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"Complete Streets" Come to Winter Park

May 18, 2011| Many places in Central Florida are known for having busy roads that make it difficult to ride a bike or even cross the street. Now Winter Park is joining a growing national movement to gradually improve roads so they can accommodate more than just cars. City Commissioners passed a resolution last week that will encourage the creation of so called "complete streets" in the city as 90.7s Mark Simpson reports.

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Crossing Busy Lee Road in Winter Park

Here on Lee Road in Winter Park there’s an apartment complex with a bus stop across the street.  But there’s no easy way to get to the there.  It’s the kind of thing that gets local land use attorney Rick Geller hot under the collar,  "To get across to that bus stop over there the ability to do so legally just doesn’t exist here. There’s not a single crosswalk anywhere."

The nearest crosswalk is about a 20minute hike back towards Interstate 4.

It’s a problem that communities like Winter Park are trying to gradually improve.  They want to make current roads more friendly to pedestrians, cyclists, and cars. 

Geller is worried busy streets like Lee Road present dangerous crossing conditions for all types of citizens even on a sunny Florida day…"Here we have a lady on an electric wheelchair she’s in the middle of the street, the middle of the highway and we have cars zooming by her at 50, 45 miles an hour, and she is completely outside the law what she’s with what she’s doing, but she has no choice."

The heavy traffic makes it impossible for me to cross in time to catch the lady in the wheel chair.

We run across Lee Rd to try go interview the lady.  Standing in the median feels exposed as  traffic whizzes past us.

We do catch up with Willie Starks a homeless man who crosses Lee Road everyday to catch the bus…he says it’s not easy, " They will run over you, they hit you, they’ll kill you, and they’ll keep going."

 Washington state based Transportation expert Dan Burden was in town for a presentation to Winter Park City Commissioners and described a "complete street", "for me a complete street is one that just seamlessly one can switch from mode to mode."

Burden is a leading voice in a national movement that wants communities to move away from thinking their roads are just for cars. 

It’s called “Complete Streets” and urges communities to slowly add features that improve roads like wider sidewalks, narrower lanes, and moving buildings closer to a road’s edge.  Burden says that creates what he calls visual friction and slows drivers down, "burden on visual friction: if the street feels stark, scary, naked, dangerous even, then people try to rush through…there are a lot of streets in the Orlando area, that that’s what they are…so bringing the buildings in is the first great act of civilizing a street."

Winter Park’s new resolution is part of a gradual change to improve streets when routine tasks come up like paving or replacing pipes.  The new rules should be in place by August. 

The movement is gaining attention nationwide. So far 3 Florida cities including Pensacola and Fort Lauderdale have already passed resolutions to move their streets closer to the “complete” model.

Transportation consultant Dan Burden says Winter Park’s approach will be crucial for other communities as well, "It’s got to start with a  couple of really great model projects. So what happens here in WP is going to be really important not just to WP but to Orlando, Central Florida, and in time the entire state.a"

State transportation officials say they have adopted complete streets concepts into their long range planning but that means the changes can be decades in the future.

Attorney Rick Geller convinced state lawmakers to pass a measure this year that would put a few of those ideas into action sooner - but he says he’s already preparing for a stronger push during next year’s legislative session.






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