Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why we need the Two Lane Initiative to Proceed in Wilton Manors

My opinions, and my opinions only here. Then again this is a blog so I guess it should be expected.

With that disclaimer aside, the Two Lane Initiative is progressing.   What it is is a plan to have the City of Wilton Manors take back ownership of Wilton Drive from the State.  The State has said outright that it does not need nor want to keep control of Wilton Drive.  The Plan gave the City a blueprint to move forward with via four stages to basically revitalize the Drive, which is currently a four lane raceway, and re-create the Central Business District as a New Urbanist oasis in the Car Crazy South Florida.  It would be done by Striping the Drive, and three levels of improvements over the years.  None of this can progress without the City taking control of the Drive.

Yes, I have simplified it greatly.   Those of us who live here know the details, we know the story.

Where we are now is that The Plan has been accepted to the point where the City has created a taskforce of volunteers from the Business and Residential Community here to decide how to progress.  They have been given a year to continue, although that seems a bit generous and obviously it would be best if they finished earlier than that.   The meetings are open to the public, subject to public record, and those interested are encouraged to attend to get their feelings out and hopefully effect change here for the better and the long term good.

So why has this come to mind?

South Florida has a peculiar car culture.  It has clashed with Wilton Manors' desire to have a pedestrian friendly central business district a number of times with a fatal outcome.  People have died crossing Wilton Drive both legally and illegally.  People have died merely standing on the sidewalk along Wilton Drive.

That car culture is a situation where there the traffic is continually getting more aggressive.  More people moving here find that they've got to keep up and end up driving illegal speeds on roads not designed to hold the traffic in order to get from point A to point B.  Never mind that they could have left ten minutes earlier and drove the speed limit, this frenetic rush seems to be the way of the world here.   It's not a rural area, it is a suburban if not urban area based on density.  While this isn't Manhattan or Chicago, South Florida is more like Dallas or Southern California - ineffective and insufficient mass transit, bad decisions on road placement and property density.

Another way the car culture here of aggressive driving shows itself is the way Stop Signs seem to be Optional.  In my corner of Wilton Manors, full stops are the exception, and many people simply don't even bother to slow down in order to go through an intersection.

I could make a rather nice income simply by writing tickets at any of the stop signs in the Central Area Neighborhood.  Forget the South Philly Glide, these folks are speeding up since driving is a contact sport.

Another problem with the car culture here that directly effects us is that in general, South Floridians drive way too fast.  While Stop Signs are merely optional, Speed Limit Signs are ignored.   Forget the Ten Plus Rule - where if you're going past that you can expect a ticket, but less than 10 over the speed limit "they'll give you slack".  It seems that in most of the area here it can be Fifteen or Twenty Plus.  The only place I have seen people driving legally is where the speed limit signs are accompanied by a notice saying "Speed Limits are Strictly Enforced".

When you see Fort Lauderdale Police Cruisers flying down Wilton Drive at 645AM well over the speed limit, you expect that they're in pursuit.  The last time I noticed, In Pursuit was not to get to the Dunkin Donuts at Five Points - I've seen them do this at least twice and once through the middle of a street festival. 

That sign won't stop the neighboring police from a carboload, but it may slow down the locals from doing 50 down the 30mph posted Wilton Drive.

Anyone who doubts that a stricter enforcement of the existing laws need only to get their dog out for a walk around 630 on a workday and watch people flying to work.   If that does not prove to you that it is needed, I suggest you speak to the families of those who died on the drive like the chicken crossing the road, merely trying to get across to the other side.

Nobody should die crossing the road, especially on the crosswalks, but in this culture the driver has to realize that they are not those with the highest priority on the roads - it is the pedestrian.

The temporary solution would be for someone to go out at 2AM with some quick drying paint, mark the crosswalks, and post signs everywhere stating that tickets will be given out at 31mph.

A better solution would be to proceed with Phase 1 of the Two Lane Initiative, narrow the drive to one lane each way, stripe cross walks and parking spaces the entire length of the drive, and drop the speed limit yet again.  Perhaps 20MPH would work.  At least they'd be going 30MPH and you might be able to get to cross the drive - Safely and Alive.

There are a few noisy Nay Sayers here in the City who don't want the Drive Narrowed.  They have their own reasons, but empirically it looks like they are the vastly outnumbered minority.   If the Nay Sayers win, People Will Die.   If the Nay Sayers lose, we all will win with a greatly improved quality of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment