FDOT finds compromise between bike lanes and on-street parking

FDOT finds compromise between bike lanes and on-street parking
View of FDOT’s proposed improvement to Hendricks Avenue. Improvement includes bike and parking lanes.

When it comes to resurfacing State Road 13, known as Hendricks Avenue in San Marco, it’s been hard to please everyone, but the Florida Department of Transportation certainly has tried.

After receiving pushback from the business community in a January public meeting when the FDOT proposed replacing on-street parking with a seven-foot dedicated bike lane along all but a small section of the busy corridor from Cornell Street to San Marco Boulevard, the transportation agency went back to the drawing board.

In a second public meeting held May 16 at its Edison Avenue training facility, FDOT officials rolled out a compromise, which was received well by both the bicycle and business communities. The new plan incorporates both dedicated bicycle lanes and on-street parking from Dunsford Road to Peachtree Circle North, a much longer distance along the popular stretch of road than the plan they first unveiled in January.

Currently the section of State Road 13 extending from Cornell Road to San Marco Boulevard sports a 20-foot median dividing four 11-12 foot travel lanes – two in each direction and an eight-foot parking lane, which is used jointly by bicyclists and parked cars. With cars parked on both sides of the street and no dedicated bike lane, cyclists are often forced to share the road with motorists traveling at speeds between 40 and 60 miles per hour.

The new plan, unveiled at the May meeting, removed the on-street parking in order to construct bike lanes in two segments – between Cornell Road and Peachtree Circle North, and Dunsford Road and San Marco Boulevard. In the middle segment between Peachtree Circle North and Dunsford Road, FDOT now plans to widen the roadway by reducing the median from 20 feet to 12 feet, allowing for two 11-foot travel lanes in each direction as well as a 5-1/2-foot bike lane and an eight-foot parking lane. “This way we are addressing the business concerns as well as providing a designated bike lane the entire way,” said Craig Teal, FDOT project manager for the resurfacing project.

San Jose resident Robert Tucker, who commutes by bike daily from his home near Bolles School to the Southbank, said the new plan was a step in the right direction. “It’s an improvement that I’m happy to see. I’m not discouraged because it is different than what you see in other areas of Jacksonville where they are slow to put bike lanes on existing roads.” To prevent motorists from straddling the bike lane, Tucker suggested FDOT use “rumble strips” to separate the travel lanes from the designated bike lanes.

Chris Burns, president of the Jacksonville Bicycle Advisory Committee, called the new plan “a satisfactory compromise,” while expressing a few concerns. “It puts cyclists in the bike lanes in what is called a ‘door zone’ in the locations where business parking is retained. This means when drivers open their car doors after parking, they will be opening the doors directly into the path of bicycle riders legally riding in the designated bike lanes,” he said. “This can cause accidents, which have resulted in serious injuries and even deaths around the country.”

Door zones were not Burns’ only concern with the revised design. He also suggested a crosswalk be installed in front of the Metro Diner, as well as reducing the width of the travel lanes and the speed limit on Hendricks Avenue.

“I wish there was a crosswalk from the other side of SR 13 to the Metro Diner,” said Burns. “There will be retained parking on the east side of the street. Metro Diner customers will park there and try to cross State Road 13 to get to the restaurant. With these fast moving vehicles, this will be dangerous. A crosswalk in this location would be ideal. In many places the speed limit is 40 mph but vehicles travel 55 mph and beyond. I favor reducing the speed limit to 30 mph and also reducing the width of the vehicle travel lanes by an additional foot, to 10 feet,” he said. “This would cause there to be a greater cushion for bicycle riders in the door zone to move away from the door. It would also reduce catastrophic accidents where speeds are reduced of vehicles, and it would help people attempting to pull out of their driveways to be able to gauge a safe opening to do so.”

FDOT could consider placing a crosswalk near Metro Diner, but only after a study is conducted, said FDOT’s Ryan Asmus during the meeting. “What we will look at is demand,” he said, noting placing a crosswalk at that location, which is close to the crosswalk in front of Hendricks Avenue Elementary, is difficult. At this time, FDOT considers it reasonable for Metro Diner patrons to walk approximately 300 feet out of their way to use the crosswalk in front of the school. To place another in such close proximity to the existing crossing gives “conflicting information to motorists,” Asmus said.

FDOT finds compromise between bike lanes and on-street parking

Parked cars line Hendricks Avenue between Miramar Plaza and Peachtree Circle North. According to FDOT’s plan, this on-street parking will be eliminated and replaced with a dedicated bike lane south to Cornell Road.

Residents cry out for parking

With much of the on-street parking reinstated, not many business owners expressed concern at the May meeting. Matt Carlucci, who owns a business on Hendricks, said he was happy the parking was retained, but was concerned for residents living in the two portions where on-street parking was eliminated. “I’d like to see if there could be more compromise in the residential area for parking and the bike path,” Carlucci said.

Many residents with homes bordering Hendricks were unhappy to learn on-street parking in front of their homes would be eliminated. “We need parking,” said Pat Bridgeman, whose home on Hendricks between River Oaks Road and Pine Ridge has been in her family since the 1930s. “We just want to keep what we’ve got. If we don’t have that, we have nothing.”

Mary Ann Molenda, a Hendricks Avenue resident for 38 years, said the removal of on-street parking in front of her home is a concern. “I’m not happy about it. It means there will be no guest parking in front of my house. Where will the plumbers and lawn people and others who work on our homes park?” she said. “I’m three or four blocks from the Square. San Marco people come for San Marco (Square) activities and they all park along there. It’s pretty big time to tell people they can’t park in front of my house.”

As a realtor who is also president of the San Marco Merchants Association, Anita Vining said the new plan reflected “compromise” in its truest sense, but hoped that FDOT would consider extending the on-street parking to San Marco Boulevard. “I think compromise is a good word. From a merchant’s standpoint we need as much parking in San Marco as possible. It will hurt new business to take it away,” Vining said, adding the portion of Hendricks from San Marco Boulevard to Dunsford is often used as overflow parking when festivals and other events are held in the square. “From a real estate perspective, a lot of homes on Hendricks Avenue utilize the parking lane for guests. If you take that away they will start parking in yards, and that will diminish property values,” she said.

Due to the high number of complaints from Hendricks Avenue residents during the meeting, FDOT is reconsidering the possibility of finding a way to retain parking from Dunsford Road to San Marco Boulevard, said Debbie Delgado, a spokesperson for FDOT after the meeting. There will be no reconsideration of the removal of on-street parking in the section from Peachtree Circle North to Cornell Road, and no future public meetings on the Hendricks Avenue resurfacing project are planned, she said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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