This is a community commentary by Eli Stiers:
Here we go again. I cannot believe that I am writing about the death of another cyclist on Key Biscayne. I can hardly summon the strength to repeat the words that have all been said before, in 2006, 2010, and 2012. This isn’t déjà vu. This is a recurring nightmare.
First and foremost, our condolences to the family of Walter Reyes, and our prayers are with Henry Hernandez for a speedy recovery.
Miami has suffered another loss of another prominent, upstanding citizen, with another seriously injured. Another “accident” involving an *allegedly* drunk 20-something, quite possibly driving back to the Key after a night out. Shades of Michele Traverso and Carlos Bertonatti before him. Another family in mourning. Another flood of complaints for local officials. Another bout of anxiety for Miami cyclists.
To say that this latest tragedy was avoidable is the mother of all understatements. Anyone who has paid even a passing interest to Transit Miami knows that we have written about this. Time and time and time again.
The problems with the Rickenbacker are well known. The solutions are equally apparent. Years ago, our County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) suggested common sense changes for implementation by the County’s Public Works and Waste Management Department. Renowned architect Bernard Zyscovich has even laid out an attractive, comprehensive plan, the details of which have been freely shared with the County four years ago, to use as they see fit.
The time to address these obvious concerns has long-since passed, and while we can do nothing to prevent people from making the terrible decision to drink and get behind the wheel, we absolutely can make modest investments to improve the infrastructure on the most popular stretch of roadway for outdoor enthusiasts in Miami – an area where cyclists outnumber cars on any given weekend.
Miami’s vocal and active cycling community has played its part. We have signed petitions. We have organized far too many memorial rides. We have held meetings and public forums. We have pleaded with our County leaders. We re-wrote Florida law to better protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users from hit-and-run drivers through the implementation of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act.
But advocacy alone cannot fix the underlying problems that continue to threaten the lives of Miamians who bike the Rickenbacker Causeway, every day, for recreation and exercise. The time for our officials to heed the repeated warnings given to them by the cycling community has passed. The time to act has long-since passed, and in light of yet another tragic death, in a strikingly similar set of circumstances, this rises to the level of being an emergency.
Because you can expect more deaths. Cyclists will continue to ride the Rickenbacker. We will be out there tomorrow morning, without fail, and we will be out there every day from here on out. We have too few options for cycling in Miami, and the allure of this six-mile stretch of roadway, cutting a wide swath through Biscayne Bay and connecting city dwellers of a growing concrete jungle with tropical paradise, is simply too much to ignore. Moreover, as the City grows, so will the numbers of people on bikes – which is a good thing!
This is the tipping point.
Without question, the County has made enormous gains towards developing a more bike-friendly Miami since Transit Miami first began shedding a light on these problems years ago. We have miles of bike lanes, where we once had none. We have a bike-share program that the City has heavily invested in. The Underline appears to have a chance. There is hope.
As for the Rickenbacker, I have sat in numerous meeting with County Commissioners and County Public Works officials who are coming to realize the immense value in reimagining the Rickenbacker Causeway as more like a linear urban park, and less like the high-speed freeway that it appears like today. The benefits of a protected bike path, narrower lanes of travel, and a reduced speed limit have been acknowledged.
But change is happening much too slowly, and the risks continue to be imminent and deadly. Furthermore, while change to the Rickenbacker is the most obvious and pressing need, it is largely symbolic of a problem that is County-wide; namely, that the public’s need for better and safer ped/bike infrastructure is rapidly outpacing the actions of the County to address the need. This latest tragedy was predictable, and is but a microcosm of a much larger problem. More lives will be lost if we do not act, and act now.
The risks inherent in allowing cars to drive 45 mph within feet of a growing number of cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts is obvious. The continued failure to address these concerns borders on reckless indifference to the lives of those who simply want to enjoy being outdoors in our fair City. It is no longer responsible to pursue incremental change. Widespread change is needed, and it is needed now.
Mayor Gimenez and County Commissioners, we challenge you to fix the Rickenbacker. Not in ten years. Not in five years. Now. Before more lives are lost.
This is indeed Miami-Dade County’s largest transportation event.
It’s most important that we, the citizenry, attend and speak-up about our own thoughts on the future of public transportation in our community.
Text and photos by Eric Van Vleet
Public transportation in many ways captures the zeitgeist of a time and place. Adorned with art nouveau entrances and gorgeous white tiled interiors, Paris’s metro harkens back to the days of grand public works. Bogota recently strengthened its image internationally with their successful and much imitated TransMilenio bus system.
Bus service in Miami-Dade expresses something profound as well, but not necessarily a vision the county would want to be widely known for. Plainly, in Miami-Dade the bus system’s only reliability is its unreliability.
The most common topic of conversation between bus riders is not about local events or the weather, but the unreliability of the bus system. Ideas about the deficiencies in the bus system for many riders seems to reveal a profoundly cynical if not realistic understanding by working class people in Miami-Dade as to how much the county is willing to invest in their ability to move efficiently.
Just the other day I was waiting for a bus that was 40 minutes late. Finally as my bus arrived, an elderly woman who had waited much longer began to fume. As the door closed I heard her yell:
“This city only cares about tourists. They don’t care about us anymore!”
Instead of shouting at the bus driver who is merely trying to navigate traffic and drive their route, often I will call Miami-Dade transit to lodge a complaint every time the bus is more than fifteen minutes late. One time while complaining about a late bus, I heard a man laughing behind me. When I got off the phone, he said to me:
“Don’t you know, nothing will change by you doing that.”
His cynical laughter toward my complaint echoed a kind of futility that I had heard in the voices of so many people complaining to each other about the bus service. They all just figured speaking would do not good since no one was listening.
Such a detached attitude might be possible if people did not rely on the bus for getting to work, running errands and seeing friends and family. Instead of letting go any expectations about it arriving on time, better that we as its most frequent riders continue to vocally demand better service.
Continuing to call each time the bus is late would at least provide the county with data so that they could better see where and when they experience delays. Their customer service number is 305-891-3131.
Once the bus system actually becomes more reliable, people may start to drive less and take the bus more, which would limit Miami’s other great source of collective suffering—traffic. Bringing innovations from the Metrorail like real-time updated schedules and information about delays would greatly benefit bus drivers and cut down on useless and anger-inducing waits for passengers.
Increasing dedicated bus lanes could decrease traffic delays making busses more reliable and quicker. Certain routes like the #11 and #8 simply need more buses as they are frequently packed and seats are difficult to find. These and other improvements would improve service for current riders, while also likely attracting new riders, including tourists.
Any place like Miami that is as a ‘global city’ should not look in wonder only at its rapidly proliferating glass high rises sure to be readily filled by a transnational clientele, but it also should look at what’s happening on the ground and on the streets where citizens waiting for the bus are never quite sure when and if it is going to come.
Everyone equally deserves to move comfortably and efficiently to and from the diverse neighborhoods and local landmarks that make Miami-Dade so unique.
Eric Van Vleet is a PhD student in the Global & Sociocultural Studies program at Florida International University. He is a fixture on Miami-Dade bus route #8, though prefers route #24, through the banyan-lined roads of Coral Gables. His courses’ reading materials show erratic underlining because of the buses’ frequent and unexpectedly abrupt stops and drops into potholes.
We’re please to announce the launch of Kidical Mass Miami! Kidical Mass was first launched in Oregon and has now spread to over a dozen communities throughout the US and Canada and beyond. It is a legal, safe and FUN bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families.
Kidical Mass is absolutely not like Critical Mass with Kids. Kidical Mass are law-abiding family friendly bicycle rides through a community. The purpose is to raise awareness and teach kids and caregivers riding and safety skills, spreading good vibes and happiness instead of frustration. We are creating awareness for the growing presence of kids and families on bikes and the need for all road users to respect other users of the road. . We are also bringing together families who bike in an effort to provide a positive community experience that will show children how much fun riding your bike can be
We welcome all types of bikes, tricycles, trailers, trail-a-bikes, Xtracycles, longtails, bakfiets, Long Johns, tandems, folders, trikes! We celebrate the fact that Kids are Traffic Too and aim for family fun on vehicles that don’t hurt the future! It’s just another excuse to pedal around town with your family.
Our first event is scheduled for January 2015 in South Miami, look out for more to come!
Will our City commissioners finally come to their senses and realize we cannot evolve into a world-class city if we continue to require developers to adhere to minimum parking requirements that decrease affordability and perpetuate automobile use?
This discussion is long overdue, but finally the City Commission has agreed to conduct a public hearing on this issue.
The City will conduct a public hearing on this item on Thursday, October 23rd, 11:30 am at the City of Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, FL 33131.
Below is a link to sign the petition and pledge to speak at the Commission meeting. Also if you sign up through this site, you will be sent updates, post your comments and see articles about this issue.
Here’s a little more background at to why you should support the elimination of minimum parking requirements.
Minimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months. This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.
Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. A few months ago Zillow released a housing report that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters. The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.
Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; its no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.
Eliminating parking requirements would do the following things:
1) Allows small developers to choose how many parking spaces are needed based on what fits and what buyers or tenants want.
2) Replaces parking with denser development that generates more property and sales tax for the county and city.
3) Allows small property owners to keep their property and develop themselves.
4) Levels the playing field for small Miami property owners.
5) Allows for the creation of more walkable and denser urban neighborhoods.
6) Provides greater opportunity to build additional homes within proximity to mass transit corridors – which works to reduces auto traffic on congested roadways.
7) Works toward retaining housing affordability, by allowing previously undevelopable lots – or lots with limtied development potential – to be built upon, to meet the future housing needs of all residents.
Below are the details for the reduced parking requirements that are being sought for small urban buildings. This is currently being advocated for at the commission level, so stay tuned for the resolution.
The proposed text for T4, T5, and T6 is underlined below. The non-underlined text already exists in Miami 21, a TOD/transit corridor parking reduction that does not apply within 500 ft of single-family/duplex areas (T3). The proposed text does not change that, it does not apply within 500 feet of T3. Below is a map of where the proposed text would apply: orange areas around rail stations, purple areas along transit corridors, but not yellow areas within 500 ft of T3.
