Each time I leave my neighborhood to freshly re-paved County Road 535, I am so disheartened. It sickens me that the County would spend all this money and time pouring new asphalt and restriping all while making no improvements for safety through this area.

Just north of the intersection of Chase Road and CR 535, this roadway was improved with curbs, a lower speed limit, and possibly a reduction in lane width, which all aid in reducing the speed at which a driver feels comfortable moving his vehicle.

The newly “improved” section, from Chase Road and southward, is composed of extra wide lanes, no curbs, and broad flat shoulders large enough to accommodate an extra vehicle lane. These factors aid in a driver feeling comfortable moving his vehicle faster, no matter the posted speed limit.

“Orange County is focused on making the roadways and shoulders safer for the citizens and visitors of Orange County. Presently through our paving program every year we identify many roadways that require the milling and resurfacing of the roadways. Many of these roadways have paved shoulders allowing the traveling public to safely leave the main roadway, should it be necessary.”

In addition, Orange County Roads and Drainage has let us know that this improvement should last 15 to 20 years with proper maintenance. Wowzas! I guess there is no plan for traffic calming measures through this area. Nevermind that hundreds of school children and parents walk across CR 535 to Sunset Park Elementary each and every school day. I guess slowing the traveling public down for safety matters only for those in vehicles, not for those without a steel shield around them.

At a time when Metro Orlando was named the fourth most dangerous city for pedestrians in the country, it is time to look at context sensitive solutions!

Last fall, the McDonald’s restaurant here in Lakeside Village of Horizon West was constructed and opened. It’s built identically to the style and site plan of the McDonald’s in Winter Garden Village. This is not an anti McDonald’s tirade. In fact, I enjoy their fries as much as anyone. And it’s not completely an anti drive-through tirade. After all, I have kids and sometimes that’s just plain easier. This is a ding on the developer and county officials who approved the site plan for this restaurant.

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McDonald’s wanted a drive-through in this ‘pedestrian-friendly’ location. They got it. Sad thing is, at this location, an individual outside of the vehicle gets twice as much exposure to moving vehicles as an individual at a typical suburban fast food restaurant with a drive-through!

During a typical drive-through process (and this is not great), a motorist must enter the property from the main thoroughfare, drive down the right side of the building, place the order at the rear of the building, drive around the left side of the building to pick up the order, and exit onto the main thoroughfare. Each individual walking to the property or coming from a parked car has one chance of exposure to each car moving through the drive-through.

At the new McDonald’s in our pedestrian-friendly Horizon West, each person walking from a parked car or from off property has double the exposure! No matter which vehicular access a motorist enters from, they must drive all the way around the building before placing an order. Then of course the process takes them around the building again after picking up the food order.

What gives?! This is worse than the usual suburban template. How was this allowed to happen here in Horizon West?

It’s time that we demand better. All drive-throughs are auto-oriented, but it’s time to think creatively about how they can be better integrated. The one-size-fits-all approach and standard cookie cutter template are no longer good enough.

If County officials won’t uphold the foundations of Horizon West, we have to remind them. And we have to stay ahead of their approval process by understanding what is at stake.

By the way, below are photos of fast food restaurants elsewhere with drive-through configurations that better separate motorists from individuals on foot in the parking lot or walking to the restaurant. It is possible to do better.

Beaverton, OR:

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Orlando, FL:

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