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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.

 

In this morning’s Sun Sentinel:

Some of Broward County’s new express buses are breaking down, struggling to make it over railroad tracks and carrying commuters at a 10 mph crawl down Interstate 95.

The I-95 Express Buses get a lock of flack for their unreliable transmissions that leave riders “late for work” and feeling like they’ve been “held hostage.”  This sounds just like my car! My station wagon doesn’t make it into the Sun Sentinel, though.

When my car’s transmission fails (frequently, despite a recent, costly rebuild and lifetime warrantied parts), I don’t really have anyone to complain to. I wish it was easier, but I still think it’s pretty lucky to have the 95 Express. It’s a pain being late to work regardless of whose transmission just died. BUT when it’s your car, you are looking at 3-5 days with no back-up car with which to get to work plus another bill in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Public transit has some real benefits over driving. #1 being that I can get work done on the bus (yay, Free Wi-fi!) or catch up with Words with Friends. Texting is both legal and safe! #2 meeting interesting people or just people-watching helps me feel charged up at the start of the day, rather than frustrated. #3 $2.35 each way is probably what 35+ minutes in my station wagon costs these days, excluding taxes, title, insurance and all that stress. I‘m sure it’s miserable sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to come fix your ride or pick you up with another bus. I promise you, it’s more miserable when the bus doesn’t automatically come and you have to pay for your trouble.

Of course, the bus takes longer. Here is my very multi-modal commute from Midtown Miami to north Downtown Fort Lauderdale:

  1. CAR: to the bus stop in Downtown Miami that is NOT on SE 1st and 1st.(If you wait there, the driver will pass you and point to where you need to run.) I get a ride, but otherwise, I could use my Car2Go membership. $0
  2. WAITING for a bus that says “to Downtown Miami.” You MUST ask the driver which Express they are driving, or you will end up in the Everglades. I mean, Miramar. (True story). $0. or $1.25 for a cortadito.
  3. BUS: Very comfortable. Wifi is dependable. Northbound means a practically empty bus. Pro Tip: Bring a sweater or sit in the front. $2.35
  4. SHUTTLE: Free shuttle from the Broward Blvd Tri-rail down Broward, south on Andrews, around the Courthouse. $0
  5. BIKE SHARE: From the Courthouse, I pick up a B-cycle and head to work. About 2 miles in 10 minutes. $0 (membership is $45 a year)

This commute takes over an hour. However, at every point, I’m interacting positively with people around me and can take calls from the office.  The biggest problem for me is not having a car at work - and Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have Car2Go. My job usually requires a lot of driving from Hallandale Beach to Pompano Beach and everywhere in between. If it wasn’t for bike sharing and some help from colleagues, I’d really be in a bind.

The Express Buses would benefit from improvements, but not the ones I keep seeing on the TransitMiami facebook page.

  1. Better Wayfinding. There are so many bus stops in Downtown Miami and around the Tri-Rail station. Make it easier to find the Bus!
  2. Better Signage on the bus. Yes, I ended up in Miramar. I’m not proud of it. I think that as soon as the bus gets to Downtown, even if it has more pick up points within Downtown, it should be marked with its final destination. No one in their right mind picks up an Express bus to go 2 blocks.
  3. Later hours! I work 8:30am-6pm. I have to leave early to catch the bus home. No bueno.
  4. Same pick up and drop off stops. I don’t understand why the bus picks up at SE 1st & 1st and drops off at NW 8th and 1st, 12 blocks away. Can anyone explain this to me? Does the Corner Bar subsidize this? They should…

TM Readers, have you taken the Express Bus? What do you think?

 

 

The Middle River Neighborhood in the City of Fort Lauderdale is considering three options for their section of North Dixie Highway, including rejecting $2.3 million is MPO funding that would include a road diet, new and improved crosswalks and a solid green bike lane that would continue along the section to the north (into Wilton Manors).

Neighbors and local business owners packed a public meeting tonight and some argued for paving the swale on one side with a 12 ft wide shared use path (sidewalk) instead of accepting funding for the green lanes. Why would they want to do this?

