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.
In response to MDT’s monetary challenges, we can still find ways to increase service opportunities on Metrorail over the next 10 years. I have included the article below as a reference. Chicago, Washington, and Boston have all added new stations on existing rail lines recently to increase service to residents along existing tracks at lower costs than rail line expansions.
Unfortunately, the final MDT 10 ahead plan for transit’s next 10 years final draft not only does not include light rail to the beach or any Metrorail expansions; It actually specifically excludes these items by saying “No expansion of rail facilities will occur”. My suggestion of looking into whether CRAs or other special taxing districts and developments on transit sites could help pay for future expansions WAS NOT identified as even an item to STUDY. Another suggestion to STUDY the implications of infill stations also WAS NOT included. It is clear that Transit/ MDX/ FDOT are only interested in busses, Lexus lanes, and more sprawl moving the UDB southwest.
As an infill example, I think a new rail station could be placed near Miami Jai Alai on the existing Orange Line.
Please look into the apparent disconnection between Local Transportation Policies and voters desires for MORE RAIL OPPORTUNITIES, NO UDB EXPANSION, LESS water/sewer infrastructure expansions = costs? I don’t understand it. Thank you Commissioner Sosa for allowing me to serve on the MDT steering committee. A majority of the public on the committee does not agree with the goals, strategies or policies in the Final Draft MDT 10 yr plan.
BTW: District 6/7 also lost the planned SW 37th Av- Douglas Road Express Bus service in the 10 yr plan’s final draft. Incredible!
Alexander Adams, AICP, CNU-A, LEED-Green Associate
By: Harry Emilio Gottlieb
How many more cyclists need to be sliced and diced on
cheese grater surface before FDOT is motivated
to improve safety with nonslip bike lane?
So you wake up this morning and decide to great the day with an enjoyable and healthy bike ride. You determine today’s destination and plot your rout. It will to take you over the Miami River and Intercoastal. There is light traffic, the wind is in your favor and there is enough cloud coverage to make it comfortable. You have ridden across that drawbridge many times before. But this time it will be just a little different. A few hours ago there was dew in the air or perhaps a drizzle of rain. The moisture has mixed with the fuel residue from cars, trucks and boats. The surface of the metal grate at the crest of the drawbridge is now covered in a slippery film that may be a challenge to most cyclists, especially those on Road and TriBikes, out for a bit of exercise. All of a sudden you sense something is very wrong. Your bike is sliding and perhaps even fishtailing. Your priority is now to keep calm, your deal with the new tense situation, adrenaline is kicking in. Your immediate goal is to avoid falling on the “Cheese Grater”. You pray there is no car, truck or bus behind you and will somehow safely reach the solid road ASAP.
Needless to say some cyclists have not been so lucky. They were unable to control the slippery surface and crashed upon the metal grate. Some have received the worst road rash of their bike riding lives and others have experienced fractured ribs, wrists and collarbones. Rising up from the terrible fall one tends to quickly inventory the quantity of healthy fingers remaining in one piece.
There have been numerous cases of cyclists slipping and falling on our drawbridges. Many have been seriously hurt, endured pain, suffering, costly medical bills and damaged or totaled bikes.
So you may ask…
Why hasn’t FDOT taken steps to make drawbridges safer for all cyclists?
Why have they not installed designated bike lanes?
Why have they not installed a no-slip surface?
Why is there not a sign that advises bridge users of whom to contact when an issue arises?
FDOT has not seen a need to do so, because they claim they have no record of anyone reporting a drawbridge cycling accident. The fact is that many cyclists just pick themselves up, go home or seek medical treatment on their own. Unless the accident is very serious in which case the paramedics will be called and a report is filed.
Transit Miami inquired with its readers about their drawbridge concerns and suggested solutions. These include the use of anti-slip metal plates or the filling in of the space with solid material (weight considerations will certainly be an issue). This information was shared with Broward and Miami New Times and they also championed the issue.
Now it is up to the local FDOT office to recognize the need to “Do The Right Thing” and improve the safety of our drawbridges. Its sister office in Broward has previously installed a smaller diameter metal grate in a designated bike lane on the A1A drawbridge just north of Commercial Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale as have other agencies around the country.
Photos courtesy of Yamile Castella.
Another solution would be to designate a bike lane with paint and fill in the dangerous grates with concrete or rubber.
Your help is required to help improve drawbridge safety. Share your concerns and suggestion with TransitMiami in the comments below and while you’re at it, let FDOT personnel know what you think of their inaction. Just as important, report serious accidents to police so that FDOT can no longer claim that they are unaware of doing the right thing, which should be utterly uncontroversial.
Ride safely, especially over drawbridges.
By: Eli Stiers, Esq. and Leah Weston, J.D.
We were disappointed by dismissive statements of Miami-Dade County Commissioner and Chair of the Finance Committee, Esteban Bovo, at the recent public meeting on the County’s annual budget. Bovo’s comments have been memorialized in a YouTube video posted by Ms. Weston. In response to a request that the Commission prioritize funding for better public transit, Commissioner Bovo displayed an outdated perspective that is out of sync with the needs of our ever-growing community.
While acknowledging his own frustration with the paucity of our transit options, compared to cities like Paris and Washington, D.C., Commissioner Bovo lamented that living without better access to transit is a “sad reality about Miami.” We could not agree more. We further contend that lack of better public transit is preventing Miami from joining the roster of world-class cities.
Where we strongly disagree with Commissioner Bovo is with his indifference to the status quo. His statements that Miami’s “car culture” is “in our DNA,” and that it would be difficult for people to leave their cars and “stand in the hot sun” to wait for a bus are problematic. We think that Miamians choose to sit in cars for hours on crowded interstates because they lack other options. Indeed, when the only option is to wait for a bus in the Miami heat, most will choose a car. Those who cannot afford a car, on the other hand, are left to cope with our chronically underfunded and underperforming transit system.
Commissioner Bovo’s comprehension of how transit inadequacies affect immigrants and retirees is similarly flawed. The Commissioner dubiously claimed that immigrants and retirees come to Miami seeking the freedom of the open road after leaving other parts of the world that usually have better transit options than we have in Miami. To the contrary, immigrants and retirees, frequently of low and moderate incomes, are more dependent on transit than any other demographic. This is bad news for Miami – an area recently documented by the Center for Housing Policy to be the least affordable place in the country for middle-to-lower income families, due to combined housing and transportation costs, which account for a whopping 72% of income!
Offer the public something better, like an expanded Metrorail service that truly links our community, and our guess is that many Miamians will abandon the stress of the daily commute on I-95, US-1, 826, and 836 for the comfort of an air-conditioned train car, and the chance to read a book, answer e-mails, or take a nap on the way to work or school. It is not a “small segment” asking for better transit in our community. To the contrary, Miamians are desperate for better transit. Don’t blame the culture and concede defeat—find a way to move this city forward.
In his final comments on the video, Commissioner Bovo segued into a discussion about road construction, undoubtedly to allocate more millions from the budget for an ever-expanding morass of highways, which are antiquated and overcrowded from the moment they are opened. This kind of thinking is outdated, and this method of addressing transportation in our rapidly-expanding metro area is unsustainable.
We agree with the Commissioner: our transit woes stem from a lack of leadership and vision for our community. We are frustrated, however, that despite recognizing the problem, and being uniquely situated to address it, he seems unwilling to fix it. We challenge Commissioner Bovo and the rest of the County Commission (who also make up the majority of the MPO Board) to change their thinking about public transit in the County. With better leadership and vision, Miami-Dade County can have a real mass transit system in Commissioner Bovo’s lifetime, contrary to his belief. As an elected official, you cannot throw hands up and claim that the dreadful status quo will never change. You must be the impetus for that change.
Eli Stiers is a Miami attorney with Aronovitz Law, Director of Safe Streets Miami, and Board Member with Green Mobility Network.
Leah Weston in a founding Board Member of TrAC and a recent graduate of UM School of Law who is currently studying for the Florida Bar.
