Currently viewing the category: "Pedestrians"

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?

Lincoln Road Pedestrian Safety

2. The pedestrian light on West & 16th has been taped shut.

Cross at your own risk.

You cannot cross here walking. Only cars can.

You cannot cross here walking. Only cars can.

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.

No walking to Whole Foods.

No walking to Whole Foods. Pedestrian on the left staunchily ignoring that the Sidewalk is closed.

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.

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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.

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Lincoln Road blockade

Yup, that is a green light for peds.

Run pedestrian, run.

Run pedestrian, run.

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.

Alton Road trolley stuck in traffic like everyone else. No pedestrians in sight - I wonder why?

Alton Road trolley stuck in traffic like everyone else. No pedestrians in sight – I wonder why?

 

What the City wants you to think Alton Road looks like

Alton Road Miami Beach

What Alton Road really looks like

Alton Road Miami Beach

 

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.

 

Pedestrians in Miami Beach jaywalk. You see them crossing intersection guerilla-style, ignoring red lights, ignoring oncoming traffic, ignoring all traffic laws that clearly state that “pedestrians may not cross between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation.” Here are some jaywalkers I have caught in the act, strutting their smug pedestrians selves surly across the street. You can clearly see the red light is showing for them.

 

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach


Why do they do this?

Are they in such a rush that they cannot wait for “their turn” to cross the street? They are walking, so they cannot be *that* concerned about reaching their destination quickly. Is it to piss off drivers? To make them slow down, inconvenience them in their arduous commute home or to the office by having to slightly tap their break pedal?  Are they trying to educate Miami drivers to look up from their cell phones, set aside their mascara, and be more alert to their surroundings?If so, they are doing this at the risk of their own life. Is educating South Florida drivers really worth paying for…with your life? Why are these pedestrians stepping into traffic, dangerously exposing themselves to oncoming motor vehicles?

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The Answer.

A little bit of context goes a long way at explaining what is really happening. At both intersections pictured above (Alton RD & 13th St and Lincoln & West, respectively), pedestrians have to wait 3 minutes to get a green sign. Then, they get 20 (!) seconds to cross. Now, 3 minutes may not seem like a lot. But these are 3 minutes of loud, smelly, stinky traffic zooming by you. And after you diligently waited for your turn, the countdown for you to rush over starts a few second after you set foot into the street. To put it in perspective, you have to wait 9 times as long as the time you are allotted to cross. How’s that for making a pedestrian feel like an equal participant in the road usage? The answer is, and very clearly to the pedestrian, that the pedestrian is NOT as important as the vehicle traffic passing by. That the pedestrian is an inconvenience that needs to be begrudgingly dealt with, and removed as soon as possible.

So there, since we are such an inconvenience, we efface ourselves from these streets as fast as we can. We run across intersections. We don’t want to force a red light on anyone so we take our chance and rush. I have never seen as many running, nervous pedestrians as in the USA. And I lived in Paris. But it’s here, in the US, where pedestrians truly feel like they should not be here. Because that is how these streets, these traffic signals make us feel. They tell us, you’re not worth it. Go away. You’re stopping traffic. So, we jaywalk.

And just for fun, term “jaywalking” originated in Chicago. It is “a derogatory slang word that was coined, in part, by local auto clubs and dealers, which was an attempt to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong. Automotive interests used these propaganda campaigns to put the blame on pedestrians who walked in the streets and crossed them whenever and wherever they wished, which was the same way they had done for centuries before the automobile became popular.” (Source: http://www.coyelawaccidentcenter.com/jaywalking-laws-in-florida.html)

 
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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[Public Notice with particular import to residents of MiMo, Upper Eastside, Edgewater, Midtown, Omni areas] FDOT to Host Public Meeting for Roadway Project State Road (SR) 5/Biscayne Boulevard Miami — The Florida Department of Transportation District Six (FDOT) will hold a public information meeting for a roadway project along SR 5/Biscayne Boulevard from NE 13 Street to NE 78 Street.

The public information meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at Unity on the Bay, 411 NE 21 Street, Miami, FL 33137. Attendees may arrive at any time from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Graphic displays of the project will be shown and FDOT staff will be on hand to discuss the project and answer questions after the presentation.

