Currently viewing the category: "Coral Gables"

Lets face it: Coral Gables is pretty amazing. It sits at the nexus of the county - has amazing architecture, a pedestrian friendly and bustling downtown, and a lush tree canopy that is the envy of the county. It is compact and could be easily accessible by bike for anyone living within a mile of its boundaries. Unfortunately, the City Beautiful doesn’t have a great on-street bicycle network, which makes it difficult to get more people out of their cars and on their bikes enjoying the city. Today the Coral Gables City Commission will consider a resolution to approve a $3.5 million plan to resurface 30 lane miles of Coral Gables streets. Described as “the most ambitious street resurfacing effort ever undertaken by the city,” the resolution lacks any mention of bicycle facilities, and has concerned many Coral Gables residents. While regular maintenance and resurfacing is an important part of keeping our street network in good working order, the city commission may miss a golden opportunity to significantly expand on-street bicycle facilities.

As currently written there is no mention of bicycle facilities in the resolution, even though major routes that connect to current bike lanes, such as Segovia, are identified.   Some of the streets identified in the survey above are wide enough to accommodate a variety of bicycle facilities – with simple, cheap white paint. Part of the challenge is that the current city approved 1997 Bike Masterplan for the city focuses exclusively on bike lanes; while an important part of a bicycle network, they are not the only type of bicycle facility which should be used. Absent from the current plan is any mention of sharrows, bicycle boulevards, or protected bike lanes. These facilties, along with on-street bike lanes, work together to form a complete bicycle network, and could be implemented at little or no extra cost, yet they have not yet been identified in a master plan and are not currently called for in the resurfacing project.

The Coral Gables City Commission has a responsibility to create a complete network of routes before it spends these funds on road resurfacing. As someone who travels to Coral Gables on a daily basis, several of my routes to/from downtown are indicated on the survey. It would be  a crime to not leverage the proposed investment to get more miles of our street network. More ways of getting to/from downtown Coral Gables means  more customers and more business without increasing traffic.

My initial review of the drawing shows that the following routes are important city-wide connections that should include a bicycle facilities:

Ponce de Leon (from Bird Road to Palmero, & from 8th Street to Fonseca) - Protected Bike Lane, Bike lane or sharrow

University (from LeJeune to Ponce) - Protected Bike Lane, Bike lane or sharrow

Salzedo (from University to Majorca) - Protected Bike Lane, Bike lane or sharrow

Cordova (from Coral Way to Anastasia) - Bike boulevard, Sharrow

Andalusia (from Lejeune to Galiano) -  Protected Bike Lane, Bike lane or sharrow

Country Club Prado  - Protected Bike Lane, Bike lane or sharrow

Columbus Boulevard  (from 8th street to Valencia) - Bike boulevard, Sharrow

Sevilla (from Columbus Blvd to Douglas)

In addition, there are numerous residential streets that should be designated as Bike Boulevards or Sharrows to connect the many riders (myself included) who enjoy the lower speed and volume neighborhood streets as alternatives to higher volume  and speed main roads. While these may not connect immediately, over time they will. The important thing is to not miss this opportunity. Coral Gables can be one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the US- aggressively implementing a new bicycle plan now would help make that happen.

Please email all the city commissioners – and the clerk - expressing your disapproval of this resolution moving forward without properly vetting for bicycle facilities. Their emails are below:

jimcason@coralgables.com

wkerdyk@coralgables.com

manderson@coralgables.com

rcabrera@coralgables.com

fquesada@coralgables.com

cityclerk@coralgables.com

 

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  • Commissioner Sarnoff realizes that being green makes green:

“A recent report by the Earthday Network ranked Miami 71 out of 72 major American cities based on environmental policies, the benefits of taking part in a Container Deposit Program, both financially and environmentally are too great to ignore,” says Commissioner Sarnoff. “The City currently spends more than $4 million dollars per year to clean storm drains which are full of bottles and cans, this would dramatically reduce that cost.”

Well when I was living in Toronto I was living downtown and I could walk pretty much anywhere. There was a nice homeopathic shop on the boulevard I used to walk to and that was nice. Right where I lived there was a lot good restaurants. There was a good Tai food place. Across the street was a little corner store where people were really nice. And our neighbors became really close friends. So kind of just miss the community feel and all the great people that I got to meet that lived around where I got to live.

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The Miami Herald is reporting that FDOT has begun a resurfacing project on Bird Road. According to the article:

Workers will repave and restripe the road; widen the bridge and road shoulder; build a new sidewalk on the north side of Bird Road as well as upgrade sidewalks and curb ramps.

