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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

 

 

 

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:

 

Untitled1

 

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.

 

 

6th crash in three years at the same exact location. Brickell Avenue and 15th Road

6th crash in three years at the same exact location. Brickell Avenue and 15th Road

Here we go again… A few weeks ago there was another crash on Brickell Avenue and SW 15th Road.  This is the sixth incident in about 3 years that I have seen debris from crashes at the exact same location.  I’m not sure what FDOT and the city of Miami are waiting for, but apparently nothing will be done here until someone is killed. Sadly this will likely happen within the next three years.

Looks like the bench was launched about 50 feet.

Looks like the bench was launched about 50 feet.

The Echo Brickell project has just been announced and construction will begin soon at the very exact location where all these crashes have occurred.  This project will have 175 units with retail on the ground floor.  If the design of the road remains the same, we should expect a nasty accident with a lot of injuries once the project is completed. FDOT and the city of Miami have been put on notice. If nothing is done immediately both will have blood on their hands.

You can also send an email to FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to see if they plan to do anything to address the design speed on Brickell Avenue.  I think it is evident that we have a problem here.

 

Is the optimal place for bicyclists really between speeding traffic and swinging car doors or is bicycle planning in most cities still just an afterthought? Can it really be the case that major arterial roadways planned for reconstruction like Alton Road in Miami Beach which are between 100′ and 120′ really have no room for bicycles?

The plan for Alton Road which the City of Miami Beach approved is still the wrong one but neighborhood organizations are not accepting that the plan is set in stone until the concrete is poured and dry.

alton

Though Miami Beach is in the top 10 cities in the nation for biking to work according to the US Census, a perfect storm of Department of Transportation heavy-handedness, local bureaucratic impassivity, and ineptitude on the part of elected representatives has led to a hugely expensive design no one endorses. Alton Road, expected to become a showpiece of island multi-modalism, will instead become a wide-lane, high-speed, completely-congested Department of Transportation boondoggle say residents. If Miami Beach can’t get a multi-modal design with its committed and educated pedestrian and cycling advocates is there any hope for the rest of the country?

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Thousands of major arterials around the country are in the process of reconstruction right now as the first roadways of the Highway Act of 1956 are being rebuilt. And despite the amazing strides made in a few exceptional places, the default design on the traffic engineer’s books is still the wrong one. The difference now is that residents know better. This is making the job of elected officials who have always trusted the DOT very difficult. Something’s got to give.

Residents are available to discuss this important issue further.

Click here to visit the official website for the initiative.

On Facebook: Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition.

On the web:

Thanks,
Jason King
Miami Beach Resident and Urban Planner

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.

Ladies and Gentlemen- Let’s get Ready to Rumble!

It’s the fight of the century. David vs. Goliath

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Legion Park

6447 NE 7th Ave
Miami, FL 33138

I have a feeling we may see a couple of Superfly Snukas from Upper EastSide residents and businesses at this event. FDOT better come prepared.

 
NE 79th Street.  Miami's worst urban street has a design speed of 40+mph. 3 lanes going west to east and 1 lane going east to west.

NE 79th Street. Miami’s worst urban street has a design speed of 40+mph. 3 lanes going west to east and 1 lane going east to west.

NE 79th is unequivocally Miami’s worst urban street. The street is awkwardly configured with 3 lanes going west to east and 1 lane going east to west. Sometime in 2013 FDOT will begin a resurfacing project from I95 to the Biscayne Bay.

NE 79th Street project will be resurfaced from I95 to Biscayne Bay.

NE 79th Street will be resurfaced from I95 to Biscayne Bay.

I’m plugged-in with what’s happening in my neighborhood and I happen to live 4 blocks away from 79th Street.  About two months ago I found out that FDOT would be resurfacing NE 79th Street and apparently the FDOT has been conducting a series of meetings with “neighborhood stakeholders” in the last year. I am on the board of the MiMo Biscayne Association.  Over the past two years we have met with FDOT officials on several occasions to discuss making safety improvements along Biscayne Boulevard. Not once during any of our meetings did FDOT mention that NE79th Street was due to be resurfaced. Where’s the community outreach? Why didn’t FDOT reach out to the MiMo Biscayne Association or Transit Miami?

With respect to Biscayne Boulevard, the MiMo Biscayne Association has been rebuffed by FDOT and they make every excuse not to make any safety improvement although I have documented over 15 crashes in less than a three-year period in which cars usually end up on the sidewalk.  Basically, FDOT officials have said to us is “ Biscayne Boulevard was just recently resurfaced, so speak with us again in 20 years when we resurface again”. FDOT officials have also said “ safety is matter of perception”.

So let’s put outside FDOT’s lack of community outreach for now. I’ve heard that the current resurfacing project is only a “temporary solution”.  WTF does “temporary solution” mean? Sounds exactly like the I395 “Bait and Switch” which FDOT just pulled with the “signature bridge” construction project. I’m very happy to see that Mayor Regalado and Commissioner Sarnoff have filed a lawsuit again FDOT.

My fear is that FDOT will pull the same “Bait and Switch”. They’ll do this resurfacing project with a promise to come back soon and we won’t hear from them again for another 20 years.  Meanwhile, 79th Street will likely see a new train station along the FEC corridor in the next 7 years.  There is a lot of new development happening in this area and pedestrian activity is increasing everyday, yet FDOT continues to design their roads as if it were 1960. They are clearly not planning for the future

My sources from within the city have informed me that FDOT has not conducted a traffic study or traffic count for 79th Street in 10 years. So I’m going assume that they haven’t conducted any pedestrians on cyclists counts either.  Not that it matters since FDOT plays by their own set of rules and standards; they have little regard for anyone not in a vehicle.

FDOT’s current proposal is the equivalent of putting “lipstick on a pig”.  Thanks to pressure from the North Palm Grove and Shorecrest neighborhood associations FDOT has agreed to add some lighting and 5 additional crosswalks in the scope of this project.  But this is not good enough. FDOT can and should do a lot more.

The MiMo Biscayne Association’s has adopted a resolution regarding NE 79th Street. Transit Miami fully supports this resolution:

 79th Street: Miami’s Worst Urban Street:

WHEREAS, the Florida Department of Transportation will begin
resurfacing 79TH Street beginning in August, 2014, and
 
WHEREAS, the FDOT Plan will do very little to improve safety for
pedestrians along this poorly design street, and
 
WHEREAS, 79TH Street from Biscayne Bay to I-95 has 3 lanes going west
to east and 1 lane going east to west, and
 
WHEREAS, little parking is available for the 79th Street small shop
owners aside from on-street spaces, and
 
WHEREAS, the eastbound lanes have a design speed of 45 MPH through
the heart of the city, and
 
WHEREAS, 79TH street is the focal point of the Upper Eastside
community, and
 
WHEREAS, the 79th Street merchants have joined with MiMo Boulevard
Association for support of their Urban Streets, and
 
WHEREAS, Both 79th Street and MiMo Boulevard merchants are
promoting the revitalization efforts taking place on those streets, and
 
WHEREAS, 79th Street and MiMo Boulevard are the two vital
commercial roadways that affect the economic redevelopment of the
Upper East Side, 
 
THEREFORE, THE MIMO BISCAYNE ASSOCIATION AND THE 79TH STREET
BUSINESS ASSOCIATION CALL FOR THE FOLLOWING CHANGES AND
ADDITIONS TO THE PROPOSED FDOT ROADWAY PLAN:
 
1. CHANGE THE 3/1 EAST/WEST LANES ON 79TH TO 2/2 LANES
GOING EAST AND WEST.
2. CREATE AN 8’ PARKING LANES ON BOTH SIDEs OF 79TH STREET (Off-SET PARKING)
3. PROVIDE MINIMUM SAFETY STANDARDS BY PLACING
CROSSWALKS AT EACH INTERSECTIONS OF 79TH STREET AS WELL
AS MID-WAY BETWEEN THE INTERSECTIONS AT 7TH AND 10TH
AVENUES
4. REDUCE THE DESIGN SPEED OF 79TH Street to 30 mph.

