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Delray Beach's $115 million safety plan aims to improve pedestrian, bicycle lanes

Bicycle signs on a road a few blocks away from the Delray Beach City Hall | January 4th, 2024
Wilkine Brutus
Bicycle signs on a road a few blocks away from the Delray Beach City Hall | January 4th, 2024

A long-term project could change how Delray Beach residents walk and ride their bicycles around the most used pathways around the city.

After two years of data gathering and public input from bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups to homeowner associations, Delray Beach commissioners are considering a series of projects across the city to improve its network of pedestrian sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

The moves, which would increase bicycle lanes by more than 50 miles, are part of a long-term mobility strategy to support safer roadways, leaders say.

At the most recent commission meeting, Deputy Vice-Mayor Rob Long — an avid cyclist — told WLRN the city is looking for ways to offset the funding before making any final decisions on the proposed Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan.

“All the studies and statistics out there point to a multimodal, very walkable, bike-able city, “ Long said. "The project aims to increase “the quality of life for residents and for tourists and bring a positive economic impact to our city.”

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Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who sits on the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, said housing and other issues remain a top priority in the city but she’s in support of the plan but has reservations about how the city could afford it and when to implement it.

For now, she said, the project is a sticker shock for many residents. The room, full of residents, gasped at the price tag.

"I've gotten couple calls about that because it was on the news," she said. "There's a lot of things in this town that we need to do." She said residents are concerned the commission is "putting bicycles over the things that we need."

"No, we're not," she added. "This is a plan for the future. It is something that we can take a piece of and decide to do and not do others."

Delray Beach is generally considered a walkable city. The pedestrian-bicycle project cites targeted key areas around the city or “tiers” for improvement.

Petrolia mentioned one particular tier that could use immediate safety enhancements, especially along A1A. She cited a Delray Beach Fire rescue report of a driver that hit a group of eight bicyclists this week along North Ocean Boulevard in Gulf Stream. Seven people were taken to the hospital; among them, three were on trauma alert.

That area is “one of the places to make it safer,” Petrolia said, suggesting engineers focus their crash data and safety analysis on the most accident-prone streets.

If the proposal ultimately wins approval, the city plans to fund the project through various federal, state and local sources.

Estimated cost to expand pedestrian and bike lanes

At the recent commission meeting, Vikas Jain of TYLin International, a Broward-based engineering firm contracted to run the project, said improving buffered bike lanes, protected bike lanes, shared use paths, trails and greenways would reduce the Bicycle LTS or what's known as "Level of Traffic Stress" (LTS), a method used to measure people's comfortability levels while riding close to traffic.

Jain said he’d need more time to workshop the plan “to inform issue based needs that aren’t captured in the data.” Bicycle lane improvements are estimated to come in at $103 million in this project. Pedestrian sidewalk improvements are estimated to be $15 million.

The $115 million proposal from the engineering firm would expand the existing network for cyclists in Delray Beach from 16 miles to 52 miles — a roughly 200% increase.

The project shows how engineers plan to expand the city’s 60 miles of pedestrian sidewalks to 80 miles, and include additional safety features like permeable pavement, additional lighting, and fix bike "insufficient" lane and sidewalk widths.

Commissioner Rob Long says a completion date for the project would happen “probably long after I’m in office.”

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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