Currently viewing the category: "Miami Beach"

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.

20140924_090211

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.

20140924_090602

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?

IMAG1971

 

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)

 

A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How living in Miami Beach used to make me smile…

That was – until FDOT took control of Alton Rd, hijacked West Avenue, a formerly quiet residential Boulevard, and dumped thousand of trucks, busses, taxis, and motorcycles right in front of our homes for the duration of over 1 year, turning it into an urban superhighway.
Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Act 1

March 2013.

As soon as the mega-project was announced, I contacted the City of Miami Beach and FDOT to inquire about what their plans were to mitigate all the traffic and what their plans were for pedestrian safety. The aide to then-mayor Matti Bower, Gabrielle Redfern, took the time to respond.

The mayor is also concerned about how this construction will effect traffic. The City has done its best to work with FDOT to make the project as painless to the residents as possible. Please continue to share your thoughts with the mayor. Your feelings are very important to her.”

I felt emboldened and encouraged that the mayor cared about my feelings. But what was their plan for pedestrian safety?

Act 2

November 2013.

When FDOT started reconfiguring West Ave to 2 Southbound lanes in late 2013 I reported several noise complaint to the City. For some reason FDOT thought it was a good idea to tear open the street to remove those traffic lines in the middle at 4am. I sent a few angry emails about the nighttime noise to Heather Leslie, FDOT’s Public Information Specialist. Her answer went,

The current nighttime work is to restripe West Avenue from 17 Street to 6 Street in order to prepare for the next phase of work on Alton Road. The contractor is completing this work at night because the striping operation requires lane closures and potential detours. We understand the ongoing work has been difficult, and the team will continue to do its best to mitigate the inconveniences.

Where apparently, “mitigating the inconveniences” means “occasionally answering your emails”.  The city never answered to these complaints.
It turns out, that nighttime noise was going to be the least of our problems. As soon as the traffic was re-routed to West Ave that November, it was as though the gates of hell had opened and unleashed previously unknown amounts of nightmarish traffic, noise, and pollution onto West Ave. At the same time, there was no enforcement of speed limits of any sort or any kind of traffic calming for pedestrians. We were left to fend for ourselves. The residents of my condominium quickly gathered at the face of this danger. We contacted the City and FDOT again. A neighbor sent the following email:

I live at 13th and West Avenue.  I am a Senior Records Clerk for a local Police Department and my wife is employed a a local Hospital as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit.  We have two daughters under the age of 2.  We have lived at the same address for over 10 years.  West Avenue is not the same roadway as when we first began living here.   There have been so many occasions where my family have sat at the crosswalk on West Ave and 14th Street as car after car passes us by, not so much as giving us a glance.  Recently, I entered the crosswalk and an oncoming vehicle southbound did not slow down.  I had to throw my daughter behind me and scream at the top of my lungs for a car to stop in the far left lane.  When he did, he actually gave me the finger and told me to get out of the way.  My wife and I no longer cross West Avenue at all.  It is not the same for my family, let alone the other many families who live in the area, or the many elderly citizens who frequent this intersection.  I watch from my balcony as cars fly by, not yielding whatsoever to pedestrians who have the right of way.  Now that southbound West Avenue has been increased to two lanes it is more dangerous than ever.  Without a stoplight, or a speed bump of some kind, it is without question that it is a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed at that intersection.

This seemed to have gotten FDOT’s attention. A meeting was scheduled for December. Heather Leslie, Enrique Tamayo,  Amanda Shotton, and Ivan Hay from FDOT as well as Lynn Bernstein from the City met us in front of our building on West Ave. Ivan remarked how he could never live here (no wonder). That day they actually witnessed a girl nearly getting hit that morning at the intersection. They all agreed it was unsafe. FDOT then conducted a traffic study and determined that a stop light was needed on 14th and flashing lights were needed on 9th and 12th Streets. After this was determined a whole lot of nothing happened for a whole lot of time.

Act 3

May 2014.

I keep emailing Heather once every month to ask for updates. And then, just 6 months after meeting FDOT….
BAM! We have FLASHING PEDESTRIAN CROSSING SIGNS!!
Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

I feel as excited about this basic safety improvement as I would for the fanciest Birthday gift! Finally, our concerns were heard and the powers that be show that they actually care…or do they?

Still nothing has happened on 13th Street or 14th Streets. Ms Leslie has informed me that “The final design plans for the temporary signal at 14 Street have been completed and the materials are currently being procured. The light will be installed once the materials arrive. As discussed, these pedestrian features require engineering plans, as well as the coordination with the various agencies.“) . I emailed FDOT a link to some traffic calming devices on Amazon, for $1600 and asked why they couldn’t just buy one of those but I guess they were not amused by that suggestion.

