Communication needed in bike-pedestrian study

Communication needed in bike-pedestrian study
Theodore Petritsch of Sprinkle Consulting discusses maps of the walking and bicycling routes in Riverside and San Marco during the TPO meeting July 8 in San Marco.

Deadline for public comment nears

There is still time for local pedestrians and bicyclists to share concerns with a consulting firm hired by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization to study bicycling and walking routes in Riverside and San Marco. The last day public comment will be accepted is Friday, August 7, said Marci Larson, Public Affairs Manager of the North Florida TPO.

The deadline comes a month after a public meeting July 8 at TPO headquarters in San Marco, where consultants shared preliminary findings about their study to make Jacksonville a safer city for pedestrians and bicyclists. The day before the deadline, Thursday, August 6, the consultants will share their final report with the city’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The BPAC meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Ed Ball Training Room at City Hall.

During the July 8 meeting, Theodore Petritsch and Christopher Fellerhoff of the Sprinkle Consulting Group and Het Patil of Reynolds, Smith and Hills Consultants presented an overview of their yearlong study. The meeting consisted of Petritsch sharing maps, which charted safer bike routes through Riverside and San Marco as well as areas where the consultants have proposed to add different facilities to the roadways to make travel safer for cyclists.

There was also a map charting frequent bicycle and pedestrian travel routes, which were gleaned from public comments shared with the consultants during the past year. Petritsch said the group had considered all of the 3,000 public comments it had received and noted that he and the other consultants spent “three or four days on their bicycles riding the various routes.”

The scope of the “wayfinding” project was to identify the safest available network of current streets bicyclists and pedestrians can travel to reach shopping areas and popular destinations such as parks, community centers and other points of interest in San Marco and Riverside, said Fellerhoff. The study did not include St. Nicholas, San Jose or Downtown. The group was seeking to find routes on lower volume streets, which might provide safer ways to get to these “ports of call,” he said.

“The purpose of this project is to identify the best opportunities within the existing conditions,” Fellerhoff said. To do this, the group identified locations where better signage and road markings might be used increase motorists’ awareness of the need to coexist with cyclists and pedestrians who are forced to share roads in congested areas.

Pedestrians neglected in study

After the meeting, San Marco Preservation Society President Andrew Dickson said he was encouraged by what he heard but still had some reservations about what was reported.

“With the San Jose Boulevard/Hendricks Avenue repaving due to start in a year or two, it was great to see bike lanes recommended between University and Atlantic Boulevards. That would create a continuous bike path from the Southbank to Baymeadows Road,” he said. “The presentation all but ignored pedestrian improvements and safety. We were expecting the same level of detail for the pedestrian layer as for the bicycle layer and did not find much evidence of it,” he said.

Also during the meeting there was no mention of a proposed Florida Department of Transportation plan, which has been discussed by city officials, to connect the upcoming Fuller Warren Bridge multi-use path with Childrens Way via the Nemours’ hospital bulkhead. The suggested access route in the consultants’ plan would have cyclists and pedestrians exit the bridge at the more dangerous intersection with Palm Avenue.

“San Marco Preservation Society has requested enhanced pedestrian safety at the intersections with the I-95 on and off ramps,” Dickson said. “These are the most intense and dangerous intersections in San Marco and to dump bikes and pedestrians in their paths would be disastrous.”

Prior to the July 8 meeting, District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer told The Resident the city has been in talks with Nemours to secure an easement along the St. Johns River bulkhead behind the hospital. She said one idea being discussed is to eventually build a bike-pedestrian loop through north San Marco connecting the Southbank Riverwalk, the proposed “Healthy Town” development and the Fuller Warren Bridge by funneling bike and walking traffic along Childrens Way and Nira Street.

“The current FDOT memorandum maintains a connection of the shared use path to Childrens Way via the Nemours hospital waterfront,” Dickson said. “The city must secure an easement for this to be possible. Nemours is agreeable in principle, and is discussing the idea with its board,” Dickson said.

Aware of this proposed alternative, Dickson expressed concern at a lack of communication between the TPO consultants and FDOT and the city. “Public works and FDOT have been dealing with Riverside and San Marco independently so it has been hard to get an overview of the whole project with all stakeholders at the same table,” Dickson said. “SMPS has reached out to both agencies and our emails and phone calls have not been returned. San Marco needs a place at the table,” he said.

Dickson stated that the preservation society would like to see several recommendations added to the TPO consultant’s report including: crosswalks at schools, bars and restaurants or anywhere “people need to cross streets safely, whether there is a crossing or not”; additional sidewalks along busy streets where no accommodation for pedestrians has been made and where sidewalks are incomplete, and a marked walking loop connecting the parks and public spaces of San Marco.

To view the maps accompanying the study, visit To make a public comment about the plan, contact [email protected] by August 7.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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