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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You’re Invited to MIAMIBEACH’s Bicycle Summits

Atlantic Greenway Network Master Plan Update

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

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

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

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With all the hype about how many ‘units’ have sold and how much ‘inventory’ is left in downtown, it’s hard to overlook how these ‘dense’ developments are nothing more than vertical suburbs. Why walk around the city when you can live in a “lushly landscaped gated waterfront community”? Gag.  The PR machine is in full swing touting recent condo sales as part of the revitalization of downtown…but you only have to look to the nearest bus shelter (like the one below) to see the reality.

 

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Nice, MacArthur . . . real classic . . .

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Are the mega-condos of Brickell the key to urban vitality and innovation or are they just cul-de-sacs in the sky? In a keynote speech during the 20th Congress for New Urbanism in West Palm Beach, author Richard Florida challenged the idea that the “rush to density” will unlock and release the potential of our cities.

“This rush to density, this idea that density creates economic growth,” is wrong, Florida said. “It’s the creation of real, walkable urban environments that stir the human spirit. Skyscraper communities are vertical suburbs, where it is lonely at the top. The kind of density we want is a ‘Jane Jacobs density.’”

Vertical cul-de-sacs? Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

In her influential book, Death and Life of American Cities (1961), Jacobs objected to neighborhoods that were made up exclusively of high-rises and instead preferred neighborhoods with buildings that are a mix of different building ages and types - Greenwich Village in New York City, for example. When you consider cities around the world, it is in those types of neighborhoods where you will often find the arts districts, the best music venues, the creatives, the authentic, the local businesses, the innovators, the vitality - and a sense of place and community.

I live in Brickell, in a rented condo on the 23rd story of building built in 2007. It soars for ten more stories above me and sits atop an 8-level parking pedestal where every car has a happy home. It’s surrounded by other residential towers of similar stature. Now, I enjoy Brickell primarily because I can walk for nearly all of my basic human needs - groceries, a barber, a slice of pizza etc. It’s also well-served by MetroRail and Metro Mover, both accessible from my doorstep. It’s a rare Miami neighborhood in that regard. But increasingly, I find myself questioning if Brickell is a “walkable environment that stirs the human spirit” or merely just a semi-walkable streetscape in the shadows of impersonal towers functioning as suburbs in the sky.

No mega-towers needed - "Jane Jacobs" density in Greenwich Village is plenty vibrant.

In many ways, the mega-condos of Brickell share several of the undesirable characteristics of a suburban gated community - despite being the densest neighborhood south of NYC along the east coast. It’s largely impossible to know more than few people in a 50-story building, if you know any at all. The “inclusion” of a parking space (which can drive up the cost of a unit anywhere from 15-30% according to parking expert Jeffrey Tumlin) acts as an incentive to drive, therefore damaging the pedestrian realm. The buildings and their residents, by nature, are segregated by income. The anonymity does not encourage civic engagement - in the recent city commission elections, the Brickell zip codes recorded an 8% turn-out.

That means 92% did not vote.

Meaningful public space in Brickell is severely lacking. With no central plaza, no signature park, no outdoor public room, no farmers market or gathering place, most of the “public” realm is centered around commercial “third places” (Starbucks) or reduced to the street and sidewalks. The latter is problematic because Brickell’s sidewalks are terribly neglected and the streets full of maniacal drivers. (Sometimes you’ll even see a maniacal driver on the sidewalk).

Portions of Brickell, especially Brickell Avenue, are dark and full of uninviting blank walls and underpasses. The “pedestrian shed” in Brickell is actually quite small. Aside from disjointed commercial sections of South Miami Avenue, a walk around Brickell is a particularly unrewarding experience. (Crumbling sidewalks, perpetual construction with worker disregard to pedestrians, dark streets, curb cuts galore, bullying motorists, busy arterials with scant crosswalks, the desolation of vacated office towers after business hours)

Brickell Green Space is a project to lobby for a new park in the neighborhood. (Courtesy of BrickellGreenSpace.com)

The businesses attracted to Brickell are beginning to look a lot like those implanted in suburban shopping malls - national franchises like Blue Martini, Fado, P.F. Chang’s - which would be acceptable if there were actually some other businesses opening besides restaurants. The 800-lb gorilla in the room no one seems to be talking about is the future Brickell CitiCentre, a 4,600,000 square foot retail, hotel and condo behemoth and the largest private construction project in the United States at present.