 

Epilogue

I never heard from the newly elected mayor Mr. Levine, but judging from his Facebook account he is busy meeting celebrities or running in Washington DC.
I’ve never seen police give tickets for nearly running over pedestrians on West Ave. And yet, this happens all day, every day. There is a police officer parked on 17th St and West which is great but that is just one intersection of many on West, and in my opinion not the busiest one for pedestrians.
We have an older lady in our building who leaves the house with a little walking stick so she can threaten cars who do not cede to her passing.
When I cross I am usually wave like a lunatic at those cute little “Stop for Pedestrians” sign in the hope of getting drivers to look up from their cell phones, into my face.
Why is it that we cannot have some adequate traffic enforcement and traffic calming to ensure people do not DIE on the streets of our “world-class” city?

 

Miami’s drivers are not exactly known for their courteous behavior towards cyclists. But who’s to blame for the road rage? An excess amount of colada in their veins? A lack of (driver) education? Insufficient law enforcement? Too much sun perhaps? It’s probably a combination of all of the above…along with the general apathy towards the right to life of other humans who happen to sit on bicycle. Cyclists are frequently perceived as “entitled” or “arrogant” just because they insist on that pesky right of “sharing the road” (without getting killed).  Miami’s Critical Mass does not help much to dispel that notion. There is a definite sense of cyclists and pedestrians being second-class citizens on the road. This cute peek-a-boo road sign in Miami Beach illustrates the attitude well:

Bicycle Sign Miami Beach

Peek-a-boo

Bicycle Sign Miami Beach

..I see you!





This sign seems to say: yeah, there may be bikes out there, sort of watch out for them but don’t go out of your way. Just as the government won’t go out of their way to accommodate for them and install proper signage that is lighted and visible (and bike lanes painted in bright colors…OK I am dreaming now).

Now imagine a sign on I-95 alerting drivers of upcoming exits being hidden in this fashion. Wouldn’t that be rather unsettling? And we are comparing someone missing an exit vs. a human being potentially getting killed by an inadvertent driver here. It’s time to get our priorities straight.

 

FDOT Collins

When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced that they were simultaneously performing major road work on Miami Beach’s two main thoroughfares, Collins Ave and Alton Road, most beach residents shook their heads in disbelief. Was it really wise to shut down half of Collins Ave from summer 2013 – 2014 (1 year) and also detour all of Alton Road’s southbound traffic to West Ave during the same time and beyond (2013 – 2015)? After all, these are the main roads that allow tourists, trucks, busses, and locals to navigate Miami Beach from it’s Southern tip towards the Middle and North areas. Not to mention, there are major events happening during the winter months, from Art Basel, South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Boat Show to NYE, something is always happening that requires people to, well, drive to the beach since there is no public transportation to Miami Beach to speak of. Some locals worried about a “carmaggedon” and started pressuring the city government and FDOT to provide some better alternatives for those who need to get in and out of Miami Beach.

Little did those worriers know about FDOT’s master scheme. You see, FDOT is not simply blind to the traffic gridlock that hit Miami Beach since the construction started. Neither are FDOT’s engineers and project managers insensitive to local’s concerns over pollution and congestion. In fact, FDOT is simply helping us out by finally providing ample parking spaces that were badly needed. Everyone knows that parking in Miami Beach is a mess. Now, you no longer need to hunt around the beach looking for that elusive spot, only to find that it’s in a Tow Away Zone (don’t mess with Beach Towing). Simply drive to Miami Beach, and conventiently park your car right on West Ave.

FDOT West Ave

Convenient Parking right on Miami Beach thanks to FDOT

FDOT West Ave

Safe during day and night, just park and go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here, you can explore the area, dine in one of our neighborhood restaurants, and take a pleasant walk (don’t mind the smell of exhausts, or do like Sarah Palin and learn to simply love the smell of it).

If you like, you could also park right on Venetian Causeway (as mentioned in yesterday’s post), this comes in handy during those busy weekends when you just cannot wait to get to your event and simply need to park right away.

FDOT Miami Beach

Ample Parking on the Venetian Causeway

The great thing is that your car will be in the exact same spot even hours later.

Best of all? The parking is completely FREE of charge! (Residents agreed to chip in a bit by putting up with a the extra noise and pollution, but what is that compared to FREE PARKING in Miami Beach??)

Isn’t that something to be grateful for? Little by little, FDOT is not only fixing our streets, but is also addressing our parking problem without the need to hire any starchitects at all, just using our existing, previously underused, streetscape. Now, if that was not a stroke of genius, I don’t know what is. Thank You, FDOT!

 

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. It was reprinted on TransitMiami.com with expressed written consent from the Author and the Editor of Better! Cities & Towns. 

Miami Beach takes Infrastructure Beyond Gray

Claudia Kousoulas, Better! Cities & Towns

When cities invest in infrastructure, it’s often the gray stuff like roads and bridges. Or it’s hidden away like water and sewer pipes. Not to say that infrastructure isn’t interesting and vital to a city’s success, but it’s hard to get excited about.