Just when you thought the pedestrian experience on Brickell Ave couldn’t get any worse, it has! The city is installing some new car-centric billboards on the sidewalks of Brickell Ave. We already had a number of them and now we are getting more. These billboards unnecessarily block the already narrow and dangerous sidewalks of Brickell Ave. As you will note from these pictures, the billboards are being installed right in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians and bicyclists, and making for even more hazardous conditions. They could have been installed parallel (instead of perpendicular) and as far back as possible, but I imagine that would not cater to the cars stuck in traffic. Not only are they an obstacle and unsightly, they are dangerous. Someone is going to be seriously injured as a result of these billboards. Just yesterday I witnessed a lady with a stroller walking around one of these billboards, having to move so close to the street that her stroller was within inches of passing cars. Those who approved these sidewalk billboards must not walk regularly on Brickell Ave. These advertisements are evidence of the car-centric culture and general disregard for pedestrians in the city of Miami. No amount of revenue is worth the inconvenience and hazards they billboards pose. I hope that our Brickell area representative in the city, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, will do all in his power to remove (or at least move) these billboards so that our sidewalks are safer for the increasing number of residents, workers, and visitors that walk our streets.
We received the following press release. Hope to see some of you this Thursday.
Miami’s new Transit Action Committee — or TrAC for short — a citizen-organized political action committee, is proud to announce its formation and official launch this week.
Dear Transit Miami –
I was scratching around some MIC and Miami Central Station documents and came upon a curious piece of information: FDOT is negotiating with MDX to assume the governance of Miami Central Station. I find it curious that MDX, a road-building entity, would be charged with governing Miami Central Station – shouldn’t those responsibilities fall to Miami-Dade Transit or, given the regional implications, to SFRTA? I can see MDX running the Car Rental Center, after all it’s sole purpose is to feed tourists onto MDX’s adjacent highways, the 112 and 836 – undermining the metrorail link to the airport and any longer-term plans for a direct rapid transit link to Miami Beach, but Central Station? Give me a break!
What’s most curious about the arrangement between FDOT and MDX is the transfer of a an 8 acre property east of Central Station for “Joint Development.” I didn’t realize MDX was now looking to jump into Miami’s crowded development market. Doesn’t this parcel seem ripe for Transit-Oriented Development? Shouldn’t a Public Private Partnership be the first alternative? I think so. MDX will apparently develop the property to help “offset” the costs of operating Central Station (as if their toll revenue couldn’t be spared in the first place) and will include a possible mix of Hotel, Conference Center, Office, Retail, oh – and parking, of course.
Let’s not forget too that MDX had developed concepts for a future SR 836/ SR 112 connector and had floated the idea of a “Central Corridor” Highway that would be built above Tri-Rail.
Another Concerned Citizen against MDX’s Overreaches
FYI, here is some information on an issue that Transit Miami has covered in the past.
The contract for the widening of SW 157th Ave. from SW 184 St. to SW 152 St., an unneeded development on the Urban Development Boundary, is surely going to be approved at the meetings July 17 of the CITT Project and Financial Review Committee (4 p.m. 10th Floor CITT Conference Room, 111 NW 1 Street) and of the full CITT (6 p.m., Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners’ Chambers).
Tomorrow, in the citizens’ comment time of the Project and Financial Review Committee, I intend to raise questions related to the Urban Development Boundary and environmental issues.
Once again the supporting documents for this contract make no mention that the entire road segment in question is bordered on its western side by the UDB and agricultural land.
However, while the current road is within the UDB, a portion of the expanded road will be outside to the west of the current UDB. Does all this intended construction outside the UDB require special legal approval to move the UDB westward or to permit this intrusion within the area projected by the UDB?
Are there any plans to mitigate the environmental impact of the construction and of the completed widened road?
And a third question: If the contractor needs new hiring, will the contractor be complying with the Miami-Dade First Source Ordinance requiring receipt and consideration of qualified applications provided by South Florida Workforce?
Theodore Wilde, former CITT member
Everyone knows that Miami has a serious problem with pedestrian injuries and fatalities; not a week goes by without reading an article about another pedestrian struck by a car. Miami is the 4th most dangerous city for pedestrians and cyclists in the Country right now.
This must change!
