New trail to link Lake Underhill Path to Downtown Orlando

For someone biking, there aren’t many things more enticing than a great network of bicycle trails, which offer a safe haven for those traveling on two wheels. Last October, the City of Orlando proposed the Orlando Bicycle Beltway, an 8.5-mile loop from downtown Orlando to the Fashion Square/Colonial area and back. The goal? Fill the gaps in the trail network and link downtown to the region’s trail system. Good news for those of you who can’t wait to ride – the design process is starting for one of the gaps in the beltway.

This week, the city announced that the Downtown Connector Trail, a two-mile segment along Anderson Street, will soon be entering its 12-month design process. This section will connect downtown to the Lake Underhill Path and is expected to be completed by early 2021. This segment of expansion is an exciting one as it will provide many local residents, recreational cyclists and downtown commuters a safe and healthy mode of transportation.

A huge thank you to the City of Orlando for this update, and for continuing to work at expanding transportation options for all residents. Once completed, the Orlando Bicycle Beltway is sure to be a hot commodity among Orlando’s biking community and we’re looking forward to trying out this new segment.

Let’s get moving! Walk to School Day happening 10/10

It’s that time again – International Walk to School Day (IWTSD) is right around the corner. On October 10, 2018 kids across the globe will be hitting the sidewalks for the 22nd annual IWTSD.

There are so many great benefits that come with walking to school. It fosters a feeling of independence and confidence, with kids learning to be vigilant and self-aware. Chatting with neighbors and waving hello to others develops a stronger sense of community. Less traffic congestion leads to a safer and healthier environment. We can’t forget the health benefits too – it gets kids’ blood pumping first thing in the morning, making them more alert and ready to learn when they arrive at school.

So far, 44 schools in Orange County and two schools in Osceola County have registered for the event through the official website. Don’t see your child’s school listed? It’s not too late – contact their school about organizing a walk. The Center even offers resources for planning an event, making it super easy to get involved. Let’s see how many schools can get in on the action.

What began as a 1-day event in Chicago has grown into all 50 states and over 40 countries supporting and encouraging students to walk to school. Safe Route to Schools (SRTS) has programs that aim to make it safer for students to bike and walk to school.  To check out their programs, plan an event or find safe walking tips, check out the SRTS website.

Why stop with one day of walking fun? Talk to your school about starting a Walking School Bus (like the one recently launched at Audubon Park Elementary) to keep the fun going all year. Happy walking!

To check out some photos from previous IWTSD events, visit our Flickr page.

It’s all about the people – MetroPlan Orlando releases 2018 community report

When you read the 2018 MetroPlan Orlando Annual report, you’ll quickly learn that the organization is powered by its passionate people. Between the staff, collaborative board, committee members, transportation partners and community, there is no shortage of talent working together to build a strong and diverse regional transportation system.

Central Florida is a melting pot of differences – cultures, work schedules, lifestyles and so much more. The team at MetroPlan Orlando is constantly embracing transportation decisions that positively affect health, physical activity and improved quality of life. That means thinking outside of the car, and great strides have been made to increase those options this year. SunRail expanded into Osceola by adding four new stations, while LYNX made several technology upgrades for its riders.

With a growing number of people being able to embrace options like biking and walking, safety is more important than ever. For those skipping the car, MetroPlan Orlando began work on their Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan. They’re looking to provide a more comprehensive and targeted approach to improving safety by addressing behavior, road design and traffic control devices (think: road markings and signals like rectangular rapid flashing beacons).

They also partner in on-going regional work to improve safety, including the study, design and construction of Complete Streets. And, they’ve been championing Best Foot Forward (BFF) since our Orange County launch in 2012. The report notes that we’re finishing up our first year in Osceola County in 2018, with Seminole County next in line to adopt the BFF program. We are so grateful for all of their support!

Please join us in celebrating the tremendous people of MetroPlan Orlando – thank you for all of your hard work. You can check out their community report below or by clicking here.

City of Kissimmee looks to boost mobility on Central Ave.

Have you ever been walking on a road and realized that you should probably be on a sidewalk? Was there a lane for bicycles? Did the bus stop have seating or shade available? Where was the closest pedestrian crossing? We can all think of a road (or two, or three…) that could use some improvements, regardless of which community you live in.