But in Miami Beach, where everything seems to be more colorful and dramatic than most American cities, the latest round of infrastructure investments combine flamboyance and function. The city’s parking garages are featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lebron James is a fan of its bikeshare system, and the expanding network of streetscape and trail improvements weave the city together, from beach to bay.

“It is a coordinated effort,” says Richard Lorber, acting planning director. “Decobike has become a part of the city and we’ve incorporated it into our transportation thinking.” Likewise with streetscape improvements; despite initial concern about losing on-street parking spaces, residents recognize that the curb bump-outs, streetscaping, and landscaping add value to their properties.

High-style parking garages

Miami Beach has gotten the most press coverage for its public and private parking garages and in fact has set a new standard for not only garage design, but their integration with streets and city life. Architects whose names are usually attached to symphony halls and art museums are undertaking what used to be a pretty dull commission.

Zaha Hadid’s proposed parking garage with swooping overhang atop a pedestrian space typifies Miami Beach’s stylish and fun approach to infrastructure

Herzog and deMeuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road garage functions equally as a party space, a retail anchor, and parking garage. Enrique Norten’s refined Park @420 pulls Lincoln Road’s retail activity around the corner, while Arquitectonica’s Purdy Avenue garage is also a retail anchor for Sunset Harbor, an emerging mixed-use neighborhood. Frank Gehry’s public garage, sheathed in steel mesh recalling his signature chain link, is lit to drift through a color palette that mirrors Miami sunsets. Zaha Hadid is proposing a structure that will swoop over a street and create a pedestrian plaza.

The trend toward high style garages began in 1995 with Arquitectonica’s Ballet Valet garage. The client, developer Tony Goldman who would go on to develop the Wynwood Arts District, spotted an opportunity on this neglected stretch of Collins Avenue. One block in from the beach and surrounded by clubs and hotels, the garage’s retail base kick-started redevelopment. Popularly known as the Chia Pet garage, Arquitectonica’s screen of plants became a local landmark.

Ballet Valet garage, designed by Arquitectonica

Unlike the usual approach to garage design, which seeks to hide parking behind a liner building or false front, newer garages celebrate their position in our lives and communities. Most use texture, color, and pattern to create visual elegance. Herzog and De Meuron’s garage uses the drama of space and movement. Views shift and drop; every floor creates a different experience. From the outside, the blade-edged concrete slabs hover over dramatic skies and palm trees. Hadid’s proposed design is a modernist approach to the experience of moving through space.

Roger Howie of Hadid’s office says, “A simple premise of how to bring the street into the building guided our initial studies which then progressed into an expressed, continuous vehicular circulation path which provides a unique, even fun, experience for the user.”

But the designs also mediate between the car and the pedestrian. From an urban point of view, their relationship to the street is most important. Some, like Park@420, rely on a simple retail base, others like 1111 draw pedestrians in to experience the space. As well as retail, Hadid’s design includes an urban plaza and features stairs to create a gateway along the Collins Park axis. This sounds more like urban design than transportation engineering.

As well as experiments with screen and structure, the function of these garages is part of their design and economics. They are not places you would park and leave. You could spend the whole evening at 1111—from a sunset drink at the rooftop restaurant, on to dinner, then shopping and people watching in the plaza. Likewise, Arquitectonica’s Purdy Avenue seeks to combine design and function to transcend typical parking garage. “The idea was to create a hub of activity for residents and locals, a place to eat, exercise, and shop—with parking,” says Wendy Chernin of the Scott Robins Companies who worked with the city in a public-private partnership to build the project.

The varying floor heights, almost invisible steel cable fencing, and concrete slabs of 1111 Lincoln Road upend the notion of the parking garage as something to be hidden.

Decobike Cruises In

Miami Beach has added 2,741 new spaces with these garages, but the city’s approach is also multi-modal. Decobike has been operating in the city since 2011. In 2012 it expanded north to the Town of Surfside and is poised to cross the Biscayne Bay causeways into the City of Miami. On the beach, Decobike has achieved the best bike-to-resident ratio in North America, with the highest station distribution per square mile nationally. Each of the 1,000 bikes is used four to five times a day, one of the highest use rates in the country.

Decobike founders Colby Reese and Bonifacio Diaz first experienced bikeshare in Paris and Barcelona.
“We were amazed by the amount of usage on the systems. From there, it became a “green business concept that we fell in love with,” said Reese.

When the City of Miami Beach issued a request for proposals, Decobike responded with proposed locations based on their business model and use estimates. Lorber says that the city worked with them to approve the proposed locations or find appropriate alternatives.  He points out that the system was initially approved without advertising on the bikes or docks, but Decobike has since requested to place ads.

“We’re not thrilled with the ads, but worked with them again to find appropriate locations,” says Lorber. “Decobike is so well loved and so important, we want them to have a healthy financial viability.”

There were initial reservations about use. Why would anyone use this service if they already owned a bicycle? But as Reese points out, with bikeshare there are no worries about theft or maintenance. And a well-distributed and stocked bike dock network makes Decobike convenient. Reese notes that once the docks were installed, they also adjusted rental and membership options to meet the demands of residents and visitors.