“Parking ratio may be reduced within 1/2 mile radius of TOD or within 1/4 mile radius of a Transit Corridor by thirty percent (30%) by process of Waiver, or by one hundred percent (100%) for any Structure that has a Floor Area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less, except when site is within 500 feet of T3.”
Let’s hope City of Miami Commissioners can come to their senses and eliminate parking requirements entirely, not just for small urban buildings.
[UPDATED]: The Florida Department of Transportation, under Secretary Ananth Prasad, is bringing ciclovía to Miami-Dade County. The plan is to “open the street” (in this case, SW 8th St from SW 22nd Ave to SW 9th Ct) to people on foot, on bike, on any form of non-motorized transportation, to experience historic Calle Ocho and provide FDOT with citizen input toward ongoing studies related to proposed improvements of this corridor.
Save the Date! Sunday, December 14, 2014, from 9am to 1pm.
Like Bike Miami Days, this ciclovía will be 100% free, family-friendly and locally based. There are no vendors – but there are lots of opportunities for local groups (Bicycle/Pedestrian/Health advocates, artists, community organizations) to participate by activating their own section of the 1.2 mile stretch.
If you’d like to participate, please contact Zak Lata, FDOT Bike/Ped Coordinator here.
I’m personally helping to coordinate this new program and would love to hear from you in the comments and to see you on December 14th!
Note: This ciclovía is confirmed on Sunday, December 14th. A previous version of this post stated a since changed date.
Join the Miami Young Leaders Group for a special networking event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami in conjunction with PAMM Presents – a program focused on experimental sounds and diverse cross-genre music. Enjoy live outdoor music from internationally-acclaimed artists and drink specials while networking with your peers! More information on the PAMM Presents series can be found here.
This event will be first come, first serve with 50 free tickets handed out at the door (emails do not qualify as first come and no registration through ULI is required) – so be sure to come early! Once the 50 tickets are handed out, attendee’s may buy a ticket through the Museum for $12.
On Saturday afternoon 10 people were injured at Lemoni Café at Northeast 46th Street and Second Avenue in Buena Vista, after a Toyota Camry carrying three people drove into the cafe’s sidewalk seating area.
It was bound to happen sooner or later and the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Homeowners Association has been warning the County and City for years that NE 2nd Avenue isn’t safe or suitable for pedestrians. Both the City and County have chosen to ignore requests by residents and businesses to make this road safer and thus should be held partially responsible for this crash and for the death of a pedestrian about a year ago.
It is simply unfathomable to me that the County and City would even allow for the conditions that created the scenario for this crash to exist. Both fail to recognize hat the current 35 mph speed limit and 40+ mph design speed is unsafe for everyone. The speed limit and design speed of NE 2nd Ave should not exceed 30 mph. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
On the other hand how does the City allow restaurant owners to put patrons in harms way by allowing outdoor dining within inches of cars that are traveling in excess of 45 miles an hour? This is simply reprehensible.
The real problem here is the County and City’s inability to take action on making NE 2nd Avenue safer. In no way am I advocating for the removal of outdoor seating, but until this road is made safer you won’t find me eating at anyone of these outdoor cafes.
This crash is just another fine example of the County and City’s inability to make conditions safer for pedestrians and cyclists. None of our elected officials are pushing to make Miami’s streets safer even though we are the fourth most deadly metropolitan area in the nation for pedestrians and cyclists. Simply put, our elected officials are turning a blind eye and therefore are negligent when is comes to addressing pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
Below is a letter from the BVEHNA Board of Directors. I’m glad this organization has documented the incompetence of our local government:
Dear local government representatives:
See the letter below which has been circulating for about 3 weeks now-after a similar campaign last summer, and now on the heels of a very serious accident in the 4600 block of NE 2nd Avenue. 8 people were injured when a car left the road, went through planters and struck people outside of a cafe. The car stopped when it finally hit a telephone pole. There are NO CURBS, and no parallel parking, and the street has been a safety hazard for 3 years now. THE TIME HAS COME FOR THE CITY AND COUNTY TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Any action at this point is too late for the restaurant client who DIED crossing the street last year, and now another 8 people injured. The community is fed up, I as a resident and customer at multiple businesses in this stretch of road am fed up and you need to do your jobs. We don’t want to hear about the construction moratorium that comes at the end of November, and now we are in a new fiscal year so the lack of funding is not an excuse either. FIX IT. IT HAS BEEN 3 YEARS. I am sure you will receive photos of the damage. You should feel responsible.
I am writing this letter to express my concern for the lack of progress on NE 2nd Avenue between NE 42nd Street and NE 50th Street. If you have driven on this stretch of road, you are no doubt intimately aware of the need to resurface NE 2nd Avenue, and we as residents and neighbors have suffered through at least three years of no progress since the initial work began.
Almost three years ago, the street was torn up to install new sewer pipes. In the meantime, street lighting has been sporadic, traffic and new businesses have increased, we’ve seen an increase in traffic accidents, a fatality of one of the restaurant patrons, an increase in burglaries and thefts, and no doubt, many motor vehicles have suffered.