Some arguments made for the “shared-use path” option:

  • Even if the speed is 30mph, I drive 40mph, at least, so cyclists should ride on the sidewalk for their own safety. [Response: that’s why city is recommending multiple traffic calming measures, including speed tables at crossings.]
  • No one has ever been killed by a car reversing out of a driveway while they were riding a bike on a sidewalk. [Response: You’re lucky. Many people are not.]
  • Narrowing the travel lanes to 10’ will slow down traffic too much and how can that be legal when trucks can be 8 ½ ‘ wide. [The purpose of this project, even the shared use path option, is to discourage tractor trailers from this roadway.]
  • Why do we need any of this? Can’t we just leave everything the way it is? [Response: Well, yes on both. If we don't use it, another city project in the LRTP pipeline will.]
  • Is there any proof that bike lanes increase property values? The local economy?

My response, of course, is there are several. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • In 2010, rents along NYC’s new Times Square-area green bike lanes increased 71% - the greatest rise in the city.[APTA]
  • When San Francisco put its own 4-lane Valencia Street through a project similar to the one proposed for Dixie Highway (road diet, adding bike lanes and better pedestrian crossings], nearly 40% of local business owners reported increased sales and 60% reported more area residents shopping locally due to reduced travel time and convenience. Two-thirds said business improved overall. [San Francisco Bicycle Coalition]
  • Across American cities, houses located in areas that are particularly bicycle and/or pedestrian friendly are worth as much as $34,000 more than comparable houses with just average walkability/bikeability. [CEOs for Cities]
  • Toronto merchants surveyed in 2009 reported that patrons who came by bike or on visit not only stopped in their stores more often, but spent more money per month than those who came by car. [Clean Air Partnership]
  • Find more stats in this article: Want to make money? Build Your Business on a Bike Lane (FastCo.exist)

There are more reasons to support the “green bike lanes” option:

  1. It has secured funding. Changing the concept negates the funding approval years in development and would leave the city to find money elsewhere.
  2. The bike lane concept includes funding for bio-swales, a critically needed and environmentally sound flood mitigation tool.
  3. Continuity. The lanes are planned for the contiguous section directly to the north. It is unfortunate the local politics and funding challenges have lead to so many sidewalks that end and bike lanes/trails/paths to nowhere. I hope that doesn’t happen here.
  4. People who ride for transportation are not required to ride on sidewalks, no matter how wide they are. Those who do, put themselves at risk at every driveway and reduce to safety of the path for kids and those walking their dogs.
  5. Road treatments like this reduce speeds and therefore improve safety for everyone. [NYC DOT]

There was a time when city officials and engineers were the ones fighting the bike facilities here in South Florida. The times are changing - will a different kind of local politics prevent our governments from doing the right thing in favor of cars and trucks?

 

Looks like we finally have a developer in the 305 that understands the importance of mobility options for urban dwellers. Newgard Development Group will soon begin construction of Centro in downtown Miami and they are marketing the building to potential buyers as a project that provides transportation choices for future residents. Not only will Centro be located in the heart of downtown, just blocks away from premium transit, but the developer has partnered with car2go to provide a car-share service at the building’s doorstep. In addition, Centro will have a bike share program for its residents as well.

 

Centro

 

Harvey Hernandez, Chairman and Managing Director, of the Newgard Development Group is clearly thinking out of the box and understands the importance of offering transportation options to urbanites. Last week  I sat down with Mr. Hernandez to discuss his new project. Below is the interview I did with him for Miami Urbanist.

Newgard Development Group Chairman and Managing Director Harvey Hernandez sat down with me to discuss his two Miami projects that are currently under development in Brickell and Downtown. BrickellHouse is under construction and Centro will break ground later this year in the heart of Downtown Miami. The partners of Newgard Development Group have spent 15 years in the South Florida real estate market. Founded by Harvey Hernandez, Newgard’s management team brings 40 years of combined experience in development, design and construction. Newgard’s approach to development includes innovative luxury buildings in desirable, centrally located neighborhoods, pedestrian-oriented lifestyles with cutting-edge amenities.

Miami Urbanist: Miami and Orlando will soon be connected by rail thanks to All Aboard Florida. Hopefully, commuter rail will soon follow. What opportunities do you see for transit-oriented development in South Florida?