There was also some concern about turning over on-street parking spaces to bike docks, but the popularity of the system and a slew of new parking garages calmed those concerns. As Reese notes, using a parking space for 20 bikes that turn over four to five times a day is a more efficient use of public space.

Reese and Diaz recount these sensible planner answers, but neglect to mention just how much fun Decobike can be. Miami Beach is a flat city, with great weather and ocean views. A grid street pattern provides plenty of routes for commuting or sightseeing.

And just as the parking garages are a system designed to provide access, so is Decobike. Its expansion north into Surfside was the next step in expanding farther north to Haulover Park and west into the Town of Bay Harbor Islands. Duncan Tavares, planner for the Town of Surfside, says residents and businesses supported bikeshare from the start, and after smoothing some concerns about liability and location, so did elected officials.

Expanding Streetscape and Trails

Even within its street grid, the city is upgrading its network of trails and street paths for efficiency, safety, and pleasure. The city’s 2007 Atlantic Greenway Network Plan strived to establish routes that make local and regional bicycle and walking connections. Now that the State of Florida no longer allows wooden structures on the beach, each redevelopment or capital improvement completes another link. The overall effort re-engineers walking and cycling into car-oriented streets and public spaces.

The Atlantic Greenway Network path runs north-south along the beach as a poured concrete path with a trademark wave pattern paving, providing recreation and transportation connections.

While the Atlantic Greenway Network Plan makes beach to bay connections and runs along the beachfront, the City also considers neighborhood function and aesthetics in its streetscape improvements. The South Pointe Master Plan identifies 13 neighborhoods for a planned progress program of streetscape improvements. The plan works from eight typologies that include curb bump-outs, tree grates, lighting, shade trees, and what everyone wants to see when they come to Miami—palm trees.

As the city works its way through each neighborhood, citizens help develop a “basis of design” report that identifies designs and applications unique to each neighborhood. The resulting improvements, says Lorber, encourage people to walk by creating safe and comfortable streets for pedestrians and by corralling cars, but also include stormwater and drainage improvements.

The blocks south of Fifth Street now include a mix of housing, from single-family to high-rise, fronting walkable streets made pedestrian-friendly with landscaping, paving, curb bumpouts, and crosswalks.

While many of these designs take on a particular tropical style, they are also lessons for other communities. Garages that become landmarks and destinations, a continuing commitment to transportation alternatives and trail connections, and streetscape that adds value on every corner don’t need palm trees to be successful.

Claudia Kousoulas is a freelance writer and an urban planner with the Montgomery County Maryland Planning Department, where she blogs on The Straight Line.

 

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!

 

 

Last night, the City of Miami Beach hosted the first of two “Bicycle Summits” to discuss efforts on updating the Atlantic Greenway Network Master Plan (AGN), which includes most bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout Miami Beach.

Mike Lydon and Tony Garcia from the Street Plans Collaborative, led an informative presentation on the value of bicycle and pedestrian activity and what other cities around the country are doing to encourage active transportation. Street Plans will be taking the lead in assisting Miami Beach in updating their bicycle master plan. All week, Lydon and Garcia will be undertaking “handlebar surveys” around town to document current conditions and outline the possibilities for infrastructure improvements, including buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks, enhanced sharrows, bicycle parking and more. The recommendations will be made available on a web application, where residents can also add feedback and pose questions.

Coming soon to Miami Beach? Streetplans Collaborative are on the case.

The city of Miami Beach anticipates hosting a second round of public workshops in the fall, so residents can discuss neighborhood specific projects. The AGN Master Plan, like most master plans, was intended to be a visionary and dynamic plan that was expected to evolve as the city changes. As such, the City’s Transportation Division is in the process of updating the current AGN Plan.

On October 17, 2007, the Miami Beach City Commission adopted the Atlantic Greenway Network Master Plan. The goal of the AGN master plan was two-fold: to create a safe and continuous multimodal network along the city’s streets, beachwalks, and greenways allowing for alternative transportation and community enhancement in the city; and to provide connectivity with the county’s and state’s regional bicycle network.

Summit #2 will be held on Thursday, June 7th from 5 pm – 8pm at 1755 Meridian Avenue, 3rd floor conference room.

One of the most telling images from the presentation was an infographic (below) showing the percentage of trips taken by bicycle and walking in countries around the world – with their corresponding obesity rates. By re-engineering walking and cycling back into American communities by making them safe, attractive options, we can begin to improve public health and strengthen our communities. Transforming Miami Beach to become more people-friendly will take some sacrifice at the altar of the automobile, but the benefits are clear and proven.