In June of summer 2013, many neighbors voiced concerns through a letter/email campaign asking where the progress was on street resurfacing, parking, curbs, expanded sidewalks and landscaping. A plan that incorporated all of those issues except landscaping had been developed when the road was torn up, with the only issue being a request for more landscaping instead of palm trees as the completed section of NE 2nd Avenue shows just north of NE 54th Street.
As a result of the letter writing campaign that reached both city and county commissioners, as well as Mayor Regalado, the City of Miami said that work would begin towards the end of 2013 due to the change in fiscal year. It was then pushed back to the beginning of 2014 due to Art Basel and various winter festivities. It’s now October of 2014 and the excuses bounce back between the city and the country, and the finger of blame has even been pointed at Buena Vista East residents for wanting shade landscaping so that NE 2nd Avenue would be more pedestrian friendly, like the Design District.
In addition, the pedestrian safety factor is becoming a larger issue-parking between 46th and 47th Street has almost a 1 foot drop off due to erosion, and the sidewalk is eroded or completely covered, giving pedestrians no choice but to walk in the street. NE 2nd Avenue crowns higher than sidewalks on both sides and many areas flood when it rains. There are no crosswalks indicated nor any other safety markings for the entire length of this area.
However, the key partners in this endeavor, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, are still passing the buck and have yet to begin any sort of repairs to the streets or improvements to sidewalks and drainage. The poor economy excuse is gone, development and developers are booming, money was allegedly allotted for this project, and we still have an eyesore along NE 2ndAvenue in an area with 7 restaurants, several boutique clothing shops, and several specialty shops ranging from gifts and furniture to fine wines and chocolates, as well as a small grocery store.
Find the funding to complete this stretch of road. We’ve been too patient for too long.
The NE 2nd Avenue County and City circus act needs to come to an end before someone else is killed. I expect the County and City to be proactive and not reactive. Both the County and City should work towards implementing complete streets policies.
Meanwhile in NYC the speed limit throughout the entire city was reduced to 25 mph and NYC Mayor de Blasio adopted Vision Zero, which aims to achieve no fatalities or serious injuries. In Miami Dade County our elected officials seem to have zero vision.
What: Emerge Miami’s 100th Ride: Celebrate Diversity Miami
Where: Departs from Government Center in Downtown Miami
(111 NW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128)
When: Meet-up at 10:00AM on Saturday, October 11, 2014
Click on Image Below for Facebook Event Page
From the “Emerge Miami’s 100th Ride: Celebrate Diversity Miami” press release:
(MIAMI, FL September 29, 2014) – Emerge Miami’s 100th Ride: Celebrate Diversity Miami, will be rolling through local communities on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, giving people a unique opportunity to learn more about several of our culturally diverse neighborhoods, and to connect with fellow greater Miami residents in a fun and interactive way.
More than 100 cyclists are expected to attend this family-friendly event that will be kicking off Celebrate Diversity Miami, a new large-scale community engagement initiative that aims to promote a deepened sense of connectivity between the culturally and ethnically diverse communities of greater Miami. The group, departing from Government Center in downtown Miami, will visit Overtown, Liberty City, and Little Haiti before concluding with a celebratory picnic at the beautiful, waterfront Museum Park, which recently opened up to the public this summer.
Along the way, riders will first stop by Overtown’s Dorsey Park, where URGENT, Inc. has been working on several mural projects documenting the rich history of that community. The second stop is at the MCI KaBoom Playground in Liberty City, where the Miami Children’s Initiative has been taking a block-by-block approach to breaking the cycle of poverty by investing in the potential of every child. Then riders will make a third stop in Little Haiti to experience the Little Haiti Cultural Center’s recently opened Caribbean Marketplace, an entertainment venue for showcasing arts & crafts, culture, and food. Finally, everyone will make their way over to Museum Park, and come together to celebrate Emerge Miami’s 100th ride milestone.
Emerge Miami and Celebrate Diversity Miami are proud to have the enthusiastic support of the Urban Renewal Greater Enhancement National Team (URGENT), Inc., Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), and Little Haiti Cultural Center.
The City of Doral has released the following RFQ/Notice. We are eager to see this and more “Illuminated Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails” in Miami.
or, “Run Pedestrian, Run.”
Miami Beach has become a city that is no longer accessible to pedestrians. This might not come as a suprise since Florida is one of the deadliest states for pedestrians as a whole. However, Miami Beach claims that is “is in High-Gear with Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety” and has “a bicycle and pedestrian safety initiative currently underway, with the goal of reducing the number of accidents between motor vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians through education and enforcement.” (Source: Bike Month Press Release, City of Miami Beach).
Unfortunately, as a pedestrian walking the streets of Miami Beach everyday, I cannot confirm any of the above. On the contrary, conditions worsen evey day, to the point where I can now confidently say that Miami Beach is not safe for pedestrians. Here are just a few of instances where pedestrians cannot at all or just barely cross streets without having to fear for their life or running across.
1. The intersection of West Ave & Lincoln Rd
There is no pedestrian crossing light at all on one side. Why? Is that too expensive to install? Wasn’t Lincoln Rd intended for pedestrians as per Lapidus’ design? So if I wanted to walk to that new restaurant setting up shop, what would I do, since I cannot cross here? Cross West, cross Lincoln, cross West again…or just drive?
