So, I’m in Florida this week to help with my youngest sister-in-law’s wedding.
I don’t know of all of Florida is this way, but it seems that they have mistaken bike lanes for bikability. Every arterial I have seen has a fastidiously assigned 4 foot bike lane on each side of a six lane highway. Those bike lanes are sandwiched between the traffic and the sidewalk, and the sidewalk is sandwiched between the highway and ample parking. The only exception to this rule was in Winter Park, where I spied the block of single story storefronts next to a 4-lane road.
Nearly every arterial I have seen has been a six-lane highway, with a design speed approaching 55 MPH. Florida is great about controlling access to arterials. The distance between intersections and curb cuts is ample and safe, allowing visibility for drivers along and entering the highway. The curb cuts directly on the highway are few, with most entrances to most strip malls on the side roads intersecting the highway. This makes things safer for traffic, so they can move faster on the arterials. It also pushes traffic intersection activity into the blocks away from the arterials.
Each block on these arterials was over a half a mile, making for a 10 minute trudge between Bojangles and Chevron on foot. Not a very edifying walk for the aspiring pedestrian. No wonder I saw a only dozen walkers, and no bikers in all my errands yesterday.
THe high design speed of commercial arterials, wide expanses of parking, and intersections on side blocks makes Florida exciting to drive around in. Florida’s traffic fatality rate is over twice that of New York, the closest state in population, and third to the much larger Texas and California. The percent of bikers and walkers killed by traffic in Florida are right up there with California. No wonder I didn’t see many walkers. They got the message to get a car if they wanted to live in Florida.
It could be that my sample is flawed, that the arterials around Orlando are not the same as those around Tampa, Miami, or Tallahassee. It could be that the minor side streets are paragons of bikable connectivity. That the subdivisions attach to each other with multiple connections allowing surreptitious access to housing within the subdivisions, backlot access to the shopping arterials, and transcendent connections beyond every arterial to allow people to get to jobs beyond their super-block.
But I doubt it.