 

The FDOT will be presenting their plans to North Palm Grove Neighborhood Association on Wednesday March 27 at 7:00 PM at Legion Park.  This meeting is open to the public.  Whether you live in the area or not, please consider attending this meeting.  It’s important that Miamians take a stand against FDOT.  Miami’s worst street can very easily become one of Miami’s best signature streets.  FDOT will make every excuse in the book why they cannot make the improvements that are being recommended.  It all boils down to BS excuses.  If we can put a man on the moon, we can figure out a way to make our streets business and pedestrian friendly. Lack of will and vision from FDOT prevents any of this from happening.

Feel free to send an email to District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and let him know that FDOT’s current plan for 79th Street is not acceptable to anyone but FDOT.

 
Tactical Urbanism- I have taken it upon myself to calm my street. The orange traffic cones have resulted in a noticeable reduction of speed on my street.

Tactical Urbanism-Traffic calming on NE 76 Street using orange cones.

Last week I decided to place two orange traffic cones on my street in an attempt to calm traffic on NE 76 Street.  For several years my neighbors, many of whom have small children, have pleaded with the County and City to do something about the speeding cars on NE 76th Street in Belle Meade.  The traffic cones have worked remarkably well and my immediate neighbors seem to agree that cars have been moving noticeably slower since the traffic cones went up.

The speed limit in Belle Meade should be reduced to 20mph from 30mph.

The speed limit in Belle Meade should be reduced to 20mph from 30mph.

Sadly, there are too many haters in this world and one of my neighbors  happens to be a hater. This afternoon an anonymous neighbor foiled my Belle Meade complete streets conspiracy.  A few minutes ago a police officer knocked on my door and asked me to remove the traffic cones.  He was extremely polite, cordial and even sympathetic to my traffic calming strategy. The cones have been removed and my neighbors and I are back to square one: my street has become a residential racetrack once again.

The NE 76 Street 1/4 racetrack after a neighbor called to complain about the traffic cones. Don't hate, appreciate.

The NE 76 Street 1/4 mile racetrack after a neighbor called to complain about the traffic cones. Don’t hate, appreciate.

The City has tried enforcement; it has not worked.  The City erected electronic signs asking motorists to slow down; it has not worked. This should come as a surprise to no one but the City and County. As long 76th Street is designed to encourage speeding, drivers will continue to accelerate down my residential street at 45+mph an hour. The only thing that will discourage drivers from speeding is if the road is designed to do so. Enforcement, electronic signs, educational campaigns, none of these strategies will work until the street is properly designed to discourage speeding.

My neighbors have also requested from the County  that they erect stop signs at the NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection in and attempt to slow down drivers. Last month the County conducted a traffic study and results of the study showed that there isn’t enough traffic to merit a 4-way stop sign at this intersection.

Last week I meet with County officials and they told me that the only traffic calming option available for this street is to build a $100,000 traffic circle.  I asked about installing a speed table and was told that my block was not long enough to accommodate a speed table.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

After my meeting with the County last week I spoke with my Transit Miami colleagues and our recommendation is a raised intersection *or raised crosswalks * at the NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection.  We believe this is the best option for Belle Meade and it would send a message to drivers that pedestrians are the priority in this residential neighborhood. It is also a much more economical solution. A raised intersections costs about $13,000 and a raised crosswalk costs about $4,000/crosswalk .We would also like to recommend that the speed limit be reduced to 20mph instead of the current 30mph speed limit. Belle Meade should strive to become Miami’s first Traffic-Calmed Neighborhood. People, not cars should be our first priority. I think a good argument can be made that if our streets are kid and people-friendly it would add value to our neighborhood by making it a much more desirable community to reside.

