Business owners and bicyclists debate need for Hendricks Avenue on-street parking

Business owners and bicyclists debate need for Hendricks Avenue on-street parking
Many Hendricks Avenue business men are upset with the prospect the parallel parking in front of their shops might be eliminated in favor of bike lanes when the Florida Department of Transportation resurfaces the road later this year.

While area bicyclists cheer the prospect of having a seven-foot bike lane run the length of San Jose Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue to the Southbank, Hendricks Avenue business owners fear the removal of on-street parking from Cornell Street to San Marco Avenue will have a devastating impact on their livelihoods.

In a public meeting Jan. 12, more than 100 residents, cyclists and business owners gathered at the Florida Department of Transportation Training Center on Edison Avenue to discuss proposed safety improvements to Hendricks Avenue/San Jose Boulevard.

At issue was the proposed removal of on-street parking along the busy corridor between Cornell Street and San Marco Boulevard when the road is resurfaced as part of FDOT’s routine maintenance schedule.

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Also in the plans is the reconstruction of driveways at businesses at the southeast corner of the Arcadia Drive intersection as well as the reconfiguring of the merge lane at the southernmost San Jose Boulevard intersection near Miramar Plaza, replacing pedestrian signals with countdown signals and reconstructing ramps and curbs to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 at an estimated cost of $4.6 million.

During the two-hour open house, which was followed by the public comment session, FDOT staff was available to explain the proposed changes as members of the public reviewed maps of three different proposed plans for a three-mile section of Hendricks Avenue/San Jose Boulevard.

More than 25 people spoke during the public comment session, and several that did not stay expressed opinions on comment cards supplied by FDOT. In a telephone interview, project manager Craig Teal said he would also accept input from the public 10 additional days after the meeting. FDOT will make a decision in mid-February, he said.

Maps of the three plans illustrated three alternatives: the removal of all on-street parking so that seven-foot bike lanes may be striped; keeping things as they are by retaining on-street parking and not striping bike lanes; or striping bike lanes along the entire corridor except for a two-block section between Felch Avenue to Inwood Terrace near the Metro Diner, where FDOT proposes narrowing the center median to allow both on-street parking and bike lanes.

In that alternative plan, a 4.5-foot bike lane would run alongside eight-foot parking spaces on Hendricks Avenue for two blocks near the Inwood Terrace intersection. The road would transition back to seven-foot bike lanes at Kingwood Road to the north and Hendricks Avenue Elementary School on the south.

Heavy corridor for vehicles, common route for bicycles

Between 22,000 and 27,000 vehicles travel the Hendricks/San Jose Boulevard corridor each day, said Teal. The heavily traveled artery is also a common route for cyclists who commute downtown to work. Members of the North Florida Bicycle Club also use that corridor recreationally.

Hendricks_02The desire to make the corridor safer for cyclists and pedestrians comes as part of the Florida Complete Streets initiative, said Ron Tittle, a spokesman for FDOT.

Florida State statute 335.065 mandates “bicycle and pedestrian ways should be established in conjunction with construction, reconstruction or other change of any state transportation facility and special emphasis shall be given to projects in or within one mile of an urban area.” The statute indicates only three instances when bicycle and pedestrian ways are not required to be established: 1) where the establishment would be contrary to public safety; 2) where the cost is excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use; and 3) where other available means or factors indicate an absence of need.

During the public comment period, Nicole Spradley, Assistant to District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, said Boyer was unable to attend but favored the alternative plan for the area near Inwood Terrace.

“On-street parking is important in those areas where there is no parking lot behind the buildings,” Boyer said in a telephone interview. “On-street parking is dangerous for cyclists. You don’t want to drive people out of business, but the area was developed as residential and now many of the homes have commercial uses,” she said. “Originally on-street parking on Hendricks was not part of the development plan. As homes became commercial, the business owners count on it more.”

Bicyclists, business owners in opposition

Also speaking during the public comment period was Chris Burns, a lawyer from San Marco, who chairs the city Bike-Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Burns said the three-mile stretch from University Boulevard to San Marco Boulevard is the road most heavily utilized by cyclists in the entire city. With no bike lanes, cyclists are forced to ride within traffic going 40 miles per hour or faster, he said.

“These are not people riding toys or trinkets. These are people who commute to and from work,” Burns said. “To have bike lanes installed in this middle section is critically important because it allows the cyclist to get out of the path of the cars and connects two sections so there is one continuous safe route,” he said. “From University to San Marco Boulevard there is not another bike lane to be found. None of the other roads in the area have bike lanes,” he said, noting when bicycle lanes are added to roadways, business in the area often improves.

Burns said a problem with the compromise alternative near Metro Diner is that a 4.5-foot bike lane is too narrow to be safe. “It creates narrower bike lanes and places the cyclist next to parallel-parked cars, which puts the cyclist at risk in what is called the ‘door zone,’ which means a driver or passenger can open a door right into the bike lane,” he explained. “Four-and-a-half feet is not enough room for the cyclist to get out of the way without going into traffic. This also becomes a danger for motorists who are opening their car doors. They have to be aware of cyclists coming alongside them, and they are not as easy to visualize as other cars,” he said.

Troy Mayhew, who cycles to work on the Southbank from Baymeadows Road, also favored removing on-street parking.Hendricks_04

“While I’m sympathetic to the businesses, they have to understand it’s a life or death situation for us,” Mayhew said. “One choice is a hindrance to the businesses, while the other kills people.” If a compromise is necessary, Mayhew said he approved of the alternative plan so bike lanes and parking can co-exist. “It may cost more money to narrow or take out the median, but if it’s between life and death, it’s what you have to do,” he said.

But for Lori Taylor, owner of Trends Art & Home Boutique on Hendricks, on-street parking means life or death for her business and others along the corridor.

“How will it help the city to remove parking for businesses that are already struggling? This is our livelihood. If you take away the ability for us to have patrons, you take away the ability for us to survive,” she said.

Former City Councilman Matt Carlucci of San Marco, who owns a Hendricks Avenue insurance agency with a parking lot behind his business, said he favors on-street parking and hopes a compromise can be found.

“If you take away parking you will have unintended consequences. Parking is crucial. If we can find a way to connect the bike corridor that would be great, but if there is no parking you will find people parking on residential side streets and in people’s yards,” Carlucci said.

Business owner Suzanne Bass agreed. “I think if we could share the road it would be great. On-street parking is usually for business hours while bikers use the road after business hours or on weekends. Before you take away the business parking, bicycle people should be encouraged to take Old San Jose Road,” Bass said.

Although he does not ride a bike or own a business, San Jose resident Virgil Jernigan spoke in favor of on-street parking. He said many Hendricks area residents use it, particularly if they entertain. “How about the rest of the people?” he asked. “I realize bicyclists need a place, but I need parking on the side of my house,” he said. “The state and the city need to police the area better. They need to slow the traffic down so they can leave the parking as it is.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News
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