Crews will also make drainage improvements to alleviate water buildup in the swale area. Landscaping will improved. Lighting will be improved and new traffic and pedestrian signs and signals installed.

A pedestrian bridge will be built. Workers will remove existing guardrail and installing new guardrail at various locations.

There is no mention of new bicycle facilities. I have contacted Transit Miami sources within the City of Miami and the County and they are unaware of any bicycle infrastructure improvements.  The $2.5 million improvement project on Bird Road will occur between Red Road and Southwest 38th Avenue. Coral Gables High School happens to be on this stretch of roadway. Connecting a high school with bicycling infrastructure would be the smart thing to do; it encourages students to bike to school. Also, there is a bridge that crosses a canal on this stretch of roadway.  Bridges are often the most dangerous areas for cyclists; they must converge on bridges to cross any body of water.  I’m glad to see a pedestrian bridge will be incorporated in the design plans, but the transition should also be seamless for cyclists too.

For the record, FDOT has recently completed 2 resurfacing projects which are second-rate (MacArthur Causeway, Coral Way). FDOT seems very hesitant to accommodate cyclists on Sunset Drive and now it appears that cyclists were not considered in the Bird Road project at all.  This is not a pretty track record.  Please contact Transit Miami ally Coral Gables Commissioner Ralph Cabrera and FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and ask them why provisions for bicyclists were not made to this very important route.

The Transit Miami eye is watching every FDOT project closely.

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Dear City of Coral Gables Commissioners, Manager, & Public Works Department:

I am writing to voice my concern that the City Beautiful is not doing enough to serve the growing demand for simple bicycle and pedestrian improvements. I would like to make you aware that Miami-Dade County has monies currently allocated for striping existing county roads adding bike lanes at no cost to the municipality. Coral Gables should be taking advantage of this FREE money and infrastructure improvements. Specifically, Alhambra Drive should be considered to connect UM to Downtown and Miller Road for students.

Additionally, Miami-Dade County is resurfacing Sunset Drive and Coral Way from Red Road eastward. These county projects could easily add bicycle lanes and reduce vehicle speeds on these residential roads by reducing the lane widths to 11′ with a 4′ bike lane. This would not require the removal of any trees or change the character of the roadway while making these routes safer for cyclists and vehicles. Again these improvements would not cost the city. Please coordinate with Commissioner Gimenez (Sunset Dr) and Commissioner Sosa (Coral Way) offices.

Lastly, FDOT is reconstructing Bird Road and Red Road. Florida State Law requires that FDOT add pedestrian ADA improvements and bicycle improvements. The city should be requesting FDOT add bicycle lanes for safety purposes. Again vehicle lanes can be slightly shrunk and a few extra feet of pavement would allow bicycle lanes. Again this would not cost the city. Please contact District 6 FDOT and request bicycle lanes be added.

These 7 projects would add over 10 miles of bicycle lanes and more than quadruple the existing bicycle infrastructure in Coral Gables for free. This would provide safer roads for all commuters, take vehicle traffic and greenhouse gases off the roads, provide recreational routes to see our many city treasures and move Coral Gables Bicycle Master Plan forward into implementation. The Manager should request in writing to the responsible agencies immediately.

I would be happy to meet with anyone individually to discuss these routes, contacts, or organizing a bicycle action committee of residents and cyclists. This could be an offshoot of the city’s “Green” efforts. Thank-you for your immediate attention as many of these projects are beginning construction and the County money is only available now.

Alex Adams
Coral Gables

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Today I received this email from Coral Gables Commissioner Ralph Cabrera that stated in part:

As far as the Citywide Bicycle Lane Master Plan completed in December of 2004 by Marlin Engineering, I plan on formally requesting that we start the first phase of it. If you recall, the first phase was re-stripping a number of existing roads. Stay tuned…”

This is the kind of leadership that we need. This is a good first step Commissioner Cabrera. Keep up the good work!

I wanted to share two letters I recently recieved that showcase how tricky it is for municipalities to get bike infrastrutcure right without having proper professional guideance.

From Coral Gables resident:

From Coral Gables Resident,
 
This has been on my mind for a while and I have not known who to write? As a Coral Gables resident I am appalled at the lack of sentiment towards bicyclists and pedestrians in my city. Coral Gables has one of the greatest collage of 2 lane scenic roadways with large grass swale areas perfect for a picturesque setting and great for slowing cut through traffic however, there is little to no regard for pedestrians and bicyclists.
 