Can Belle Meade become Miami's first Traffic-Calmed Neighborhood?

Can Belle Meade become Miami’s first Traffic-Calmed Neighborhood?

 

Raised intersection

Raised intersection

 

 

Raised Crosswalk

Raised Crosswalks

 

*It should be noted that raised intersections and raised crosswalks were not discussed with County officials. 

 

TCNeighbourhoodsign_smaller

I live on wide collector residential street in a small neighborhood in the Upper East Side of Miami. Belle Meade is considered to be a “gated community” made up of about 450 homes. Many years ago the residents of Belle Meade decided to erect barricades and fencing along 6th Court in an attempt to curb crime. The barricading of the streets has resulted in only one ingress and egress for the community;  if you driving you can only access Belle Meade through NE 76th Street.

NE 77th Street barricade

NE 77th Street barricade

In other words, NE 72nd Terrace, 73rd, 74th, 75th, and 77th Streets are pedestrian access only. The effects of barricading these streets are felt throughout the community. NE 76th has become the collector road for the neighborhood and people just can’t resist speeding through this residential street. Last week one of my neighbors came barreling through at nearly 50 mph. (Silver Land Rover, you know who you are)

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 7.29.15 PM

My neighbors have complained about the situation for years, but no long-term fixes have been made. The City of Miami has tried enforcement and they have also erected temporary electric signs to warn motorists to drive carefully. Not surprisingly, neither of these two tactics have discouraged people from speeding. Last month the County Public Works Department conducted a traffic study and they found that there was not enough traffic to warrant a four way stop sign at NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection.

Since no long-term solution has been found yet, I have decided to take it upon myself to calm the traffic on my street with orange cones. You would be surprised at how effective these traffic cones are. The introduction of traffic cones has noticeably calmed traffic on my street.

Tactical Urbanism- I have taken it upon myself to calm my street. The orange traffic cones have resulted in a noticeable reduction of speed on my street.

Tactical Urbanism- I have taken it upon myself to calm my street. Placing orange traffic cones in the middle of the street has resulted in a noticeable reduction of speed on my street.

Yesterday my neighbors, whom live in Palm Grove, invited me to attend a meeting with several County officials to discuss speeding on their street. They also happen to live on NE 76th Street, but they reside on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard. The fact that Belle Meade has barricaded its streets also affects the traffic patterns on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard as well. Palm Grove residents have to deal with increased traffic and people speeding on what has become a residential collector street for them as well.

The County officials were really nice and they genuinely wanted to find a solution to my neighbors’ speeding problem on their street. I believe the County was receptive to installing a speed table on NE 76th Street in Palm Grove in order to calm traffic.

I invited the County officials to Belle Meade to see what could be done for my street. Although it was almost 6:30pm they were happy to accommodate me and agreed to check out my street. We walked along NE 76th Street and the County’s recommendation was to erect a $100,000 traffic circle at the intersection of NE 76th and NE 7th Court. I suggested a speed table, but was told that the block was too short to accommodate a speed table. No other alternatives were given to me and in all fairness this was really the first conversation I’ve had with the County regarding traffic calming on my street. My hope is that they are open to other traffic calming solutions.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

Speed table. Not to be confused with speed bumps.

After my meeting with the County yesterday evening, I spoke with my Transit Miami colleagues and our recommendation is a raised intersection or raised crosswalks at the NE 76th Street and NE 7th Court intersection. We believe this is the best option for Belle Meade and it would send a message to drivers that pedestrians are the priority in this residential neighborhood. It is also a much more economical solution. A raised intersections costs about $13,000 and a raised crosswalk costs about $4,000/crosswalk .We would also like to recommend that the speed limit be reduced to 20mph instead of the current 30mph speed limit.

Raised intersections calm traffic and prioritizes pedestrians.