Harvey Hernandez: We see great opportunity here. One of the main reasons we chose the Centro site was its proximity to transit.  We believe in density and that having premium transit within walking distance is an attractive alternative to the car. Our consumers don’t necessarily own two cars; many are able to live comfortably with one or no car. In fact we have teamed up with car2go and they will have a designated Parkspot hub on the ground floor of our building.

Miami Urbanist: What are the strongest characteristics of the Centro site?

Harvey Hernandez: It’s in the middle of everything! It’s close to Brickell and within walking distance of mass transit.  Whole Foods and Brickell CityCentre will soon open a couple of blocks from Centro.

Miami Urbanist: Please explain the parking situation at Centro, there seems to be a few misconceptions about parking.

Harvey Hernandez: Zoning allows us to provide parking offsite; therefore we don’t have to build parking. The parking garage is within 100 yards of Centro. We have entered into an agreement with the Miami Parking Authority to provide parking. We also provide 24-hour valet service and there is always the car2go hub at our doorstep.

Miami Urbanist: Has the parking situation discouraged people from buying at Centro?

Harvey Hernandez: We don’t see it at all. The buyers are coming from all segments of the market; whether they are young professionals, retirees, or 2nd home consumers they have one thing in common—less reliance on the car. All of our buyers want the urban living experience—they want to walk to restaurants, bars, the arts and other amenities.  Many of our buyers are coming from suburbia; they don’t want to deal with long drives and the cost associated with maintaining a car.

Miami Urbanist: There is also a bike share component to Centro, would you please elaborate on this?

Continue reading »

 

Microsoft Word - MPath-HappyHour-Flyer.docx

 

Date: May 23, 2013
Time: 5-7pm
Location: Titanic Restaurant and Brewery, 5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Ride your bike or walk to Titanic Brewery and get drink specials and free appetizers! Bike valet will be provided by Green Mobility Network. Click here to RSVP:http://urbanhp.wufoo.com/forms/may-is-for-mpath-happy-hour-rsvp/

 

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!

 

Local biketivists from across Miami and Broward joined around 200 more transportation planners, engineers and bicycle professionals in Tampa yesterday for the first National Bike Summit, hosted by USDOT. The event kicked off a campaign that USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood promised to do for bike safety what ‘Click it or Ticket’ did for seat belt use and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done for DUI. It has no catchy name yet but the idea is simple: We need a cultural shift in this country so that nowhere is it socially acceptable or legal for motorists to disrespect cyclists. LaHood and other speakers promoted more bike lanes, more tickets for those who pass cyclists too closely and an aggressive education campaign targeting people who ride and drive on proper, safe behavior.

There is more at Streetsblog but Transit Miami thanks all who traveled to Tampa to represent Southeast Florida. Special shout out to Bike SoMi, the City of Fort Lauderdale, Broward Complete Streets, Green Mobility Network, Atlantic Bike Shop, Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass, and many others I may have missed. There were also three of us from the Broward B-cycle program, including myself.

Florida Bicycle Association Executive Director Tim Bustos sent us this recap of the event:

“When we first got the official notice that there would be a bike summit in Tampa, we were ecstatic!  Although many of us are already actively engaged in trying to improve the dismal bicycle crash record in Florida, we really felt like this kind of exposure, and the support of USDOT would be very helpful.  The only catch was that it was happening in 10 days!  Wow.  Having put on many events like this over the years, I knew that most conference planners require at least six months - and a year is preferred.  However, USDOT staff vowed to make it happen, and, since Secretary Ray LaHood has already announced that he would be stepping down soon, I can only guess that he wanted to be sure it happened before he left.  So, no problems - just opportunities!”

“First steps were to contact all of our members possible - as soon as possible,  as well as colleagues and affiliate organizations.  This blitz was followed with a conference call between USDOT and FHWA staff to offer our assistance with planning efforts in Florida, and to suggest speakers.”

“Given the incredibly short window of opportunity, the bike summit actually came off very well.  USDOT was hoping for at least 150 participants, and there were almost 200 in attendance!  The speakers were also very well qualified and engaging, and spoke to the issues of community design, traffic engineering countermeasures, law enforcement, and current bicycle education efforts in the state.  The only area I felt was lacking was the subject of funding programs.  Given that MAP-21 (the new transportation funding bill) is still relatively new, and many people are still trying to figure it out - including FDOT, we felt this could have been a welcome addition to the line-up of presentations, but to me, it seemed to be conspicuous by its absence.”

