On Wednesday, February 29, 2012, national traffic calming expert and executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Dan Burden, hosted a walkability audit of the intersection of County Road 535 and Overstreet Road here in Horizon West for several concerned parents of students attending Sunset Park Elementary.

During the brief walking audit, Dan, who indicated “gross omissions”, pointed out several problems but also shared practical solutions to implement.

The only thing as disappointing as our reason for having him there was the lack of participation by the school’s administration particularly after multiple email invitations and a phone call. We received no explanation, excuse, or reason for their lack of interest. It would be nice to have their partnership in pressuring the County for improvements for life safety for their students.

If you missed Beth Kassab’s Orlando Sentinel column “Suburbs Shouldn’t Settle For Riskier Roads” on March 4, you should know that the accompanying video was shot during the audit. I found it particularly illustrative with moms and a stroller walking in the foreground and vehicles zooming both directions in the background. Great job Beth and George Skene of the Sentinel!

Also, click to see an earlier assessment I performed on this intersection aslt fall. I feel Dan was able to better boil down the problems to immediate needs with solutions.

Please click for Dan’s assessment of and suggestions for this intersection. This will launch a PDF.

 

On Tuesday, February 27, Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute came to Winter Garden and spoke at three workshops on taming our streets. These ‘Livability and the Role of Transportation’ workshops were compact and relevant and filled with visual representations.Session 1 was ‘Street Design and Your Business’ in which Dan explained the economics of place, or the correlation between street design and economic growth. He stated, “For the economy to grow, we can’t keep growing our traffic.”He shared the statistics that while we once fled the cities, people are returning in droves. Regarding economic growth, streets have to be beautiful in order to attract people and to attract merchants. This is done with sidewalks, vegetation, and speeds appropriate to the land use. The towns that make will attract are the ones that implement these types of elements. As you can recognize, healthier communities are those in which people linger and spend more time.Dan showed two photos side by side. In one, homes were built facing the street, and in the other, homes were turned away from it. He explained that even though both roadways may be collectors, one costs lives and provides no wealth (and raises blood pressure) while the other provides wealth and protects lives. It was easy to decipher the street design elements that made these possible.

He showed several examples of cities and towns putting good street design into practice. It’s important to remember that the average person will outlive his ability to drive a car by 7 to 9 years. If you don’t live in a location where you can get around by other methods, you lose much independence and mobilization.

‘Street Design And Your School’ was the title of the afternoon session held at Lake Whitney Elementary. We learned that as much as 30% of rush hour traffic is attributed to transporting students to school. Dan showed us practical solutions that have been implemented to relieve traffic pressure at schools around the country. One popular tool is the roundabout. Other solutions were curb extensions, bike lanes of a contrasting color, mini circles, mountable medians, highly visible crosswalks, close vertical walls constructed of islands or trees, and large gutter pans (which make the road feel narrower to slow traffic).

Regarding roundabouts, specifically, these eliminate accidents by 90%, move 30% more traffic than a conventional intersection, and increase rather than decrease the adjacent property values as is common at busy intersections. Discussion ensued over roundabouts, as there is some confusion out there regarding roundabouts versus traffic circles and rotaries.

The last session of the day ‘Street Design and your Neighborhood’ drew the smallest crowd but concluded with good discussion. During this session, Dan asked the audience to name our values. Some that were mentioned were community, safety, walkability, green space, convenience, health, good schools, and prosperity. Yet, we all clearly saw how we are not building from this set of values. And to borrow a quote than Dan borrowed from John Steinbeck, “America is out of sync with its values.” Dan encouraged us that by identifying our values, we can lay out a whole town. For example, if we do indeed care about health and safety, we would work hard to implement complete streets which accommodate multiple modes of transportation – pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. These values we claim to hold dear should become part of our design palette.

Walking Audit of Winter Garden after first workshop

On February 28, the public is invited to a series of free workshops that will address how residents and community leaders in West Orange can leverage streets and transportation investments to create places that are more supportive of economic development, active living, neighborhood health and safe access to schools.

Dan Burden, executive director of the non-profit Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, will share how communities throughout the country and Central Florida are approaching transportation projects as a means to add value to land and improve quality of life for residents and visitors, while moving traffic smoothly and efficiently.

The workshops will explain how traffic-calming measures, “road diets,” intersections, trails, bike lanes, sidewalks and other street design elements affect commercial districts, school areas and residential neighborhoods. Two of the workshops will conclude with optional “walking audits,” during which participants assess nearby streets to identify firsthand some of the barriers to safe, productive streets, and to discuss ways to overcome those barriers. Members of the public are invited to attend one or all of the workshops, which are scheduled as follows:

• Street Design & Your Business
Tuesday, February 28
8:30 to 9:15 a.m. (with optional walking audit until 9:45 a.m.)
City of Winter Garden City Hall, 300 W. Plant Street, Winter Garden, FL

StreetDesignWorkshop_Business_Flyer_2012-02-28mid-cmprs (PDF)

• Street Design & Your School
Tuesday, February 28
2:15 to 3:00 p.m. (with optional walking audit until 3:30 p.m.)
Lake Whitney Elementary School, 1351 Windermere Road, Winter Garden, FL

StreetDesignWorkshop_Schools_Flyer_2012-02-28mid-cmprs (PDF)

• Street Design & Your Neighborhood
Tuesday, February 28
6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Children’s Lighthouse/People of Faith, 220 Windermere Road, Winter Garden, FL(near Roper YMCA and Southwest Aquatics)

StreetDesignWorkshop_Neighborhoods_Flyer_2012-02-28mid-cmprs (PDF)

The events are free and open to all members of the public, including business operators, homeowners, students and parents, school officials, elected leaders, healthcare providers, municipal staff, consultants, emergency responders, seniors’ representatives, property owners, parks and recreation providers, and more.

The workshops are supported by the City of Winter Garden, Safe Streets West Orange and the WALC Institute. For more information, email SafeStreetsWestOrange@gmail.com.