Is Miami a city of traffic corridors and highways or is it a city for people? At the latest FDOT public meeting, the message from the Florida Department of Transportation is clear: Miami is for cars. Everything and everyone else comes 2nd.

Last night, FDOT held a public meeting to review the details of a re-surfacing project for Coral Way, from  SW 37th Avenue to SW 13th Avenue, scheduled to begin in March 2013. Unfortunately, not much is being done to improve pedestrian conditions on Coral Way in spite of the booming pedestrian life visible every day.  While the road will get silky new pavement, some wider sidewalks, a few brighter colored signs and ‘sharrows’, overall Coral Way will remain the same traffic sewer that it is today. Apparently, the status quo of Coral Way is all roses to the FDOT.

Except it’s not.

One thing that has always struck me about Coral Way is how difficult it is to cross it as a pedestrian. The traffic lights are so spread out that they may as well be located in separate zip codes. The design of Coral Way is one that divides people and business, rather than connects them. The traffic zooms from signal to signal in a speed’n-stop fashion reminiscent of a video game.  The restaurants, the shops, the homes and the residents  - are all separated by an impenetrable barrier of vehicles and plantings. Go to any part of Coral Way between Douglas and 12 Ave and you will see plenty of pedestrians trying to cross wherever they can. The road is the antithesis of walkable - by design. It is a roadway that’s patently ill-suited for an urban environment - and FDOT wants to keep it that way.

Crossing Coral Way in a wheelchair

The planted medians seldom have a mid-block crossing. Have you ever traversed a field of geraniums in a wheelchair? FDOT doesn’t really care.

The speed limit will remain a deadly 40 mph. Have you ever tried parallel parking with someone in an Escalade bearing down on you at 45mph? You’ll still have the chance the way FDOT is designing this road!

This project makes virtually no improvements to the comically tragic pedestrian experience of Coral Way, save for a few sections of wider crosswalks. The FDOT’s argument is that their own guidelines do not allow them to make additional safety accommodations, like signalized crosswalks, raised crosswalks, or anything else. Mind you, it’s those very same arcane guidelines that are the root cause of why Florida consistently holds the dubious distinction as the #1 deadliest state for pedestrians in the nation. Such improvements would also make notoriously dangerous Coral Way safer for motorists as well.

But things really hit home when I left the meeting at 2055 Coral Way and walked outside. I was with my bicycle and needed to cross the street. Look right: a traffic signaled crosswalk in the distance. (I measured it online - .25 miles. That would make it .5 miles total just to cross the street legally and safely) Look left: just a headlight-filled abyss. No crosswalk in sight. Someone from the FDOT had to explain this for me, so I went back inside.

I asked two of the project managers to come outside with me to experience first hand just how ridiculously divisive the configuration of this street is. I asked them, “where do I cross?” They pointed to the traffic light a quarter mile away. They simply don’t give a shit. Is that a realistic expectation? What ensued was classic traffic engineer speak. “A study didn’t show the number of pedestrians required to warrant more improvements,” I was told.

That’s because the pedestrian experience is so hostile and uninviting to begin with, rational people will avoid it if possible. “Studies” do not calculate human decision-making. It almost seemed as if I was actually speaking with a car, because the only responses were about accommodating the needs of motorists. In their eyes, I was the first person to ever walk out of that church and have to walk to the other side.

The FDOT representatives said that the speed limit can not be lowered, one reason being some of these drivers are going from Brickell to West Kendall and they need to be accommodated also. So there we have it folks. Creating the walkable conditions for businesses to succeed and all road users to be safe are not in the vocabularies of the FDOT. Coral Way is a road designed to whisk private automobiles as fast as possible through Miami. Everyone else be dammed. The ‘social world’ is of no importance. The ‘traffic world’ is the priority. Everything else is an obstacle to moving cars quickly. The ‘guidelines’ protect them. It’s perfectly acceptable to the FDOT to force a person, a mother with a stroller or a person in a wheelchair, to go .5 miles to legally cross a street.

Appropriate transportation hierarchy in an urban context.

It’s long-passed due that the FDOT revise their outdated guidelines with their own children and grandparents in mind. If their standards aren’t safe and effective for a 10 year old or a senior citizen, then they are failing. The proposed re-paving project of Coral Way is another missed opportunity for Miami to become an actual city instead of a collection of traffic corridors.

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Related posts:

  1. Update: FDOT’s Coral Way Resurfacing Project
  2. FDOT tries to fix bike lanes on Coral Way; fails miserably
  3. Transit Miami Eye on the Coral Way Resurfacing Project
  4. Coral Way Bike Lanes Nearly Complete
  5. Designing Better Bicycles Lanes for Coral Way
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15 Responses to FDOT to Coral Way Residents: Don’t Walk Around

  1. Daniel says:

    Good job with this article , it’s well written. It is sad because Coral Way would be such a nice, shaded district for retail, restaurants and such. I know there are few businesses of this type along the corridor (that do well), probably for this reason. Especially due to the street side parking, the speed limit should most definitely be reduced to 35, that is in no way asking too much. Coral Way is actually a nice drive as well if you are able to take it slow and enjoy it. Unfortunately this is not possible with four ton Escalades and Navigators all but running you over.

    Here’s a picture of the tree canopy from above, what great potential for shaded outdoor restaurant seating for the 99% of the visiting population that aren’t used to the tropical heat:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rcadimensia/5705397995/

    It’s hard to tell there’s even a road in there, let alone an FDOT superhighway.

  2. Brandt says:

    I know this all too well. I’ve been on that stretch of Coral Way, and I agree that it needs crossings badly. Unfortunately, FDOT is in control of most major roadways in the county, so any change in the state of these roads will be difficult. I should know - I have four highways near my neighborhood! (Biscayne, West Dixie Highway, NE 163rd Street, and NE 135th Street)

  3. Rima says:

    Grtea article, well written. The topic is, of course, not so great. I believe you summed it all up rather accurately when you state “They simply don’t give a shit.” And this is not just FDOT. This is a matter of political will that is missing, a lack of vision on the side of our politicians. And if we do not manage to vote politicians into office that force government agencies to re-evaluate their car-centric attitudes. I am thinking in Florida this is gonna take another 10 to 20 years. I have been here for 10 years and nothing has changed, though, so maybe that is even too optimistic.

  4. Tony Garcia says:

    Rima: the fault is not all with elected officials. When it comes to FDOT there is an institutional mindset that cannot be underestimated. They view their job as moving cars - not people. I am working with local elected officials who are as upset about this as we are….

  5. julian says:

    The sad part is those trees and spattering of existing businesses give coral way such potential for being a greenway.

  6. Tony Garcia says:

    Yup - this should be an awesome place to walk around. The urbanism in many cases is very good - and there is enough of a median to inhabit.

  7. Max Jaramillo says:

    I live and work in the Coral Way neighborhood. I can’t believe what I just read. The neighborhood takes a step forward and two steps back. The traffic speeds, the lack of pedestrian crossings, the dearth of ample sidewalks…. We’re not talking about putting a man/woman on Mars, here. I would have hope that FDOT would understand the importance of pedestrian traffic to vibrant neighborhoods and their businesses. They obviously don’t live in the city. Absolute idiots here. Is there nothing that we can do?

  8. Devin says:

    It was approximately 8-10 years ago when the community of Shenandoah got together for the betterment of this corridor because the overgrown tree roots had broken up the asphalt. Don’t know if any of you remember driving down Coral Way then, it was unpleasant to say the least! The result, root pruning, new asphalt and the hideous lighting. Oh yeah the senselessly planted shrubbery down these medians which act as buffers. But the victory here at that time went to the community that fought FDOT against cutting down all these majestic trees. The reality today reflective to this article is that although pedestrian mobility is not up to par with our collective visions, imagine if FDOT had it their way back then! What would we be working with today???

    Thanks for the post…

  9. David says:

    I was unaware that this was happening. What a shame. Are the local businesses aware of the potential lost? I live in the neighborhood and try to frequent the stores and restuarants on Coral Way but the speed of traffic makes it extremely hard by car and dangerous by bike. Forget crossing the road to shop on either side of the street.

  10. Kevin says:

    Great article, I enjoyed reading it (until I got angry at FDOT yet again). Like others above have stated, Coral Way has such immense potential. It’s a beautiful avenue with beautiful, mature shade trees. The potential that it has with its walkable businesses and historic character, really could be maximized with a more urban avenue.

    What can we do to change this? We can’t exactly change the FDOT mindset, but this problem is too frequent. Every time, a road needs to be resurfaced in the city, we encounter this same problem. There needs to be a solution, and not just us, but our local politicians need to stand up for better road design.

    If we want to continue to mature and grow as a real city, we need to demand better roads that put pedestrians and transit first.

  11. Kevin says:

    That said, after reading Devin’s comment, I’m left optimistic. We need our voices to be heard. We need residents of Coral Way and all those that want better roads to attend these meetings. Unless there’s a voice, they’re not going to do anything. At the end of the day, they’re still a government agency, and with enough public pressure, they will change.

  12. JJJ says:

    Whats Florida law on unmarked crosswalks? In many states, an unmarked crosswalk, with the same legal standing as a marked on, exists at absolutely every intersection, including T-intersections, and in some states, alleys.

    My point is, if there is an unmarked crosswalk, but FDOT built a median in the way with no wheelchair access, isnt that a serious ADA violation?

  13. Tony Garcia says:

    Jjj:
    That is the case is some states but not Fl.

  14. Andrew Georgiadis says:

    We must all protest that City of Coral Gables plans to remove the oak trees along coral way as it runs through Downtown Coral Gables (Miracle Mile). They are hell bent on transforming the City Beautiful into the City Ugly.

  15. [...] road. As a reminder, this church was the location of a recent Florida Department of Transportation Public Information Meeting we covered to review a proposed re-paving project on Coral Way - a project that includes minimal [...]

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