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The City of Miami Beach will be hosting two public meetings next week (June  5 and June 7) to kickoff the process of updating the bicycle network plan (officially titled the Atlantic Greenways Network Master Plan).  The meeting will include a discussion of the update process and a presentation the Street Plans Collaborative on the latest best practices in bicycle and pedestrian street design  from all around the country. (NOTE: The time for the June 5 meeting was moved to 6 pm!)

 

You’re Invited to MIAMIBEACH’s Bicycle Summits

Atlantic Greenway Network Master Plan Update

The City of Miami Beach will be hosting two (2) public summits to discuss efforts to update the adopted Atlantic Greenway Network (AGN) Master Plan. The summits will focus on obtaining input from Miami Beach residents on the bicycle component of the adopted AGN Master Plan in order to assist the City in updating the plan.

Summit 1
Date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Time: 6:00 p.m. — 9:00 p.m.
Place: North Shore Park and Youth Center,
501 72 Street
Miami Beach, Florida 33141

Summit 2
Date: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Time: 5:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m.
Place: 1755 Meridian Avenue Building, third floor conference room
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Contact: Jose R. Gonzalez, P.E., transportation manager, 305.673.7080

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Visitors flock to Miami Beach from around the globe for many reasons – the sun and sand, Art Deco architecture, world-class nightlife, restaurants and a vibrant arts scene.

But the subject of national headlines these days about Miami Beach is enough to make anyone cringe – the proliferation of ‘designer’ parking garages.

A new piece in the Wall Street Journal highlights the unhealthy obsession with parking that consumes Miami Beach. This article comes on the heels of a New York Times story from last year illustrating more of the same.

While reading the latest WSJ story, a quotation from Victor Dover, chair of the Congress for New Urbanism, rang through my head.

“Parking is a narcotic and ought to be a controlled substance. It is addictive, and one can never have enough.”

The mutated Chia Pet garage at 630 Collins features 'greenwashing' at it's finest. The designer Arquitectonica claims the vegetation will 'absorb carbon dioxide''. I suppose this is so the Hummer drivers can feel better about themselves. Photo courtesy of Architizer.

Sure, it’s long past due that builders are finally adding some additional utility to parking garages beyond their primary purpose of storing motor vehicles. But let’s not allow ourselves be distracted by the fancy adornments. A new parking garage is a still parking garage. Dressing it up with a restaurant on top is akin to putting a silk hat on a pig.

It’s still a pig.

More parking encourages more driving, which increases congestion and diminishes the livability and civility of the city. The addiction to parking that is deeply ingrained in Miami Beach knows no bounds. I can only describe it as a ‘fetish-ization’ of vehicular storage. With the newly-constructed ‘designer’ garages and three more parking-centric projects on the way throughout South Beach, I am beginning to wonder just how many more cars can cram on that narrow sliver of sand before it sinks into Biscayne Bay. Perhaps those airy parking garages will someday make a nice artificial reef.

The new Frank Gehry bunker on Pennsylvania Avenue. It lights up at night. This is supposed to make us feel better. Photo courtesy of Architizer.

There is a compelling argument that Miami Beach has reached ‘peak car’, meaning the street grid can no longer accommodate additional vehicles in a comfortable manner at the current capacity. Anyone that participates in the sadistic practice of motoring in South Beach can attest to that (or walking for that matter). The relentless pursuit to make Miami Beach more friendly to cars is a serious distraction from taking the steps that could make Miami Beach more friendly to people. That includes enhanced pedestrian mobility, improved bicycling infrastructure, dedicated bus lanes or bus rapid transit, improved public spaces and – glaringly obvious – a viable rail connection to the mainland.

The 'City Hall Annex' 7-story parking emporium. Miami Beach now holds the dubious distinction of having a better engineered parking facility for city hall than the actual city hall building itself. Shows where the priorities lie.

Superficially addressing these issues won’t cut it. A bike path here and a better crosswalk there is progress but quickly negated by new parking monstrosities and the increased vehicular traffic they attract. There needs to be a step-change in thinking, a paradigm shift in what Miami Beach stands for. The first step is to remove our heads from our collective exhaust pipes. Then, hire a qualified pedestrian and bicycle coordinator in city government like all modern cities employ. The truly modern cities actually listen to that person as well.

Safer, improved mobility options will lessen the crazed addiction to parking. It will allow our civic leaders and officials to have meaningful dialogue about the future of the city free from the incessant, distracting conversation over the storage of cars. Perhaps then the ‘starchitects’ will stop building garages and instead help build public schools that look more like important places worthy of our affection and less like insecticide factories.

The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is actually the right to destroy the city. – Lewis Mumford, 1964.

Right now, it's a temporary home for cars at $4 an hour. In the future, it could be a permanent home for coral and lionfish. Photo courtesy of Architizer.

You have to admit, the garage-building boom is all the more appalling when you consider the geography of Miami Beach, only a few feet above sea level and surrounded by water on all sides. With the threat of rising sea levels attributed to carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, I would think that Miami Beach would have quite a vested interest, even if symbolic, in preventing their island from becoming the next City of Atlantis. More garages just encourage more driving, and therefore more emissions. It’s like watching a slow-motion film of the city’s own demise.