Raised intersection

Raised Crosswalk

Raised Crosswalk

Hopefully the County will agree with our recommendations.

 

We received this  letter last week which was addressed to City Commissioner Sarnoff, County Commissioner Barreiro and FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego. You can also send an email to them by clicking here.

Dear Commissioners Sarnoff and Barreiro and Mr. Pego,

I am writing to you this morning regarding a matter that is very troubling to me and one that I hope you will consider as part of your agenda: PEDESTRIANS IN THE URBAN CORE. As you are well aware, Miami is trying to become an urban city where people live, work and play- like Chicago or New York. In so doing, it needs to be an urban center that is thoughtfully planned so people can walk safely any time of the day or night. We should be able to walk our dogs, go to the market, or take a stroll to dinner. When you live in an urban core, like Brickell, where my family lives, you cannot be expected to take your car out for every little errand or just to go a few blocks. However, being that walking in the Brickell area is so difficult and dangerous to navigate, I feel like I must do so-compounding the traffic problem and the pedestrian problem. I am sure you agree that we need to make our urban center a place where all can feel safe to walk the streets. However, this is not the case at this point in time. Since I moved to Brickell I have been dismayed at the lack of attention and care given to pedestrians by drivers, construction workers, and city planners. 

Walking from Brickell to Downtown. The other day I was walking to downtown from Brickell where we live. A group of us crossed the bridge, then were challenged to cross the street using two cross walks where cars dart at you around the curve where Brickell becomes Biscayne. We need better signals for pedestrians there. A cross walk is not enough; we need bright lights that signal when a pedestrian needs to cross (like is found in front of the FRESH MARKET in Coconut Grove on S Bayshore Drive). Even though we have the walk signal, cars still feel they can turn right on red without stopping. I have observed people run across that cross walk because cars were coming at them so quickly. Then as you continue to walk on 2nd ave and (a) there is no side walk because of construction of the Whole Foods-we actually had to walk on the street between downtown distributor and SE 2nd Street, and (b) there is no cross walk at the intersection of 2nd ave and SE 2nd Street!!! You literally run for it so you don’t get hit by a car. Enough is enough! This is one example of many. I invite you to walk along Brickell Ave and see how challenging it is to walk in a straight line (like you do in NY or Chicago) and feel safe, without having to navigate barricades and other obstacles in what is really an obstacle course.Transitmiami.com has done a wonderful job of highlighting what they called the Brickell “deathwalk” : http://www.transitmiami.com/category/places/miami/brickel    

With the taxes we pay to live in the Brickell area, we must have the pedestrian walkways we deserve and have paid for-ones that you would want your grandmother or children to walk down. We need representatives like you to stand up for us and think creatively about ways we can emulate cities like Chicago, where I previously lived and always felt safe as a pedestrian. As the Brickell area becomes more populated with CitiCenter and other developments, this will become more and more of a   moral imperative.  People are getting hurt and people’s lives are at stake here. As citizens and taxpayers, we should be able to walk the streets-elderly, children, groups, etc- without fear of tripping on obstacles or being hit by a car. This is a very serious matter or moral proportions that deserves your immediate attention.I will be forwarding this email to Felipe Azenha of Transit Miami.com and will also bring up the issue at the board meeting of Icon Brickell.I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing about the ways you can alleviate this dangerous problem.

Sincerely,

Carlos Abril

 

 

15th crash in 30 months in the MiMo Historic District.  Biscayne and NE 75 St.

15th crash in 30 months in the MiMo Historic District. Biscayne and NE 75 St.

Ever since I moved to the Upper Eastside I have been documenting crashes along Biscayne Boulevard in the MiMo Historic District.  Most of the crashes have resulted with vehicles being projected on to our sidewalks. It is only a matter of time before someone is killed along Biscayne Boulevard.

