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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)

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.38.42 AMMinimum parking requirements are killing good urban development in Miami. Luckily, there has been a push to eliminate parking requirements for small urban buildings (<10,000 sq ft) in recent months.  This is a good first step in the right direction if Miami really aspires to become a walkable and less autocentric city.

Minimum parking requirements perpetuate more automobile use and it also makes housing less affordable since the cost of building and maintaining required parking is passed on to renters and buyers. Two weeks ago Zillow released ahousing report  that cited Miami as the 2nd most expensive city for renters.  The average Miami resident spends 43.2% of their income on rent.\

Combine expensive housing with lack of public transit and minimum parking requirements that only serve to perpetuate the use of the automobile; its no wonder why Miami is one of the most expensive car dominated cities in the US.

Eliminating parking requirements would do the following things:

1) Allows small developers to choose how many parking spaces are needed based on what fits and what buyers or tenants want.
2) Replaces parking with denser development that generates more property and sales tax for the county and city.
3) Allows small property owners to keep their property and develop themselves.
4) Levels the playing field for small Miami property owners.
5) Allows for the creation of more walkable and denser urban neighborhoods.

Below are the details for the reduced parking requirements that are being sought for small urban buildings.  This is currently being advocated for at the commission level, so stay tuned for the resolution.

The proposed text for T4, T5, and T6 is underlined below.  The non-underlined text already exists in Miami 21, a TOD/transit corridor parking reduction that does not apply within 500 ft of single-family/duplex areas (T3).  The proposed text does not change that, it does not apply within 500 feet of T3.  Below is a map of where the proposed text would apply: orange areas around rail stations, purple areas along transit corridors, but not yellow areas within 500 ft of T3.  

“Parking ratio may be reduced within 1/2 mile radius of TOD or within 1/4 mile radius of a Transit Corridor by thirty percent (30%) by process of Waiver, or by one hundred percent (100%) for any Structure that has a Floor Area of ten thousand (10,000) square feet or less, except when site is within 500 feet of T3.”.

Let’s hope City of Miami Commissioners can come to their senses and eliminate parking requirements entirely, not just for small urban buildings.

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Please join the Knight Foundation at the O Cinema in Wynwood on Tuesday March 25 for a free screening of the film “The Human Scale” by Jan Gehl (77 minutes, English, 2012) followed by panel discussion.

Fifty percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, this will increase to 80 percent. Life in a mega city is both enchanting and problematic. Today we face climate change, loneliness and severe health issues due to our way of life. But why? The Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl has studied human behavior in cities for 40 years. He has documented how modern cities repel human interaction and argues that we can build cities in a way that takes into account human needs for inclusion and intimacy.

Knight Foundation continues to lead efforts to build Miami’s art and cultural life, as well as its emerging community of entrepreneurs, startups and makers. Both thrive in urban environments that are well planned and built to a human-scale. The insights and lessons in this film will be enormously important and helpful in thinking about the path ahead for our rapidly evolving city.

6 pm - doors open
6:30 pm - screening followed by discussion
Learn more about the film at thehumanscale.dk/the-film/.

It’s free when you RSVP using this Eventbrite link.

 

 

Weird

Sunday, November 10th
11am- 3pm 
Please arrive no later than 10:45am
Tickets are $25 each
Click HERE for tickets


PickUp/DropOff:
BFI #BuildingsForInfill
100 Northeast 11th Street
Miami, FL 33132
DIRECTIONS

BFI invites you to its periodical WEIRD MIAMI bus tour, on Sunday, November 10th from 11 AM to 2 PM.  This WEIRD MIAMI installment will visit exemplary (but often overlooked) Miami urban neighborhoods, led by urbanists Jason Chandler and Andrew Frey.

BFI invites you to its periodical WEIRD MIAMI bus tour, on Sunday, November 10th from 11 AM to 2 PM.  This WEIRD MIAMI installment will visit exemplary (but often overlooked) Miami urban neighborhoods, led by urbanists Jason Chandler and Andrew Frey.

The tour complements URBAN_VARIANTS, an exhibit at BFI of new designs for Miami urban buildings, which runs from November 1st to November 24th. The exhibit includes new prototype sketches, drawings, renderings, and models, as well as studies of existing prototypes in Miami and Savannah.  The exhibit is the result of a studio course at FIU Architecture led by professor Jason Chandler in collaboration with Townhouse Center, a not-for profit that promotes urban neighborhood development, and sponsored by the Knight Foundation.

