ORLANDO, Fla. – City of Orlando officials released safety results Tuesday from a monthlong experiment that added bike lanes along Curry Ford Road earlier this year.
The Curry Ford Road Safety Demonstration Project, which ran from April 9 to May 3, reduced the area between Bumby Avenue and South Crystal Lake Drive from four traffic lanes to two.
The city reported a 53 percent decrease in speeding, 50 percent increase in biking and 38 percent increase in walking in the corridor during the pilot program.
“The biggest takeaway is that we can implement change in a short time to try out things and implement safety,” Chris Cairns, the division manager of transportation engineering for the city of Orlando, said Tuesday in a community open house. “Not everything goes perfectly, but that’s why we try things, and we did learn some lessons about how we can better do things in the future. But we definitely had some safety benefits on this.”
According to Cairns, the experiment was successful in accomplishing its goal of promoting speed reduction.
“The general speeds were down 5 miles per hour, and that was not counting the peak times,” Cairns said. “We received a lot of input that people felt more comfortable crossing the road and there was a lot more yielding by drivers where people use the crosswalk. People felt more comfortable bicycling as well.”
Findings from the Curry Ford Road Safety Demonstration project will be shared with other U.S. cities to help improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
"Overall, another success out of the project was that people were more aware of the idea that we're promoting bicycle and pedestrian traffic,” Cairns said. “This is not a bicycle project, it was about safety and bringing [traffic] down to one lane in each direction. We chose to use it as a bike facility, but really, it was more about safety, and it brought a lot of attention. Positive or negative, it brought the safety aspects out for the public.”
Residents expressed mixed feelings about the addition of bike lanes. Julio Paredes, the owner of JJ’s Fusion Grille on Curry Ford, said the project didn’t heavily impact his business, but he thought it would be better suited to a different area.
“For the most part, it didn’t really affect us,” Paredes said. “I think people were complaining because it took longer to get to work and home. I think it’s a good idea, this area is just congested.”
Other residents were unhappy with the bike lanes and felt they actually decreased safety.
“Traffic slowed down and backed up. People were driving in the pedestrian lane anyway to get where they wanted to be faster,” a bicyclist who asked to remain anonymous said. “As a bicyclist, I would prefer to be on the sidewalk, especially on Curry Ford.”
According to city officials, the city is currently looking at implementing similar pilot programs in other parts of the city to make roads safer.
"Right now, the Department of Transportation has a project on Robinson Street that is looking to take the four-lane section near Lake Eola and convert that to a three-lane road,” Cairns said. “That's a few years off, but it is in the works and has been for years."
A full report on the study and findings can be found on the city of Orlando’s website at www.cityoforlando.net/safestreets.