The MiMo Biscayne Association has meet with the FDOT on numerous occasions and has asked them to take the appropriate measure to reduce the design speed of the Biscayne Boulevard. There is no good reason why the FDOT should encourage drivers to move at speeds in excess of 45 mph, as this is what this road is currently designed to do. If the FDOT were truly concerned about safety, they would design a road that discourages speeding. Moving cars as quickly as possible is the FDOT’s mantra, not the safety of people.

How many more crashes and people need to be injured or must die before someone from government acts on behalf of their citizens? Since this is an FDOT road neither of our elected officials from the County or City have any power of jurisdiction over this road. This is just a total disgrace.  On what planet is a road like this good for pedestrians and businesses?

Disgusted?   Please send the FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego, City Commissioner Mark Sarnoff and County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson an email by clicking here.

Below are all of the crashes I have documented.

Feb 2011

Feb 2011

 

Feb 2011

Feb 2011

March 2011

March 2011

June 2011

June 2011

June 2011

June 2011

Aug 2011

Aug 2011

June 2012

June 2012

Aug 2012

Aug 2012

 

Aug 2012

Aug 2012

 

Aug 2010

Aug 2010

Aug 2012
Aug 2012

Aug 2012

Aug 2012

 

 
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New crosswalks on NW 2nd Avenue and 25th in Wynwood.

 

Everyone seems to be talking about the new crosswalks in Wynwood which Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez just designed at the intersection of NW 2nd Avenue and 25th Street. These crosswalks are all the rage these days. They are the first of 15 crosswalks that will be painted through out Wynwood by Carlos.

Don’t get me wrong, the crosswalks look great and I fully support Carlos’s initiative, but these new crosswalks will do very little, if anything, to make the streets of Wywood any safer for pedestrians.

About a year ago, I wrote an article for Miami Urbanist about the lack of crosswalks on NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood:

The County Public Works Department just completed a resurfacing project on NW 2nd Avenue from NW 20th Street to NW 36th Street. Sadly pedestrians only have 4 intersections where they can safely cross NW 2ndAvenue for these 16 blocks. The crosswalks are located at NW 20th Street, NW 29th Street, NW 31st Street and NW 36th Street.”

A couple of months ago I wrote a follow-up post to my first article about NW 2nd Avenue for Transit Miami. In the past year County Public Works and Waste Management Department has added 4 crosswalks at the intersection of NW 2nd Ave and 25th Street.  They have also added sharrows to this street. Sharrows have now officially become the County’s default bicycle treatment so that they can claim they are doing something for cyclists, even if it means encouraging cyclists to ride on dangerous roads with design speeds in excess of 35 mph. So, basically the County has done next to nothing in the past year except drag their feet.

Please send an email to Mayor Gimenez and County Public Works and Waste Management Department Director Kathleen Woods-Richardson by clicking here.  Ask them what their excuse is for not putting crosswalks at every intersection along NW 2nd Avenue.

In addition to installing more crosswalks, the county should also consider raised crosswalks as well as narrowing the travel lanes to calm traffic. Currently NW 2nd Avenue is designed to encourage speeding. There are little, if any, redeeming qualities about this road.  The County should prioritize pedestrian safety over moving vehicles as quickly as possible on NW 2nd Avenue. The whole situation is just awful and quite embarrassing just like this video. The County is still living in the 1970’s…

 

As has been reported in multiple local news sources, including The Miami Herald and Huffington Post, travel lanes on the Bear Cut Bridge are being closed.

The Bear Cut Bridge connects the island Village of Key Biscayne to the Miami mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway.

A graphic of the Bear Cut Bridge by Miami Herald staff artist Marco Ruiz. Source: Miami Herald

A graphic of the Bear Cut Bridge by Miami Herald staff artist Marco Ruiz. Source: Miami Herald

The following public message just came to TransitMiami from Jimmy Martincak, the Road & Bridge Maintenance Superintendent for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Public Works & Waste Management:

Good Afternoon,

Emergency lane restrictions have been implemented on the Bear Cut Bridge along the Rickenbacker Causeway. The Public Works and Waste Management Department is routing vehicular traffic in a counter flow manner on two lanes of the current eastbound portion of the bridge (toward Key Biscayne).

