Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard Set To Get A European-Style Bike Lane – For Now
Fort Lauderdale will temporarily convert part of Las Olas Boulevard later this year into a four-block, bicycle-friendly stretch to see what locals think about an entirely new way to use the road.
The conversion will affect Las Olas between Southeast 11th Ave. and 15th Ave.: just east of Louie Bossi’s to the Floridian. Two lanes of traffic will be removed, replaced instead by wide bike lanes separated from traffic.
The city will use temporary barriers and paint to complete the test, which is expected to open in October and last for six months. After the trial period, the City Commission will gauge feedback and usage to decide whether to keep it. A positive reaction could also mean the stretch will become a model for street conversions elsewhere in the city.
Elizabeth Van Zandt, the city’s mobility manager, says the change is part of an initiative to decrease traffic fatalities in Fort Lauderdale. Called Vision Zero, the city plans to study city streets to decide how to make them safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
“By putting the bike lane in, we’re obviously increasing the mobility for biking, but we’re also slowing traffic down to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians and everyone using that corridor,” Van Zandt says.
The temporary road design will feature two lanes of vehicle traffic down the center, bordered by parallel parking spots. A bike lane will then go between the parking and the sidewalk, providing cyclists with protection from moving cars.
It will be unlike anything else in the city and seem more familiar to those who have visited Amsterdam, D.C., New York, Seattle and Portland.
Protected bike lanes remain rare in Florida. Tampa installed a similarly designed bike lane in 2015 to a section of Platt Avenue; those lanes were met with joy from bicyclists. Miami Beach last month added a protected bike lane on West Avenue, but it’s separated from cars by just plastic poles. Miami-Dade plans to install more protected bike lanes in downtown Miami and Wynwood.
The temporary design will precede other changes to Las Olas coming in the next three years. Those business-friendly changes will affect the stretch just to the west, from the Federal Highway tunnel to Southeast 11th Ave., and won’t include a bike-friendly component, sending cyclists instead on an “alternate route” around the main entertainment district.
South Florida remains among the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians and cyclists. Last year, three bicyclists died in Fort Lauderdale while riding on streets without bike lanes.
In 2013, the city completed a safety and mobility study that found motorists sped up on the eastern section of Las Olas, making it a dangerous stretch for cyclists and pedestrians. The temporary bike lane test for Las Olas is an attempt to change that, according to Van Zandt. While only four blocks, she says this experiment could provide a primer for how to make other streets safer for cyclists.
At the end of the six-month trial, the city’s Transportation and Mobility Department will survey “stakeholders in the community” and then present the results to the City Commission, Van Zandt says.
From there, the commissioners will decide whether Las Olas will remain a high-profile example of how a street can be used for things other than cars.