BOCA RATON FL, JUNE 1 2023 – The crashes and fatalities on Boca Raton roads continue. Boca Raton needs to change. When we invest money in infrastructure, there should be some return on its investment. Something positive should come from it. Like its bike lanes. Our city website boasts 84 miles of bike lanes. Those lanes came with a cost to design, engineer and build. But in the end, they don’t provide a return on investment. We need a better “Bike Friendly” Boca.
It is a shame to see these miles of bike lanes with so few cyclists riding them. This is because Boca residents are smart and recognize risk when they see it. The fact is, Boca Raton’s many miles of bike lanes are dangerously designed and the $7M in “pending” grants that the Mayor says took decades to plan will do little to nothing. Glades, Spanish River, Military, Powerline, and Yamato are prime examples. How can you expect people to ride a bicycle and share a road with 6 lanes of cars going 45 mph and higher with only a 6” wide stripe of paint separating them?
Increasing bicycle traffic over car traffic should be the City’s Goal
My family chose to live in Boca Raton when we moved here from France several years ago because it has good schools. It also advertised being “Bike Friendly” so we found a house near our kid’s school. But, compared to standards in Europe, Boca Raton is far from “Bike Friendly” and I feel it’s too dangerous to ride bikes to school. One bike box in all of downtown where cyclists are forced to then merge together with cars while crossing 4 lanes of Dixie Hwy? Really? It is a joke. It shows no serious attempt to safeguard riders. Until Boca Raton does, it will not encourage more riders.
In fact, Boca Raton’s infrastructure philosophy is backwards. It puts vehicle traffic first and adds bikes as an afterthought with a silly painted stripe on the shoulder. To make a place “bike friendly”, the city must flip priorities to protect bicyclists.
The El Rio Trail is a perfect example. Where The El Rio Trail crosses the 4-lane Spanish River Blvd, it originally had a proper pedestrian/bike crossing. Motorists had to stop to let the pedestrians and bicyclists pass. But the crossing was removed. Pedestrians and cyclists are now forced to detour down sharp turns and narrow sidewalks only a couple feet from moving traffic.
Now City Hall says there is a pending grant for $1.2M to address the problem by detouring cyclists onto a nearby street (6th Way) and widening the sidewalk up to Spanish River Blvd. A genuinely Bike Friendly city would have built a tunnel under Spanish River.
Poor Infrastructure Design Prevents Success:
Infrastructure design is not the only problem. Common sense tells us that smaller vehicles are more at risk than bigger ones. And cyclists and pedestrians are at the highest risk. But Boca Raton’s painted bike lane infrastructure does nothing to project those facing the highest risk. And a transportation infrastructure should protect those with the highest risk.
Recent crashes with cyclist injuries and death in Boca Raton prove there is a problem. It is time that City government demonstrate its concern through action, not words.
Education and Enforcement:
Bicyclist education is meaningless when the infrastructure is unsafe. It is mere words without action; the tool of politicians. In addition to redesigning the infrastructure to protect pedestrians and cyclists, motorists must be educated as well and forced to pay attention to others on the road. State laws exist to promote safe road sharing but violations are never enforced.
Action is Needed:
Florida’s flat terrain and good weather make it an ideal place to get from point A to point B in something other than a car. Boca Raton has three universities and neighborhood schools. Students riding bikes could save a significant amount of money and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. But it must first be made safe for riders.
The Return On Investment:
More cyclists on the road will ultimately mean a better use of the roads and bike infrastructure. It will provide a better return on the city’s investment. But riding is not so pleasant when you pass roadside memorials and signs that say “Drive carefully in memory of … ” too often.
It will take a dramatic shift to do what must be done. Seeking excellence is not about shiny tall buildings downtown. It is serving the needs and safety of the community. Why should Boca Raton remain a lousy Bronze “Bicycle Friendly” Community for 20 years when it could strive for Gold!