For better or worse, this project will fundamentally transform the neighborhood, if not the entire city. On one hand, it will mitigate the retail deficit that exists in Miami’s urban core. On the other, we can expect plenty of national franchises, thousands of parking spaces and plenty more traffic on the dangerous and uninviting “urban arterials” of SW 8th and SW 7th streets. Ultimately, it may be a series of towers that function more like a suburban shopping mall rather than a seamlessly integrated edifice into the urban fabric with an active pedestrian realm.

Rendering of the Brickell CitiCentre. Courtesy of BrickellInfo.com

It’s obvious that areas like Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District are the emerging centers of Miami’s arts and creative community. Brickell is beginning to seem like a stark contrast to those neighborhoods; identified as a weekend playground for suburbanites, wealthy South Americans on vacation to their second homes and disengaged young professionals. As the housing stock continues to increase in those aforementioned neighborhoods, the divide will become ever more apparent.

The longer term prospects for the Brickell megatowers are arguably quite bleak, as flimsy homeowners associations will face massive maintenance costs and liabilities in an era of expensive energy in their giant-scaled buildings - an increasingly urgent situation that smaller, human-scaled buildings will have an easier time confronting. When these towers require broad renovations, the limitations of their enormity will truly be exposed.

The key to long-term vitality in a neighborhood is whether it’s inhabitants are truly fulfilled with their surroundings. 

To quote Richard Florida, “The quality of a place itself is the single most important factor in people’s fulfillment. There are four parts to this: the degree to which a community: values its history; is walkable and mixed-use; values arts, both street art and high art; and integrates the built and natural environment.”

Aside from Brickell’s walkability, it seems to be failing on the other fronts Florida mentions. Valuing history? Entitled residents are using an ancient burial ground as a toilet for their dogs. Street art and high art? There are no art galleries in Brickell and the only “street art” is the incessant sidewalk spray paint indiscriminately spewed by utility and construction companies. Integrates the built and natural environment? Another fail - all that exists in Brickell is the built environment. (The Miami Riverwalk project would be nice if completed in my lifetime)

There are some improvements on the way - Triangle Park, if ever completed, will be a welcomed, albeit small, neighborhood plaza. There are plans to overhaul South Miami Avenue and 1st St to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly in the coming years. However, it’s relatively unlikely these projects will significantly change the underlying social construct of a skyscraper-burdened place.

I increasingly find myself leaving Brickell on my bicycle in search of more authentic urban experiences found elsewhere in the city. Actually, I need to leave Brickell just to go to a bookstore or bicycle shop….

….usually found in “Jane Jacobs” density.

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The City of Miami is talking parks, and they want your input.

Come out Tuesday, May 1, 2012, to José Martí Park (along the Miami River, in the heart of Miami) — time and location information below.

Ensure that your voice is heard as the future of our city’s park system is considered. Your input will help inform the park component of the City of Miami’s next Comprehensive Plan.

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At yesterday’s meeting of the Miami-Dade Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Jeff Cohen of Miami-Dade Public Works presented a series of short-term safety proposals for the Rickenbacker Causeway that could be implemented over the next few months. With a sense of urgency in the air stemming from the tragic death of cyclist Aaron Cohen earlier in February, concerned citizens and BPAC members voiced their opinions in a spirited discussion lasting nearly two hours.

The Miami-Dade Public Works short-term safety proposals for the Rickenbacker Causeway included:

  • A re-striped, buffered bicycle lane, separated from traffic lanes by a two-foot painted buffer zone. Cohen also suggested the application of ceramic “buttons” planted into the bicycle lane striping, which are essentially small raised discs that provide an audible and physical warning to motorists drifting into the bicycle lane. A “rumble strip” could also be applied instead of the buttons, but could take longer to install.
  • A series of lowered speed limits from the mainland toll plazas to the village of Key Biscayne. These limits range from 45mph to 30mph depending on the specefic portion of the roadway
  • Additional electronic speed reduction signs for eastbound traffic.

Example of a buffered bike lane. Portions of the Rickenbacker Causeway could see this soon, with a "rumble strip" near the vehicle lane to alert drifting motorists.

For longer term solutions, Cohen presented a comprehensive 5-year plan for the Causeway during January’s BPAC meeting, which includes a more extensive overhaul of lane and toll plaza configurations.

Miami-Dade County Police began increased coverage on the Rickenbacker Causeway this week, with the allocation of officers for additional radar and DUI enforcement.

But BPAC member Lee Marks thought the proposals did not fundamentally address why exactly the Rickenbaker Causeway continues to be so dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. “The Rickenbacker was originally designed as a highway,” said Marks. “It is no longer a highway - the paradigm has shifted. It is now used as a recreational paradise.” But, as Marks noted, the roadway design is still one of a highway that encourages speeding.

After a lengthy discussion including BPAC members, Miami-Dade Police and the general public (which included Key Biscayne motorists in support of lower speeds), the Committee formally suggested and endorsed a series of improvements that were not necessarily aligned with the suggestions from Miami-Dade County Public Works.

The BPAC resolutions included:

  • A uniform speed limit of 35 MPH from the mainland toll plazas to to the Village of Key Biscayne (essentially the entire lengh of the causeway)
  • Re-striping the shoulder/bicycle lane to include a two-foot buffer zone. Instead of the ceramic “button” style discs - which could pose a hazard to cyclists - the BPAC recommended the audible “rumble strip” in the pavement separating the bicycle lane from traffic.
  • A request to reduce existing vehicle travel lane widths from 11 to 10 feet, which will require applying for a variance to current Federal standards.
  • Additional electronic speed notification signs for eastbound traffic.

Cohen said that national statistics show that these signs are effective in reducing vehicle speeds.

These recommendations only represent changes to the roadway that could begin in the immediate future. For the longer-term, there was virtually unanimous sentiment from BPAC members and the general public that physical separation from traffic is essential to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Said Cohen,”We’re not saying no to anything for the long term. We’re just trying to see what we can do quickly for now.”

More road safety discussions are on the immediate horizion, including today’s Bicycle Safety Summit organized by Miami-Dade County District 7 Comissioner Xavier Suarez and and a public forum called “Safe Streets Miami“, which is in the planning stages. We at Transit Miami urge the County to act quickly to implement a physical separation of bicycle facilities in those locations where none currently exists. We are studying the current five year plan and will provide a more in depth critique in the coming days.

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“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle, Quoted at the funeral of Aaron Cohen by his grand-father Ron Esserman

I have only been a county commissioner for about eight months, but already have a deep scar in my heart from a tragedy that seems, in retrospect, so avoidable.

Aaron Cohen has been wrenched from our lives.  And the sense of loss is overwhelming, despite the wisdom imparted by rabbis and family members.  Because the tragedy happened in my district and because my daughter Annie practices medicine with Jim Esserman (Aaron’s first cousin), the loss hits home in a particularly poignant way.

Was the tragedy avoidable?  I don’t rightly know, but I know we didn’t try hard enough to avoid it.  We know the Rickenbacker Causeway is a narrow, dangerous, treacherous, alluring, spectacularly located and majestic roadway, rising as it does from the shallows abutting the mainland to bring us all (joggers, bikers, motorists) closer to heaven and then quickly deposit us in an island that is mostly unspoiled – as befits a critical wildlife refuge of some 400 acres.

In between the moments of sorrow, my Annie and I discussed the physics of the problem that led to this tragedy or, rather, the unavoidable elements of the circumstance that make this awful accident likely to happen again in the future.

I refer to the simple variable that physicists call “momentum.”  Simply put, a 4,000-pound vehicle, travelling at 45-50 mph, possesses about 100 times the momentum of a biker/bicycle whose combined weight is 150 pounds and who is struggling up the bridge at 12-15 mph.  A collision between two objects, one of which has 100 times the momentum of the other, means that the smaller object will suffer, in displacement and consequent damage, 100 times more than the bigger object.