We live in one of the most beautiful, perfect climates in the world, yet stepping out our doors for a walk can be fatal. With Emerge Miami, I began organizing walks for pedestrian safety last year in response to this ongoing crisis. The concept is simple, during the time that pedestrians are legally allowed to enter the crosswalk, we have people with educational signs and statistics about pedestrians injuries and fatalities walk back and forth through the crosswalk. We also have educational materials to hand drivers and pedestrians.
Our next walk is in Little Havana on June 29th, a lovely neighborhood that should be safe and walkable, yet speeding cars and infrequent crosswalks make it a extremely dangerous for walkers, especially the many more elderly residents who live there.
As part of our walk we are asking that pedestrians who have been injured, and their families, to come out and join our walk to help put a personal face on this epidemic of injury and death.
Is the optimal place for bicyclists really between speeding traffic and swinging car doors or is bicycle planning in most cities still just an afterthought? Can it really be the case that major arterial roadways planned for reconstruction like Alton Road in Miami Beach which are between 100′ and 120′ really have no room for bicycles?
The plan for Alton Road which the City of Miami Beach approved is still the wrong one but neighborhood organizations are not accepting that the plan is set in stone until the concrete is poured and dry.
Though Miami Beach is in the top 10 cities in the nation for biking to work according to the US Census, a perfect storm of Department of Transportation heavy-handedness, local bureaucratic impassivity, and ineptitude on the part of elected representatives has led to a hugely expensive design no one endorses. Alton Road, expected to become a showpiece of island multi-modalism, will instead become a wide-lane, high-speed, completely-congested Department of Transportation boondoggle say residents. If Miami Beach can’t get a multi-modal design with its committed and educated pedestrian and cycling advocates is there any hope for the rest of the country?
Thousands of major arterials around the country are in the process of reconstruction right now as the first roadways of the Highway Act of 1956 are being rebuilt. And despite the amazing strides made in a few exceptional places, the default design on the traffic engineer’s books is still the wrong one. The difference now is that residents know better. This is making the job of elected officials who have always trusted the DOT very difficult. Something’s got to give.
Residents are available to discuss this important issue further.
On Facebook: Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition.
On the web:
Miami Beach Resident and Urban Planner
The following is a guest post by Matthew González, a pedestrian, cyclist, and in-denial vegetarian who blogs his adventures at mgregueiro.com. He formerly worked in Miami with Teach For America and now lives in Spain doing research as a Fulbright Fellow. He launched mgregueiro.com as a place to discuss great ideas with the many great minds hiding throughout the wrinkles and corners of the interwebs. Check out his blog, or follow him at @mgregueiro to join the conversation.
In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians and 618 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles in the United States. The most dangerous state? Florida, with 4.40 pedalcyclist fatalities per million population. Though some states have worked to lower this number by painting bike lanes and posting “Share The Road” signs, it is time American cities move from this temporary solution to a more permanent one: designing streets that serve motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.
The problem with “Share The Road” signs is that they pin cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians against each other by making them responsible for outcomes, i.e., when a cyclist gets hit by a car it must be the cyclist’s or motorist’s fault. This thinking, however, doesn’t go deep enough and will not bring the much needed solutions.
These fatalities are caused by a systemic failure of our city infrastructure to provide safe spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Legislators must understand that “Share The Road” signs are no more than construction signs: they represent the need for work to be done on our city’s roads, not the outcome. Cycling and jogging/running are the two most popular outdoor activities among Americans and it is time our city infrastructure reflect it.
Living in cities designed for and around the car, it is easy to forget that walking and cycling predate the automobile as primary modes of transportation. In fact, crosswalks and bike lanes were a consequence of automobile companies lobbying for changes in street design to make traveling by automobile more practical and lessen the hatred of motorists. (For a brief history on this shift in city design, check out this great TEDx talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen: Bicycle Culture by Design)
By the early 1960s, cyclists had lost the battle for America’s streets: roads were for motorists. But in 1967, cyclists won a major victory with the creation of the first modern bike lane in Davis, California. And twenty years later, the now iconic “Share The Road” sign was adopted by the North Carolina Board of Transportation – now the Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (A tip of the helmet to the Tar Heel state).