A current project under development by FDOT for 57th Ave between Calle Ocho and Coral Way (2 major destination streets) does not envision bike lanes or full integration of pedestrian sidewalks and crosswalks on both sides. There is ample room to have a 4’ bike lane, and 6’ sidewalk and still have small size trees or palms. This is the border of Coral Gables and the entrance to our city from all E-W cross streets. Also shame on FDOT for not following their own design manual and mandate to accommodate cyclists, much less federal ADA rules regarding pedestrian access, maximum cross slopes, turn around areas for wheelchairs at all intersecting sidewalks, level surfaces over all driveways, etc. Throw rules and regulations to the wind. The fact that portions of this road are historic is no reason for not making a safe mode of transportation for all users. I’m not suggesting removing trees, adding lanes, or otherwise degrading the scenic character. If this logic was true historic building would be totally exempt from ADA, building codes, and life safety. Historic designation means the character should not be changed while bringing the facility up to date.
 
Many street intersection both in neighborhoods and on thoroughfares do not include basic ADA access from the sidewalk to the roadway and across intersections. It was standard in the past all over Miami-Dade County to curve sidewalks around the blocks never meeting the streets. I guess maybe engineers and planners thought people were like Nascar drivers and only walked in circles around one block??? To make matters worse when these intersections are “improved” it usually means adding a 5’ wide strip of concrete facing 45 degrees towards the intersection forcing the disabled into the intersection and once again forgoing the fact that people do not walk like robots and wheelchairs do not make 45 degree and greater angles with sharp intersections. Why can’t these be tapered or flared to allow easy movement from one direction to another and offer proper alignment with the crosswalks that are non-existent but fictitious.
 
Please write your Commissioners below, FDOT and Miami-Dade County and demand that your tax dollars upgrade existing infrastructure to allow 2010 standards. Also on this point urge all city’s Public Works Departments, Miami-Dade County and FDOT to adopt the NEW 2009 MUTCD manual of traffic control standards. This is imperative to allow new bicycle sharrows, new signage and ADA requirements to become mandatory for all projects.
 
Coral Gables Commissioners:
Don Slesnick- mayor donslesnick@coralgables.com
Bill Kerdyk, Jr.- wkerdyk@coralgables.com
Maria Anderson- manderson@coralgables.com
Chip Whithers- wwithers@coralgables.com
Ralph Cabrera- rcabrera@coralgables.com
 
FDOT District 6:
Gus Pego- gus.pego@dot.state.fl.us
 
Miami-Dade County Bike + Pedestrian Coordinator:
David Henderson- davidh@miamidade.gov

This came to me from TM reader Kurt Kaminer :

Rydel of Miami Bike Scene suggested I forward you the following report I compiled, regarding Coral Gables outrageous bicycle lanes added to their recent Segovia St./Coral Way roundabout project, along with a campaign to have these lanes removed in favor of proper sharrows, and door-zone issues removed - not only on the existing roundabout, but on the new one being constructed a block south at Segovia and Biltmore Way.

A full discussion of the problems associated with the striping is available at Bikeforums.net, at present:
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?614246-City-of-Coral-Gables-Bike-Lane-Outrage

I have also cross-posted the report to the MIAfixed.com discussion boards, in addition to the Emerge Miami Critical Mass Meetup board.

A Flickr group is available at the following link: http://www.flickr.com/groups/coralgablesbikelanes/

I hope this report is of interest.

I like that they are considering bikes in their redesign of Biltmore Way and Segovia, but the type of infrastructure being used, as Kurt points out, is inappropriate. Then, along major arteries, no bike infrastructure exists. Considering that they are willing to spend the money on bikes, they should at least listen to the people who are actually using the infrastructure. Please write or call in if you live in the area. (Or let us know if you dont agree with the letters above!)

PS. I called Coral Gables Public Works in the summer last year about this project and received zero response.

PPS. This project is funded with ARRA stimulus dollars.

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From the Herald:

American Traffic Solutions installed the first camera last week at Le Jeune and Alhambra, which Police Chief Richard Naue said had been identified as a trouble spot. They are testing it this week, Naue said.

“We’re not treating it as a traffic law. We are treating it as a code enforcement law, as a right of way issue,” Hernandez said, adding that tickets would not increase insurance costs or add points to a motorist’s license.

