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MULTIMODAL — Riders unload bicycles at the DeLand Amtrak Station; others wait to load. PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE ARDITO

The Beacon reports “a new plan for Old New York” to improve drivers’ access to the DeLand SunRail Station by increasing 10-foot-wide vehicle lanes to 12 feet and adding paved shoulders to allow for safer passing and space for disabled vehicles.

Nowhere in the article, and apparently nowhere in the County Council-approved plan, do we find plans to improve access for alternate modes, such as bicycle, foot or another low-speed device.

At DeBary, many with bicycles board the SunRail or leave bikes at the station. The Florida Department of Transportation supports Intermodal Transit and trails. The FDOT SUN Trail program funds trail construction, like the West DeBary section of the 260-mile St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, which is opening soon and bringing yet more cyclists to SunRail.

Soon, the Loop will run by the DeLand station, connecting DeLeon Springs, DeBary, Deltona, Titusville and beyond. Even now, cyclists arrive at the DeLand Amtrak Station to tour West Volusia trails and towns, and this will increase with SunRail.

But how will those cycling visitors get to DeLand? DeLand businesses expect visitors via SunRail, but cyclists will balk at the dangerous ride on Old New York. That’s a shame; visitors arriving by bicycle stay longer and spend more. Recent visitors arriving by train left believing DeLand is unwelcoming to cyclists.

County Council members say they want to hear our voices. We’ve raised our voices often. Recently, during discussion of the five-year road plan, Old New York and East Beresford avenues were identified as “critical cycling routes” (unsafe routes to important destinations with no existing or planned alternative).

With phone calls, meetings, letters and public input to county and city officials, we have been advocating integrated planning for housing and multimodal transportation. At minimum, a bicycle master plan as an integrated part of the five-year road plan would prevent hasty, costly planning decisions.

Here are some points we should be considering:

Planners and decision-makers know multimodal transportation is increasing and poised to explode.

Many residents and visitors use alternate modes due to necessity or principles, and the young prefer active transportation.

People who are older, physically challenged or without adequate financial means often can’t drive.

Equipment innovations and sharing options abound.

“Dangerous-by-design” roads make Florida the nation’s deadliest state, with Volusia County cities among the Top 10 deadliest for “vulnerable road users.”

Transportation is changing.

Cities and counties nationwide and statewide are adopting “Multimodal Mobility Plans” to correct dangerous infrastructure and avoid further mistakes and retrofits.

The City of DeBary is transitioning to a multimodal community to improve quality of life, community, safety, health, environment, congestion, etc. What is DeLand doing to prepare for the future? Planning more, wider and faster vehicle lanes?

What’s the plan for the DeLand SunRail Station, and how will it work for all road users with Old New York the only access?

Many jurisdictions are reducing vehicle lanes from 12-feet-wide to 10 for safety reasons, slowing traffic and allowing for protected bike lanes. Volusia is going the other direction.

We hope there’s an alternative plan. Maybe it’s a trail along West Euclid Avenue, with a light crossing at Old New York to a trail continuing on to the station? That could work with planning and sidewalk retrofit. Certainly no one wants to ride or walk on Old New York Avenue.

If a plan exists, please enlighten us. We would not like to think there is no plan because the County Council doesn’t consider vulnerable road users.

Some larger questions for elected officials and staff:

When residents raise our voices, do we deserve a response?

Should public concerns be tracked, assigned and addressed during planning and implementation?

Let’s imagine a place where residents’ voices are heard and considered in the endeavor to make best decisions for safety and quality of life — for everyone — for today and tomorrow.

— Ardito is president of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance and a board member with the River of Lakes National Scenic Byway. She sees policies, infrastructure and attitudes that enable safe and equitable active mobility as keys to a sustainable life quality for people and communities.

1 COMMENT

  1. I couldn’t agree more, however, how do we pay for it? Do we add yet another tax on top of all of the taxes we currently pay? Do we use ECHO dollars? Or perhaps prior to approving ECHO for another 20 years we should have put more thought into our future needs. At every meeting of the County Council there is a group present telling the Council how they should spend more of our money and we have a group forming that will be pushing for a 1 cent sales tax increase for roads. Perhaps their needs to be a strategic plan for our County’s future that covers all of the issues we are facing that includes identified funding sources? We can not just keep adding new taxes on top of what we currently pay and doing things in such a fragmented way. Higher taxes cause harm to the working class and poor.

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