2. The pedestrian light on West & 16th has been taped shut.
Cross at your own risk.
3. The pedestrian light on Alton Rd & 10th has been taped shut.
The Whole Foods supermarket is now unreachable for pedestrians coming from the East side of Alton Rd.
4. The pedestrian light on Alton Rd & 14th has been taped shut.
The bank of America on one side and the CVS store as well the the shopping mall on the other side are now unreachable for pedestrians on Alton Rd.
5. The entrance to Lincoln Road on Alton has been blocked off for pedestrians.
Just a tiny whole in the blockade is open to pedestrians. When they get green, cars also turn into their passage. It’s so unsafe it’s ridiculous. Look at these tourists trying to cross, staring in disbelief at the oncoming traffic.
To add insult to inury, the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau launched a taxpayer-funded advertisement campaing including posters and a website (http://discoveraltonroad.com/) “in an effort to improve access to the businesses along Alton Road and West Avenue during the FDOT construction”. The Bureau gets funded yearly $5 million from the City. Couldn’t we get a few of the broken stop lights mentioned above fixed for that price? The only result of this effort, as far as I can tell, was the installation of the free trolley looping on Alton Rd and West Ave. This trolley, of course, doesn’t help pedestrians one bit as it gets stuck in traffic just like all other vehicles and just adds to the total amount of pollution.
What the City wants you to think Alton Road looks like
What Alton Road really looks like
Given the above, you can imagine my astonishment when the City of Miami Beach’s Director of Transportation, Jose Gonzalez, whom I contacted regarding the lack of pedestrian safety, writes to me that “please be assured that the City and FDOT are working collaboratively to help improve livability during this difficult construction period. ” And just what, Jose, are FDOT and the City doing? Because, I’m not seeing any of it, when I run past those taped traffic lights, you know.
The current situation also means that pedestrians cannot access businesses on Alton Rd. The businesses, which are already suffering from a loss of customer base since the FDOT Alton Rd project, are thus further losing clientele. The complete list of businesses killed by the FDOT project is a subject of a future post.
I’d like to close by reminding our government that “The car never bought anything” -Morris Lapidus. A city that cannot be navigated by foot, is a dead city as far as I am concerned. No people – no children – just cars (and trolleys), pollution, traffic jams, and broken traffic lights? Welcome to Miami Beach.
Following in the footsteps of others such as the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University will soon be hosting Zipcar car sharing service on campus. In an email to students today, the university wrote the following announcement:
Wednesday, September 24 marks the University’s annual Campus Sustainability Day and this year will be special in that Zipcar, the car-sharing service, will officially launch for the entire FAU community.
Zipcar, an alternative to bringing a car to school, gives members 24/7 access to vehicles parked right on the Boca Raton campus. Low hourly ($7.50/hr) and daily ($69/day) rates include gas, insurance and 180 miles per day to go wherever you want to go. Members can reserve cars online or with a smart phone for as little as an hour or up to seven days. More information can be found at zipcar.com/fau
Campus Sustainability Day will include demonstrations and exhibits featuring many initiatives supported by FAU. Come visit the Mission Green Student Association, the Green Team Leaders, Dirt Pros, South Florida Commuter Services, Housing and Residential Life, Chartwells and Zipcar to learn how you can lower your carbon footprint.
Please join us on Wednesday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Boca Raton Student Union to celebrate and to see what Zipcar is all about.
Who will use the new Zipcars being put into place? Car sharing systems work best for people who are getting around without their personal vehicle. For those willing to live without owning their own car, a car sharing service is a great tool that allows use of a car for those occasional trips that require it. FAU’s Boca Raton campus is actually well connected multimodally. The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station is about 2 miles from the FAU campus, with options to get to campus either by bike or bus. The El Rio Canal Trail ducks underneath I-95 in a great route that’s completely separate from the road. Palm Tran offers a connecting bus service with a fairly direct route that’s only a bit slower than biking.
Despite this solid connectivity, FAU still generates a lot of auto trips—enough to warrant the new interchange that is under construction at Spanish River Blvd. Let’s look at the things that encourage people to drive instead of getting to campus without a car. As a student at FAU for the past few years, I have taken the train, ridden my bike, and driven my car to campus on many occasions, so some of these insights are from personal experience.
- It’s quicker to drive.
From where I live in Oakland Park, I can drive to campus in 30 minutes, even in 6 PM traffic. Riding my bicycle to the train station takes 20 minutes, taking the train to the Boca station takes 15 minutes, and riding from the Boca station to campus takes 10 minutes. This is typical of public transit, but one of the tradeoffs is the ability to work on something else during your commute. But in my case, and no doubt many others, you could drive and get there early enough to still have extra time to study.
- Tri-Rail stops running too early.
We had a good conversation on this subject on our Facebook page when Sunrail riders put out a petition for night and weekend service. Tri-Rail is not much better. Some classes (all of the ones in my grad school program) get out at 10 PM, and the last southbound train through Boca Raton campus is at 9:17 PM. So some people could take the train to class and get stuck trying to figure out some other way to get home. For me, that has always been biking 15 miles home at 10 PM at night. Not something for everyone.
