It seems like every time a cyclist or pedestrian is killed or seriously injured on the mean and incomplete streets of Miami the knee-jerk reaction by our politicians is more enforcement. This happened on the Rickenbacker Causeway after Christoph LeCanne was killed a year ago.  Miami Dade Police enforcement increased significantly after cyclists pressured County Commissioner Gimenez to do more. Enforcement lasted about two months.

This same old sold song and dance also took place on Brickell Avenue a few months ago. After residents and business rallied for a more pedestrian-friendly Brickell Avenue, Commissioner Sarnoff was quick to ask for additional enforcement on Brickell Avenue in order to address speeding on this poorly designed road.  The crackdown by the Miami Police Department lasted about a month. The FDOT paid lip service by reducing the speed limit by a paltry 5 mph; still excessive for a road that cuts through the heart of Florida’s most densely populated neighborhood. The combined actions of the FDOT and Commissioner Sarnoff seemed to calm some of the outrage, but the FDOT did nothing to address to actual design speed of the roadway. Even with a 5 mph reduction of the speed limit drivers will continue to speed until the actual design speed of Brickell Avenue is addressed. Enforcement is basically fruitless.

Sounds like our elected officials have a winning formula to address voter indignation when someone is killed or critically injured on South Florida streets-temporary enforcement. What a joke. This is slap in the face to everyone that accepts this expensive and infective remedy that politicians ram down our throats as the silver bullet that will change driver behavior.  Enforcement is a temporary solution that doesn’t have a lasting effect.  In order to change behavior we must change the design of our streets. In the short term redesigning our streets may be more expensive (they should have been designed properly in the first place), but in the long term we can prevent deaths and injuries with better designed roads. The impact will be felt immediately; less deaths, injuries and need for enforcement.

Enforcement is Unsustainable. Why must we pay police to enforce traffic laws when they have more productive things to do? This burden falls upon the taxpayers; we have to pay police overtime or hire more police to enforce crappy roadway design. This is preposterous.  When we hire more police to enforce our traffic laws it becomes exponentially more expensive for our municipalities. We are forced to pay the long term costs associated with additional police pensions and healthcare, as well as equipment to enforce the traffic laws (uniforms, speed guns, weapons, patrol cars, motorcycles, gas, etc.). The list goes on.  On the other hand, good design doesn’t require enforcement; a well-designed street polices itself.

Enforcement is Ineffective. Enforcement may temporarily change driver behavior, but motorists know where to expect enforcement and will regress to their bad driving behavior as long as poor roadway design encourages terrible driving manners. As long as we have roads that encourage speeding the “war” against bad driver behavior through the use of enforcement is futile. Theoretically enforcement could work if we had police at every intersection, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We all know that ain’t happening and it shouldn’t.

Our elected officials have to realize that we cannot police and enforce ourselves out of a poorly designed street. Our streets will only become safer if they are designed to accommodate all users (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists). Commissioner Sarnoff, County Commissioner Gimenez, and Mayor Regalado are not doing enough to ensure our safety.  It’s about time they deal with the fundamental problem; incomplete and autocentric streets.  They need to force the County Public Works Department and the FDOT to design complete streets. Enforcement is deceitful at best. It gives the public the impression that our elected officials are acting in our behalf and interest. If they were sincere, our politicians would be lobbying for fundamental changes in the way we design our streets.

Our elected officials must be honest with the voting public. I do think some enforcement is better than no enforcement, particularly on the poorly designed streets in the urban core. But in order for it to be effective there needs to be a consistent (unsustainable) police presence. There must be a serious commitment of police resources until we get the FDOT to design a proper street. It can’t only be a two month crackdown.  Currently we have no enforcement at all around Brickell and the area has become virtually lawless for motorists.  This will certainly change once someone else dies or is critically injured.  It’s just a matter of time.  Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle with no end in sight. I challenge our elected officials to step-up to the plate. Will they accept this challenge? If we can put a man on the moon, we can design complete streets in our own backyard.

You can find our suggestions for improvements below.  We will not be satisfied until these recommendations are implemented. Anything less, will be considered a failure.

Brickell Avenue

Rickenbacker Causeway

Observe what happens when streets are poorly designed and there isn’t enforcement.  Watch as the two ladies almost get hit by the red Cadillac around 20 seconds. This situation could be entirely avoided if we designed our streets with pedestrians in mind.  Due to poor design we put pedestrians into a harms way, and then we create the false expectation that bad driver behavior can be addressed with enforcement. Through bad design we’ve essentially created a need for enforcement.  We should not  design our streets to be enforced.  Good design discourages bad behavior and eliminates the need for enforcement almost entirely.

10 Responses to Enforcement of Incomplete Streets is Unsustainable and Ineffective

  1. Brandt says:

    Very well put. If I had the power to change one street into a complete street it would be US-1. Starting from NE 125 ST, it’s a 3-lane (per direction) road. As you get closer and closer to Aventura, it gets wider and wider. Speeds during both peak and off-peak hours get to 60 if not more. FDOT may like this, because it moves traffic fast, but here’s a news flash – if drivers wanted to move fast, they should have taken the expressway. Today I saw a lot more people riding bikes today along US-1, on the sidewalk of course. If I were one of them I would be on the sidewalk too, because I don’t want to risk getting hit by a driver going 60 mph while talking or texting. US-1 in the aforementioned area has a lot of business right along the street which is great for the neighborhoods close by, and it would be great if it had 2 lanes in each direction (instead of 3 or four), with expanded sidewalks and a protected bike lane.


  2. Reality Calling says:

    Is speed enforcement effective or isn’t it? You go back and forth here so many times, the head spins.

    Unfortunately, ripping up Brickell Avenue and rebuilding it the way that you want it to look takes a lot of money that I don’t think is there thanks to the current crop of right wing extremism that has swept the Sunshine State, And it isn’t going to be there anytime soon. Yell at Republicans a little about that.

    You get for what you pay for and right now in the City of Miami it’s periodic speed enforcement. As long as the citizens of Miami keep voting for incompetent politicians and hate higher taxes, you and your world class boulevards are screwed.



  3. Felipe Azenha says:

    Read my post again Reality Calling. I’m very clear that enforcement has very little effect on driver behavior.
    In case you haven’t noticed, Brickell is already being torn up, its a perfect opportunity for the FDOT to actually design a road that discourages speeding.

    FYI Building complete streets has nothing to do with Republicans and paying higher taxes. Don’t try politicize this issue.


  4. B says:

    Hey Reality: isn’t the point of traffic calming that you can change the design speed without re-building the entire road? Have to agree with Felipe on this point–you wouldn’t have to tear up the road any more than what the FDOT is doing now. Simple solutions are raised crosswalks/intersections and “neckdowns” (having the curb stick out where there are crosswalks).


  5. B says:

    Brandt: it’s 10-15 minutes ONE-WAY between I-95 and US1, so if you’re going between North Miami and Aventura, even up to Hallandale, you wouldn’t take the expressway, US1 is the ONLY major thoroughfare.

    Go back there during peak hours when an ambulance trying to get through the traffic, and you’d quickly realize that 2 lanes in each direction just wouldn’t work. The situation is totally different than Brickell. There is room for a protected bike lane, though.


  6. Craig says:

    The worst thing is, the scenario from that video in the post plays out at that same intersection every. single. day. on Brickell Avenue (and other intersections in Brickell as well) I ask Comissioner Sarnoff, FDOT heads and Mayor Regalado if they would want their wife or child in a stroller crossing that intersection. The obvious answer is NO. They would not tolerate it for a second. Why should we? What if that video ended with one of those women being struck? Would that change things?

    We must demand ACTION in this crucial issue of basic pedestrian saferty in our neighbhorhoods.

    Also, a productive enforcement program not not just consist of an officer sitting and handing out tickets at given intersection for a few hours a day. There must be an awareness campaign that coincides with the effort to let residents know about the plan, consisting of signage, handouts and outreach to area homeowner and business associations. Only then can an enforcement program be held accoutable and effective.


  7. Eddie Suarez says:

    Valid points Felipe. I’m one who argues for enforcement. but after reading your post I see how it won’t work. However, we behave when we know we’re being watched, it’s our nature. And traffic calming will be great for slowing down cars but what about rolling through stops? or stopping behind the stop line and not blowing through the crosswalk and stopping ahead of it? or yielding to pedestrians? Are there designs that will force drivers to come to complete stops? Or respecting cyclists and the 3 foot law?


  8. Felipe Azenha says:

    First we need good design to make enforcement manageable and realistic. Once drivers are forced to respect traffic law through use of good design then we can enforce. There will be substantially less people breaking traffic laws, because good design will dramatically discourage bad driving behavior. Of course we will always have idiot drivers and they need to be enforced. Perhaps two weeks in a Turkish prison (watch Midnight Express) will change driving behavior.


  9. ruhappy says:

    Felipe – you are right on point! And, again It takes minimal effort and cost to lower the posted speed limit. Most drivers feel they can travel at least 10 miles over the posted limit before the police would even consider making a traffic stop. Therefore with the posted limit of 35 on Biscayne Blvd in the Upper Eastside – when traffic is light speeds are minimum 45 and above. Walk those sidewalks and feel the vehicles speeding by — the air flow from the buses alone feel like it could knock you over.


  10. B says:

    As Felipe said, the keyword is “realistic.” You can’t design a 45 mph road and expect drivers to obey the posted 35 mph speed limit. In fact, the prevalence of artificially low speed limits probably has a psychological effect: subconsciously, when you see 35, you immediately think “45,” unless the area has a reputation of strict enforcement (e.g., Bal Harbor, Pinecrest). May make a good thesis topic for a budding urban planner.


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