Miami Beach must decide – is it a city for cars or a city for people? Based on the national headlines lately, the answer is pretty clear.

(In other news, an innocent pedestrian was struck and killed yesterday morning on Collins Avenue by a drunk, underage reckless driver in a speeding SUV. Another tragic by-product of an overpoweringly auto-centric culture.)

 

A new bicycle and pedestrian path is cleared for takeoff on Miami Beach. After yesterdays meeting of the Miami Beach Historical Preservation Board, a planned shared bicycle and pedestrian project overcame a final hurdle, with the board voting unanimously to approve the latest plans presented by Miami Beach Public Works. At stake was nearly $4 million dollars in Federal grant money for the multi-use path that would be returned to the government if the project did not begin by July 2012.

The shared bicycle and pedestrian path will run adjacent to the Collins Canal along Dade Boulevard from the Venetian Causeway to the Beachwalk at 21st St. and Collins Avenue.

The mixed-use path will bisect Miami Beach along Dade Blvd from the Venetian Causeway to Collins Avenue

In October, the Historical Preservation Board approved the actual bike path with the exception of the barrier wall that would protect the path from traffic on Dade Boulevard. The board requested enhanced landscaping or a more visually appealing solution to the concrete jersey-style barrier that was originally presented. In the final plan, the wall is to be covered in vines, which will soften and ‘green’ the appearance of the barrier.

If you can believe it, the project is actually scheduled to begin Thursday, January 12 – that’s right, tomorrow — with the re-construction of the Collins Canal seawall. The decaying seawall will be replaced, after which the construction of the bicycle path can begin. The scheduled completion of the entire project is July of this year!

Karen Gordon from DecoBike began an online petition to garner support ahead of yesterday’s meeting. Local resident Michael Jarobe collected over 1,000 signatures from Miami Beach residents as well. Excellent work!

“After 17 years of debate, its possible that all Miami Beach residents will have a safe, continuous mixed-use path that connects the beach to downtown, Venetian Isles, Belle Isle, Palm View, Bayshore Drive and our other communities to all of the hotels, shops, restaurants and beaches located in the Mid-Beach area,” said Gordon.

Thank you to everyone involved, especially to the Miami Beach Historical Preservation Board for approving the plan in its entirety yesterday, allowing the project to move forward without further delay.

 

At the City of Miami Beach’s Neighborhoods and Community Affairs Committee meeting today, City staff attorneys were directed to challenge the Florida State Statutes that require the inclusion of bicycle facilities on state roads, and protested the inclusion of bike lanes on the Alton Road reconstruction project on the same safety grounds that require the facility contained in the Statute.

You might remember that Transit Miami has been pushing the department to consider alternatives to a traditional bike lane since the first time FDOT ventured on the island back in June of 2008 . We later reported on the progress of the project here and here, all the while hoping that FDOT would try using more that one tool in their bicycle planning toolbox. Finally, after years of lobbying and advocacy, FDOT presented several alternative options for a bicycle facility on Alton Road at the quarterly progress report on the $40 million dollar project.

Too bad Miami Beach City Commissioner’s told FDOT to take their bike lanes and put them, well, somewhere else.

Not only that, Commissioner Gongora  convinced his fellow policymakers of the idea to attack the law requiring FDOT to consider other users for the roads they build and maintain.  The Commission added to the Legislative Agenda of their paid Tallahassee lobbyist  to get the provision of the Florida Statutes 335.065 removed or changed by giving the municipalities the ability to opt out of bicycle facilities required by the DOT. (Mind you we are talking about Miami Beach  - arguably some of the best urbanism in the entire State of Florida, and the one place most poised to take advantage of a well designed bicycle network.)

So today FDOT comes back.  The Mayor had said that the bike lanes should not be next to the flow of traffic but between the curb and the parked cars  - a parking protected cycle track.

FDOT showed that.

That required a three-foot buffer between the four-foot bike lane and the 8-foot parking lane, reducing the sidewalk to six feet.

Then Commissioner Ed Tobin, who used his power while he sat on the MPO, asked for a physically separate cycle track.

FDOT showed that.

That resulted in an Alton Road with 10-foot sidewalks and a four-foot bike lane separated with a four-foot jersey wall from the traffic, but no parking lane.

FDOT then showed an option with a 16-foot sidewalk and four-foot bike lanes, and again with no parking.

For it’s part the City’s Public Works Department showed their alternative which was to make West Avenue an alternative to having a bike lane on Alton Road. FDOT responded by requiring that all the numbered east-west streets between Fifth and Michigan Avenue be retrofitted with bike lanes, which would require millions of dollars the City would have to borrow and permanent removal of 56 parking spaces.

The kicker is that work would have to be done before FDOT gets started on Alton Road.

So we’re back to  Alton Road.

