Stranded at Flagler Shore? Readers react

Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach

 

Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach is a neat idea — for the fairgrounds, said retired businessman Robert Garvy. “At least they have public restrooms there,” Garvy said.

Garvey is one of a number of business leaders and residents who were sympathetic to the frustration expressed by Dennis Hammond of Sandpointe Asset Management, with offices in the Phillips Point office complex on Flagler Drive.

Recently, Hammond told the Palm Beach Post and city leaders he was dismayed by the city’s Flagler Shore project, which involve shutting down a portion of the eastern lanes of Flagler Drive to make way for chairs, bicyclists, street jugglers and graffiti-laden shipping containers.

City officials say they’re trying to broaden the waterfront’s appeal by making it a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly place. The partial road shutdown runs through March 1.

Hammond says the effort is “goofy” and anti-business.

Flagler Drive is an important north-south thoroughfare, Hammond said. He noted the area already has plenty of places to enjoy the waterfront, without necessitating the transformation of a four-lane road into a two-lane one so that people can partake in “pavement lunches on Flagler.”

Garvy, the retired chairman of money management firm, Intech, agreed wholeheartedly.

And bluntly.

“How low can our city leaders take this town? The Flagler waterfront is beautiful as it is,” Garvy wrote Hammond in an email, copied to the Palm Beach Post. ” It’s amazing what lack of vision these people have.”

Garvy is an influential business leader who kicked off the leasing of the CityPlace Tower office building when he moved Intech to the tower’s penthouse, from a location in Palm Beach Gardens.

Robert Garvy, formerly chairman of Intech in West Palm Beach

In an interview, Garvy said he’s making another investment in the city. He bought a unit in The Bristol, the West Palm Beach luxury condominium under construction at 1100 S. Flagler Dr. Garvey plans to move there from a single-family home on Palm Beach.

Now he’s wondering what will happen if the city’s vision of street merchants, roller-bladers and street artists remains a permanent fixture along the waterfront, an area he had contemplated strolling at night.

“The people I’ve talked to recently are appalled, just appalled, not only by the action but by the process that was followed here,” Garvy said, citing the minimal notice to the community.

He’s not alone in being bewildered by the whole venture.

“I can’t help but wonder who would create such an unsightly mess,” Michael Andersen, who works at Phillips Point, wrote in an email to city officials. “The experiment turned this stretch of road into an obstacle course of confused drivers and no new pedestrians.”

In a recent interview, West Palm Beach economic development director Christopher Roog said Flagler Shore isn’t anti-business. In fact, the business community benefits from the public space and recreational features there, Roog said.

“The waterfront is a very important place for (our residents),” Roog said, “so what can we do to make it better for everyone?”

A number of people have expressed their support for the experiment, on a Facebook page called Engage West Palm Beach.

“We drive on Flagler all the time and think it’s great!!” wrote Chris Costello Haerting.

“Flagler Shore is all about trying to better the city of West Palm Beach,” wrote Joseph Russo. “Once (in) awhile, our elected officials take a stand in defense of the new. But before many of these groundbreaking new ideas can take root and flourish, they are often knocked down for fear of change, detriment, or blight…..(While) we might not all agree on the means, we should unite behind the vision at least.”

Garvy hopes any further consideration to extending Flagler Shore will involve the residents and businesses.

The city’s website said it encourages public feedback on the new design and new activities via email at  flaglershore@wpb.org.

New group forms to steer autonomous vehicle policy in Florida

A new group has formed to help guide any future autonomous vehicle policy in the Sunshine State.

Autonomous Florida, based in Tallahassee, “will provide an important voice from stakeholders and experts in the conversation about Sunshine State policy related to automated vehicle technology,” according to a news release.

The announcement comes at a time when interest throughout the U.S. in automated vehicles is high.

An Uber driverless Ford Fusion drives through in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
An Uber driverless Ford Fusion drives through in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in September. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Electric-vehicle maker Tesla announced last week that all of its cars now are being produced with self-driving capabilities. Earlier this year, Babcock Ranch, a new town being built near Fort Myers, said on its blog that it “will welcome driverless cars with open arms to help improve our residents’ overall quality of life.” Images popped up in early October of what are believed to be the first self-driving Chrysler minivans in Google’s Self-Driving Car Project.

And earlier this year, Florida passed a law addressing autonomous vehicles, becoming the second state to do so. The law states that a person who has a valid driver’s license may operate an autonomous vehicle in Florida; it also defines who would be considered the operator of an autonomous vehicle.

The new nonprofit group will work with lawmakers on issues related to automated vehicles as research, development and production continues to pick up in coming years.

“As autonomous vehicle technology improves — much of that research and development taking place in our own state — policy changes are also required, so that our laws account for unprecedented advancements in self-driving vehicles,” Allison Aubuchon, spokesperson for Autonomous Florida, said in the news release. “States looking to work with this technology have a great opportunity to be at the forefront of policy changes.”

What’s the difference?

