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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!

 

TransitMiami can’t help but give a great neighborhood bar, The DRB, some unsolicited praise for its ingenious selection of an otherwise neglected downtown office building for its new location.

By choosing to site its new bar in the part of downtown dominated by boring institutional land-uses, The DRB chose to bring some vibrancy and character to an otherwise lifeless part of downtown. The very phrase itself — “lifeless part of downtown” — is an unfortunate contradiction, an oxymoron of a poorly planned urban milieu.

The building in question — situated on NE 5th Street and 1st Ave. — is surrounded almost exclusively by  institutional land-uses (occupied by, e.g., federal courthouses, a community college, a church, etc.) and lots of shamefully vacant and/or completely undeveloped, prime-for-mixed-use-development downtown parcels.

When New Urbanists and other community design-oriented folks refer to the evils of homogeneous land-use configurations, the image most typically invoked is that of miles upon miles of single-family residential land-use. Indeed, monolithic residential land-use embodies the notion of ‘urban sprawl’.

Elected officials, planners, and developers must also recognize, though, that large areas of homogeneous institutional land-use in the downtown core is at least as toxic (if not more so) for our city as sprawling single-family cookie-cutter houses along the periphery.

We need more transit-oriented development (TOD) in Miami’s de facto government-institution district. That area already has a great combination of Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus access. We must augment this healthy transportation configuration with a healthier land-use configuration.

And we must certainly continue to push our elected officials to expand the public transit network. However, we must also push them to better incentivize more commercial in-fill near the highly viable sections of public transit we already have, especially in downtown. It’s the hustle and bustle of downtown that build’s a city’s personality.

Kudos to you, Democratic Republic of Beer, for selecting a site so wonderfully accessible by transit, foot, and bicycle. Now all those bureaucrats and college students have a nice neighborhood spot in which to enjoy one of your exotic specialty brews from one of the corners of the globe.

(This author recommends the Sri Lankan Lion Stout.)

- Via Autoblog

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I sincerely love riding our community’s Metrobuses. They’re generally clean, safe, and comfortable. Mind you, it really depends on which route you ride: some buses, and the people you find on them, are a bit more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, for the most part, there is an underlying sense of camaraderie and a tacit respect for one’s fellow passengers which pervades the public bus-riding experience.

Public transit brings people together and engenders cohesiveness. Unspoken bonds are formed between strangers of all races, socio-economic statuses, and walks-of-life during the shared passage to their respective destinations. In a city as diverse and socio-ethnically/socio-economically segregated as Miami, we need more transit-facilitated social capital.

Sometimes, though, I can’t help but be overcome by indignation when encountering people on the buses (or trains) who seem to have no sense of basic transit etiquette.

You know who I’m talking about: those star-crossed lovers who want the whole bus to endure the loud, profanity-ridden telephone drama they’re having with their significant others; that obnoxious group of young, want-to-be rappers free-styling (poorly) to beats blasting out of their Smartphones; the girl who spills her soda and indifferently moves to a different seat to avoid the mess she just created; that sad homeless guy in unwashed clothes who, saturated by the smell of cigarettes and stale urine, just can’t resist to strike-up a halitosis-filled conversation about his past lives (only to then ask for money from any sympathetic listener) . . . the list goes on.

Among the very worst violations of transit etiquette, though, is the most common to find, and that’s what makes it the most infuriating. Some people just don’t understand the principle of one-seat per person. On packed buses, this is intolerable.

You’ve already taken up more than one full seat for your body, must your bags take the other two next to you?! Where’s the basic transit etiquette?

So please, when you have a bag — or two, or three, or four — with you on transit, please volunteer to remove it from the seat. Place the item(s) on your lap, under the seat, or, when available, in the overhead luggage rack.

Nobody should bear the burden of actually having to ask permission to occupy a seat covered by bags, or your extended feet, or your left-over slice of pizza, etc. The burden shouldn’t fall on the person looking for a seat. The seat(s) should be graciously offered by the person whose articles occupy it by removing them invitingly as those in need of a seat board the bus.

Please occupy only one seat until you’re absolutely sure you’re not denying any other passenger a place to sit. It makes the whole public transit experience better for all . . .

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Tuesday nights my wife and I often ride the Fort Lauderdale Urban Ride with the South Florida Bike Club, the same ride recently featured on the Sun-Sentinel. It’s a fun 20 mile ride with a mix of fast and slow riders and fat and skinny tired bikes. Tonight we rode with a group of about 20 riders and witnessed the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, sand piled up around the Fort Lauderdale beach wall and onto A1A. Below is one of the cleaner areas, with sand only covering the bike lane. Some areas had sand piled into the travel lane as well that we picked our way around.

I am used to being harassed by motorists, especially when I ride outside the bike lane to avoid the door zone. I generally ignore them and just assume they are ignorant of safe riding techniques. But on a day like this, with sand piled everywhere, you would think drivers would be a little more understanding. Maybe the tropical storm winds cooled off some of the hot heads around here? Nope, not in South Florida. First we had a Broward County Transit bus honk at us while the driver ran a red light in his desperate quest to pass us. Then a motorist trying to sound nice passed us slowly in the other lane, saying, “shouldn’t you be over there in the bike lane?”

