In both places, the City failed to properly paint the bike lanes to State and County standards. Truth is, you’ll be hard pressed to find green painted bike lanes or crosswalks anywhere downtown. The green paint standards exist for a reason and arguably, might have saved Mark Ruddow from being run over and killed while traveling the bike lane on Federal at Palmetto.

The Deadly Right Hook that killed Mark Ruddow
The deadly Right Hook that killed Mark Ruddow at Federal and Palmetto where bike lanes are not painted green.

Who am I to say it’s unsafe?

Since October 2022, I have ridden and filmed my experiences cycling roughly 90% of Boca Raton’s bike map; basically everything East of Powerline. When you experience our disconnected and archaic infrastructure with actual car, pedestrian and bike traffic, the actual sounds, and the actual situations you get into, you will then have a clue why people laugh at Boca’s “Bike Friendly City” signs. And in actually performing the act of cycling from Point A to Point B with a purpose and time frame, you will meet actual people of all types frustrated by Boca’s infrastructure; especially waiting at Boca Raton’s many immense, bustling and sometimes deadly intersections.

The Yamato Trirail zig zag to get to the El Rio Trail
The 5′ wide Yamato Rd sidewalk zig zag you have to go through to get between the Boca’s premier El Rio Trail and the Southbound Trirail platform.

Until you endure the heart pounding growl of a diesel engine bearing down on you as it over takes you at 50 miles an hour, you will not understand the absurdity of Boca’s painted gutter bike lanes on Glades, Yamato, Military, Dixie, Federal and others. And until you experience the pucker factor of a portly Palm Tran bus careening past you inches away as you navigate Federal Hwy’s drain strewn scrawny little curbed bike lanes, you are in no position to hold sway over Boca’s side streets and alleys needed to get around downtown in something other than a car. As one Boca cyclist I talked to said, “If you are the one deciding about mobility in Boca, you have to put your hands on this stuff to understand it … you have to become part of the problem in order to understand what people are complaining about.”

Unsafe infrastructure on Camino Real thats as bad as it was 30 years ago
Uninspired infrastructure on Camino Real thats as bad as it was 30 years ago


But if all you do is move your foot from the brake and accelerator in your air conditioned Tesla, Benz, BMW, whatever; or only peruse a bike map on a screen, or only see infrastructure as colored lines and icons on a workstation, you don’t know what it’s like. And for Pete’s sake, you shouldn’t be making decisions about what do and not do in Boca Raton. We have a Citizen Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Board of experts but it is utterly ineffectual being allowed by the City Manager to only to meet 4 times a year.

Safe vs Not Safe

Below is Boca’s 2022 official bike map but with the background and roadways removed. In isolating just the infrastructure, the disconnectedness stands out clearly; especially east of I-95. Worse yet, the orange “bike lanes” are just roads with lines that don’t meet the definition of a bike lane. So the city calls them “Undesignated” and counts them as bike lanes anyway.

Boca 2022 Official Bike map without background or roadways
Boca 2022 Official Bike map without background or roadways. Excerpt from the BocaFirst Quantitative analysis of Boca Raton’s ped/bike infrastructure.

It is well established that vehicle speed determines the severity of injury in a car vs pedestrian/cyclist crash. Research says crashes under 30mph have a 50% survival rate for the pedestrian/cyclist. Lacking the speed information on the official Boca Bike Map, I made my own. Using speed limit data, I then removed all the on-road bike lanes with a greater than 30 mph limit. The map below shows what remains of the Boca Bike map when you remove what’s unsafe.

Look at Boca east of I-95. It’s exactly backwards. East Boca has a potpourri of intermingled commerce and residential areas where you can save car trips by walking and biking. But it is destitute of a coherent safe infrastructure network to do so. This is what decades of uninspired development and a penny pinching City Hall has wrought.

BocaFirst detailed bike map showing Boca's bike trails and on-road bike lanes where the speed limit is 30mph or less. Excerpt from the BocaFirst Quantitative analysis of Boca Raton's ped/bike infrastructure.
BocaFirst detailed bike map showing Boca’s bike trails and on-road bike lanes where the speed limit is 30 mph or less. Excerpt from the BocaFirst Quantitative analysis of Boca Raton’s ped/bike infrastructure.

Disconnectedness and Safety

Finally, for three months, long time cyclist Jim Wood and I analyzed our infrastructure using my films and some expeditionary rides. Along with crash data from an FAU study, we looked at the two biggest criticisms of Boca’s infrastructure: Safety and Disconnectedness. Below is a 10 minute screen cast of our results as presented to the City Traffic Engineer and Citizen’s Advisory Board in July 2023. Our principle finding was how downtown Boca is upside down: In the place where we have the most to gain by people walking and cycling, we have the worst infrastructure and least safety.

As John Gore vividly describes in his “History of the Battle for Downtown“, you can lay much of that juxtaposition of ineffectiveness and patchwork at the feet of the fat-cat development community and their lobbying to pour concrete downtown; residents, pedestrians and cyclists be damned.

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