One lane will be used for eastbound vehicular traffic and the other will be used for westbound vehicular traffic (leaving Key Biscayne). This will reduce traffic flow to one vehicular lane in each direction over the Bear Cut Bridge.

Eastbound bicyclists in the bike lane are being directed onto the off road path. Westbound bicyclists in the westbound bike lane are unaffected [emphasis added].

Should you have any questions or concerns, kindly contact our office.

Thank You, Jimmy

James Martincak, Road & Bridge Maintenance Superintendent

Miami-Dade County - Public Works And Waste Management

4299 Rickenbacker Causeway,  Key Biscayne,  Florida  - 33149

305-361-2833 Phone  305-361-5338 Fax   305-979-3470 Cellular

Be sure to contact Mr. Martincak with your thoughts on the matter.

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Will 2012 be regarded as the year Critical Mass penetrated Miami’s mainstream culture?

Miami Critical Mass December 2012 — riders convene at Government Center transit station.

There’s no denying it, ladies and gentlemen: The monthly assemblage of what is now consistently 1000-2000 cyclists for Miami’s Critical Mass has hit, or is at least beginning to hit, the mainstream.

Yes, of course, we have the brouhaha generated by certain celebrity athletes’ participation at recent rides. If you’ve missed it, here’s just one tiny sample of the coverage of recent Critical Mass appearances by the likes of basketball idols Dwayne Wade and Lebron James.

As with all cities, but with Miami in particular, the presence of high-profile figures makes things buzz just a bit more loudly and brightly. Their presence has undeniably elevated the event’s public profile in a positive way. Thank you, basketball superheros!

As a quick aside, though, in the opinion of this humble author, if we wish to see these guys at future rides — which would be great for the Miami biking community — we should probably not hound them with fanatical human-worshiping behavior. Let them embrace the ride in its raw, unadulterated-by-celebrity-fixation glory like any other Miamian.

Twenty-twelve was critical for Critical Mass in ways that go beyond the mere presence of famous athletes, though. Most importantly, the past year saw a virtually exponential increase in ridership.

Last week’s route took riders through downtown Coral Gables’ main thoroughfare: historic Miracle Mile, where classy (and want-to-be classy) Gables’ folk were elated to encounter the reclamation of the streets by 1000-1500 cyclists.

I don’t have any solid data (does anyone?), but there’s a distinct impression that the number of riders averaged around 500 in 2011 while averaging around 1000 in 2012 (plus or minus a few hundred, depending on the month, weather, and maybe even the alignment of the planets — who knows!?)

What’s important to understand, though, is that Critical Mass reached a certain threshold in 2012. Throughout the course of the past year, word has spread farther and wider than ever before on the wonders and excitement of this cherished celebration of cycling and community.

It’s penetrated beyond the sub-cultural circles of fixie-riding hipsters; latex-wearing roadies; cruiser-riding beach bums; blinged-out, low-riding gangsters; your grandma and grandpa; and all other bicycle geek squads of various sorts (including nerdy blog writers).

Indeed, it’s now even reached the radars of Miami’s basketball legends-in-the-making.

Miami Basket-Ballers (left to right): LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Dwayne Wade. Even Miami’s athlete elite enjoy Miami’s Critical Mass.
Photo Credit: Craig Chester. Source: StreetsBlog.org

The point, however, is that Critical Mass brought D-Wade and King James; they didn’t bring Critical Mass.

Dare I also go so far as to posit that in 2012 Critical Mass even served diplomatic purposes by further consolidating bilateral relations between the United States and at least one of its European allies?