Right. Might as well ride on the beach if I wanted to ride on sand. Life goes on in South Florida, and bicyclists are quickly put back in last place where the motoring public believes they belong.

 

This is the EyeStop Bus Stop developed by MIT’s Senseable Lab.

The EyeStop is partially covered with touch-sensitive e-INK and screens, and features state-of-the art sensing technologies and a variety of interactive services. Riders can plan a bus trip on an interactive map,  surf the Web, monitor their real-time exposure to pollutants and use their mobile devices as an interface with the bus shelter. They can also post ads and community announcements to an electronic bulletin board at the bus stop, enhancing the EyeStop’s functionality as a community gathering space.

 

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  • Changing the practice of architecture: A group of Scottish scientists have invented a 3-d laser modeling device that produces ultrafine images of structures.   “The drawings and computer simulations long cooked up by developers and architects will be replaced by more detailed, easier-to-comprehend, more objective views, in essence democratizing knowledge.” (NY Times)
  • Still truckin’: The rally for SunRail is gaining momentum as various civic groups and elected officials back the rail plan. (Winter Park Observer)
  • Congratulations Miami, your political landscape has changed dramatically. What will that mean for transit, walkability and cycling? Only time will tell. (Herald)
  • Why aren’t we doing this:  Check out this great article from the Transport Politic about Tampa’s plans to fund a light rail expansion with a penny sales tax. “The local Metropolitan Planning Organization incorporated the rail project into its long-term plans and has completely reversed course in favor of transit funding; current spending is tilted 83% to highways, while the long-term plan, with almost $12 billion in expenditures earmarked by 2035, provides for a 50-50 split between transit and roads.” This is exactly the sort of shift that needs to happen with our own MPO. It is time to dramatically alter the funding formula of the MPO in favor of mass transit and non-motorized transportation. (Transport Politic)
  • Good News/Bad News: The commission adopted a series of bus service cuts/adjustments, increasing headways in most instances. The good news is that they abolished bus to bus transfers. (Miami Dade County)

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FDOT’s I-95 Express Lanes were recently awarded the People’s Choice Award of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Read the release on the America’s Transportation Award site. Say what you want about the project, but the numbers are in and have shown a definite increase in speed on northbound I-95 where the High Occupancy Toll lanes were installed.

It’s not all about the automobile, either. Articulated express buses should be running on these lanes in January. According to the 95 Express website, the intent is to extend the existing Broward County Transit service running on 441/SR-7 to the Golden Glades interchange to reach downtown Miami. We’ll keep you posted on this new service.

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busstop16

Click here to see some truly whacky, innovative, and odd bus stops.

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Say that tens time fast.

Via Streetsblog, the Louisville Transit Authority is using a corny rap video to promote the use of bicycle racks on buses. Funny thing is, it may be working

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Tomorrow, Broward County Transit is having a public hearing on changes to some bus routes. Instead of the service cuts that South Florida sees too often, it looks like their changes mostly consist of service improvements and the addition of a new express route. See their press release for more details, and head over to room 422 of the Broward County Governmental Center on August 12 at 2 PM to put in your two cents’ worth.

There’s aso a Transportation Development Workshop this Thursday, August 14, from 3:30 to 5:30 PM at the Broward County Lauderhill Towne Center Library. Again, hit up the website for more info on the Transit Development Plan and the workshops.

And don’t let the bus hit you on your way there.

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Bus blocking bicycle lane

I was spoiled by learning to ride my bicycle on the road in Gainesville, one of Florida’s most bicycle-friendly cities. Bus drivers in that city typically check for bicycles in the bike lane before pulling over into it to stop, or they stop outside of the bicycle lane altogether. This is in obedience with Florida Statute 316.085(2) that requires a driver to check that a lane is clear before changing lanes. In this regard, a bicycle lane is no different than a regular vehicular lane, just as a bicycle is no different than a regular vehicle. There is nothing wrong with the bus changing lanes into the bicycle lane when stopping, but the driver must make sure the bicycle lane is clear before doing so. Anything else is a violation of the law and a threat to cyclists.

Bus drivers down here seem ignorant of that law as it applies to bicycle lanes. At least the one who I ran into yesterday was ignorant, as was the cop who faulted me for the accident without finding me in violation of any law.

A message to all the local transit systems: train your drivers to drive carefully and lawfully as it pertains to cyclists! In this case, they need to check their right mirror before encroaching on any kind of bicycle lane. We are all part of the multimodal transportation system, and bicycles and buses are both good alternatives to cars. We would hate to see one kill off the other.

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Tired of unreliable buses? Sick of not knowing when the bus is coming, or whether you just missed it and have to wait the full 30 minutes for the next one?

We can’t do anything about the unreliable buses until we get a streetcar, but BCT has begun putting up real-time message signs that tell you when to expect the next bus. The first two started operation Thursday at bus stops on Hwy.  441 near Oakland Park Blvd., and more are ready to be installed in the near future. Broward County’s signs one-up many similar systems across the country by including a voice that audibly tells riders when to expect their bus. It’s a great feature for visually impaired or illiterate people, many of whom are forced to ride the bus as they cannot legally drive a car.

Maybe we need some more visually impaired people. We need some way to get people out of their convenient Lexus Cages. Failing a sudden rise in blindness, perhaps comforts like these message boards will help.

Read more details about the boards in the press release. If anyone’s used the message boards, please let us know how they work. How’s the accuracy of the time?

 

Update 6/11/2008: BCT sent us a picture of one of the message boards. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

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Below is an excerpt from an email I received this morning from my friend, an occasional bus commuter from Miami Beach to Downtown Miami.

Dude,

I took the bus this morning. Let me bore you with the details. Because my parking permit at Miami-Dade Community College expired (the court provides no parking for clerks), and I have to re-register for a summer class (that I do not need to take) to get access to the world’s crappiest parking lot, I took the bus. I missed the bus, waited 20 minutes, and finally caught the C.

When i got on the bus, i sat in the back, and guy with long hair covered in tattoos sitting on a bag of crushed cans began grooming his hair. He untied his ponytail and ran his fingers through his hair. It smelled like a barn. Hair went everywhere. Naturally, I moved to where a spot had opened up in the front row. As soon as I sat down I noticed the guy in front of me, a guy probably in his 30s who hadn’t paid to get on the bus (I heard the driver yelling at him when he got on, but she still let him on) took up 4 seats, lying sideways in handicap accessible row, with his legs and arms splayed. He had a crumpled 20 dollar bill in his hand, which he took out and put away in his pocket several times, and he smelled like Monday’s booze. He tried talking to me a few times. I ignored him for a while and eventually said, “I’m listening to my headphones, sorry” which was true, in a pissed off voice with my sunglasses still on. In response, or so it seemed, he took out a comb and began scrubbing his head like a brillo pad in front of everyone. The bus stopped every 30 seconds, and he never moved for anyone, and everyone accommodated him trying to pretend that all was normal because no one wanted to have to talk to him. The bus driver did nothing, naturally. Finally we got to the other side of the McCarthur Causeway and I’d had enough, so I got off right at the base of the exit ramp. I’ll walk 15 minutes to the office, I thought, just let me off. Also, I hate how the bus goes to the bus stop (Omni Station), which is a stupid mandatory detour for anyone commuting to downtown. Of course, my new friend decided to get off with me, then proceeded to follow me for about 5 blocks until he couldn’t keep up, at which point he fell behind and eventually out of my sight. I thought about turning and just popping him as hard as I could, but he was about 20 feet behind me the entire time so there was no need, and also, that’s not something I typically do.

I finally traverse my way through the streets of Miami, where cars zoom past me, where I see billboards and trucks but not one one coffee shop, restaurant, store, or habitable dwelling. Finally, as I get to the MDCC campus, which is right across the street from the courts, I see my same C bus pulling up. It’s the same speed as walking! Not on the causeway, but once you’re in Miami it moves at the same pace as a pedestrian (or at least, someone like me who walks rather fast).

The system is designed in such a way that people like me (i.e. employed, kind of a yuppie) give up because the mass transit is so inconvenient, slow, and disgusting. This is coming from someone who LOVED the subway system in NY and DC. In Miami, I’d rather wait in traffic, spend 20 minutes parking, and burn gas (btw, there’s no way it costs $3/day in gas to drive from SoBe to work and back – if they really wanted people to take the bus, they might want to make it cost effective), than have to deal with the bus situation each day.

OK, thanks for listening to my rant. I actually feel a bit better.

Yikes. Lucky for him, he won’t be enduring this much longer. He heads back to New York City towards the end of “summer.” I also suggested he try joining me in the bicycle commute sometimes soon. Unfortunately, his place of employment offers no showers and no reasonable place to change/store his clothes. Makes you wonder when that Bay Link might show up, huh?

Imagine a drive-thru church? It’s not far from reality. Last Christmas, I heard of a church that was having a drive-thru nativity scene. The ostensible reason was that people didn’t have to get out of their cars in cold weather. Some churches, however, like this one in Orlando, do it when they don’t have cold weather. One of the main purposes of a church is fellowship, and it’s easy with a crowd of people in a building. It’s rather difficult, on the other hand, to carry on a conversation with someone in another car.

While I came close to riding my bike to my church’s sunrise service today at the beach, churches in Ohio and Virginia offered drive-thru Easter pageants. It should come as no surprise, since they only reflect our greater car-centric culture—but it’s still frustrating. Why can’t churches be more pedestrian friendly?

One church in Texas has walk-thru scenes of Stations of the Cross on permanent display. Has anyone seen similar walkable displays or pageants, or have you seen any local churches touting drive-thru dramas? Please voice your thoughts. We want to see examples, whether good, bad, or ugly.

Also, any thoughts for improvements? I would like to see a bus shelter and a bike rack in front of my church. What about your neighborhood churches?

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