Florida At Risk of Falling 20 Years Behind Other States
It is summer vacation season. Perhaps you just returned to South Florida from one of the world’s great cities. Chances are, you probably experienced bicycle facilities that are generally better than what we have here in South Florida. While recently there has been significant improvements to the bicycle infrastructure in Miami-Dade County, there is still a key design element that is missing from our streetscape.
A cycle track, is a physically separate and protected bike lane and is considered by bicycle planners and experts as the safest and most enjoyable way to ride a bicycle through an urban environment. Widely seen as a catalyst to encourage riding because of the inherent safety of the protection from traffic – either by a curb, bollards, parked cars or pavement buffer – cycle tracks are revolutionizing the way people view cycling in an urban context.
Before you read any further, watch this short video via StreetFilms.org on the new cycle track in Queens, New York City. On a personal note, I was in New York last weekend when this facility opened. Having cycled in the same area prior to the building of this lane, I was awestruck. Seeing so many people enjoying an area of Queens that was previously a miserable traffic-choked hellhole, the experience was almost surreal.
There are numerous studies that show cycle tracks are proven to increase ridership tremendously versus unprotected, striped lanes. A new protected lane on Manhattan’s busy First Avenue saw cyclist counts rise by 152% throughout the year the facility was opened. As most people cite safety issues as their biggest barrier to cycling for transportation, cycletracks offer a solution that not only makes traveling safer for the cyclist, but for the motorist as well. Numerous studies have found that crashes between bicycles and traffic diminish when a protected cycle track is available.
While many cities throughout the USA and world have installed such facilities like the Queens example to great success, Miami-Dade County does not have a single on-road protected bicycle lane/cycle track. The feeling of unparalleled uplift I experienced upon riding the Queens lane quickly faded to frustration when I realized the challenges ahead for Miami.
So what is the problem? Simply put, the Florida Department of Transportation does not recognize cycle tracks as an approved bicycle facility. Therefore, some of the FDOT’s biggest roadway projects in Miami-Dade County like the proposed redesigns of Alton Road in Miami Beach, Flagler Street in Little Havana, Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard will not include cycle tracks. In fact, the feasibility of such facilities have not even been studied by the FDOT in these projects because the design standards of cycle tracks are not approved. Even worse, some of these projects have start dates in 2016 with completion dates approaching 2018, 2019 and 2020.
If the FDOT does not adopt the cycle track as an approved design standard as these major projects move forward, FODT will be 20 years behind other states and cities in implementing accepted bicycle facilities. The benefits are obvious. We’ve spent a lot of electronic ink here at TransitMiami in lambasting the FDOT’s outdated auto-centric designs and how they imposed them on the Florida landscape. This is not the time for that. Simply put, it’s time for the FDOT to join the ranks of the enlightened world of modern urban design and adopt cycle tracks that will create the conditions for safe and sustainable urban transportation. Give us the facilities that will lead to safer streets, healthier people, clean air and stress free commutes.
Here is an abbreviated list of American cities that have built segregated bicycle facilities. It’s time for Miami to join this list.
Long Beach, CA
San Francisco, CA
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