picture of bike valet
picture of bike valet

After six years serving on the City of Winter Park's Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Board, including the last three as its chair, it was nice to be able to present the latest update of the City's Bike-Ped Connectivity Plan to the City Commission in early September. The updated plan takes a more strategic look at getting from Point A to Point B, such as from the Orlando Urban Trail at Loch Haven Park to downtown Winter Park and the SunRail station, getting from the Cady Way Trail to Rollins College, or from the fast growing US 17-92 corridor to just about anywhere else safely. Glen Duke of Renaissance created this map to show the various components of the plan.

The City has already built excellent multimodal facilities, including what were among the region's first Shared Lane Markings (sharrows). But a good bike-ped plan isn't all about facilities. It needs all the other elements working in tandem - education (of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists), encouraging interested and eager riders and walkers, ensuring active involvement of law enforcement, and addressing equity considerations like access, impacts and connectivity. The City's Bike Valet program, Bike Rodeos and bike parking facilities are good examples of those elements. With all those pieces in place, the City of Winter Park continues heading in the right direction on access and walkability.

Boarding area for SunRail.
Boarding area for SunRail.

However, challenges remain, like the one I experienced on my recent Amtrak trip to Jacksonville. Winter Park has a gorgeous new train station, courtesy of state and federal funding for SunRail. The City spent its own money to create the station's unique look. Departing on a Wednesday afternoon, Amtrak riders were required to wait and watch as SunRail riders boarded and alighted the commuter train underneath the nice shade awning. When the northbound Amtrak 98 Silver Meteor arrived, its passengers were forced to walk away from the station to stand and board in the late August sun without any cover. I felt bad for the older riders as we broiled before boarding. This was very surprising, given the brand new first-class touches on the SunRail station, which is shared by Amtrak.

photo of Amtrak
photo of Amtrak

I asked the Amtrak agent if a fix was in the works. "Not now with SunRail completed," he said. "I asked multiple times for even some kind of tarp or temporary awning. I never got a response." The City staff's take on it was there were numerous opportunities for public input in the design of the station. Guess we all overlooked that little piece. This certainly speaks to our national stovepipe mentality and funding silos when it comes to transportation planning and project funding. Still, professionals handling design for pedestrian safety, convenience and comfort need to pay attention to all the little details, including access, connectivity and basic standards for pedestrian and transit rider comfort.  Perhaps they should get out and walk or ride more so they can more practically plan for facilities as users, as Eric Jaffe reported in a recent Citylab piece.

Before we get too comfortable with our own success, we need to remember that we can always do better for the users themselves.

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