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Driver hit cyclists from behind.  Notice the windshield. How fast was the driver going?

Driver hit cyclists from behind. Notice the windshield. How fast was the driver going?

I’m really tired of writing this same old story. On Friday morning another cyclist was critically injured on Bear Cut Bridge, the very same bridge where Chistopher Lecanne was killed nearly 4 years ago when a driver hit him from behind.

Crashes like these are preventable if only our elected officials could get their act together and address the public safety crisis that is happening in front of their very own eyes.

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The Rickenbacker Causeway is a microcosm for the greater ills of the county. Case in point: In the past 7 years at least 3 cyclists have been killed and countless other have been critically injured, yet the existing conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway are getting more dangerous (i.e. Bear Cut Bridge), not safer.  Virtually nothing has been done to make the Rickenbacker less dangerous.  How many people need to die before something is done?

Miami Dade County is the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the country for pedestrian and cyclists, yet our elected officials are dragging their feet when it comes to making our streets safer.  All I hear is political grandstanding that changes are coming and in the meantime pedestrians and cyclists continue to be slaughtered on our streets. The entire situation is disgraceful and shameful and collectively Miami Dade County elected officials need to be held accountable.

Click here to send an email to all of our County Commissioners and Mayor Gimenez and let them know what an awful job they are doing when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist safety throughout the County.  This is not just a Rickenbacker Causeway issue, this is a county wide problem that has turned into a public safety crises.

The situation has reached a point that is beyond embarrassing.
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The Middle River Neighborhood in the City of Fort Lauderdale is considering three options for their section of North Dixie Highway, including rejecting $2.3 million is MPO funding that would include a road diet, new and improved crosswalks and a solid green bike lane that would continue along the section to the north (into Wilton Manors).

Neighbors and local business owners packed a public meeting tonight and some argued for paving the swale on one side with a 12 ft wide shared use path (sidewalk) instead of accepting funding for the green lanes. Why would they want to do this?

Some arguments made for the “shared-use path” option:

  • Even if the speed is 30mph, I drive 40mph, at least, so cyclists should ride on the sidewalk for their own safety. [Response: that’s why city is recommending multiple traffic calming measures, including speed tables at crossings.]
  • No one has ever been killed by a car reversing out of a driveway while they were riding a bike on a sidewalk. [Response: You’re lucky. Many people are not.]
  • Narrowing the travel lanes to 10’ will slow down traffic too much and how can that be legal when trucks can be 8 ½ ‘ wide. [The purpose of this project, even the shared use path option, is to discourage tractor trailers from this roadway.]
  • Why do we need any of this? Can’t we just leave everything the way it is? [Response: Well, yes on both. If we don’t use it, another city project in the LRTP pipeline will.]
  • Is there any proof that bike lanes increase property values? The local economy?

My response, of course, is there are several. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • In 2010, rents along NYC’s new Times Square-area green bike lanes increased 71% – the greatest rise in the city.[APTA]
  • When San Francisco put its own 4-lane Valencia Street through a project similar to the one proposed for Dixie Highway (road diet, adding bike lanes and better pedestrian crossings], nearly 40% of local business owners reported increased sales and 60% reported more area residents shopping locally due to reduced travel time and convenience. Two-thirds said business improved overall. [San Francisco Bicycle Coalition]
  • Across American cities, houses located in areas that are particularly bicycle and/or pedestrian friendly are worth as much as $34,000 more than comparable houses with just average walkability/bikeability. [CEOs for Cities]
  • Toronto merchants surveyed in 2009 reported that patrons who came by bike or on visit not only stopped in their stores more often, but spent more money per month than those who came by car. [Clean Air Partnership]
  • Find more stats in this article: Want to make money? Build Your Business on a Bike Lane (FastCo.exist)

There are more reasons to support the “green bike lanes” option:

  1. It has secured funding. Changing the concept negates the funding approval years in development and would leave the city to find money elsewhere.
  2. The bike lane concept includes funding for bio-swales, a critically needed and environmentally sound flood mitigation tool.
  3. Continuity. The lanes are planned for the contiguous section directly to the north. It is unfortunate the local politics and funding challenges have lead to so many sidewalks that end and bike lanes/trails/paths to nowhere. I hope that doesn’t happen here.
  4. People who ride for transportation are not required to ride on sidewalks, no matter how wide they are. Those who do, put themselves at risk at every driveway and reduce to safety of the path for kids and those walking their dogs.
  5. Road treatments like this reduce speeds and therefore improve safety for everyone. [NYC DOT]

There was a time when city officials and engineers were the ones fighting the bike facilities here in South Florida. The times are changing – will a different kind of local politics prevent our governments from doing the right thing in favor of cars and trucks?

 

May is National Bike Month. Biking is seeing a nationwide resurgence due to aggressive policies aimed to promote cycling, and as cities and towns in South Florida join the fold by increasing bike infrastructure, now is a particularly good time to bike in the Miami area. If you have a bike that needs a tune up or have been thinking about buying a two-wheeler for a while May is the perfect month to do so!

The bike is up there with man’s greatest inventions. It extends the range one can travel considerably, all while burning no fuel and providing excellent cardiovascular and exercise benefits. In urban traffic conditions, the bike is comparable with cars and public transportation on short/medium trips. One can usually bike around 5 miles in half an hour, which compares quite well with driving that distance under normal traffic conditions, and certainly with taking public transportation (particularly when having to walk to and wait for the bus).

All buses in Miami Dade and Broward County are outfitted with bike extensions. This opens up the possibility of using the bicycle as part of a multimodal trip. If you take multiple rides on your commute, consider biking to replace part of the trip, saving time, money, and enjoying the many exercise benefits of riding.

Of course, going from theory to practice can take some work, so here are some things to consider before hitting the road.

Things you’ll need to bike on the road:

A helmet: it’s not required for those older than 16, it’s usually not comfortable, but it is worth it. Most serious injuries and bike fatalities can be prevented by the simple use of a helmet.

Lights: White for the front, red for the back. Try to get removable ones so they don’t get stolen.

Bell: A loud bell will come in handy, particularly if you are biking on a mixture of roads and sidewalks.

In most places, these common sense accessories are legally required.

If you have never biked in traffic there are easy ways to ease into it. Always stay on the right side of the road. While riding your bike you are legally considered a car and need to obey all traffic laws, stop signs, and lights. Take advantage of the grid and bike down calmer less trafficked streets where possible. Familiarize yourself with the areas in which you want to bike and test out different routes.

One of the frustrating things about biking in the area is that most good bike lanes come to an end at major thoroughfares or ends of towns. But, with a few exceptions, most municipalities in South Florida allow for biking on the sidewalk. Google maps now has an option for bike directions, and smartphone users can use maps to figure out where they are and see which minor trafficked and low speed-limit streets they can take to reach their destinations.

If you don’t have a bike, you can take advantage of low-cost subscriptions to cycle hires like DecoBike in Miami Beach, and B-cycles in Broward County. I would still suggest taking a helmet with you if you plan to use one on the road. These bike systems also make use of smartphone GSP apps, with the deco bike app allowing you to see where you can rent/return bikes. The beauty of this is the short utility trip to the grocery store or other quick stop that would be too short for a car trip but a bit too far to walk. The bike serves as a great equalizer between walking and transit. So if you have been thinking of exercising, cutting down on car/transportation costs, and see the bike as an option I highly suggest giving it a try during this National Bike Month.

Ride safe!

 
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