You have the heap on the credit to FDOT. We are used to giving them hell here on Transit Miami, but we have to give credit where credit is due. They have done a lot of work and shown they can see a different type of road in the future for many of our city’s streets. They should make certain that all of their projects get such attention to detail in nurturing the mix of users. FDOT is realizing it’s responsibility to make getting from one place to another as enjoyable and safe as possible for everyone.

Not just those in cars.

And that’s what we need.  We need to stop building the same old roads that provide for only one type of mobility.  Alton Road needs more people walking, taking transit, and riding a bike- not driving in their cars.

Commissioners Jerry Libbin, Michael Gongora and Jonah Wolfson disagree and voted to challenge whatever design FDOT plans to build on Alton Road that includes a bike facility – on safety grounds.

It was one of the most twisted uses of the law I have ever seen. 40 years of research and data supporting the safety and efficacy of bike lanes by the Federal Highway Administration and the current work of Dr. Jennifer Dill dismissed by two lawyers and a politician.

The City is doing its best NOT to have FDOT build a complete street. I pray every night the City would use half the effort it puts into fighting bike facilities, into building them along with better sidewalks and crosswalks.

Where were these same politicians when FDOT used the Baylink infrastructure promised to us when they rebuilt the Macarthur for the port tunnel?

And with everything in South Beach going down the tubes,  except the water, faster than you can say Atlantic City, the only hope we have for a stable economic future and decent quality of life is to allow for more mobility on this tiny island through as many modalities we can offer, not just expecting everyone to get around Miami Beach in a car.

We need this Alton Road reconstruction project – but we also need better mobility on Miami Beach. I am dismayed at the lack of vision in this community.  Everyone on a bike or on foot, on a board or on skates or in a stroller or wheelchair or scooter is a person not in their car.

What a wonderful place this could be.

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25 people showed up to the public meeting Tuesday night at the Miami Beach Regional Library.  It was an open format, with the project laid out on two long tables and key personnel available to answer questions and take comments.

One table featured a visual summary of the crash data, and one table showed the proposal from a bird’s eye view.

Mayor Matti Bower thanked everyone for coming, even if, “they [FDOT] never do anything I ask.”

There were several members of Miami Beach City Staff there:  two engineers from Public Works, Rick Saltrick and Diane Fernandez.  Fred Beckman, the Public Works Director was there, as well as Assistant City Manager Duncan Ballantyne and Community Outreach maven Lynn Birnstein.

Beckman, Bernstein and Ballantyne were there mainly to facilitate the participation of Marlo Courtney of Goldman Properties and Michael Comras, of the Comras Company, two prominent developers, who along with Realtor Lyle Stern and other property owners in the area have formed the Collins Avenue Improvement Association, (CIA).

CIA in turn, has hired engineering consultant Ramon Castella of C3TS in Coral Gables. It is heartwarming to see civic leaders like these gentlemen take such an active role in making our streets better.  I, for one, am grateful for their efforts.

The CIA is working with the City Managers’ office, who has pledged to use quality of life funds to enhance the project. This extra cash will amp up a once vanilla RRR (Road Resurfacing and Reconstruction) project into a “mini mod” with new sidewalks, new curbs, landscaped bump outs and an additional amount of drainage.

Oh yes, and the addition of the 10 foot left turn lane.  But I digress.

As merchants, the CIA are really focused on sidewalks.  The sidewalks along this corridor are not only old and broken, but are really small. Between 5 and 6.5′.  Add to that the massive amount of regulatory and way-finding signs, street furniture and café seating plus the large numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists, and it doesn’t take the other CIA to figure out Collins Avenue needs more sidewalks.

FDOT, happily, is committed to making the sidewalks as wide as possible, without moving the curbs.  This means they will have to aggressively pursue encroachments.  We wish them well.  On Miami Beach, we sometimes loose 5-6 feet of public right of way on any given corridor to private landscaping or even hard construction due to these types of encroachments.  The CMB policy, for the most part, has been one of  “Don’t ask, don’t take.” This works well to quell the fear of construction for adjacent property owners, but does little to enhance transportation.

Unfortunately, CIA is so focused on picking out streetlamps and placing parking stations, trashcans and benches, that they have lost sight of the big picture. Addressing the congestion on Collins Avenue that makes the entire experience of being there unpleasant and unsafe for everyone.

FDOT is addressing the unsafe conditions –   at least for cars. In the July 2011 Safety Study done by CH Perez and Associates, they document how unsafe Collins Avenue is for cars.  They looked at reported crash data for a three-year period, (2007-2009).  1,152 crashes in three years gets you on FDOT’s High Crash List.  84% were property-damage only crashes. 29% of crashes were rear end, 23% sideswipe and 18% involved a park car. 6% of all crashes involved a pedestrian (2/3) or bicycle, (1/3) and of those 67 crashes, 85% resulted in injuries.

Good news is there were no fatalities during the study period. Bad news is we know how under reported bicycle-car accidents are.

