Study: Flagler Shore not clogging traffic on downtown waterfront


West Palm reviews public response to giving half of Flagler Drive on waterfront to pedestrians

The city has fielded plenty of complaints about its pilot project to give half of Flagler Drive back to pedestrians and cyclists.

There have been calls to city hall, while social media sites where downtowners gather online, and our letters-to-the-editor columns, also have served as sounding boards for those who hate the public art, hate the road barriers and fear Flagler Shore: From Pavement to People will snarl the waterfront road and push traffic onto other, already crowded streets.

Now the initial data has come in, to help evaluate the Copenhagen-modeled concept by the numbers.

The city, in a release issued Wednesday, said the data has not validated the traffic fears. The average number of cars using Flagler Drive each day dropped to 6,404 in October, compared with 8,438 in September, before the project began.

To be fair to opponents of the project, another way of looking at those numbers would be to say that since the number of lanes has halved, traffic has increased on each of the remaining two lanes to 3,202 cars per lane, versus 2,109 previously. But there’ve been no crashes reported and most people are staying close to the 20 miles per hour speed limit.

Meanwhile, a common complaint is whether the sacrifice of car lanes is worth it, since the lanes now set aside for pedestrians and bicyclists look unused most of the time. Apparently people are eating Danish rather than acting Danish.

That kind of cultural change might take time to evolve.

“Manual counts” indicate the freed-up lanes draw about 53 pedestrians per hour, most of them during lunchtime. Others use the lanes for jogging in the evening.

Nine bicyclists, rollerbladers or skateboarders are using it per hour on weekdays and more during the evening.

Various events have been held to attract people to Flagler Shore. One, Lunch on the Shore, drew 70 people; Meditate with Matt has more than 50 RSVP’s for Dec. 16; and an evening food truck event was heavily attended.

A Community Think Tank is scheduled for Dec. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m., on the lawn near Clematis Street, for the public to share ideas and opinions on the project.

Mayor Jeri Muoio, for her part, expresses optimism the project will fulfill the promise of the city consultants who urged West Palm to forge more of a connection between residents, visitors and the waterfront.

“We are trying to improve the quality of life in West Palm Beach and are listening to the needs and wishes of our residents and downtown businesses,” she said. “This pilot project is intended to give space back to the public and we believe it can be successful thanks to the community’s input.”

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