Unfortunately, more than twenty years later, cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians are still fighting to share the road. And looking at the number of pedestrian and cycling deaths caused by motorist each year, pedestrians and cyclists are losing.
Looking Past “Share The Road”
The solution to these unnecessary deaths is no secret. Denmark and The Netherlands boast the highest number of cyclists per capita. According to a 2011 study published in Injury Prevention, “27% of Dutch trips are by bicycle, 55% are women, and the bicyclist injury rate is 0.14 injured/million km. In the USA, 0.5% of commuters bicycle to work, only 24% of adult cyclists are women, and the injury rate of bicyclists is at least 26 times greater than in the Netherlands.”(Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street)
What is the difference between the US and these countries? Our streets.
The Netherlands has more than 1,800 miles of cycle tracks: bicycle paths that are separated from the street by a physical barrier. Meanwhile American cyclists are still fighting for bike lanes, that are easily ignored by motorist.
To bring an end to these unnecessary deaths, America’s cities need complete streets: roads designed to serve the needs of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. This approach to city infrastructure is not imaginary, it has proven itself to be successful in The Netherlands, Denmark, and many other nations. Moreover, looking at the drastic paradigm shift that swept the nation after the car, it is clear that the US can again change the way our cities approach road design.
A team of urban designers and architects, led by Miami based firm PlusUrbia*, were among the finalists for their design concept of ‘Port-Side’, Miami’s World Trade Center’s future commercial destination.
The team developed a concept coined “Port-Side Miami” to become the city’s new commercial district on the west end of the Port’s Dodge Island, which was designated by the “PortMiami 2035 master plan” to be developed into office space, retail, restaurants and a number of high-end hotels.
In an invitation-only RFQ for a master plan, the designers were given a set of parameters that dictated an intricate solution by means of phasing the project over time in order to minimize the effect on the port’s functions and to retain the existing buildings until the last phase. In addition, PlusUrbia’s team, following the RFQ’s guidelines, refrained to design specific buildings and maintained a generic/volumetric look to the design with the intention of later engaging other architects to provide the architecture.
Endowed with a privileged location, the site affords its buildings with outstanding views of Miami, Key Biscayne and South Beach. As such, Port-Side was designed to become a key upscale destination for residents and visitors alike, including retail, office and hotels that would provide round the clock activity as well as supporting one of the busiest cruise ship and cargo terminals in the US. The project aimed to transform Port Miami into an anchor for South Florida as well as setting a new standard for waterfront development.
The master plan’s building disposition was designed to emphasize its iconic nature while using downtown Miami’s scale and intensity as reference. Port-Side’s master plan is envisioned as an immediate extension of downtown while maintaining its identifiable urban island feel.
The proposal would become a destination by simply its physical attributes, engaging the water’s edge in a variety of ways (pedestrian and vehicular promenades, plazas and waterfront parks) supported by shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants on the water.
The new district retrofits and extends existing infrastructure (Caribbean Way) as its pedestrian and bicycle access extending the City of Miami’s plans for its river-walk that connects the river to Bayside Marketplace, Bayfront Park and proposed future plans that may possibly include other means of public transportation.
*PlusUrbia Design in collaboration with GSHstudio, OskiStudio and studioLFA
This article was written by Peter Smith
Tuesday marked the culmination of the Carnival season, celebrated as Mardi Gras in the French-speaking world and Carnival in the rest of Continental Europe and throughout Latin America. Our Brazilian neighbors throw the world’s largest Carnival celebrations and other festivals dotting the Caribbean are an impressive show, to be sure. It would make sense then for Miami, home to so many Brazilians, Jamaicans, Trinis, Colombians, etc., to have a noteworthy Carnival celebration of our own. But we don’t. Instead, we take our cues from the rest of the United States and the Anglo world in being among the only places in the West, save for New Orleans and a few Midwest locales, not joining in on the party.
Admittedly, there are enviably grandiose Carnival celebrations in London and Toronto, but these were re-imported by Trinidadian and Jamaican immigrants. I say “re-imported,” of course, because the English-speaking world used to celebrate a variation of Carnival along with the rest of the Christian world. So what happened to our party?