It can be confusing: There are many terms floating around in the automated vehicle discussion. Here’s how the Florida Department of Transportation breaks it down:

“Automated vehicle is an umbrella term that includes both autonomous and connected vehicle technologies. An autonomous vehicle (AV) is any vehicle equipped with advanced sensors (radar, LIDAR, cameras, etc.) and computing abilities to perceive its surroundings and activate steering, braking, and acceleration without operator input. Connected vehicles (CV) employ vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication to provide real-time warnings to a human driver to help them avoid crashes. Additional information can include traffic signal status, traffic congestion and construction warnings, as well as impending severe weather events.”

What you had to say on aggressive driving crackdown in Florida

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

Wow. Our readers certainly had a lot to say about aggressive driving.

Florida Highway Patrol is cracking down on unruly drivers in its latest enforcement campaign — called Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks, or TACT — which runs through Oct. 20.

This comes just months after the U.S. government announced a record surge in fatal crashes last year, including an increase in deadly wrecks involving large trucks.

For drivers of passenger vehicles, there’s a lot to know about interacting on the roads with tractor-trailers. You can read the full article here.

We posted the story on our Facebook page, and our readers responded in droves.

Here are some of the comments on the post:

Samantha said, “I’ve recently relocated from NJ. I have never seen driving quite like the way it’s done down here. I sometimes wonder if we all took the same driver’s exam. The speeding, tailgating and passing on the right drive me bonkers! I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands each time I have to drive on 95. The cell phone laws need to change here, as well. It’s horrendous! From little old ladies to kids with a fresh new license. Someone is almost always with a phone to their ear.”

Ali said, “Good, I can’t stand when everyone is going the speed limit and the guy behind me is so close to my rear like I can go any faster with people in front of me. Makes me so mad, especially cuz I have my kids in the car with me most of the time. Back off people! Can’t control the traffic flow!”

Derek said, “Need to crackdown on slow drivers. They create more dangerous situations than drivers who drive a little over the limit.”

Sharrie said, “Good, because that was all I saw when I was in South Florida last weekend.”

Laura said, “There’s no excuse for tailgating. If there’s a car accident or whatever in front of you but you’re tailgating and don’t have time to brake, you’re getting caught up in it.”

To read more comments, head to The Palm Beach Post’s Facebook page.

 

 

Yes, it is illegal in Florida to disregard or destroy detour signs

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Traffic lesson of the week: Unless otherwise indicated, it’s illegal to drive around, destroy or deface a detour sign.

This issue has popped into my inboxes — email, Twitter and Facebook — a few times now. The most recent message came from a frustrated reader in Boca Raton, where the Yamato Road closure at the Tri-Rail tracks made for a longer-than-usual commute for some.

(Click here to read more about that closure and see detours.)

He wanted to know why he couldn’t “just go around” the detour signs. There are a lot of answers to that — namely, that it would be extremely unsafe — but the simple answer is, “Because it’s illegal to do so.”

Florida’s law — you can read it here — says, “It is unlawful to tear down or deface any detour sign or to break down or drive around any barricade erected for the purpose of closing any section of a public street or highway to traffic during the construction or repair thereof or to drive over such section of public street or highway until again thrown open to public traffic.”

There is one exception: If you’re on the road crew doing the work.

 

And yes, it’s true that you may see a detour sign accompanied by another that says, “Road closed. Local traffic only.” You’ll see this in residential areas; it means only residents can access that street.

Here’s the full Florida statute:

316.078 Detour signs to be respected.—
(1) It is unlawful to tear down or deface any detour sign or to break down or drive around any barricade erected for the purpose of closing any section of a public street or highway to traffic during the construction or repair thereof or to drive over such section of public street or highway until again thrown open to public traffic. However, such restriction shall not apply to the person in charge of the construction or repairs.
(2) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable pursuant to chapter 318 as:
(a) A nonmoving violation for tearing, breaking down, or defacing any detour sign.
(b) A moving violation for driving around any barricade erected for the purpose of closing any section of a public street or highway to traffic that is under construction or repair or driving over such section of public street or highway until open to public traffic.

More transportation news

Older teens at higher risk when it comes to fatal crashes, new report says

Florida cracks down on aggressive drivers as traffic fatalities rise

Florida drivers get creative to protect cars from Hurricane Matthew

 

 

 

Map: Most dangerous areas for walking and biking in Palm Beach County

A bicyclist crosses Okeechobee Boulevard at Military Trail in suburban West Palm Beach in 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
A bicyclist crosses Okeechobee Boulevard at Military Trail in suburban West Palm Beach in 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

A group of citizens and local officials has compiled a list of the most dangerous places in Palm Beach County for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Team commissioned a study with planning consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates to compile data and construct a heat map that details specific spots and corridors where incidents have occurred.

The team used that analysis to help craft ideas to help improve safety in those key areas.

The group, which began meeting in April, had its final meeting Monday before it moves forward with presenting its ideas and a plan to improve safety to the MPO’s board.

Members of the team include officials from West Palm Beach and Delray Beach, members of the county’s parks and traffic engineering departments, and residents.

