I have lived in Southeast Boca since 1990. I always wondered why the Camino Real bike lanes just stop at the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) bridge. They are Boca’s bike lanes to nowhere. So I investigated. Here’s what I found.
The City of Boca Raton has three east-west roads that go all the way to the ocean. None of them have bike lanes that reach it. NONE. Every single one punts somewhere in the last mile and throws bikes onto the car lanes. And if that’s not embarrassing enough, when the Camino Real Intracoastal bridge was rebuilt two years ago, the lack of bike lanes connecting the bridge to A1A WAS NOT ADDRESSED.
In this article, I’m going to explain Boca’s bicycling situation as I see it and ask you to do one thing:
- Tell the City Council to direct the City Manager to immediately prioritize the completion of bike lanes on Camino Real.
Keep going to read my findings, or skip to the end where you can email the entire city council.
This is what it’s like to ride a bike (in realtime) on the above route from the ICW bridge on Camino Real and back. Takes 4 minutes.
Property owners kept us from getting Camino Real Bike Lanes
It’s important to note that Camino Real is a Palm Beach County road. As such, the easements on either side are owned by the county. Property owners can make them look their own with landscaping and paver driveways but they don’t own them. You do.
According to the County, they do not have plans for Camino Real bike lanes. However the county Transportation Agency (TPA) has grant money available. But it’s up to the City to ask for it. CAVEAT: It takes 5 years or more for the County to complete a project AFTER it’s prioritized by the City.
At a recent Boca Citizen’s Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Board meeting, I asked why the Camino Real bike lanes haven’t been done over last 30 years. What I learned was that in the 2009-2013 timeframe, an initiative and design for the project was put forward. According to the Advisory Board Chair, the City said NO due to objections from property owners. A good friend, long time Boca resident and cyclist told me “the City will always side with property owners because doing so means the City doesn’t have to do anything”. Although the easements may look like they are owned by property owners, they aren’t. They are owned by the county, aka all residents. Had the City not caved back then, we would have Camino Real bike lanes today.
The lack of cohesion and strategic pedestrian and bicycle planning in Boca is staggering
Think about it, Boca Raton is a wealthy and largely residential city. Residential high-rises in the downtown abound with more in the works. Where are are the people to go? How can they get there?
Boca Raton also has an active cycling community of dedicated cyclists (of the spandex wearing and non-spandex wearing varieties). It has a prime ocean front state roadway and an extensive park system salt and peppered through out the city.
Furthermore, in Southeast Boca, there are neighborhoods and bicycle destinations galore. Camino Real serves as the only way for hundreds of neighborhoods in cycling distance of the South County Beach Park to reach the park. But there is no complete network of bike lanes to get you to there safely. The one route to the beach that services the most neighborhoods within biking distance, just ends. It abruptly stops and throws bicyclists into traffic (crossing the railroad tracks is a huge mess and a topic for a future article).
The Camino Real is not the only problem area in Boca Raton but it is the perfect place to start
The easements for Camino Real bike lanes are already owned by the citizens of the County. The money is available via a grant from Palm Beach County. What lacks is the will by the City of Boca Raton to prioritize it and apply for a grant on behalf of the many over the objections of the few (property owners). Completing the lanes to A1A seems straightforward, inexpensive and easy to do. It’s a perfect place to start making Boca Raton safe for bikes one project at a time.
Lastly, at the Bike Advisory Board, there was a representative from the City Traffic Engineering department. I asked him how things were prioritized. Many words later, I came away with the understanding that that they survey “stake holders” from City Staff then count accidents and citizen requests. So basically, you have to know somebody, be maimed/killed or be a squeaky wheel to get a citizen initiated project prioritized in Boca.
Now is the time. You need to be the squeaky wheel to get Camino Real Bike Lanes.
There is no Boca Cycling Czar in City Hall. There used to be. Much of what we have is from that time. Now the job is done by a piece of someone already wearing several hats. If you agree that it’s high time for the Camino Real bike lanes to be completed, tell the entire city council by email:
Dear City Council,
Florida has the highest rate of bicycle accidents in the nation. Boca Raton has had its share. It’s time we took action to make our City safer for cycling.
I live in Boca Raton and as a resident, I want the publicly owned easements on Camino Real to be used for East and West Bike Lanes. I believe you’ll find the Citizen Pedestrian and Bike Board in favor of it as well as the Boca Bike Club. With this note, I am adding my voice to the choir.
Please direct City Manager Leif Ahnell to make applying to the county TPA for a grant to complete the Camino Real bike lanes from the ICW bridge to A1A a priority.
Copy/paste the text above or write your own. Include your name and be nice. Here’s a button to create a pre-addressed email:
PS: Be Safe. Don’t go against the flow. You don’t want to be this guy (watch black car in rightmost lane).
THIS ARTICLE UPDATED NOV 19 TO REMOVE OCT 25 VISION ZERO CALL TO ACTION