We all remember the epic April 2012 Go Dutch! Orange Bike-In Festival!, celebrating Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) and sponsored by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

The April 2012 Go Dutch! Orange Bike-In Festival was definitely a highlight of the past year. It also certainly added a heightened degree of validity and credibility to the growing stature of Miami Critical Mass as a trans-cultural community event. Hell, it was partially sponsored by Queen Beatrix and Dutch tax-payers. It doesn’t get more legit than that!

As with all Miami Critical Mass rides, this righteous event was unofficially organized by the The Miami Bike Scene (at least to the extent that such an inherently organic and self-regulating event can even be ‘organized’ at all).

There are also other qualities marking the Critical Mass rides of 2012 from all previous years. In the preceding years, and even in early 2012, Critical Massers would convene directly beneath the Metrorail and Metromover tracks at the Government Center transit station, where the administrative offices of Miami-Dade County are located.

Now, however, the rendezvous point has reached, well, a critical mass. We now regularly occupy not only the ground floor of Government Center station, but also nearly all of NW 1st Street from NW 1st to 2nd Avenues, with pockets of riders filling other adjacent areas as well. The meeting spot has now become the meeting block.

Critical Mass riders no longer fit in the limited public space beneath Government Center . . . we’ve taken over nearly the entire street block.

The city’s public safety crews are now much more sympathetic and cooperative with the event too. I personally remember my earliest masses when I would hear rumors floating through the crowds that cops were vigilantly ‘giving citations’ and that riders needed to ‘watch out for cops’.

Such hearsay, whether legitimate or not, cast a sort of perceived antagonism between cops and mass cyclists. These days, though, I don’t hear any of that nonsense, and I’m glad for it too! In fact, the only interaction I witnessed between the cyclists and cops at this past weekend’s ride was quite heartening: patrol cars waited patiently for 10-15 minutes for the bulk of the mass to get through.

The officer in this City of Miami  police car recognizes that Critical Mass is now a regular monthly phenomenon that should be respected and celebrated. S/he waited just like all the other cars . . . probably wishing that s/he could join us!

Also, as was recently reported on an extremely prestigious, high-profile news source, our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man was seen protecting Critical Mass riders as they made their way through the city.

With public defenders like Spidey (or at least a cool firefighter dude dressed-up like him) climbing street-lamps to demonstrate their good-will toward cyclists, one finds it difficult to deny that Critical Mass has indeed made it to the big leagues of Miami’s collective consciousness.

Critical Mass has been ending at The Filling Station, among Miami’s best dive bars, for the past several months. Even the final intersection we’ve been stopping at is more mainstream, bringing the cyclist traffic of the mass into the heart of downtown automobile traffic — a very appropriate ending, if you ask me.

 

These days, Critical Mass ends at the intersection of SE 2nd Street and SE 1st Avenue, at a great Miami dive bar, The Filling Station.

So, our dearly beloved readers, we ask you to give us your reflections on the past year of Critical Mass . . .

Will you remember 2012 as the year Miami’s Critical Mass went mainstream?

Whatever the case, while 2012 was unquestionably a great year for Miami Critical Mass, I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get better in 2013.

Happy New Year, Miami!

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Dear City of Coral Gables,

I love you. You truly are the City Beautiful, a title and reputation well deserved and well maintained. (Well, at least when you’re not knocking out your own teeth by forfeiting precious building space for a parking lot).

Despite my deep affection for you, you lovely gem of a greater Miami municipality, you disappointed me today.

I love riding along your M-Path curves, but I will not tolerate one of your very own Public Works Department employees coming between us like this.

On my bicycle sprint along the M-Path, the last thing I expect or want to encounter is a City vehicle blocking the multi-use (bicycle/pedestrian/etc.) path.

If this is going to work out, you’ll have to promise that you’ll never again allow one of your city employees to violate our relationship. I better not encounter a motor vehicle on the M-Path ever again, especially not one bearing your city seal and colors.

I strongly doubt you’d allow one of these guys to block one of your motor vehicle lanes. Who do you think you are allowing them to block a multi-use path?!

Sincerely,

Broken-Hearted Biker

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