- You pay for parking already.
You can be an online only student, but at FAU you’re still required to pay a “Transportation Access Fee” which is basically a parking fee. I even dropped an entire semester, got the university to drop all my other course fees–but they refused to drop the Transportation Access Fee for that semester. They sent it to collections, but ultimately I had to pay it before I could register for classes after I re-enrolled two years later. While FAU officially states that this fee goes towards all the transportation infrastructure, it’s worth mentioning that there is not a single designated bike lane on campus, and the only new bike racks going in have been useless “wave” style bike racks that are bolted to the concrete. So I could risk my bike getting damaged in a poorly designed rack or getting stolen by someone with a wrench, or I can use a railing that was not paid for by the Transportation Access Fee if I want my bike truly safe and secure. Also, even though Tri-Rail offers a student discount pass that can apply to FAU students, FAU funnels no funding their way to cover this.
Other universities, such as the University of Florida, structure their fees so that a parking permit is optional, paid for only by those who want to drive to campus. Their parking fee might be higher, but basic economics tells you that if you want to encourage multimodal transportation, you need to pass along the costs of parking as well as the savings from not parking. If this fee were only for an optional parking permit, I would never drive to FAU. I didn’t for a year while I had no car.
- It costs more to take transit.
This one may or may not be true. Depends on your situation. But if you take Tri-Rail, you have to pay the fare for the train, then if you don’t have a bicycle with you, pay the transfer fare to get on the Palm Tran route to FAU. Then pay the Palm Tran fare on the way back. If you got a convenient round-trip Tri-Rail ticket, you get no discount on the trip back, either. Tri-Rail fares are all over the place, but round trip from Cypress Creek to Boca Raton is normally $6.25. A 50¢ transfer fare applies if you remember to get a pass after getting off the train, otherwise you’re stuck paying the full $2. Then it’s another $2 for the trip back to Tri-Rail. So, with regular fare, it will cost you at least $8.75 to go a 15-20 mile distance. With most cars that’s less than a gallon of gas, which I bought a few of yesterday for $3.19. That doesn’t account for the other expenses (car maintenance, insurance, payments, doctor bills from getting fat), but it’s all most people look at. Wait, you say there’s a student discount? Let’s look at that.
- Student discounts are hard to get.
With Tri-Rail, you have to get a special Easy Card, available only in person at the Metrorail transfer station, the Pompano Beach station, the Fort Lauderdale Airport station, or the West Palm Beach station–but only during normal business hours. If you commute early in the morning or only to evening classes, good luck trying to find one of these open. I went to one class a week in Boca for an entire semester without being able to get the discount card. It’s $2 for the Easy Card, BTW. Of course you brought your student ID with you, right? That’s not enough. You have to print out a current class schedule and bring it with you to prove that you’re really and truly a student. Then they’ll snap your photo and all your Tri-Rail tickets for the rest of your life are half off. Well, OK. Until the card expires, anyway–but I have no clue when that happens as it doesn’t say on my card. Required reading here and here.
OK, you got your Tri-Rail discount card. What about Palm Tran? Well, theoretically, you just need to show student ID and your bus fare is only $1. I’ve never gotten to try this one because it’s limited to those under 21. If you’re an upperclassman or a grad student, you’re probably out of luck. Required reading here.
University of Florida actually tacked on a fee to tuition to help fund Gainesville’s transit system, and all students ride the bus free just by showing their student ID. No hoops to jump through, and a big incentive to use the bus.
- It’s hot.
OK, this one is a normal part of Florida life. Sitting out at a bus stop or riding a bicycle always makes you sweat more than if you drive in your air conditioned car. The proper response is to embrace the sweat (I wear breathable polo shirts) and remember that you need the exercise.
- There’s no room for bikes on the train.
The new Tri-Rail trains have only two awkward bike racks, and 4 or 5 bikes are usually crammed into this area. Your bike might fall over, or the conductor might tell you to get another car because his already has two—even though he doesn’t see that the other car has six bikes crammed into that spot. The pic on the right is a typical sight for bikes being crammed in and shuffled around.
- I don’t know where to go.
Wayfinding is a definite concern getting around FAU. I took a class in 2007 before the El Rio Canal trail was open underneath I-95, and got lost a couple times riding my bike from the Tri-Rail station to FAU, meandering through the nearby neighborhoods. It’s better now, except for construction ocassionally blocking the trail. The El Rio Trail between Spanish River and Glades Rd. has only one real connection to the large, sprawling, campus–the crossing at NW 20th St. You ride right by the soccer fields, where a sidewalk taunts you by coming within 5 feet of the path—but offering a drop off of several inches as well as a distinct lack of curb ramps to get onto the road. You’d have better luck cutting across the grass onto a gravel-strewn asphalt parking lot slightly north of there. No drop-offs, but lots of stop signs and opportunities to get lost on campus. Neither of these are real connections, but rather just gaps in the fences. If you want to get to the east side of campus, it’s more direct to get on Spanish River Blvd and enter the campus there on the roads, riding in their undesignated “bike lane.”