The proposed work for this project includes:

  • Installing five new mid-block pedestrian crossings at:
  1. NE 16 Street
  2. Between NE 23 Street and NE 24 Street
  3. Between NE 30 Street to NE 31 Street
  4. NE 32 Street
  5. NE 74 Street
  • Installing pedestrian signals at the existing signals of NE 15 Street and NE 17 Street
  • Installing a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of NE 54 Street
  • Installing a raised landscaping median at various locations which include:
  1.  NE 59 Street
  2.  NE 66 Street
  3.  NE 67 Street
  4.  NE 70 Street
  • Upgrading pedestrian curb ramps and signals to current standards at various locations Construction is expected to begin in June 2015 and last about four months.

The estimated construction cost of the project is $780,000.  Please contact Public Information Specialist Sandra Bello if you have any questions about this project at (305) 470-5349 or email at sandra.bello@dot.state.fl.us.

FDOT encourages public participation without regard to race, color, national origin, age, gender, religion, disability or family status. Persons who need special assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or who need translation services (free of charge) should contact, Brian Rick at (305) 470-5349 or in writing at FDOT, 1000 NW 111 Avenue, Miami, FL 33172 or by email at: brian.rick@dot.state.fl.us at least seven days prior to the public meeting. www.dot.state.fl.us

Consistent, Predictable, Repeatable

www.dot.state.fl.us February 4, 2014 Maribel Lena, (305) 470-5349; maribel.lena@dot.state.fl.us

 

In a city where nearly everyone and everything is from somewhere else, inequality is Miami’s most native son. Like sunshine and sex appeal, inequality is stuffed into every corner of this city. We make little effort to hide it or avoid it, and in the case of one advertising campaign we even flaunt it. Along Southwest 2nd Avenue in Brickell, there’s a bus stop advertisement for Miami’s latest luxury development touting “Unfair Housing,” a play on the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discriminatory housing practices in the United States*.

Photo credit: Jordan Nassar

Photo credit: Jordan Nassar

But this bus stop ad isn’t the only evidence of the gaps dividing our city; there’s the bus stop itself. It can be dirty and overcrowded, just like the buses themselves, which also run late, if they ever come at all. The sidewalks on blocks around the stop are narrow and they’re often obstructed either temporarily by construction or permanently by signage and utilities. It is the typical second-class experience of pedestrians and transit riders around the United States that results from minimal public investment in any form of transportation infrastructure that does not cater to cars.

This is a common condition around the world, and in a few cities it has received the attention that it deserves: as an inequality so flagrant that it offends our notions of democracy. In Bogotá, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa made this idea of transportation as a matter of democracy central to his governing philosophy. “If all citizens are equal before the Law,” Peñalosa is fond of saying, “then a citizen on a $30 bicycle has the same right to safe mobility as one in a $30,000 car, and a bus with 100 passengers has a right to 100 times more road space than a car with one.” Gil Peñalosa, who is Enrique’s brother and former Commissioner of Parks, Sport, and Recreation in Bogotá and is now Executive Director of Toronto-based 8-80 Cities, recently wrote, “Bus lanes are a right and a symbol of equality.” In Copenhagen, Mikael Colville-Andersen, photographer and founder of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize, has argued that, “we have to re-democratize the bicycle.” In order words, we must recast cycling from a niche subculture for environmentalists and fitness buffs to a viable form of transportation for all citizens who value it because, as Colville-Andersen stresses, “it’s quick and easy.” Since the early 1990s, Vienna has embraced “gender mainstreaming,” the practice of ensuring that public works projects, including transportation, benefit men and women equally.

Carrera 15 in Bogotá before Peñalosa (left) and after Peñalosa (right)

Carrera 15 in Bogotá before Peñalosa (left) and after Peñalosa (right)

At its core, government by representative democracy, our chosen form, demands that our leaders pass laws and set policies based on the wishes, opinions, and needs of the citizens without sacrificing what Edmund Burke called their “enlightened conscience.” In other words, our leaders must govern in accordance with the will of the majority, the rights of the minorities, and their own judgment informed by their position as a representative of all citizens. When we examine the transportation policies under which we live, we can observe simply and clearly that Miami is not a transportation democracy.

In a transportation democracy, governed by notions of equality, resources are allocated so that all citizens no matter their form of transportation have equal access to safe, effective, dignified mobility. How we travel between point A and point B is a question as critical as any other to the functioning of society and how we answer that question speaks volumes about what we value and whose voice is heard.

Transportation resources are not allocated equally in Miami. Federal, state, and local funding for transportation projects in Miami-Dade County, aviation and port activity excluded, totaled roughly $1.7 billion during the 2011-2012 fiscal year**.  Of that amount, over sixty percent went to road, highway, and parking infrastructure. The remaining minority is split between sidewalks, buses, trains, bike lanes and racks, and other pedestrian and intermodal infrastructure.