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trolley in Coral gables

The Colonnade Building and Coral Gables Trolley, mid 1920′s. From the State of Florida Archives.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s Broward Operations Center is already using the website that you may have just heard about, SeeClickFix. That means that instead of your concerns just getting posted on the site and ignored, you can hope for some action. Transit Miami spoke with Darlene Williams in the complaints department at FDOT, who has dealt with about six or seven issues on the site since April. Not all those could be addressed by FDOT if they were not on a state road, but she pointed out how she has a working relationship with other government agencies in Broward County. Darlene regularly passes on issues that involve city or county roads. You can see an example of that action on issues such as this one. Optimally, we would like to see the cities and counties hop on this bandwagon and create their own SeeClickFix watch areas. But thanks to a proactive FDOT, your issues reported within the Broward County watch area should get noticed.

Check out this issue reported on SeeClickFix if you want see an example of the type of public conversation the site makes possible. Coral Gables has a watch area as well, though it’s difficult to see how active the city is in responding. Now we need to get agencies in other counties (like Miami-Dade and Palm Beach) made aware of this site.

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  • The South Dade Coalition is fighting FPL’s plans for transmission lines down US1 as these would keep the corridor from developing into the mixed-use, walkable place they seek. Good job guys.
  • Coral Gables is extending its trolley down ponce from 8th street to Flagler using FDOT dollars for the first year.
  • Dade and Broward Counties are getting express buses to run on I95 and the turnpike, linking Downtown Miami and Downtown Ft. Lauderdale and the ‘burbs. Yay! The routes are being funded by the State of Florida and the Federal government - no MDT money, also good.
  • A State Judge has said that the County’s decision to move the UDB was illegal. This is going to have big implications for the upcoming vote on Parkland.
  • No word on the Miami 21 vote yet from the City of Miami. Jeez.
  • More on taking the CITT back to voters from State Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera: “Unless the county commission reaches some sort of an accord, I’m going to explore legislation to call for a vote of the voters again. It should be up to the voters to decide, and let them judge if they’re satisfied with the way the money has been handled.” From Miami Today.
  • The Virginia Key Masterplan is going to be presented on May 20 at the Miami Museum of Science, 3820 South Miami Ave, from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. This is in anticipation of its consideration by the City Commission in June. If you are interested, please attend.

Yesterday’s Miami-Dade County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting was filled with interesting news. As Spokes n’ Folks reported, much attention was given to a couple of urban infill projects in Coral Gables, located adjacent to the M-Path.

Dadeland Station developer Jeff Berkowitz is moving forward with plans to redevelop the Deel Ford parcel, the larger of the two parcels outlined in orange below.

Due to high traffic volumes on S. Dixie Highway, Berkowitz’s current plans seek to bisect the M-Path on the north side of the site with an easement allowing motor vehicle access to the development’s parking garage.  BPAC members have previously asked the developer to include several safety measures in the site design to mitigate the effects of  of motor vehicle traffic. Yet, the “sketchy” drawings presented yesterday did not detail the required safety measures, which caused BPAC to table the approval.

Additionally, a proposed 30,000 square foot office development is slated for an old Shell station located at nearby, at the corner of S. Dixie Highway and LeJeune Road (small parcel, above). The developer of that property has also asked for an easement that would bisect the M-Path.

While the BPAC is right to ask for safety measures, they are setting a very dangerous precedent. After all, the M-Path is already compromised by numerous heavily trafficked streets without any commensurate design or safety measures to help pedestrians and bicyclists through the intersections.  Allowing two more easements will further interrupt the Path’s function, and could plant the seed for future development to follow suit.

Ultimately, Miami-Dade Transit  (MDT) will have to approve the easements, with the mitigations suggested by the BPAC.  If you ride  or walk/run the M-Path consistently, you know this directly threatens you. Please call and write MDT, Coral Gables City  Commissioners, and Miami-Dade County Commissioners to let them know that safety upgrades or not, these developments do not need easements into the M-Path, but rather a little more creative site design.

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In related BPAC news, an FDOT representative announced plans for bicycle lanes along the MacArthur Causeway. Yes, you read that correctly.

My initial reaction to this proclamation was that the encouragement of bicycling on what is effectively a high-speed highway, where bicycles are normally not allowed for good reason, is sheer lunacy — unless commensurate redesign of the roadway would significantly reduce lane width and motor vehicle speed. Well, it seems the lanes will be shrunk to 11′ from 14′, which will indeed slow motorists down and provide ample room for bicycle lanes.

Full plans have not been reaveled, however. As always, the devil will lie in the details. How will the proposed lanes work with the Biscayne Boulevard on-ramps and off-ramps? Will these lanes be physically protected with bollards or curbs? How far will FDOT go in calming one of the most heavily trafficked roads in South Florida?