The report names aggressive driving as the number one probable cause for the crashes, and believes the lack of a left turn lane is to blame.

And so, the hardworking and dedicated engineers, project managers and safety specialists who are working on this project use the extra ten-feet (gained by narrowing the parking lane and travel lanes) to add an extra lane of traffic.

In reality, the added travel lane will only make the problem worse by adding to the congestion of Collins Avenue, which will ramp up the aggression, which will cause more accidents.

Anyone who has ever been on Collins Avenue knows the score, especially at unsignalized intersections.  Cars wait in the travel lane to make that left-hand turn.  And wait and wait because of the congestion.  Cars two and three behind them whiz around on the right when then can, often grazing the parked cars, shouting expletives and showing the finger.  The driver waiting to make the turn finally sees an opening and makes a dash, only to be stopped short by the pedestrian or bicyclist he did not see because he was so focused on the cars coming at him in speeds that range from the posted 30 to 35 MPH.  When the waiting driver makes his move, either a pedestrian or bicyclist gets hit or a chain reaction of rear-end collisions happen behind him. (As an aside, this craziness of the modulating posted speed limit should be addressed immediately, bringing the posted speed limit to 30 throughout the corridor.  I would like to see 25, but that’s just me.)

The left turn lane allows traffic to continually move through the corridor while allowing three cars to stack up waiting to make that elusive left turn.

This will induce latent demand and add capacity – and traffic – to the roadway. More cars on Collins Avenue are not the answer. More pedestrians are key to restoring the economic preeminence of this retail district.  You do that by making the sidewalks safer by moving the bicycles into a dedicated lane.

Additionally, the bike lane will help encourage users of Collins Avenue who are not in cars.  More people biking and walking equals more choices for people to get around.

The best part is that in 20 years when we get a wholesale reconstruction of the corridor, we will have shifted the travel mode from 90% percent cars to 20% cars.  Justifying removing the turn lane and extending the sidewalks and adding landscaping.

Adding bike lanes now is the seed required to achieve that future. Unfortunately none of the project managers ride a bicycle.  I have invited them all to try it: on Collins now.  Or ride the sharrows on Washington Avenue and see how that feels.  They need to see there is more than one way to solve the problem they have defined, and there is a better solution is to deal with the root cause, not just add too it.

Please send an email to the man in charge, Harold Desdunes at harold.desdunes@dot.state.fl.us.  He assured me he would have the engineers take another look at the study, but they need to put their bike helmets on to do it.  Send an email asking for their support. My City Manager, Jorge Gonzalez said he direct staff to ask for the bike lane.  It’s a start, but the Department is rushing to complete the plans.  Time is of the essence!

All is not lost, but your help is needed to prod FDOT in the right direction.

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Call  me crazy, but I am the type of girl who likes to go to public meetings about road construction. They speak to me about the promise for a better future.  I especially like the ones when I know at the end of the awful, dirty, dusty, jarring process, a new bike lane will be born.

So I was excited about the FDOT upcoming meeting to roll out the $2.5 million dollar project on A1A in Miami Beach,  from Fifth Street to Lincoln Road.  I have been waiting for this project for years, watching the funding shift to and fro from year to year in the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP, yes I get excited about them too!)  I was happy because last spring, the Department came up with a Bicycle Master Plan for all of A1A in District 6 that called for a bike lane on almost all of Collins Avenue!

Be still my heart!

I was thrilled to see in this project moving forward, with a projected start date of May 2013.   They plan to narrow the parking lanes, narrow the travel lanes, reconstruct a few blocks to gain ROW, all the right moves……  BUT

My heart stood still…..

THEY DID NOT INCLUDE THE BIKE  LANES.

So where oh where did the bike lanes go? And for whom will the ROW be?

Looks like that gained right of way is being added to allow for an exclusive left turn lane throughout the whole segment, i.e. MORE  CAR TRAFFIC!

You can make a difference in putting this project back on proper footing!

Send an email to any of these FDOT officials and ask them to include a bike lane in Project Numbers 250236-1-51-01 and 250236-3-52-01.  SRA1A/Collins Avenue from 5th Street to Lincoln Road. You may even want to remind them they already said they would!

Heidi.Solaun@dot.state.fl.us

Rita.Bulsara@dot.state.fl.us

Gus.Pego@dot.state.fl.us

Copy the local elected officials in Miami Beach:

MayorBower@miamibeachfl.gov

Michael@miamibeachfl.gov

Deede@miamibeachfl.gov

Jorge@miamibeachfl.gov

Ed@miamibeachfl.gov

Jonah@miamibeachfl.gov

Jerry@miamibeachfl.gov

COME TO THE PUBLIC MEETING

MONDAY, October 25, 2011

Miami Beach Regional Library

227 22nd Street, Collins Park, Miami Beach

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

This is more than a RRR.  This is a chance to enhance mobility by improving modality for bicycles by designating a lane in which to build the share.

Hope to see you there.

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