Council members object to proposed shared road lanes, driverless shuttle

The Oviedo City Council poked holes in both the shared bike lane and the driverless shuttle proposals in the 10-year mobility plan presented on Aug. 1.

Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert said she thought the notion of shared bicycle and vehicular lanes, even with the proposed markings to signal to drivers that the lane is meant to be shared, is unsafe.

“I do have a huge problem with bike lanes in the road. I simply think they’re stupid,” she said. “I don’t want to die so I don’t ride in them because we’ve all been cut off in our cars. There are so many cities in the state that put the bike travel lane in the grass next to the sidewalk.”

VHB Consultant Curtis Ostrodka said that this plan is meant for guiding funding decisions both by the city and potential funding partners such as Seminole County and MetroPlan Orlando and that more research can be done for off-street bike lanes in the future.

The shared bicycle lanes are proposed on Oviedo Boulevard, between Oviedo on the Park and the historic downtown.

Councilman Bob Pollack said he’s almost been struck by vehicles while riding a bicycle in the bike lane on Oviedo Boulevard and agrees that bike lanes should be separated from the roadway.

“You have to get the bikes off the road to make them safe,” he said.

The city is working toward connecting its existing trails and Teuchert said that should help entice people to ditch their cars when commuting. She said the Bicycle Infrastructure Master Plan – a separate $150,000 to $250,000 plan that the consultants recommend the city create – should focus on separating vehicles and bicycles, not the other way around.

Mayor calls driverless shuttle “counterproductive”

Council members also questioned the need for the proposed driverless shuttle, which is planned to connect Oviedo on the Park and the historic downtown and is estimated to cost between $240,000 to $360,000 annually. Mayor Megan Sladek said she’s ridden on similar vehicles and said she could walk to her destination faster than it was able to transport her.

“It seems kind of counterproductive to me to create a system that does not encourage people to think it’s normal to walk any distance,” she said.

Sladek acknowledged that some people aren’t able to walk but maintained that a mile-long route with quarter miles stops is inefficient.

“I don’t really want that in the plan because it doesn’t seem like it serves any purpose, especially if you have to drive in a car and park it someplace to even get on it in the first place,” she said.

Teuchert pointed out that state law mandates that a human driver still be paid to ride on the vehicle for safety reasons, which she said does not make fiscal sense. Sladek said there are some rumblings in the state about dropping this requirement.

Teuchert also shared the concerns of the Local Planning Agency Board members, who considered the plan before the City Council, that most of the people using the shuttle will still have to drive from their homes to the shuttle’s pick-up point. The LPA suggested that the city’s bigger neighborhoods as well as the Oviedo Mall be included in the shuttle’s route.

Roadway relief

Many of the plan’s prioritized projects are meant to alleviate congestion on Mitchell Hammock Road, including an extension of Oviedo Boulevard to Alexandria Boulevard, extending Slavia Road from State Road 426 to Alafaya Trail and connecting Oviedo Medical Drive to Winter Springs Boulevard.

The plan also includes Mitchell Hammock intersection improvements including the Alafaya Woods intersection and the Alafaya Trail intersection.

Here’s the full list of prioritized projects within the proposed plan:

The city’s consultant presented a prioritized project list to the Local Planning Agency on July 19. Image courtesy of the City of Oviedo.

Study costs more than the solution

The plan has been in the works for more than two years and some Council members expressed frustration with the time and money that’s been spent.

“One thing that’s really frustrating me is all this studying,” Sladek said. “We studied the bikes on that exact road for a greater cost than the solution proposed, which is to paint a sharrow (shared lane) mark on it.”

Despite all the time spent on the plan, Teuchert said she thinks it’s far from being ready.

Councilman Keith Britton is one of several members who have been on the Council since before the plan was initiated.

“I’m just trying to figure out when all this stuff is going to get done, and what I see in this study is nothing’s going to get done for a couple years. I’ve been through a lot of these. I’m getting a little impatient,” he said.

Because of all of the proposed changes, City Manager Bryan Cobb said bringing the plan back to the Council for approval by Aug. 15 is unrealistic. A firm timeline for the plan’s consideration was not provided.

Watch the Aug. 1 meeting here:

Want to see the whole proposed plan? OCN downloaded it here:

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