If you take a look at Central Avenue in Kissimmee, the area boasts two hospitals and two elementary schools, yet major portions of the roadway lack sidewalks, have congested intersections and contain poor (if any) biking infrastructure to support the neighboring community. That’s why the City of Kissimmee is undertaking a planning study along the corridor, as well as its neighboring streets. The study consists of high-level evaluations of safety, environmental and geometric concerns. The needs, possible improvement options, and planning level cost estimates are currently being identified. The purpose of the study is to develop a multi-modal vision, rather than an auto-centric, to determine how to best meet the needs of the current and future end users, therefore establishing a long-term plan to guide the evolution of the corridor.

The study is slated to be complete by year-end, and contextual changes are being proposed to accommodate varying needs for the differing sections of the roadway, each based on principles of Complete Street and Healthy Community design. These aim to drive economic development, allow for multi-modal use, improve safety for people biking and walking, maximize opportunities for physical activity and improve access to jobs. Public involvement has been critical to the study’s success, as the City has conducted public workshops and utilized a project visioning team to share information and to invite feedback about the study.

The proposed changes are exciting, regardless of your preferred transportation method. For those walking, additional mid-block crossings, raised medians, an added school zone, trees and better lighting will create a safer and more comfortable experience. Riding your bike? An off-street trail could be in the works. If you’re hopping on and off the bus, you could see some bus stop relocations with added amenities. And, if you’re behind the wheel, additional turn lanes, a new landscaped roundabout and enhancements to the existing roundabout offer some perks. A LYNX Lymmo or circulator for all of the hospital and medical center guests and residents was also proposed, a plus for everyone in the area. With tremendous coordination, it is believed that a majority of the proposed improvements are going to be funded and completed within the next five years.

When implemented, these proposed changes will certainly lead to enhanced livability, improved mobility and increased safety for everyone in the area. We’re looking forward to seeing the next steps for this improvement project. For more information, visit the study website at www.healthycentralave.com, where you can learn more about the findings and sign-up for updates.

Operation BFF in Osceola & Kissimmee promotes safety during back-to-school

Last week, over 72,000 students headed back to the books for a new school year in Osceola County. With kids back in school and more people walking to the recently-opened SunRail stations, it’s important that drivers are reminded of the Florida driver yield law that requires them to stop for people walking in marked crosswalks. That’s why the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), Kissimmee Police Department (KPD) and the St. Cloud Police Department (SCPD) hit the crosswalks on Wednesday, August 15 for another enforcement known Operation Best Foot Forward (BFF).

KPD Sgt. Berrio prepares to step into the crosswalk.

Here’s the drill – officers in everyday clothes attempt to cross the street in marked crosswalks. Motorists who fail to stop for them face a $164 ticket and three points on their motorist’s license. Despite local media reminders and signs notifying them of the operation, over 60 citations and warnings were handed out to drivers who didn’t stop at a total of five crosswalks throughout the county. Shout out to our BFFs at OCSO, KPD and SCPD for braving the Florida heat to help keep people safe.

Operation BFF is a time to educate as well. Each of those stops started a conversation about a driver’s role when it comes to keeping our roads safe for people walking. When it comes to social media, our partners hit it out of the park by helping spread the message. Kudos to the City of Kissimmee, Mayor Alvarez and Commissioner Fisher, KPD Chief O’Dell, Osceola County and their Commissioners Grieb and Janer and MetroPlan Orlando for the shares and retweets which helped spread the word to an estimated 31.8K people online.

Melissa Zayas-Moreno with the City of Kissimmee talks to WFTV about the importance of safe crossings for people walking.

Plus, we were able to spread the message far and wide via radio, print and television thanks to our local media stations. Their coverage of the story reached an estimated 619K viewers and readers, boosting the Operation BFF impact far past the limits of the crosswalk location. You can check out some of this great coverage on our YouTube channel.

Three cheers for all of our BFFs – law enforcement, partners, media and everyone in between. Without these passionate folks, the roots of this very important grassroots movement would not be growing so rapidly.

For a full recap of all things Operation BFF, you can check out our overview below. Our next step is to see how many drivers are stopping for people in crosswalks – stay tuned for a report on driver yield rates.