This past semester, students visited and documented existing small buildings in downtown Miami and Savannah, Georgia. During the visits, students experienced how small-scale infill buildings create resilient urban environments. The Savannah visit took students far out of the studio, to places and buildings most had never seen before. Then each student designed a new, small, adaptable prototype for Miami, resulting in over 100 designs, which have been curated for the BFI exhibit

The course, exhibit, and bus tour are all part of a larger collaboration to raise awareness of the fact that Miami has built to the sky and horizon — towers and subdivisions — but lacks neighborhoods of a middle scale. In other cities such urban neighborhoods are often the most vibrant, like Boston’s North End or New York’s West Village. To help Miami start developing these neighborhoods, FIU Architecture offered a studio course about the urban neighborhood fundamental building block: small, adaptable buildings.

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TEDxCity2.0 Viewing + Discussion + Happy Hour will occur from 6pm – 8pm on Friday Sept 20th. Hosted at Elwoods Gastro Pub, this event will broadcast three (3) TEDxCity2.0 talks. Each talk will be followed by a short discussion session based on how the information presented relates to Miami.

Join us in thought sharing, discussing and visioning a better Miami. This event is free.

About TEDxCity2.0:
TEDxCity2.0 is a day-long initiative that gathers TEDx communities from around the world to host events highlighting local urban innovators, organizers, stewards and builders. Speakers at these events will focus on City 2.0 themes including Art, Education, Food, Health, Housing, Play, Public Space and Safety.

Coinciding with TEDCity2.0 — a TED-hosted event that will focus on how bright urban ideas turn into collective impact — TEDxCity2.0 gathers TEDx communities across the globe to envision the cities of our future and share big ideas about sustainable solutions and collaborative action.

TED-Flyer

 

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Looks like it’s going to be a pretty cool event, DecoBike will be there so you can check out all the art on two wheels.  Here’s some more information we received about the event…

After a successful inaugural year, the Miami Downtown Development Authority (Miami DDA) is working once again in tandem with a variety of arts and cultural institutions to highlight the area’s cultural renaissance through its second annual DWNTWN Art Days Event. The Miami DDA, through Creative Curator Claire Breukel and the Cultural Advisory Group, is partnering with virtually every major art and culture institution in Downtown Miami for a three-day celebration that will incorporate numerous free events and exhibitions for the community to enjoy.

 The events will take place around all of Downtown with one central informational hub at Grand Central Park at Miami Worldcenter where attendees can pick up a full list of activities and begin their tour of Art Days events.

This year, Car2Go and BeachedMiami are partnering with DWNTWN Art Days to host tours around Downtown Miami venues and the exhibitions. Car2Go will host a tour by vehicle for quick and easy access to Art Days events. BeachedMiami along with Deco Bike will be providing bicycles and arranging bike tours of temporary Art Days art projects as well as permanent Downtown artworks.

Artist Thom Wheeler is also conducting a series of walking tours around some of Downtown Miami’s most exciting artist studios and exhibition spaces. Wheeler will give visitors an insider look in to the work of artists at the DWNTWN Art House at Miami Worldcenter, the Artisan Lounge, and to individual studio spaces.

In addition to the tours, the Miami Trolley will make stops at several key Art Days venues in Downtown. The Trolley route will be published on the Art Days website www.dwntwnarts.com closer to the event.

The following events are taking place during DWNTWN Art Days:

  • ·         Miami Children’s Museum: “Now Read This” Stories through Drama and Design, September 20-22 from 10am-6pm.
  • ·         PAMM: “Discussing the Architecture of the Perez Art Museum Miami presented by AIA and PAMM”, Friday, September 20 at 6pm
  • ·         Freedom Tower: “Activate: MDCulture”, Friday, September 20 from 6-9pm.
  • ·         McCormick Place: “2nd Annual Art Days Fair @ McCormick Place”, Friday, September 20 from 6pm-12am.
  • ·         Dimensions Variable: “Psychogeography Opening Reception”, Friday, September 20 from 6-10pm.
  • ·         Wine by the Bay: “September’s Storm” – A California Wine Tasting and Cultural Event, September 20-21 at 7pm.
  • ·         The Vagabond: “DWNTWN Art Days I – Launch Party” Friday, September 20 at 10 pm.
  • ·         PAMM: “PAMM Family Art Making”, Saturday, September 21 from 12-3pm.
  • ·         Around Downtown: “Beached Miami DWNTWN Art Days Bike Tour”, September 21-22, limited space.
  • ·         Bayfront Park:  “National Redbull Flugtag”, Saturday, September 21 from 12-5pm.
  • ·         CIFO: “Water-Balloon Kickball, Round Two / Cannonball vs. CIFO”, Saturday, September 21 from 1-4pm.
  • ·         Olympic Theater at the Gusman Center: “Miami Lyric Opera: Cavalleria Rusticana and Suor Angelica”, Saturday, September 21
  • ·         The Vagabond: “DWNTWN Art Days II – After-Party”, Saturday, September 21 at 10pm.

This year, Art Days debuts the Fringe, a series of temporary public artworks around Downtown curated by guest curator Amanda Sanfilippo. Six projects have been selected from a call to artists that received 55 national proposals. These public artworks or ‘site activations’ aim to insight public interaction in a variety of Downtown venues including Grand Central Park, DRB bar, the Christ Fellowship Church as well as 600 Brickell’s fountain.

For the most up to date information please visit www.dwntwnarts.com.

WHEN:           Friday, September 20 – Sunday, September 22
WHERE:         DWNTWN Art Days Information Hub
                         Grand Central Park at Miami Worldcenter
                         700 N. Miami Ave
Miami, FL 33136

 
Cartoon designed by Juan Navarro www.FWACATA.com

Cartoon designed by Juan Navarro www.FWACATA.com

The very naughty Cone Fairy has done it again. Last night she mischievously placed 7 orange traffic cones down the center of NE 76 Street in an attempt to calm traffic to protect children, parents with strollers, cyclists and pets from speeding drivers.

For the past 5 months my neighbors and I have been trying to get the city and county to do something about the reckless drivers that come barreling down our street everyday. Unfortunately, true to form, neither the county nor city has acknowledged that the fundamental problem with this road, as with the majority of our streets in South Florida, is the actual design of our roads that encourages speeding. It shouldn’t take five months to find a solution to this problem; this isn’t rocket science, it just requires a little common sense.

Operation Belle Meade Storm: To liberate Belle Meade residents from the oppression of speeding cars

Operation Belle Meade Storm: To liberate Belle Meade residents from the oppression of speeding cars

Last I heard, the only thing the county is willing to do  is add a crosswalk and erect one of these signs on 76th Street.

A crosswalk and this sign is the best the County can do calm traffic.

A crosswalk and this sign is the best the County can do calm traffic.

This silly sign won’t do anything to calm traffic. If this is the only solution the county can come up with, I have a feeling we may see a whole lot more of the very sassy and sexy Cone Fairy. It’s worth mentioning that all of Transit Miami’s recommendations to calm traffic on this street have been rebuffed by the county. In the meantime, cars continue to speed down my street and it’s just a matter of time before someone is struck by a speeding car.

impact-of-speed2

By the way- we don’t know the true identity of the Cone Fairy and we cannot condone this type of behavior. So remember…

urbanism

 

 

 

ped safety little havana

Everyone knows that Miami has a serious problem with pedestrian injuries and fatalities; not a week goes by without reading an article about another pedestrian struck by a car. Miami is the 4th most dangerous city for pedestrians and cyclists in the Country right now.

This must change!

We live in one of the most beautiful, perfect climates in the world, yet stepping out our doors for a walk can be fatal. With Emerge Miami, I began organizing walks for pedestrian safety last year in response to this ongoing crisis. The concept is simple, during the time that pedestrians are legally allowed to enter the crosswalk, we have people with educational signs and statistics about pedestrians injuries and fatalities walk back and forth through the crosswalk. We also have educational materials to hand drivers and pedestrians.

Our next walk is in Little Havana on June 29th, a lovely neighborhood that should be safe and walkable, yet speeding cars and infrequent crosswalks make it a extremely dangerous for walkers, especially the many more elderly residents who live there.

As part of our walk we are asking that pedestrians who have been injured, and their families, to come out and join our walk to help put a personal face on this epidemic of injury and death.

For more information or to get involved please contact Elsa Roberts at eroberts@mtu.edu. To RSVP to the event go to Meetup or Facebook.

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My neighbors and I have been trying for several months to get the County and the City to do something about the out-of-control speeding problem on our street, but sadly the County and City have been dragging their feet and nothing has been done to address this very serious issue. Meanwhile drivers continue to speed on this residential street, at times hitting speeds of nearly 50mph.

Last week, the “Cone Fairy” swopped into Belle Meade in the middle of the night, and placed three traffic cones on NE 76th Street in an attempt to calm traffic on my street. Apparently the Cone Fairy is also sick and tired of the lack of progress by the County and City and she has taken it upon herself to place cones in the middle of the street in order to calm traffic. It appears that a small minority of my neighbors are not pleased with the cones nor do they seem to think that speeding is enough of a concern to properly address this very important issue.

A couple of weeks ago the Belle Meade HOA decided to take a vote on what to do:

This is the direction they choose to take:

1.       Continue on-going process to have stamped asphalt (brick look) to all the crosswalks presently in Belle Meade.  This will add some aesthetics to the streetscape plus make the crosswalks more prominently visible to vehicle operators.

2.       Further pursue the installation of stop signs on 76th Street at NE 7th Court – both east and west bound – in an effort to slow traffic as it makes its way between 7thand 8th Avenues.  The County recently conducted a traffic study of this location to determine the eligibility for these signs and concluded that they were not warranted based on traffic flow.  Those in attendance last night requested that the HOA Board pursue the installation anyway through the political process based upon wanting to slow traffic.  The next step is to contact our County Commissioner, Edmonson, since traffic signage is under the county and get direction from her on how we should proceed.

3.       Initiate a public awareness/education program in Belle Meade to bring attention to the increased number of children in our neighborhood and the need to obey all the traffic regulations when driving through the neighborhood.

Yesterday my neighbor, Jenny Page sent the below email to Commissioner Edmonson and Commissioner Sarnoff in a desperate attempt to get the County and City to do something.

Dear Mr. Sarnoff,

I am a voter and we met one day at our house for a campaign visit.  We were delighted to meet you in person and believe you have done well by Miami and particularly in Belle Meade. I am writing to ask you if you could help make our neighborhood safer by installing 2 stop signs on the intersection where we live, at NE 76th Street and 7th Court.  I am attached a visual map illustrating the exact location and surrounding families.

This is one of the only intersections in Belle Meade without a stop sign and people are speeding like crazy – like 40-50mph sometimes – up and down 76th because of it.  As you probably know it is the street with the guard gate and so many cars are using this street.  There are other, quieter streets/intersections with stop signs so it seems odd that there would not be one here.

Our neighborhood has met about this but there is some discord about what to do, many expensive options came about like a traffic circle, raised sidewalks etc.

It seems to me that a simple stop sign would at least slow drivers down.  This option is inexpensive and causes little inconvenience.

We live right on the NE corner of this intersection and within the 2 blocks of 76th that are affected by the speeders are at least 5 dogs, and 12 children.  The constant speeding of cars puts all people walking, biking, playing in our neighborhood in jeopardy.

Please advise if this is a possibility and what our block could do to move this concern forward.

Jenny Page

 

 Dear Ms. Edmonson and Staff,

I am a voter and taxpayer residing on NE 76th Street in Belle Meade.  We send our kids to the lovely public Morningside K-8 Academy and love the fact that we can walk there.  Though on our street we experience excessive speeding which makes it more dangerous than it has to be.

I am writing to ask you if you could help make our neighborhood safer by installing 2 stop signs on the intersection where we live, at NE 76th Street and 7th Court.  I am attached a visual map illustrating the exact location and surrounding families with kids and grandkids.

This is one of the only intersections in Belle Meade without a stop sign and people are speeding like crazy – like 40-50mph sometimes – up and down 76th because of it.  This is the entrance/exit street for the neighborhood and so many cars are using this street.  There are other, quieter streets/intersections with stop signs so it seems odd that there would not be one here, where there is the most traffic.

Our neighborhood has met about this but there is some discord about what we can do, many expensive options came about like a traffic circle, raised sidewalks etc.

It seems to me that a simple stop sign would at least slow drivers down.  This option is inexpensive and causes little inconvenience and the tradeoff for a safer community is important.

We live right on the NE corner of this intersection and within the 2 blocks of 76th that are affected by the speeders are at least 5 dogs, and 12 children.  The constant speeding of cars puts all people walking, biking, playing in our neighborhood in jeopardy.

Please advise if this is a possibility and what our block could do to move this concern forward.

Many thanks for all your help with our Miami Community!

Jenny Page

 

We here are Transit Miami have been advocating for raised crosswalks, raised intersections or a speed tables. Although we don’t think a stop sign is the ideal solution to calm traffic in the long term, at this point we are willing to compromise with a stop sign if the County were to allow it.

Raised Crosswalk

Raised Crosswalk

Raised intersection

Raised intersection

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

As for the stamped brick crosswalks, it is a complete waste of money and will not calm traffic. I really hope the city does not agree to waste more money on silly infective urban planning in Belle Meade. Urban planning by majority rule clearly has not worked thus far: i.e. the Belle Meade fence. (see video below)

Stamped brick crosswalks will not calm traffic.

Stamped brick crosswalks will not calm traffic.

This  leads me to ask a question- Why isn’t the City of Miami Planning Department involved in any of these decisions? This department has some wonderful professionals. Instead the city’s Capital Improvement Projects Department and the County Public Works Department is involved in all of these decisions.

Something needs to give and City and County need to stop dragging their feet asap before a child is killed in my neighborhood.

If something isn’t done asap I have a feeling that the Cone Fairy will be back with a vengeance.  After all she is just looking out for children, parents with strollers, cyclists and pets. It’s really a shame that some of my neighbors can’t appreciate the  good intentions of the Cone Fairy.

 

 

Written by Peter Smith

Two summers ago, I attended a presentation on mobility at the Department of Transportation’s new headquarters in Navy Yard. My then-boss, Mariia Zimmerman, was speaking on our nation’s preparedness to deal with an aging population in an auto-centric culture, and she gave a startling statistic: eighty-five percent of Baby Boomers live in communities where the car is the only viable means of transportation – walking included – and when asked how they intend to complete activities of daily living – grocery shopping, doctors appointments, church services – when they’re no longer able to drive, nearly all of them chose a single response: my children will drive me. That. Is. Insane. It’s also really poor planning, but first and foremost it’s insane.

I was reminded of this mind-blowing stat this week when my parents moved from my childhood home in one of Baltimore’s shoulder-to-shoulder brick row neighborhoods to a mid-century planned community. Their new home is in the Village of Cross Keys, the first planned community ever built by James Rouse, the man who coined the term “urban renewal.” Past the community’s guard tower, the tree-lined residential streets, named for great Baltimore planners like Edward Bouton and Frederick Law Olmstead, abut shops and restaurants. There’s a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a hotel. It’s just outside of downtown, but feels like a small hamlet. It sounds like a great place to retire, and indeed, it is marketed as an ideal community for active retirees.

The Village of Cross Keys, for all its amenities though, is not without its shortcomings. For instance, it lacks a grocery store… and a pharmacy… and a church and synagogue… and a school. Cross Keys has also been sold as a great place to raise a family, which is even more bewildering. The closest bus stop is outside the community’s fence over a half-mile from the residential heart along roads that sometimes have sidewalks, but sometimes don’t. In short, its boutique shops and chic cafes may make it a great place for retirees to waste lazy afternoons, but they don’t necessarily make it a great place to grow old, or even a great place to just live.

As a society, we’re becoming increasingly aware, thanks to the efforts of the First Lady and others to tackle childhood obesity, of the challenges that our nation’s children face from un-walkable communities; less than five percent of American children now live in a community where they can walk or bike to school. We’re far less conscious, however, of the challenges presented to the older generations, those who will in time be unable to drive and will therefore more than anyone else benefit from walkable, not to mention inter-generational, neighborhoods.

Miami has its share of America’s aging population as well as its share of un-walkable communities. I set out to discover just how big the problem is that Miami will face; how many older Miamians live in communities that will increasingly fail to meet their needs as they grow older? To do this, I looked at population data from Miami-Dade’s 77 inhabited zip codes and stood it up against each zip code’s ratings from WalkScore.

A quick caveat – WalkScore is not a perfect measure of walkability by any means, but validation studies confirm that it’s pretty much as good a measurement as anyone has ever devised. If anything, many of its shortcomings, such as its failure to consider lack of sidewalks or hostile road environments, would mean scores in places like Miami are likely higher than they should be, but as you’ll see, Miami’s scores aren’t very high as it is.

WalkScore assigns a score to any address in the United States and elsewhere that is representative of the area’s walkability. It measures walkability by proximity to amenities, such as groceries, restaurants, parks, schools, etc. The final score falls along a scale of 0-100, which corresponds to the following five walkability categories:

  • Walker’s Paradise (90-100): Daily errands do not require a car.
  • Very Walkable (70-89): Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
  • Somewhat Walkable (50-69): Some amenities are within walking distance.
  • Car-Dependent (25-49): A few amenities are within walking distance.
  • Car-Dependent (0-24): All errands require a car.

Ideally, any individual, especially older Americans would be able to walk to at least the most basic necessities, but as it turns out, for many that’s not the case. There are 463,940 people in Miami-Dade County who are age 60 or older and a full one-third of them live in areas where almost nothing is accessible without a car. Here’s a pie chart with the county-wide breakdown:

 

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One of the first things that you probably noted was that the percentage of older Miamians living in areas categorized as a “Walker’s Paradise” is zero. That’s because there is no zip code in Dade County that tops the required score threshold of 90; the highest is a respectable 85, achieved by zip codes in Coconut Grove and Little Havana. Once you get over the shock, or not, that Miami is no Walker’s Paradise, you’ll see that about 70 percent of the county’s older residents live in areas where approximately half or more of basic needs cannot be accomplished on foot.

The median WalkScore for older Miamians is 57, which is solidly in the lower-middle share of the Somewhat Walkable category. To give a sense of what a “somewhat walkable” community is like, consider zip code 33186, which includes the area where the Florida Turnpike intersects with Kendall Avenue and has a WalkScore rating of 60. It’s home to just shy of 10,000 Miamians age 60 and older. From a typical house inside the sub-development just off the Turnpike at Kendall Avenue, it’s over a mile roundtrip for groceries, and a mile-and-a-half for a cup of coffee or a trip to the park. The closest bus stop is a half-mile away. For an older person in the hot Miami sun, distances like those can be pretty isolating.

Now, consider that 52.4% of Miamians age 60 and over live in areas that are even less walkable than that. Indeed, nearly 40,000 older Miamians live in communities with a WalkScore of five or less. That’s a small city’s worth of people who cannot travel to any meaningful destination without a car and for whom the inability to drive would mean the inability to remain even minimally self-sufficient.

Anyone has who has lived with an aging relative can relate that perhaps the hardest part of getting old is coming to terms with the loss of independence and self-sufficiency. It’s also no secret that maintaining that independence and self-sufficiency can be the key to maintaining happiness and mental health long into old age. For the Baby Boomers in particular, for whom freedom and independence are central to the generation’s identity, addressing the mobility challenges presented by Miami’s built environment is critical. When answering surveys, Boomers may be amenable to the idea that they will relinquish all freedom of mobility to their children, but the reality will likely mirror other generations’ reluctance to forego independence.

Baby Boomers represent the largest generational cohort in the United States and they comprise twenty percent of Miami-Dade residents. Thanks to advances in health science, Boomers are expected to live longer than any other generation in human history so far, but current predictions are that they won’t necessarily be any healthier into old age than preceding generations.

Older people, for both health and financial reasons, are far less likely to be able to drive. And even if they can legally drive, we may wish to encourage another means of transportation. A study out of Carnegie Mellon and AAA found that drivers age 75 to 84 had similar driving safety records as teenagers with a year or less of driving experience. Once an individual reaches 85 years, his or her vehicular fatality rates jumps to nearly four times that of teenagers.

Now, consider how many Americans will reach those ages. According to projections by the U.S. Social Security Administration, the life expectancy of a man who turns 65 today is 83 years old; for a woman, her life expentancy is 85. And those are just the averages, so roughly half of people will live even longer. One out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past 90 years, and one in ten will see 95 years and beyond. What all this amounts to is that the number of Americans, in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the total population, who are unable to drive because of their age will likely grow over the coming decades.

Demographic tides travel slowly through history. If you look closely, you can see them coming from far and away, and if you plan accordingly, you can subvert their sometimes catastrophic legacies. We can see now with clarity that Miami, like much of America, is on the edge of a quality of life pitfall. Absent descisive, purposeful action, a greater share of Miamians will face isolation and dependence than at any other moment in our city’s history.

Whether we solve this issue by making all communities more walkable or by making walkable communities more affordable and accessible is for discussion, but what is unavoidable is the track that we’ve placed ourselves on. It’s a track to a problem that requires solutions that amount to more than developing “lifestyle communities” that define walkable as “100 feet from a Talbot’s, but 1.5 miles from a Publix.” Solutions must encourage neighborhoods where Miamians can live their lives by car if they choose, but continue to live their lives on foot when driving is no longer possible. Otherwise, be prepared to free up some time every Saturday to take Abuela to the foot doctor.

 

A pedestrian bridge above US-1 at the University MetroRail station was recently approved by Miami-Dade County and is currently moving closer to an agreement. Though a state and federally funded project of $6 million, the University Centre mall owner has raised some concerns and is refusing to allow the county to build the bridge on its property. The bridge to channel university students, middle school students, metrorail riders, and others to the popular strip mall has been in the works for several years, joining the other existing US-1 overpasses. The Pedestrian Safety Access Committee formed with the long-term goal to build the pedestrian bridge in direct response to 3 student fatalities at the intersection since 1990, along with several accidents.

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge - Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge at US-1 and University MetroRail Station: Note the bicyclist hugging the curb… (Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County)

Looking at this situation at face value, this project makes perfect sense: people are dying on the intersection, so take the people off the intersection. But I challenge you to stand back and examine the bigger picture of crossing US-1 at this intersection and every other one in Coral Gables, South Miami, and beyond. Is the problem uniquely at this intersection, or along the entire stretch of the fast-moving, 6-lane highway? Due to very high speeds, awkward street-level pedestrian crossings, unbuffered and narrow sidewalks, and poor street lighting, I think we can agree that this stretch is hostile to non-motorists. Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit stated back in 2007 that ‘the main purpose of the long-term bridge project is to encourage pedestrian safety while making the Coral Gables community more “walkable.” Yes, ‘channeling’ pedestrians into a bridge does have the potential of keeping pedestrians safe, but does it encourage walkability?

Pedestrian Convenience. A walkable community is possible when the built environment is convenient to the pedestrian, bicyclist, student, parent with baby stroller, etc. Making decisions that inhibit pedestrian convenience such as narrowing sidewalks, reducing crosswalks, ‘forcing’ people to go up and over a street – then these decisions make the built environment inconvenient and therefore, less walkable. But if we redesign the street to discourage speeding, add wider sidewalks buffered from vehicular traffic, pedestrian street lighting, and common-sense street-level crossings (and using a lot less than the $6 million) we could achieve both safety and walkability for all road users.

Neighborhood Unity. Instead of creating a street that welcomes its neighbors, we are making decisions (like numerous pedestrian bridges) that add up toward creating an automobile sewer. This is the root of the problem, and the reason for these vehicular deaths in the first place – we are literally trying to put a highway into the middle of a community. Why are we surprised that pedestrians, students, children are trying to cross the street in their own neighborhood? Instead of encouraging to further dissect this area, we need to consider the potential to transform this massive right-of-way into the safe neighborhood center the university, middle school, and residents deserve.

Traffic Priorities. The problem in this dangerous intersection is not the pedestrians, but the unobservant drivers. But who are we punishing? the pedestrians. And who are we prioritizing for dominion over the street even more? the drivers, observant or not. A walkable neighborhood is not void of cars, drivers, and traffic, but rather re-prioritizes its road space to accommodate a full range of transportation choices. Slowing traffic down does not guarantee more congestion either. In fact, some of the most efficient roads in the world are in slow-speed, walkable environments. By humanizing the thoroughfare with better street-level crossings, lighting, wider sidewalks, street trees, narrower traffic lanes, and even on-street parking, we can effectively slow traffic, and persuade drivers to be more alert, attentive, and vigilant, fostering a safer atmosphere for all.

If building this University Station pedestrian bridge could save just one life, then yes, its construction is more than worth it. But what’s next in encouraging safety and walkability? Are we going to continue constructing pedestrian bridges at every intersection over Dixie Highway – and with whose funds? And does that leave the people who will still cross at street level with a more dangerous thoroughfare? I challenge this community, the Pedestrian Safety Access Committee, Miami-Dade County, FDOT, and others involved to improve the pedestrian experience on the street level. In many ways the easiest solution is to build the pedestrian bridge. However, six million dollars can provide a lot of funding for this community if our residents and leaders are brave enough to tackle the root of the problem. We should not take these deaths lightly, but we do need to consider the full range of options to improve the safety, convenience, and value of the US-1 corridor. Just as Michelle Simmon from Miami-Dade Transit stated, “A livable community has to be a safe community.” By humanizing this dangerous, dissecting thoroughfare, we can not only save lives, but also our community.

We often hear that Miami is becoming a world-class city, but the sad truth is that Magic City is quickly becoming the country’s first gated city. What’s even worse is our elected officials are championing and using public funds to build walls and fences along the public right-of way, reducing mobility options for the general public and dividing communities in a futile attempt to reduce crime.  This type of reactive urban planning is being used by elected officials to appease their constituents, but the truth is there is no evidence that gated communities are any safer than non-gated communities.

Meanwhile, Miami has one of lowest police–to-residents ratios of any major city in the United States.  I’ve lost count, but we’ve had at least 2 or 3 police chiefs in the last four years.  The city has failed to provide enough officers to patrol the streets of Miami and now the city is scrambling to add 33 officers to the police force this year.

A few years ago, the city coughed up about $1,700,000 to build a wall for the Coral Gate community.  Here are the pictures of our elected officials celebrating their ugly tax-payer funded wall.  What’s even worse is that these pictures are posted on the city of Miami’s website as if this is something to be proud of; it’s not. Quite frankly, it is an embarrassment. A world-class city should not support gated communities, much less pay for them.

Sorry fellas, but celebrating a wall that divides communities and reduces mobility options is nothing to be proud of.

Sorry fellas, but celebrating a wall that divides communities and reduces mobility options is nothing to be proud of. Especially when the city foots the bill.

About 6 months ago Commissioner Sarnoff ponied up another $50,000 for Belle Meade to build a fence. See for yourselves how ridiculous and infective this fence is:

Now Morningside residents are considering a fence around the perimeter of their neighborhood as well. No word yet if the city will pay for Morningside’s fence too.

No elected official should be proud of this piecemeal ineffective urban planning strategy.  Quite the contrary, the city should not even allow walls or fences to be built.  I’m not sure why the city’s Planning Department allows this to happen.

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The following post comes to us from TransitMiami reader Emily Eisennhauer.  Emily is  a PhD Candidate in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University. She is working on her dissertation titled “The Construction of Socio-Ecological Vulnerability to Climate Change in South Florida”, which is examining how governance networks and residents are thinking about Miami’s future under the threat of climate change, particularly sea level rise. Emily writes her own self-titled blog on the sociology of sustainability and climate change in Southeast Florida, where the following was originally posted.

In the first part of this post I highlighted Census data released last fall which shows that Miami Beach is the 10th city in the nation for biking to work. Approximately 7% of workers regularly use a bicycle for the longest part of their commute. That’s about 3,000 people in our city biking regularly to work, and I was curious – who are they?
MBpiechart_EmilyEisenhauer
With Miami’s bike scene growing like crazy lately– thousands showing up for Critical Massnew bike facilities in the works for Downtown, etc.– it would be easy to assume that these bicyclists-to-work are bicycle activists, young urban professionals, or the like. But the data indicate something else.
On Miami Beach those most likely to bike to work are service industry workers with median annual earnings of about $21,000 per year, well below the citywide average of $32,597. Here are the top 10 industries:
commutingMB1_cropped
While I was at it, I decided to look at those who walk to work too, and found much the same thing. Fifty-three percent of those who walk to their jobs work in accommodation, food service, arts or entertainment, and median annual earnings are $14,622. And while three-quarters of commuters have at least one vehicle available, less than half of those who walk or bike do.
commutingMB2_cropped
This isn’t a surprise really, since there are a lot of low paying jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries which dominate Miami Beach’s economy. But it does make Miami Beach unique, especially among walking cities. For walking to work Miami Beach ranks 10th in the nation among cities with at least 65,000 residents, which is especially remarkable because Miami Beach is the highest ranking non-university city on the list. If you take out the places with colleges, we’d be number 1.
commutingMB3_cropped
In order to have people walking to work, you need a few things. People have to live close enough to walk, and the streets have to be pedestrian friendly. Miami Beach accomplishes this through preserving the residential, urban character of historic sections of South Beach and North Beach which were built in the early 20th century with walking in mind. Maintaining a supply of housing affordable for those who work in the nearby service industry jobs is more challenging in desirable areas, but the Miami Beach Community Development Corporationhas been able to restore and preserve nearly two dozen buildings since 1981 for affordable housing programs. The organization’s chair, Jack Johnson, said at a recent planning meeting for the upcoming Sustainable and Authentic Florida meeting to be hosted by Miami Beach, that the MBCDC “has worked to maintain a mix of income levels by using historic buildings in their ‘native habitat’.” In doing so it has accomplished a key tenet of New Urbanism that otherwise frequently gets overlooked when it comes to those in low wage jobs.In a very real way the availability of affordable housing in Miami Beach takes cars off the streets, reduces the city’s pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes to a better quality of life for everyone.
One other interesting fact: those who walk or bike to work are much more likely to leave home in the evening, anywhere between 4pm and midnight. 21% of walkers and 17% of bicycle/motorcycle/taxicabbers leave for work during that time, compared with only 9% of all commuters. All the more reason for safe, separated, lighted pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians to be part of every infrastructure and transportation plan.

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This just in from a very reliable Transit Miami tipster:

Just tried to cross here and had to dodge 2 cop cars blocking crosswalks and ramps. Strollers did not have a chance. Typical horrifying scenario but made worse by the police. There looked to be a minor fender bender north of 9th. No need for any crosswalks to be blocked especially at this already hectic area.

There was an officer near and I pointed out a stroller trying to maneuver the curb and cop car scenario and suggested it was dangerous to have a car there. Maybe they could move off the ramp area or help strollers and elderly by directing traffic since there seemed to be an inordinate number of officers there. I counted at least 9. She proceeded to scream at me. Calling me stupid at one point even. I calmly walked away and she continued to berate me. Asking my age for some reason and threatening to arrest me for interfering with her investigation. Ridiculous. Her info is below. I took pics but wished I had filmed the officer go nuts.  It would go viral I am sure. Not sure if you can or should do anything with this info but here it is. http://cops.heraldtribune.com/Officer/Details/52406

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