In the short term, there is only one variable we can change in the above equation – and that is the speed limit for cars.  I consider that reform a no-brainer that should be instituted without delay.  Of course, a reduction in the speed limit needs to be accompanied by traffic management devices (including electronic surveillance) to monitor law-breakers.

The other possible solution is separation.  I think, in that context, that we all agree that a simple painted strip (as exists now) is not enough.  We will have to consider either rubber cones or well-lit corrugated surfaces which alert and deter the motorist from trespassing on the bike lanes.

Beyond the physics of the problem, beyond the traffic engineering and enforcement, there is the human dimension.  And that brings me back to Aaron, whose name technically means, “tower of strength,” but was further interpreted by the rabbi as referring to someone who loves life and who runs for life.  Aaron Cohen loved to run more than we can imagine.  He loved scuba diving and every kind of water sport; he loved ceramic arts and cycling, and – most of all – he loved his wife and two children.

As described by family and friends, he was special because he found something special to love in everyone he met, regardless of their station in life.  He took time, on the way to the airport, to buy M&M’s so that he could pass them out to the flight attendants.

He was, his sister Sabrina told us, like Elijah, the unforeseen guest for whom we keep the door permanently open, with a cup of wine ready, just in case the prophet visits us.

Perhaps the most appropriate analogy was offered by another rabbi who explained that the whole world is like a narrow bridge.  We must do our best to co-exist in the narrow space. 

We must, as another relative said in her eulogy, think “WWAD.”  What Would Aaron Do?

For myself, I will strive to reduce the chances that such a tragedy will happen again on the Rickenbacker Causeway - which just happens to be where I myself jog.

I will do it because it’s my obligation as an elected official and also because of Aaron – in his memory.

I never met him, but I already miss him as if he had been my best friend.

Commissioner Xavier Suarez represents District 7 in Miami-Dade County.  He represents numerous municipalities including the City of Miami, the Village of Key Biscayne, the City of Coral Gables, the City of South Miami, the Village of Pinecrest, as well as areas of unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

Imagine walking out of the Metromover station at Biscayne and East Flagler Street and stepping out onto a linear park that runs under the elevated tracks, and continues north between the travel lanes of Biscayne Boulevard. Parking lots replaced with park space where people are sitting, having coffee, or even doing their morning yoga routine.

Welcome to Bayfront Parkway! - the latest Tactical Urbanist intervention brought to you by The Street Plans Collaborative, in partnership with C3TS.

Great cities have great parks. What is left of our great downtown waterfront park (after taking out the excessive number of buildings cluttering the landscape -read Museums, Bayside….etc) is underutilized by local residents; separated from area residents and businesses by FDOT’s 8 lane highway  design for Biscayne Boulevard. What should be an easy five minute walk for folks living across the street is distorted by excessively wide travel lanes, speeding motorists, and a few crosswalks to get to the park. What Biscayne Boulevard needs is a road diet that reallocates car space, both in the form of travel lanes converted to on-street parking  and parking lots converted to park space. This will not only provide a natural expansion of Bayfront Park - at a time of shrinking park budgets and ever growing needs for park space, it will also help traffic calm the street and bridge the distance between the park and the growing population of residents and businesses along Biscayne from I395 to SE 1 Street.

For five days Miamians will be able to get to experience what this space would be like if it were permanently converted into a park. From Tuesday February 29 to Sunday March 4, we will take over the parking lot between Flagler and NE 1 Street, and convert it into a grass covered park with moveable seating, food trucks, exercise equipment and more. There will be street  performances throughout the five days, from spoken word to jazz shows, sponsored by Miami-Dade College. Our goal is simple - to activate this space as much as possible with the everyday activities of a typical park.

Please join us for your lunch hour, or stop by after work. We want to show you how great it will be  - Bayfront Parkway!

Visit the project website at: http://bayfrontparkway.com/index.php for more information.