We’ll be tracking this one.


There will be a “cyclist town hall meeting” next Monday at Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center. The details are below:

-> When: April 14, 2008.

-> Where: Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center
405 University Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33134

-> Time: 7:00PM

-> Host: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Giminez and City of Coral Gables Commissioner Ralph Cabrera

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As some of you may have noticed, two of Transit Miami’s writers, Andrew Davis and James Wilkins, have departed due to personal time constraints. Meanwhile we welcome the addition of our latest writer, Rob Jordan, who will be working his way into the website over the next few weeks. Transit Miami is looking for some new talent to contribute to the site weekly, if you think you’ve got what it takes to write for Transit Miami, send us an email and some writing samples: movemiami@gmail.com…

Local:

  • Palmetto Bay NIMBYs are fighting an unlikely foe: Palmer Trinity. When residents turn their backs against school expansion out of a fear of more traffic, there is something critically wrong… (Miami Herald)
  • Despite the overwhelming success of the Coral Gables Trolley, plus numerous reports and independent studies which underline the very basic point that the transit system reduces city congestion and the need for 713 downtown parking spaces, Vice Mayor William Kerdyk is still having trouble finding a steady funding stream for the Coral Gables Trolley… (Coral Gables Gazette)
  • The Sunpost, has become the latest newspaper to publicize Norman Braman’s efforts to hoodwink the community into thinking that streetcars, tunnels, and public works projects are a sham… (SunPost)
  • The Public Works department has made a recommendation to cancel the 104 street widening project in west Kendall. (Community Newspapers)

Elsewhere:

  • Damien Goodmon proposes the most asinine reason why a Light Rail Line should not be built in Los Angeles: Kids leaving school will get hit by the passing trains… (L.A. City Beat)
  • Is Suburbia the natural evolution of development? Nope! (Planetizen)
  • Phobia of Public Transportation? Have no fear Stagecoach has prepared a manual for Britons who have become too accustomed to personal vehicles, explaining the intricacies that come with riding a bus. (Telegraph)
  • The Air Car: The world’s first fully air powered, zero emission vehicle to go on sale by summer 2009 in India and some other select countries. The $12,700 CityCAT is powered by 340 Liters of compressed air at 4350 psi, can travel up to 68 mph, and has an estimated range of 125 miles. (Popular Mechanics)
  • Photographs of the BMW X6 sport utility coupe. (It’s Knuttz)
  • A Funeral Dinner on a subway. (Oddity Central)

The Coral Gables Gazette recently published a troubling article on a trolley study conducted by the University of Miami’s Industrial Engineering department. Troubling not because of the results of the study but because of how ridiculously logical the conclusions were. The simplicity can be summed up best by the CGG’s article title: New study: Trolley saves 712 parking space per day. You don’t say? Transit actually reduces the number of parking spaces needed in an urban area, what’s next, you’re going to suggest transit reduces congestion?

Engineering, calculates that the trolley saves the city 712 parking spaces a day and reduces the amount of vehicle traffic along the route by 1.2 million miles a year.

Gasp! Obviously we’re floored that this can still be considered newsworthy and is typically not common knowledge. Coral Gables commissioners are considering affixing a charge to ride the system which is currently free. Not all city commissioners appear to be happy with the success:

[Commissioner Ralph] Cabrera also reiterated past complaints that the trolley system had evolved from its original purpose as a downtown circulator into more of a connector between county mass transit systems.

Who cares as long as the system effectively reduces congestion in the Coral Gables Downtown Core? Since the city is unwilling to reduce the parking requirements for buildings to begin with, we might as well reduce the need for all the parking being built anyway. Although I agree MDT should do more to help the city transit service, axing the project would cause too many problems. At least someone sees the benefits brought forth by the system:

[Vice Mayor William] Kerdyk said that the independent study, which he points out that he didn’t even commission, should erase any doubts to the effectiveness and importance of the system although he wasn’t sure that questions regarding budgeting for the trolley system would go away as a result of the study.

The planners for the old Spanish Village development along Ponce Circle in the Gables are working to create a new office building (shown above) which would attempt to replicate the Barcelona Cathedral: I’m not sure what the final building will look like, but I’ve always been curious to see a modern day Gothic building rise. The 215,000 square foot office building is slated to become the centerpiece of the development and the new home of the Cisneros Group.
Given the Gothic design, I’m kind of curious to see how the rest of the development will be designed. Hopefully, the final product will be as nice of an addition to the Gables skyline as the Alhambra Tower recently was…

Here was the original design when the tower was slated for condominiums: