An ambitious redesign plan for Bridge Road underway
When you live in a place, your day-to-day view of it becomes rather firmly set by your own habits. It often takes the fresh eyes of a stranger to see what lies behind that curtain of familiarity, especially when the stranger is so highly regarded that he was named by Time magazine in 2001 as one of the top six innovators in the world.
That stranger is Dan Burden, and when he visits a city, a suburb, a town or even just an intersection, as was the case when he recently came to Hobe Sound, he sees immediately what most others do not.
“There is so much potential to create a true village for Hobe Sound,” says Burden, as he stands in front of Taste restaurant on A1A, sweeping one arm around as he turns his body into nearly a full circle. “You’ve got those old, historic buildings right there on Mars, so much can be done with those, and you’ve got wide streets. Look, this one is just begging for a median.”
His eyes were surveying A1A as he spoke, a street that seems to residents here as one without problems. Most Hobe Sounders would nod instead toward Bridge Road, the one that’s congested and dangerous to drivers and bicyclists and almost prohibitive to pedestrians. Burden would turn to Bridge Road next, but first he tackles A1A.
He nods toward the intersection with Bridge Road, which he says has been “over-engineered” and thus encourages high-speed traffic, as does the exceedingly long distance provided for the left-hand turn lane on A1A, which allows higher speed turns onto Bridge than are either necessary or safe.
“Bridge Road was not intended to be a high-speed connector,” he says, “and look at Diamond’s there. They have to put those traffic cones to keep cars from driving across their property to turn right.”
Traffic research has revealed that when drivers must think about what they’re doing, such as driving through a roundabout, far fewer accidents occur than when a driver’s responses are automatic, such as when a traffic light turns green.
Burton’s perspective and his expertise are being sought by the county’s Redevelopment Department. He was accompanied by Martin County urban designer Edward Erfurt, who has been charged by the county’s Community Redevelopment Agency to assist in developing a redesign of “downtown” Hobe Sound streets.
Making a place attractive, safe and healthy for people of all ages—whether driving, walking or bicycling—is where Burden’s expertise and his passion lie. His resume, background and accolades could fill a dozen pages. It’s easier instead for the curious to visit the website for his non-profit organization, Walkable and Livable Communities, at walkable.org.
Part of what Burden has learned is that good street design is critically important to creating a livable community, and he shares what he’s learned over the past four decades with others who want to transform their communities into more livable, more prosperous spaces.
“You know, streets were built for cars, not for people,” he says, “and as we continued to build more roads for more cars, and more high-speed roadways for more commuters, we sacrificed our quality of life in the process.”
As a result, the country is left with a huge infrastructure that cannot be maintained, and towns that are bereft of human activity, but it’s a situation that can be reversed, Burden maintains. The fixes are rather simple: pay attention to the streets and decrease the number of lanes where possible; add curbs, sidewalks, trees, and more green space. Create bike lanes and add medians, which “calm” traffic and create more inviting, safer spaces for pedestrians. On the now-slower streets, change parking from head-in to head-out, which has proven to be handier and more manageable for drivers, and safer for passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists. All of this is possible in Hobe Sound due to its 50-foot right-of-ways.
As Burden filmed the layout of Hobe Sound, he pointed to a family of bicyclists navigating the unsafe street, stopping at a restaurant to eat, but having no appropriate place to park their bikes. He also filmed an elderly man attempting to cross busy Bridge Road, and a moment later, a car attempting to back into traffic, while a young mother pushing a stroller dashed across a busy parking lot.
Hobe Sound, with its proximity to several well-populated neighborhoods, can draw a lot of people and entire families, as long as they can easily bike there or drive there, which in turn helps businesses to thrive there.
“I really see Bridge Road as the future Rodeo Drive,” says Erfurt. “It’s going to be the place where people want to go, the place where business owners are going to want that Bridge Road address, because of the real value that brings to their business.”
It’s all part of another plan that Dan Burden will help to create for a more livable, more walkable Hobe Sound.