JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's two weeks before the city of Jacksonville plans to open the new, $17 million Southbank Riverwalk, but it is already drawing concerns about safety.
While the decades old crumbling wood boardwalk is gone, and new concrete structure is attractive, at least one city councilman is pointing out that the new Riverwalk is much narrower, and the circular benches, while attractive, don't leave much room to walk.
"It defeats the whole purpose of the Southbank Riverwalk of a walkway where people can use satisfactory," Councilman Don Redman said.
Redman and Chris Burns, who heads up the City Council committee on biking and pedestrian safety, invited News4Jax onto the yet-to-open Riverwalk to point out the problem.
"My concern is there is simply not enough room to be safe," said Burns. "There is not enough room for a person to be walking in one direction and for one person to be walking in another direction."
That's with just two people walking past each other. Imagine if someone is on a bicycle, in a wheelchair, or there's a group of people jogging.
"The original intent of this path was to be able to have bicyclist and walkers and runners be able to share usage of the path," said Burns. "The furniture, the way it is sitting, will get in the way of pedestrian or cyclist to use the path."
News4Jax put a tape measure to the amount of clearance around the furniture and found 4½ feet between the benches and the railing. Redman said that's not enough.
"I was not involved in looking at this as it went along," Redman said. "Now, we are going to have to spend some money to change it."
Redman said he has complained to the builder and public works. City officials admitted there might be some changes, but that may be at no cost to the city. They are looking at removing part of the round benches that would give more room.
"My proposal is to put the straight benches, which they have in some places," said Redman. "Straight benches on either side of the pole and that would give us 8 feet."