It’s a grossly unequal distribution in light of how citizens travel in practice. Twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents are not eligible to drive based on age. Another 20 percent of residents age 18 and over live in poverty, making car ownership an impractical financial burden. Of Miami-Dade’s more than one million workers, eleven percent commutes to work by bus, train, bike, or on foot. Still another six percent have ambulatory disabilities that require use of a wheelchair, walker, or other assistive device. Surely there is some overlap among these and still other groups, but the lesson is that in excess of fifty percent of Miami-Dade residents have no or minimal direct need for or access to an automobile; yet the vast majority of our transportation spending at all levels of government goes to automobile infrastructure. Add to these totals the vast numbers of Miamians, both older and younger, who drive out of necessity but who would prefer to travel by transit, bike, or foot, and the balance of transportation spending becomes even more unequally skewed in favor of a privileged minority***.

We may not typically frame it this way, but what we have here in Miami with respect to our transportation is another instance of inequality, a failure of our democracy. This is a concern larger than the cleanliness of our buses or the scarcity of bike lanes. This is an example of a majority facing alienation and segregation to such a degree that they appear the minority; and this manufactured invisibility is used to justify vast, unequal expenditures in favor of a privileged class. If we are to reclaim our transportation democracy, we must begin with an honest discussion about how our citizens travel around our city; we must push back against an approach to transportation that adequately serves so few of us; and we must, as they’ve done in Bogotá, Copenhagen and Vienna, recognize transportation as an issue that extends deep into the heart of our democracy. Only then can we ensure that all voices are heard, all wishes considered, all rights protected, all interests acknowledged. It is a prerequisite to providing safe, effective, dignified transportation options to all and to staying true to our most inherent values of government. Only then can we ensure that Miami becomes a transportation democracy.

*The campaign has been successful, though; the development is nearly sold out before it has even broken ground.

**This is a rough estimate that includes budget figures from USDOT, FDOT, MDX, MDT, and 35 municipal governments, among others. Unsurprisingly, some figures are easier to come by and interpret than others.

***It is also worth noting the increases in housing prices that developers must charge to subsidize minimum parking requirements.

 

 
NE 2nd Avenue in Buena Vista

NE 2nd Avenue in Buena Vista

The reindeer games continue between the County and City and as usual the taxpayer ends up getting cheated and we are all left with a really dangerous street, which apparently the County and City both find acceptable.

Here’s an email I received from Transit Miami friend Wendy Stephan.

Hi Felipe

I’m writing to you about a problem here in Buena Vista East/Design District.  I’ve attached a letter I sent below about the problem.  After residents sent about 100 letters, the City of Miami (particularly the Mayor’s office) was responsive, but our understanding is that the County is in charge of the project.  The latest twist is that the County says they handed the project off to the City at some point (?!).  It seems the project just stalled out halfway done.  I am sure you’ve noticed how dangerous NE 2nd Avenue is these days – potholes, angled light poles, and no street markings!!  This seems to be a good issue for your blog. Thanks.

Wendy

Here’s the email sent to city, county neighbors, etc., on June 10:

 

Dear Commissioner Edmonson,

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of District 3 residents and business owners concerned about the unsafe situation and lack of progress on the street improvements on NE 2nd Avenue in the Buena Vista/Design District area.  Because the street improvement project seems to be stalled with work halfway done — old lighting removed, street surface damaged, striping not visible — the situation that currently exists is very dangerous, and one young woman was killed crossing the street on a dark night in March.

This area has recently seen the wonderful development of several businesses, some owned by residents, that cater to our broader community.  These businesses have generated both car and pedestrian traffic along this corridor.  County buses pick up passengers along this road.  Students have been crossing this street daily on their way to DASH, Miami Arts Charter and Archbishop Curley Notre Dame schools.  We need the long-promised improvements to the street completed to improve safety, functionality and the appearance of this street.  The project, already funded and initiated, includes multiple safety features, including:· Adequate sidewalks
· Curbs
· Drainage
· Parking lanes
· Bike lanes
· Clear street striping
· Functional street lighting
· Maintenance for the large swale trees, additional trees/green where possible.

What happened to this project?  We demand answers and a clear timeline for its completion.  Residents and patrons of our businesses should not be placed at such high risk.  Thank you for your prompt response.

Wendy

What a disgrace.

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Are Miami’s proliferating pedestrian overpasses transforming the city into a hamster’s paradise?

Hamster_Tunnels_Concept__Juan_Navarro_20130601

The more we bow our heads in submission to the automobile, the more we lose our city … the more we lose our humanity.
[TransitMiami is hugely grateful to the incredibly talented Mr. Juan Navarro for contributing his artwork to this piece. Thank you, Juan!]