“Still, Secretary LaHood should be commended for his intent to pull off this conference before he left office, and his staff gets bonus points for pulling it together at warp speed.  And, as I mentioned at the end of my presentation on bicycle education, I look at this event not as a one time effort, but the beginning of a renewed effort throughout Florida to make bicycling safer and more enjoyable effort in Tampa, and throughout the state.”

 

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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Two tricycles, recently tuned up for the seniors at Bay Oaks - Miami’s historic retirement residence - gone. Broad daylight. The tricycles were locked and hidden from view behind a gate on the private property of the non-profit old folks’ home, just this week; just before any of the residents got to ride them.
Who does this?

Most of us have had a bike, car or other means of transportation taken from us.
It’s horrible. Violating. Nightmare and rage-inducing.
I’d like to believe there is a special place is Hell for such individuals, but the optimism is fleeting.

And then my friend told me about the BikeSpike.

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 1.39.34 PM

The BikeSpike movie is almost as awesome as the tool. Yes, that’s Gregory Holliman.

How we used to (try to) prevent bike theft:

  • Register your bike’s serial #. Keep insurance, any proof of purchase, up to date pictures.
  • Paranoia. Only park in secured, enclosed Bike Corrals, bike valet or else use your local bikeshare program.
  • Find your bike locked with a flat? Don’t leave her behind! It could be a trick!
  • Just ride a really crappy bike! Or ugly one. But, but… why??
  • Sign every Petition asking eBay and Craigslist to require serial # posting with ads. (I did.)

But now really, really soon, there’ll be app for all that: The BikeSpike. It’s definitely the future of bicycle theft prevention. Let’s help get there faster.

“Spike your Bike with the world’s smallest GPS chipset with built-in antenna, an on-board accelerometer, and a connection to a global cellular network.”  

Basically, the BikeSpike is the ‘Find My iPhone’ for your bike that we’ve all been waiting for. More than just allowing you and your local PD to track down your stolen wheels….

  1. You’re at work. Someone knocks your bike over - at your house. You get a text message.
  2. Your favorite city bike planner needs you to list all the places you ride so he can defend your safe-ish routes. You can share your data.
  3. You want to keep track of your training stats and compete with friends on your team who supposedly hit 35 going up the Bear Cut Bridge this morning. Um, yeah. BikeSpike tells the truth.
  4. In the event of a collision, the BikeSpike knows you’re down before the driver can even get away. Calls 911 plus your mom/significant other/roommate or whomever you designate.
  5. On a happier note, your many fans can follow your progress in a race, and thus can catch you at all the good cheering points. It fits all aero in a spiffy custom carbon-fiber bottle cage.

Wives, moms and boyfriends: The only way to make sure you get one for your beloved bicyclist is here. Early Bird price is temporarily $149. Why not get one for your favorite TM writers? 

And if you’ve lost all hope, just remember: Sometimes, the good guys win!

Keep your two (& three) wheels safe!

 

1The following is a guest post by Matthew González, a pedestrian, cyclist, and in-denial vegetarian who blogs his adventures at mgregueiro.com. He formerly worked in Miami with Teach For America and now lives in Spain doing research as a Fulbright Fellow. He launched mgregueiro.com as a place to discuss great ideas with the many great minds hiding throughout the wrinkles and corners of the interwebs. Check out his blog, or follow him at @mgregueiro to join the conversation.

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In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians and 618 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles in the United States. The most dangerous state? Florida, with 4.40 pedalcyclist fatalities per million population. Though some states have worked to lower this number by painting bike lanes and posting “Share The Road” signs, it is time American cities move from this temporary solution to a more permanent one: designing streets that serve motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The problem with “Share The Road” signs is that they pin cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians against each other by making them responsible for outcomes, i.e., when a cyclist gets hit by a car it must be the cyclist’s or motorist’s fault. This thinking, however, doesn’t go deep enough and will not bring the much needed solutions.

These fatalities are caused by a systemic failure of our city infrastructure to provide safe spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Legislators must understand that “Share The Road” signs are no more than construction signs: they represent the need for work to be done on our city’s roads, not the outcome. Cycling and jogging/running are the two most popular outdoor activities among Americans and it is time our city infrastructure reflect it.

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The History of “Share The Road”

Living in cities designed for and around the car, it is easy to forget that walking and cycling predate the automobile as primary modes of transportation. In fact, crosswalks and bike lanes were a consequence of automobile companies lobbying for changes in street design to make traveling by automobile more practical and lessen the hatred of motorists. (For a brief history on this shift in city design, check out this great TEDx talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen: Bicycle Culture by Design)

By the early 1960s, cyclists had lost the battle for America’s streets: roads were for motorists. But in 1967, cyclists won a major victory with the creation of the first modern bike lane in Davis, California. And twenty years later, the now iconic “Share The Road” sign was adopted by the North Carolina Board of Transportation - now the Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (A tip of the helmet to the Tar Heel state).

Unfortunately, more than twenty years later, cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians are still fighting to share the road. And looking at the number of pedestrian and cycling deaths caused by motorist each year, pedestrians and cyclists are losing.

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Looking Past “Share The Road”

The solution to these unnecessary deaths is no secret. Denmark and The Netherlands boast the highest number of cyclists per capita. According to a 2011 study published in Injury Prevention, “27% of Dutch trips are by bicycle, 55% are women, and the bicyclist injury rate is 0.14 injured/million km. In the USA, 0.5% of commuters bicycle to work, only 24% of adult cyclists are women, and the injury rate of bicyclists is at least 26 times greater than in the Netherlands.”(Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street)

What is the difference between the US and these countries? Our streets.

The Netherlands has more than 1,800 miles of cycle tracks: bicycle paths that are separated from the street by a physical barrier. Meanwhile American cyclists are still fighting for bike lanes, that are easily ignored by motorist.

To bring an end to these unnecessary deaths, America’s cities need complete streets: roads designed to serve the needs of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. This approach to city infrastructure is not imaginary, it has proven itself to be successful in The Netherlands, Denmark, and many other nations. Moreover, looking at the drastic paradigm shift that swept the nation after the car, it is clear that the US can again change the way our cities approach road design.

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The Miami City Commission voted today in favor of Decobike as their vendor for a bike sharing system, effectively expanding this successful venture from Miami Beach to the mainland! Soon we will all be able to enjoy cycling across the Venetian on a Decobike. As a Fort Lauderdale resident, I will be happy if I can ride the train or express bus into Miami and use Decobike to get around when I’m here. More details to come later.

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The article comes to us via the South Florida Bike Coalition and was written by Markus Wagner.

 

Miami-Dade County is facing a tricky situation on Bear Cut Bridge. Predictably and sadly, it is choosing to prioritize motorized traffic at the expense of the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. This much became clear at the January 2013 BPAC meeting. Given current plans, it will almost be inevitable that the bridge be close to pedestrian and cycling traffic during construction (except for those cyclists going with traffic, which they are allowed to do).

As many may have heard, parts of the Bear Cut Bridge have become so dilapidated that they have to be replaced. This is not the time or place to go into details why it is that such a situation suddenly springs upon the County – blame is already being passed around. More news reports herehere and here.

The County Public Works and Waste Management Department has gone through several iterations of planning. The latest approach – and the most detrimental to safety for pedestrians and cyclists wishing to enjoy Crandon Park or other destinations on the Key – is to take away the pedestrian and bike path heading east to create more throughput for cars and trucks. The current plans call for re-routing pedestrians and cyclists to the north side of the bridge via a signalized crosswalk by UM’s Rostenstiel campus,  where cyclists and pedestrians going both ways are supposed to share the space. Then, should you desire to return to the south side, you would use the marked crosswalk where pedestrians and cyclists have been constantly ignored by drivers in the past.

 

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If you are now scratching your head, you are not alone. The reaction of BPAC members appeared to be rather unanimous: it was negative. The entire operation does not appear to be well thought out regarding the treatment of pedestrians and cyclists. And that is an understatement. There are so many things wrong with the current plans that it is difficult to figure out where to start. It is unclear how separation between fast and slow cyclists, runners and walkers going in two directions is supposed to be managed. According to the Miami Herald, the County even considers closing the roadway for cyclists and pedestrians entirely. According to Interim County Engineer Antonio Cotarelo the county “would have to figure out if there’s any impact, and how bad it is with traffic, and take whatever necessary action to adjust it or close it if necessary — meaning closing the bridge to all pedestrians and cyclists.” It is apparently perfectly fine for the County to close down the only access for pedestrians and recreational cyclists to Crandon Park entirely while vehicle traffic to and from Key Biscayne is allowed to flow through four lanes, just as before.

What county personnel did not state clearly and were rather guarded about is the following: if current lane usage is to be maintained (two lanes in each direction) and with the existing ped / bike path removed, it will be impossible to maintain the ped / bike path on the northern side once construction begins. It is hardly conceivable that the county – having decided to close down the footpath at this point – will restrict motorized vehicle access once construction begins for purposes of reinstating the foot path.

There was talk of more law enforcement, but when pressed on whether the Miami-Dade Police Department would actually enforce the rules on the unsignalized cross-walk on the east side of the Bear Cut Bridge, the officer present seemed to be taken aback.

It comes down – as is the case so often – to a question of prioritization. If the County wants to go beyond the usual lip service, it is time to step up to the plate. Over the last years, we have seen people get killed on the Causeway and numerous people getting injured. The County under the leadership of Mayor Gimenez has done little to nothing to improve the situation. Along comes a tennis tournament and it appears that the County snaps to attention rather quickly. The bridge is in dire need of repair from everything we can ascertain. There is no doubt about that.

The question is whether the County should prioritize the needs of car drivers at the almost complete disadvantage for families and individuals that want to be pedestrians, runners or cyclists. This episode shows how little the County – and its mayor – support non-motorized traffic. Not only is the situation made more difficult, but rather it is also made more dangerous. And it does not seem to matter to decision-makers. Those decision-makers sometimes take part in bicycle rides when it suits their needs of being elected. When it comes to having to make decisions over whether find a suitable balance that interest seems to wane entirely.

While the county plans are still in flux, the removal of the foot path seems to be the option that the county has chosen. It is also the only way from what we can tell (and we are happy to stand corrected) to not have to close pedestrian and a lot of bicycle traffic. Yet again, the county and its leadership has chosen motorized traffic over the interest of other users. While touting bicycling in other forums and using such opportunities to create the image of being supportive for bicyclists, county leadership on this and many other projects is sorely lacking.

You should let Mayor Gimenez know that you are against current plans(mayor@miamidade.gov). Our attempts to reach out to his office so far have been futile. More voices may be necessary.

 

The Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is studying the feasibility of establishing a “Bike Center” facility in downtown Miami.

It would provide secure bike parking, showers and a locker room, bike repair, and retail. As recognized by the DDA, “Other cities across the nation have built these bike hubs to help those seeking an alternative to driving.”

Sound appealing? It does to us! Please take the Miami DDA’s Bike Center Survey as soon as possible to let them know how you too think a downtown Miami Bike Center would be great for our city!

Here are a couple pics of bike centers in Chicago and Washington DC.

Chicago's McDonald's Cycle Center. Credit: Triposo.com

Chicago’s McDonald’s Cycle Center. Credit: Triposo.com

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Washington DC’s Bike Station

Here’s a quick factsheet the DDA put together describing what bike commuter stations are, as well as a few of the many benefits they bring.

MiamiDDA_BikeCenterFactSheet_2013

Don’t forget to take the survey, especially all the folks who live and/or work in downtown.

http://urbanhp.wufoo.com/forms/downtown-miami-bicycle-center-survey/

 

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This article appeared in LPFM and was written by Leah Weston.

A functioning media holds democratic institutions accountable. That is why I feel compellled to post my open letter to Tallahassee in the wake of this week’s development in the tragic hit-and-run death of bicyclist Aaron Cohen, just one of many such incidents in South Florida. The dangerous and deadly status quo on our streets is unacceptable.

Check out the Miami Bike Scene’s piece, “Business As Usual in South Florida” to read more on the Aaron Cohen tragedy. If you feel moved to do something about our deadly driving culture, consider joining Emerge Miami on Monday in Brickell for a Pedestrian Safety Walk. Please feel free to share this letter.

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Dear Tallahassee,

There is a culture of violence on our streets.

No, I am not talking about guns. I am talking about cars.

This week, many of us reeled in shock, disgust, and sadness as we learned the fate of 26 year-old Michele Traverso in court. After a late night of partying at the bars in Coconut Grove last February, Mr. Traverso hopped into his car. While driving with a suspended license, Mr. Traverso struck and killed 35 year-old Aaron Cohen, a businessman and father of two young children, who was riding his bicycle on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Rather than stop, Mr. Traverso fled the scene of the crash, called his lawyer, and left Mr. Cohen to die. He turned himself into police the following evening.

This week, our justice system rewarded Mr. Traverso for this cowardly act of selfishness. By waiting 24 hours to sober up and turn himself in, he rendered DUI charges against him impossible. Mr. Traverso pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license. Based on the guidelines by which he is bound, the judge sentenced Mr. Traverso to 364 days in jail and two years on probation for killing a man.

I want to bring this story to your attention, not because it is outrageous, but because it is typical. This is the story of the carnage we see on our roads every single day when someone dares to ride a bicycle or cross the street. This is not just a transportation problem—it’s an institutional problem. Our system perpetuates carelessness and selfishness on our roads.

It is time for the Florida legislature to take swift and bold action to address this public safety crisis. The public streets are for everyone. Riding a bicycle or walking should not be a death wish. If the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee has time to consider a bill to convert low-speed electric vehicles to golf carts, surely it can work on changes to address the motor vehicle-related carnage, including harsher penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident and safer, more inclusive street design policies for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Do not allow 2013 to be a rerun of this devastating tragedy.

 

This article originally appeared in the South Florida Bike Coalition blog and was written by Markus Wagner.

In February of 2012, Aaron Cohen was fatally struck by Michele Traverso while riding with close friend and fellow cyclist Enda Walsh on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Today, he was sentenced to 364 days in prison and two years of house arrest.

Our first thoughts go out to his family and friends. We understand that today’s hearing was an emotional moment for them. This is most likely even more so after what can only described as a lenient sentence. It is but one more example how those who are already traumatized feel that the community (in the form of the court system) is unable to provide at least some remedy to the death of a loved one.

It is safe to say that this sentence is nothing short of a farce – on many levels. This is not to blame the judge. His hands are tied by sentencing guidelines that provide incentives for exactly the behavior that Traverso exhibited. Remember that Traverso drove without a license and was on probation for cocaine charges. Accusations that he was driving under the influence could not be proven, though he was seen in a bar in Coconut Grove and seen staggering when he arrived in his home in Key Biscayne. He subsequently pled guilty to the following charges: leaving the scene of an accident involving death, leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm, and driving with a suspended license.

One can ask why it is necessary to have a hearing that lasts almost six hours when the outcome appears to almost be predetermined without being able to take account of the individual act in its full horror, as was the case here.

What is to blame is a system that incentivizes individuals who commit such a horrific act to flee the scene of an accident and hide out long enough so that blood alcohol levels are no longer in play. Whether this was the case or not (and there are many indications that this was indeed the case), the message that is being sent into the community is one that the state shouldn’t send. It is a gaping hole in a system that is rigged against cyclists and pedestrians from the get go. Combine this with a car-centric infrastructure and drivers who continuously disregard cyclists and pedestrians (and police who do little to enforce existing laws) and you have a perfect storm for situations like the one we are facing to continue.

The question is what to do about this? Some suggest to challenge the state attorney’s office, others blame the police. None are without fault in the bigger picture. But it appears at this point at least that the real challenge and the correct target is a legislative change in Tallahassee. We will be working on this and will certainly need any help we can get. I am sure that the SFBC will not be the only one in this – other groups in this area (such as our friends at Green Mobility Network and others) and elsewhere in the state will hopefully join us.

If you would like to get involved, please let us or the group of your choice know. We don’t have any concrete plans yet, but the cycling community will need as many voices as possible to push local elected officials to do something about this public safety crisis.

 
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