Kimley-Horn’s Stuart Robertson said the study looked at crash data involving pedestrians and bicyclists in Palm Beach County from 2010 to 2014.

He said one of the most striking things to him is a dense corridor of crashes in central Palm Beach County, traveling from about Okeechobee Boulevard down Military Trail to Lake Worth Road, and from Jog Road east into downtown Lake Worth along Lake Worth Road.

Most notable there, he added, is that there has been a large number of nighttime crashes.

He also said Okeechobee Boulevard poses a unique challenge because “we basically have an eight-lane highway right through our downtown.”

Use the interactive map below to explore the areas in Palm Beach County that the group identified as among the most dangerous. The circles represent the hot spots, and the lines represent corridors of concern.

Some of the safety measures the group could propose: crossing islands, to provide pedestrians with a “refuge” to wait for cars to pass while navigating an intersection; more “no right turn on red” intersections; lanes reductions; and more street lighting.

Check back with The Palm Beach Post later for more details on suggestions the team thinks could help certain areas of Palm Beach County be more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

 

Here’s what readers had to say about driving with hazard lights on in the rain

Earlier this week, we took a moment to remind readers that it’s illegal in Florida to have your hazard lights on while driving in the rain.

We also asked readers if they do this, and why.

(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

About 68 percent of people who voted in our poll said they do not turn their hazard lights on in the rain, while about 22 percent said they do.

On Facebook, the topic generated dozens of comments.

Those who commented made arguments both for and against turning on your hazard lights in a downpour.

“It’s about time! People just ignore the road laws,” wrote Theresa Gause. “It is plain and simple driving with hazards light on in a rain storm is only for emergency. If you can’t see in front of you in the rain you can just pull over?”

Layne Vorthmann Lovett commented that she’s against turning the flashing lights on in the rain, because it can make it more difficult for her to see.

“It seems like people literally see things differently in this situation,” she wrote. “I have 20/20 vision but am rather light sensitive, so if you have your hazards on in front of me in the rain, you are lighting up every single rain drop between us and I cannot tell if you are ten feet in front of me or 100 feet. I guess some people can see through the blinding combination of your hazards and the rain.”

Melissa Gardner said she’s been on Interstate 95 in downpours where visibility drops and she has difficulty seeing.

“The hazard lights have been extremely helpful in those cases!” Gardner wrote.

Your first look inside All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger-rail cars

The Palm Beach Post got an exclusive look inside the passenger cars of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger-rail service.

View of a Brightline locomotive under construction at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, Tuesday June 7, 2016, in Sacramento. (Jeff Ostrowski / The Palm Beach Post)
View of a Brightline locomotive under construction at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, Tuesday June 7, 2016, in Sacramento. (Jeff Ostrowski / The Palm Beach Post)

The cars, which are being built in Sacramento, California, feature electrical outlets and roomy seating, along with bathrooms that will offer a “shockingly different experience” than those on airplanes said Brightline President Michael Reininger.

» Read The Post’s full story on the trains

The Post also got a first look at one of the Brightline locomotives under construction. Until now, only renderings of the trains had been released by Brightline.

It’s illegal to have your hazard lights on in the rain, and it could cost you | Poll

We’ve all been there: The rain is pouring down in sheets, you’re white-knuckle holding the steering wheel of your car and the person in front of you suddenly turns on their yellow, blinking hazard lights, as if to say, “Here I am!”

Here’s the thing: It’s illegal in Florida to have your hazard lights on while you’re driving. And the ticket could cost you $116 in Palm Beach County.

» UPDATES: When to expect the rain today

You may think you're helping other motorists by putting your hazard lights on in the rain — but you could actually create more issues. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
You may think you’re helping other motorists by putting your hazard lights on in the rain — but you could actually create more issues. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

The only exception to the rule: if you’re part of a funeral procession.

Sgt. Mark Wysocky, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, said people may think they’re helping others, but hazard lights can be misleading if used improperly.

» RELATED: Latest updates from The Palm Beach Post’s weather reporter, Kim Miller

“They may think they’re doing everybody a favor, but in reality they’re creating confusion,” Wysocky said, explaining that in some cars, the bulbs for hazard lights may be the same as the one for your brake lights or turn signals.

“People may think you’re stopped in the roadway,” Wysocky said.

So what should you do when the rain starts pouring down? Wysocky said to turn on your headlights and windshield wipers — as required by law — and pay close attention to your surroundings. But don’t stop on the side of the road. Rather, exit the roadway and get to a safe place.

Florida law enforcement agencies and officials in the past have used social media to remind residents to stop turning those hazard lights on in the rain.

“Hazard lights are designed to let other drivers know your car is NOT working,” Florida Highway Patrol’s Orlando branch tweeted. “Please only use hazard lights in a stationary position.”

This doesn’t just apply to Floridians. A metro Atlanta police department recently warned its residents that using hazard lights while you’re driving may incorrectly signal to other motorists that you’re stopped or otherwise traveling much slower than other traffic.