Dating back to the 12th century, towns in the British Isles celebrated Shrove Tuesday on the final day of Shrovetide just before the start of the Lenten season. The word “shrove” is the past-tense of “shrive,” meaning to confess. Christians prepared for Lent by engaging in one final round of indulgence and succumbing to temptation before confessing their sins on the eve of Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is actually still celebrated today in much of the English-speaking world, but in a form much different than its original tradition. Today, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday and is celebrated with a pancake dinner, often in church basements or around dining room tables.
There used to be more to Shrove Tuesday than just pancakes, however. There used to be street festivals, music, dancing, and drinking, all centered around a mob football match held in the village streets and town squares. These festivities date back as far as the 1100s and, although they evolved independently from the Carnival traditions of Continental Europe, they closely resembled those celebrations. After all, if you’re preparing for forty days of fasting, abstinence, sacrifice, and penance, how else would you spend your final days of freedom if not by engaging in lecherous debauchery?
All the fun came to a halt in 1835 when the British Parliament passed the Highway Act. The Highway Act prohibited, among other things, playing football on public highways. In today’s context, this seems like a fair request: don’t play soccer on the highway, but it carried a slightly different meaning in those days. Highways referred to any public roads, of which there may have only been one or two in smaller towns. Highways almost always went straight through a town’s center and sometimes even included the village square. Playing football on public highways was quite common, as common as playing in a public park is today. Public highways were also likely the only space available to accommodate the large mob football matches and their accompanying festivities that characterized the Shrovetide season.
So when the Highway Act of 1835 banned football on public highways, it effectively also killed Shrove Tuesday.
The Highway Act became the law of the land in England, Scotland, Wales and all of Ireland. It also took effect in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A decade after its passage, the Great Famine struck in Ireland, prompting nearly four million Irish to immigrate to the United States. They did not bring with them their Shrovetide traditions, which had been destroyed years earlier by the Highway Act, and so, as Irish culture shaped American life in the second half of the nineteenth century, there was no tradition of Shrovetide or Carnival or Mardi Gras left to build on. It never took hold in the United States.
There is still a smattering of nostalgia-laden Shrovetide celebrations throughout England, and they’re mostly in small villages so remote that public highways did not reach them in 1835. They’re a world away from Miami, but they offer an insight into what Carnival in Miami may have looked like if the Highway Act had not killed Shrovetide in the English-speaking world. To be fair, they probably by now would have been remolded in the image of Latin American Carnival. But instead, when immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean transformed Miami beginning in the 1950s, the new arrivals found no Shrove Tuesday here to mold.
Miami is billed as the Gateway to Latin America and the Capital of Latin America. It is a bilingual city: Spanish and English, often in that order. Yet, we do not participate in the single most important date on the social calendar of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world.
Perhaps the new settlers of Miami will one day establish a Carnival tradition here or maybe those of us already here will finally say that enough is enough and we want in on the fun too. Until then, when your friends and families are sharing Carnival photos from around the world on Twitter and Instagram, remember to quietly curse the British Parliament and their Highway Act for our absence from what clearly looks to be a very fun time.
This just in from a very reliable Transit Miami tipster:
Just tried to cross here and had to dodge 2 cop cars blocking crosswalks and ramps. Strollers did not have a chance. Typical horrifying scenario but made worse by the police. There looked to be a minor fender bender north of 9th. No need for any crosswalks to be blocked especially at this already hectic area.
There was an officer near and I pointed out a stroller trying to maneuver the curb and cop car scenario and suggested it was dangerous to have a car there. Maybe they could move off the ramp area or help strollers and elderly by directing traffic since there seemed to be an inordinate number of officers there. I counted at least 9. She proceeded to scream at me. Calling me stupid at one point even. I calmly walked away and she continued to berate me. Asking my age for some reason and threatening to arrest me for interfering with her investigation. Ridiculous. Her info is below. I took pics but wished I had filmed the officer go nuts. It would go viral I am sure. Not sure if you can or should do anything with this info but here it is. http://cops.heraldtribune.com/Officer/Details/52406”
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