There is a new traffic pattern on Flagler. The eastern lanes of Flagler Drive (between Banyan and Lakeview) are closed and the western lanes have been converted to one lane in each direction. This is part of a temporary project that the City is calling “Flagler Shore”. You can get more information in my previous blog entry on the topic.

Note: The City wanted to restripe the lanes BEFORE the Green Market / Grand Opening, but because of the rain they were not able to do this in time. So we still have the cones, and they make Flagler look like a construction site, but they will be gone soon.

The fact that we are temporarily changing Flagler Drive from four lanes to two has caused a substantial amount of hand-wringing on the internet. What will the effects of these changes be? So after work on Friday, I went down to the waterfront to see how everything works out for myself.

Here are some things I discovered.

1. Flagler Drive isn’t getting congested

The obvious first concern that everyone had was that with fewer travel lanes, traffic will get “congested”. This is a concern, so from my “crows nest” vantage point I filmed the traffic at two different points during the day.

Watch these two videos on how traffic now flows down Flagler Drive. These are sped up 10x so you don’t have to spend the next hour watching traffic.

Flagler Drive from 3 pm to 3:30 pm on Friday

Flagler Drive from 5 pm to 5:30 pm on Friday

This isn’t a “scientific” experiment, but it does show that

2. Flagler Drive is safer because it’s slower

The posted speed limit on Flagler is 25 mph. With the 4-lane configuration, my estimation is that cars were driving an average of 35 or faster. In fact, I tried to drive the speed limit on Flagler and it was close to ridiculous; cars were breaking behind me, passing abruptly.

With on-coming traffic, drivers are more aware of their speed and will naturally slow down.

3. Pedestrians can safely cross Flagler Drive

As a driver, I find it very difficult to stop and let a pedestrian cross on a 4-lane road. The reason is that cars in both lanes have to decide to stop for the pedestrian and let them through to the median. From my experience, this never happens. One car may stop, and the other one blows through the crosswalk, creating a dangerous situation for the person trying to cross the street. Especially if the cars are going 35 mph.

As a pedestrian, I would rather wait until there were no cars on the road and cross the road safely as opposed to expecting two lanes of car traffic to stop for me.

Now there are only two lanes to cross, one in each direction, and cars are traveling slower than 25 mph. Crossing the street is much easier for both pedestrians and drivers.

4. Just because Flagler Drive is slower doesn’t mean your commute will take longer.

This is a big one. All three traffic lights along Flagler Shore are flashing yellow, this means that once you’re on Flagler Drive you won’t be stopped by a traffic light until you reach the Banyan light.

Now let’s work the numbers. The stretch of road that is .6 miles from Banyan to Lakeview. So

  • 35 mph it should take you just over a minute.
  • 25 mph it should take you a minute and 24 seconds.
  • 20 mph an hour it should take you a minute and 48 seconds.

If you are going 35 mph and you hit a traffic light, that will bring your minute travel time to 1:30 which would be the same speed as if you are traveling 25 mph without traffic lights.

Even if the traffic is moving at half the speed, you will still only add a minute or two max to your commute.

5. More space on Flager gives us the opportunity to do more

Being on Flagler Shore it’s pretty clear that this project is not done to give more space to the people who already enjoy the waterfront. Even without the Flagler Shore lane changes the waterfront has a lot of space for walking and biking.

The Flagler Shore project gives us the opportunity to rethink how we’re allocating the space on our waterfront.

Do we need to allocate so much space for asphalt roads? Or can we reclaim some of that space to do new fun things on the waterfront?

I know the city has a long list of events that they want to bring to the Flagler Shore, so watch this space and keep an open mind. Good things are ahead.