This is probably not an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to give the executives at Zipcar pause. Why would you want to invest in an area that would discourage use of your system? We don’t have information yet on the particulars of the Zipcar deal. Perhaps FAU is seeding them funds. But if I worked at Zipcar, I wouldn’t invest in a system at FAU without asking them to change those factors that the university can control—get rid of the flat transportation access fee and replace it with an optional parking permit fee. Now, the launch of Zipcar is good news. But without changes at and around the university, it will not last. Anyone who drives to FAU all the time will not be using Zipcar.
In mid-June, Transit Miami published Harry Gottlieb’s community commentary on the dangerous state of some of our bridges in Miami-Dade County for bicyclists. Harry and others had sounded the alarm well before, asking FDOT and Miami Dade County to fix those bridges that lead to a bloodfest should you fall on metal grates that are used on a considerable number of the bridges leading over waterways in Miami Dade County. FDOT’s usual response was at display: putting its head in the sand, claiming that the agency didn’t know that the combination of moisture and metal is not a good fit for cyclists. Miami Dade County has at least tentative plans to fix the bridges it is responsible for, but is also not making aggressive moves to do so. Since FDOT asked for data even in the face of the obvious, we asked our FB page readers and very quickly received responses detailing the sometimes horrendous crashes that this design causes. The Broward and Miami New Times published an article on the issue. The solutions are relatively straightforward although there is some cost involved, including the use of anti-slip metal plates or the filling in of the space with solid material (weight considerations will certainly be an issue). Here is a picture of Brickell Avenue at the Miami River, with a cheese grater surface. Within a couple of days last week, we heard from two cyclists that fell and got seriously injured on two different drawbridges, both within the purview of FDOT . We post here Renato’s and Kris’s stories of last week and Jess’s story from half a year ago. Please note that some of the pictures are graphic, but it seems necessary to post them so that those in positions to actually do something will have a realistic picture of the damage and pain that their design causes. Renato’s story is testament not only to the dangers of FDOT design, but also our idiosyncratic health care system (we’ll leave the latter of others to deal with):
Please find attached pictures of my drawbridge cycling accident 09/06/14. This needless and most painful accident resulted from crashing upon the dangerous slippery metal grates on the Miami River Brickell Ave. drawbridge. On Saturday early morning I started my bike ride to KB. Two miles into it, on top of the Brickell Ave. drawbridge my front tire slipped as a result of the moist, slippery and dangerous metal grates and I fell. I had to react fast since I knew there were cars coming. A lady stopped her car and asked me a few time if I was ok. She wouldn’t leave until she saw me walking down the bridge. I think I was more worry about my Tri-bike than myself at the beginning. I didn’t know how bad my injuries were until I got to my car. I went to my house and woke my wife up, she immediately helped me to clean myself a bit and we went out to look for an Urgent Care. We went around for 30 minutes looking for an open Urgent Care around the midtown area but they all open at 10 am (Urgent Care Insurance copay is $50, ER Insurance copay is $700). At 9:30 am I went to Coral Gables Urgent Care but I was told they couldn’t do anything due to the way my injuries were. I went to Coral Gables ER and I got 5 stitches on my left knee, scratches and bruises on my left arm and hip. Bike damages probably $400 for a new handlebar, medical expenses so far have been about $1000 with ER and medicine. I still need to go see the specialist and therapist, although I am lucky I only suffered scratches, bruises and 5 stitches on my left knee. I can’t bend my knee until next week. Still shaken up and in a good deal of pain. I can’t get on my bike for at least 2 to 3 weeks and most likely will miss the most important triathlon in Miami due to this incident. I don’t want other cyclists to go through this. An ex-fire fighter friend of mine told me that years ago his station received a call of a cyclist being hit by a car on that same bridge. The cyclist slipped and fell on top of the drawbridge and a van ran over him. He was killed in that accident. How many more accidents do we need to have to get the attention of FDOT and MDC? How many more cyclists have to be injured or even die before they to do something to improve the safety for all?
Half a year before, on the same bridge we were told about the following story by Jess:
I took a pretty bad fall this past February while transiting from work at the Coast Guard Sector, near Miami Beach, to my apartment in Brickell. It had started raining after work, but I had biked in the rain several times before and figured I would be fine for getting home. Right before the bridge, I had to stop at a red light slowing speed immensely before crossing over the grates. That being said, I would estimate my speed to be roughly 18 to 19 mph. The right side of the Brickell Bridge is already tough for cycling as it has some sort of accumulation of cement or construction material spilled on it, making for a rough ride. I am very careful to cross this part and have to stay further in traffic to do so. As I crossed the bridge and hit the grates, I felt as though I was driving a car on ice. In slow motion, I watched as my bike started sliding sporadically beneath me. Being clipped in to my pedals, as most serious cyclists are, I was unable to just step off my bike. After a solid 5 feet of sliding I lost all control and had to take the fall. I landed on my left side and my bike flew off to the right. I barely missed being run over by the car behind me, as they too had trouble stopping with how slippery the bridge was from oils brought up during the rain. I quickly got up and walked myself and my bike off the bridge in immense pain. I was bleeding so much that I soon became lightheaded and was very lucky that the man that stopped behind me came back to rush me to the ER. I spent 5 hours there and ended up with 3 stitches in my elbow, several bruises on my left side, and many cuts. My bike frame, carbon fiber, was also totaled from the fall. As a result, I was set back 2 weeks in ironman training and missed a week of work from the pain and fatigue following trauma. I had noticed that bridge could be challenging with narrow race tires before, but the rain aggravated the situation. I would take the sidewalks as an alternative, but it is equally unsafe to do so with so many pedestrians. Walking in bike shoes in the rain also poses a problem. If the bridge could be altered to be more bike friendly, that would be wonderful.
A few days after Renato’s crash, Kris fell on the 63rd Street bridge in Miami Beach, another bridge for which FDOT bears responsibility:
It was a Tuesday night 9/9/2014, and I was on my usual commute back from work. That evening it had mildly rained on the Beach, but nothing too heavy. I was riding my bike up the bridge on Alton, to merge onto Indian Creek at approximately 8:50pm. I climbed the first part of the bridge without any incident, but as soon as my tires hit the grates on the bridge, my bike starting to slip. I felt that there was no way I could keep control, but managed to hold on as long as I could, still falling and impacting my left hip, shoulder, and forearm. My hand also slid across the grate, and opened a deep wound like cheese to a grater, and my palm, and left ring finger impacted the grates as well causing bruising. Picking myself up in a matter of seconds, both cars behind me stopped, and one of the vehicles with two passengers asked me “are you okay, can we help you?” & “don’t ride your bike on wet grates”. I told them I was fine, and pulled everything to the side, I took off my shirt, and wrapped it around my hand to stop the bleeding. I was about a mile away from home, so I got back on my bike which had been scratched on my Sram apex shifter, and saddle, and rode the rest of the way home putting my weight only on my right arm, and hand. When I got home I just changed my outfit, and waited for my mom to arrive to take me to the hospital. She took me to Mt. Sinai where I had to get an x-ray, a tetanus shot, and get 4 stitches. I will be doing a police report, and filling a claims form for FDOT to take responsibility. I will hold them accountable of damage to myself, and to my vehicle.
So, there you have it FDOT. Our facebook posting has more stories, as if that was necessary. Here is a picture of SW 2nd Ave, also crossing the Miami River, which has a non-slippery surface (and which as far as we know is not an FDOT road, but rather belongs to Miami Dade County). While we realize that there may be some serious engineering problems involved in putting concrete onto these bridges, FDOT’s District 4 (responsible for Broward, Indian River, Martin, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie counties) has at least begun to do what other places around the country have been doing before and has installed a non-slippery surface on Hillsborough
Blvd Inlet as it crosses the Intracoastal.
The solution isn’t rocket science and the script is already in FDOT’s hand. We encourage FDOT and Miami-Dade County to move forward and prioritize retrofitting the bridges quickly. Other cyclists shouldn’t have to go through what Renato, Jess, Kris and so many others have had to endure. There really aren’t any excuses any longer and it is time to for both FDOT and the County to act. We have written to the local FDOT official more than once asking where they are in the process of making the bridges that can easily lead to horrific crashes safer. We have not heard from them so far, but will continue to follow up. We owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Gottlieb for continuing to stay on the case. Further updates to follow.
Update (09/16/2014): We have in the meantime heard from Miami Dade County about upcoming projects and they seem to be moving forward with increasing safety. The Miami Avenue bridge is currently being rebuilt and the County is looking into the feasibility of installing plates similar to those on Hillsborough Blvd, as per the above pictures. The Venetian Causeway is currently undergoing a major renovation, which may include a replacement of the bridges. Even if replacement will not take place, the “chosen option will incorporate a solid deck or plates in order to address the bicyclist concerns”. Because of the projected length of the bridge reconstruction on the Venetian Causeway, the County will ask an engineering consulting firm to evaluate those and the other cheese grater bridges that the County is responsible for with respect to “implementing the installation of the aforementioned plates where applicable”. We applaud the County for actually moving forward with this plan and hope to see a speedy implementation.
Update (09/19/2014): We have heard from FDOT as well. As it turns out we may have good news. We are cautious about this, as we have had FDOT make promises before without however following through. FDOT District 6 will fix the bridges in the Miami area either by way of the plates they have used in the Fort Lauderdale area. The details will have to worked out. In the long run, if a bridge is being replaced or undergoes major construction FDOT will use a concrete deck from what we understand. The original project time line for putting plates on the existing cheese grater bridges was 2018 for a starting date. That was clearly unacceptable though to FDOT’s credit, the person responsible for the bridges thought the same and has promised to fix the first bridges more quickly. Without committing to a fixed date (constructing this appears more complicated than one would have thought), we should see the first bridge (Brickell Avenue) being fixed within the first half of 2015. The project has the support of the district Secretary Gus Pego.
We will keep you posted on what is happening. In the end, such an announcement is very welcome, but the time to celebrate (and thank FDOT for improving the safety for all road users, something we have asked for a long time) comes when the projects are underway.
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