A couple of weekends ago I found myself riding down Old St. Augustine Rd. on the bike lane that was recently (Over the last couple of years) installed from Phillips Hwy. (US1) to the Interstate 295 junction.
As I was riding down it, I was looking at how the land was used for the 5 1/2 mile stretch. It's your typical standard issue 5 lane road with bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides. The bike lanes are well marked and signed. But for some reason it feels inadequate.
What I was focusing my attention on was the sidewalks. I kept asking myself if I had ever seen anyone actually walking on the sidewalk. I had seen plenty of cyclist using the sidewalk. In fact I had seen more cyclists on the sidewalk than I had in the bike lanes. But I couldn't recall ever having seen anyone just walking along.
At some point I realized why I had seen no one walking anywhere along the sidewalks. Where the hell are they going to walk to? This portion of Old St. Augustine Rd. is all residential culdesac communities on both sides with shopping book-ending this stretch of road.
I talked with some friends a couple of days later that live in a neighborhood along this stretch of road. They all said they wouldn't ride in the bike lane because they didn't feel they had enough of a buffer from the 45 MPH traffic. They also said that they had tried taking a few walks on the sidewalk when it first went in. But again it was the buffer thing combined with the fact there is no where to walk too and that the sidewalk was too narrow to walk side-by-side with anyone else. Someone, they said, was always trailing and the lead person felt they had to do "that turn and walk shuffle thing that ones does in that situation to carry on a conversation."
After I had what I thought was a good explanation for the lack of sidewalk use. I wondered how much did that sidewalk cost in material and labor? And how could we put that portion of land to better use.
It is at the point where I stopped and took the top picture that I realized how we could put this road space to better use and create a safer environment for all users.
It seems like the simplest and most obvious thing in the world to me once I saw it. Simply move the curb to left hand edge of the bike lane and leave everything to the right at the same grade as the road.
We (the tax payers) save a small fortune from not having all the costs and added construction time associated with building the sidewalk. We also gain a true transportation corridor that both cyclist and pedestrian feel safer on that uses the same amount of land as the current bike lane and sidewalk combination. Both of which as of this writing gets little use for its intended purpose.
I know this isn't a practical solution for all roads. But it is for this one and the many miles of roads just like it in and around Jacksonville. How do we get engineers to get out on site before they start design and construction of a road project. And to really think about how not only each segment of road is going to be used but also how it will effect and enhance the quality of all modes of transportational use for the surrounding communities?
Let me hear from you. Which of these infrastructures would you feel the most safe on? Which of these do you think a mom will use go to shops for the first time? Which one would you as a parent feel safer letting you children ride on? Do you think this a practical solution to building a road with bike and pedestrian use in mind?