 

We will be meeting at 8:30am at the Bayfront Park Fountain on Biscayne Blvd & Flagler Street in downtown Miami. Pedals up 8:45am. We will be riding as a group in honor of fellow cyclist Aaron Cohen who was struck and killed by a hit & run driver. The group will ride towards Key Biscayne via Brickell Avenue and up the William Powell Bridge were Aaron was struck. Between 9am-10am the police will have the south side of the Rickenbacker Causeway closed to motor vehicles. Please spread the word to the cycling and running community. It’s unfortunate we have to come together due to a tragic event.

 

This article was first posted two years ago (Febuary 2, 2010) after Christophe Le Canne was killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Since then not a single one of our recommendations has been implemented.  How many more lives must we lose on the Rickebacker Causeway before the County Public Works Department does something to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians? This is not rocket science. An unprotected bike lane adjacent to a highway with cars speeding in excess of 65mph is simply NOT a good idea.

 

The Rickenbacker Causeway is similar to Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive; everyday thousands of people descend upon our beautiful causeway for recreational purposes. This is particularly evident on Saturday and Sunday mornings when runners, walkers, rollerbladers, parents with strollers and bicyclists come in droves to exercise. The Rickenbacker Causeway recently completed a major resurfacing project.  Unfortunately, this resurfacing project only really considered the needs of motorists.

The Rickenbacker Causeway/Key Biscayne already has several parks/attractions. These attractions include:

  • Miami Seaquarium
  • Crandon Park/Tennis Center
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
  • Mast Academy

In addition, the Miami Marine Stadium is slated to be renovated and Virginia Key will be converted into a major urban park, which will also include several miles of mountain bike trails. We have an exhaustive inventory of attractions/parks in close proximity that requires safe connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Pedestrians (runners, walkers, rollerbladers, and parents with strollers) have been relegated to using a multiuse path that has many dangerous intersections.  In addition, this multiuse path is often shared with bicyclists that do not feel comfortable riding in the bicycle lane. The bicyclists’ discomfort is justifiable; the bicycle lane is placed adjacent to the roadway without adequate protection from speeding cars.

Crosswalks on the Rickenbacker Causeway are poorly marked. If and when crosswalks do exist, they are dangerous to cross. Crossing a 6 lane highway is pretty tough to do if you are healthy person. Imagine if you are a parent with children, disabled or an elderly person trying to cross the Rickenbacker Causeway.  You will need Lady Luck on your side.

Most would agree that something needs to be done to improve the safety for all users, including motorists, which often travel at high speeds.

There will be no cheap or easy fix for the Rickenbacker Causeway. Short term safety enhancements need to be made urgently, but at the same time we need to have a long term goal for the Rickenbacker Causeway.  Below you will find the short and long term goals that Transit Miami will be advocating for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway

  • Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit
  • Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
  • Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
  • Better signage
  • Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway

A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:

  • Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
  • Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
  • Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
  • Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.(see below: off-setting crosswalks)
  • A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
  • Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
  • Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Our County Public Works Department has a real opportunity to show their residents that they value safe recreation for all users. It should begin with the most popular destination for pedestrians and bicyclists in South Florida.

If you believe that the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be improved please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email and ask for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway for all users. (ecalas@miamidade.gov)

Peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows

Crosswalk is off-set in the median so pedestrians will be oriented toward oncoming traffic. Source: Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design Manual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s still a pig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

A friend of Transit Miami passed this gem of a quote on to us by FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego. This is what he had to say earlier today at the MPO meeting (Metropolitan Planning Organization).

“Just as you wouldn’t go to a supermarket for brain surgery, you’ve got to trust that the engineers know what they are doing”

-With regard to the value of installing the flashing crosswalks instead of implementing real traffic calming measures in the MiMo District on Biscayne Boulevard.

You can personally send your reply via email to Mr. Pego: gus.pego@dot.state.fl.us

Please watch the below interview with an actual FDOT engineer.

 

 

This picture was taken this morning on South Miami Avenue and 11th Street in Brickell - the same intersection I reported on previously on November 23rd.

I did not personally witness the crash, but given the significant damage to the car and the way the debris was scattered, it’s safe to assume a high rate of speed was a factor.

Brickell’s new ‘Triangle Park’ is under construction just to the right of the picture. Let’s add some basic traffic calming measures around the park so we can all enjoy it without having to dodge flying shards of plastic, glass and metal on our way there.