Cities should be built for people, not cars. It’s an irrefutable, almost cliché maxim that still, despite the seeming consensus around the notion, somehow gets lost in the city design and development process.

Greater Miami is a city whose incipient design and development occurred during the apex of the automobile era, an era which is slowly, but surely, dissipating. Our city’s auto-centric legacy thus predisposes planners and engineers to maintain that eroding model of spatial form and function.

The underlying fallacy comes from their failure to recognize the dynamism moving through the city, the revolutionary societal forces changing the way Miamians and metro-dwellers across the planet wish to live in, and interact with, their urban habitats.

Rather, these designers of dystopia look to the increasingly obsolete conditions of the past and — instead of embracing the change around them with innovative design solutions — seek to merely perpetuate the already expired status quo.

To our collective detriment, this status quo expresses itself with bipedal human beings relegated to the bottom of the mobility food chain. In Miami, and with a bit of irony, this demotion often manifests itself upward, where people wishing to get around on their own two feet are forced to ascend up to and move through so-called pedestrian overpasses.

In essence, though, these overpasses are really nothing short of hamster tunnels designed to accommodate and un-impede the movement of cars at the expense of people.

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You may pass, you pedestrian peon, but only after ascending to the tunnel above, traversing through the cage, and descending yet again. Then, and only then, may you cross the street.

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This wasteful, massive piece of infrastructure makes sense only after you’ve been indoctrinated by the dogma that cars take precedent over people. Pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), between the City of Miami and City of Coral Gables.

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Is this the sense of “security” we wish to give to our children? In order to simply cross a street, young child, you must seek refuge in the cage above the unbridled auto traffic below!

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Inside the pedestrian/hamster cage at US-1 and Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), between the City of Miami and City of Coral Gables, on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

These overpasses reify the misguided mid-20th century notion that the automobile reigns supreme. All other modes of transport must make way for, and bow their heads to, the tyrannical king of the road.

Through these pedestrian overpasses, the built environment is effectively screaming at people who choose to use their own energy to get around the city: Step aside, petty pedestrians! Out of the way, bumbling bicyclists! The automobile is coming through!

A relatively complex pedestrian overpass (Coral Way / SW 24th Street & the Palmetto / 826 Highway). In addition to human-sized hamsters, maximum security prisoners would feel right at home.

Apart from the monstrosities in the City of Hialeah, this is one of the more complex hamster tunnels in unincorporated Miami-Dade County (Coral Way & the SR 826 Highway). It evokes scenes from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

Up, up, up, little hamster! Up  and around, around and up, across and over, down and around, down and around! You made it!

Up, up, up, little hamster! Up and around, around and up, across and over, down and around, down and around! You made it!

These are not the messages we should be physically inscribing into the nature of our city. This is not the infrastructure needed to support a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving urban geography.

The overpass at Vizcaya is one of the few warranted ones. A collective sigh of sympathy is nonetheless breathed for that poor cleaning woman tasked with cleaning this hamster path.

The overpass at Vizcaya is one of the few warranted ones. A collective sigh of sympathy is nonetheless breathed for that poor cleaning woman tasked with cleaning this hamster path.

Through the tunnel you go, little hamsters. While this particular tunnel actually makes sense (because it crosses the point where US-1 turns into I-95, at Vizcaya Metrorail Station), these ped overpasses should be very few and far between.

Through the tunnel you go, little hamsters. While this particular tunnel actually makes sense — because it crosses the point where US-1 turns into I-95 at Vizcaya, where a street level crossing would be particularly difficult to engineer — these ped overpasses should be very few and far between.

The caged view from the overpass at Vizcaya. While this is one of the warranted pedestrian overpasses in Miami, the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.

The caged view from the overpass at Vizcaya. While this is one of the warranted pedestrian overpasses in Miami, the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.

As our children and grandchildren inherit from us this little bit of Earth called Miami, they’ll be far more grateful to gain a livable place where they can enjoy the pleasures of the city on their own two feet at the ground level, rather than surrendering to the oppression of the automobile by scurrying through elevated mazes and tunnels.

You want to keep the streets safe for pedestrians? There’s only one real solution: Make the streets safe for pedestrians!

Be on the look-out for a follow-up article where TransitMiami looks at some of the broader social implications of building the proposed pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Mariposa in Coral Gables. Also, be sure to read TransitMiami’s previous piece on that particular proposal, written by TM writer and professional architect Jennifer Garcia.

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