Chatter around town and on social media last week reminded me of the folk tale, Henny Penny, with the chicken running around screaming, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” This uproar occurs every time the subject of possible future lane reduction along Wilton Drive pops up. This same response surfaced recently in a discussion of lane reduction and installation of bike lanes along Powerline Road.
I’m trying very hard to understand how relatively reasonable, intelligent people could make such hysterical, mistaken comments that disaster would occur if such changes actually took place. These are the changes that many in our community have been fighting now for many years, changes that should be embraced as transformative, necessary, and as common sense.
Perhaps their mindset is locked in the past, when planners designed roadways to move cars faster with little disruption and with little thought to other usage, such as bicycles and pedestrians. This is why we hear responses such as, “Why would you want to ruin a perfectly good road?” “Narrowing the Drive is a stupid idea,” and “You will ruin the traffic flow simply to make room for a few bikes and scooters.”
This outmoded planning has given us nothing but suburban sprawl and an almost total dependency on the automobile. We need to reclaim our streets and begin to redesign their usage, so that we can start to build a new type of urban community where residents can walk to shops and entertainment, where bike lanes make it easier for residents to travel short distances from their homes, and where other modes of transportation coexist with automobiles.
Here in Wilton Manors, we consider Wilton Drive as our Main Street, our downtown, our central business area. We need to move ahead with a new roadway plan, one that embraces a more walkable, more attractive, and more bicycle friendly roadway rather than the existing four-lane freeway cutting through the center of our city.
The new planning model embraced by the Regional Planning Organization, the MPO, along with many cities here in South Florida, is known as “Complete Streets.” This new urban community planning movement looks to slow down vehicular traffic and reorganize roadways and sidewalks to accommodate bicycle lanes and increased pedestrian traffic, while embracing other modes of transportation. Complete Streets is a perfect match not just for Wilton Drive, but also throughout our city. As a small urban city, we have begun to embrace this concept along Powerline Road, 26th Street, hopefully along NW 29th Street, and Andrews Avenue, as we look ahead to bicycle lane connectivity throughout our city and safer roadways not only for automobiles but for pedestrians and bike riders alike.
Our Mayor and City Commissioners recently voted to join the city of Fort Lauderdale in filing an application with the MPO and the Florida Department of Transportation for a lane reduction project along NE 4th Ave and Wilton Drive to Five Points. Bringing Complete Streets planning to Wilton Drive is a key factor in creating a thriving Arts & Entertainment District and urban center for our city. We should be hearing cheers and shouts of support, not the hysterical Henny Penny running around screaming that the sky is falling and that disaster will occur. Over the past ten years many in our community have fought to make the concept of Complete Streets a reality. If we are to move ahead and leave the past behind us, we must be ready to leave outdated concepts of urban planning based solely on the automobile behind as well.
Looking to embrace the future and shape it into a vibrant urban community here in Wilton Manors will only make us stronger and better, because ... life could be even better here ….