Streets for People / Volunteers and a Little Green Paint Show How We Can Make It Safer to Bike

Chris Hamilton

If you’ve traveled Staples Avenue between George and 12th Streets lately you can’t help but to have noticed newly painted green bike lanes and ‘Super Sharrows’, yellow painted curb extensions, and newly installed delineator posts, curb separators, and signage. This Crosstown Greenway Pilot Project is designed to slow down cars, reduce cut-through traffic in the residential neighborhood and make it safer for bicycles and pedestrians to travel the route. It’s a big freaking deal when something like this gets done in our little town. Especially as it shows a path forward for doing similar work all across the City to make biking easier and safer for all.

The Crosstown Greenway is a safe East/West corridor for bicycles that spans the island from South Roosevelt Boulevard to Reynolds Street along Duck, Staples and Von Phister Avenues, right through the middle of the City. The path has been identified in the City since 1996 and is a major priority of the City’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan as a safe alternative to using N. Roosevelt Boulevard to get across the island. The Pilot Project focused on the middle of the Greenway’s route to experiment with temporary, low-cost actions aimed at making the route safer for bikes, pedestrians and cars.

The effort is led by the City’s Multimodal Coordinator, Tim Staub, and the nationally known “tactical urbanism” firm Street Plans from Miami who found a $30,000 health and safety grant to advance the project. The design of the project was facilitated by an online survey, door-to-door visits with neighbors along the corridor to hear their thoughts, and two evenings of public workshops in October 2019 and January 2020 to update the public on the feedback and project ideas received. Street Plans is most widely known for its approach called “Tactical Urbanism,” an approach that emphasizes projects that are temporary and removeable, are built with low-cost materials, include public input and involvement in installation, and are evaluated for their function and scalability before moving on to more durable and permanent solutions.

After a six-month delay because of the Coronavirus, over the weekend before Thanksgiving, thirty plus dedicated volunteers and City staff, successfully completed Phase I of the Crosstown Greenway Pilot Project. Participants prepped materials, measured and marked, and then painted the street and installed plastic delineators and curbs. The results are beautiful.

An important benefit of the pilot project is the knowledge transfer to volunteer bike advocates and City staff who are now able to undertake similar safety improving bike and pedestrian projects throughout the City at minimal cost.

Now that we’ve gotten something done, have staff and volunteers trained, and the public has seen this is a good way to make our streets safer for all users, we expect more good things to happen. Soon! Presumably Phase 2 of the Crosstown Greenway project will be to make some of these interventions more permanent and to move north and make the area where the path crosses Kennedy Street, the ballfields, Duck Avenue and S. Roosevelt safer. It also shows the path forward on safety improvements, identified in the Bike/Ped Master Plan, to get the green light sooner than later. And THAT’s why this item is so important to bicycling on the island. We’re hopeful for the future!