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

 

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

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

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

 

bearcutbridge

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

9 Responses to Miami-Dade County: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Secondary to Car Traffic on Bear Cut Bridge

  1. Miamiarchi says:

    I’m sorry but I have to say that I find your apparent anger over the prioritization of cars over pedestrians and bicyclists unwarranted given the situation.

    There are significantly greater number of cars that need to use these bridges on a daily basis then bicyclists. The economy of key Biscayne relies on trucks to bring in resources and most people who live on the island work on the main land, and while I do not have any numbers I think its very unlikely any of them bike to work given the amount of hard work and time it takes to bike from one end to the other.
    Especially with the Sony Ericson coming up in only two months these moves are necessary.

    And to top it off its not like pedestrians and bicyclists have been ignored. Half of the bridge will be open for their use. is it perfect? no of course not but nothing about the situation allows for perfect. And given that the just approved improvements to the bridge includes protective barriers for bicyclists paid for by added cost to vehicles and no cost to pedestrians or bicyclists I think we should be celebrating not complaining.

    and finally I’m sorry but lets do the numbers, key Biscayne has a population of over 12,000 people assuming that every household is a family of 4 with 1 car. This this is a gross underestimation btw. also completely taking commercial and tourist traffic out of the equation that is at minimum 3,000 cars making at least two trips a day every day. To prioritize the people who use the bridge significantly more and rely on it to get to work, school, etc. and meet the daily needs of life, only makes sense especially,again, given the situation.

       1 likes

  2. Rocco says:

    “And given that the just approved improvements to the bridge includes protective barriers for bicyclists paid for by added cost to vehicles and no cost to pedestrians or bicyclists I think we should be celebrating not complaining.”

    Did it ever occur to you that most ‘bicyclists’ and ‘pedestrians’ are also ‘motorists’ either regularly or at least on occasion? It’s senseless to divide people up into tribes. Many people who walk and bike on the causeway also drive along it too and pay the tolls.

    Pedestrians are better described as ‘human beings’. To cater to ‘motorists’ just because they have adapted a certain (expensive) technology at the expense of human beings is wrong. You should not be expected to adapt a technology to merely navigate your own public realm safely. It was cars and trucks that accelerated the damage to the bridge in the first place. Human beings should always take precedence and prioritized – not the adapters of a technology, no matter how many there are.

       0 likes

  3. MiamiArchi says:

    I completely agree that many motorists also use this bridge as bicyclists or pedestrians. I am one of them. But first off I commonly feel like these article do exactly what you are saying I was. They completely separate the two into different categories.

    And my comment on the tolls was more in direct reference to a previous article where the idea was thrown out to begin to charge bicyclists to cross the bridge in order to make improvements to the safety of bike paths. This would then in this example charge bike users double for driving across the bridge and for biking on it. The end result I think is much better.

    While I get what you are saying with the adapters of technology, you also have to place the same concept to key Biscayne itself. The fact is without cars the city of Key Biscayne and the Bridge to the key would most certainly not exist. The concept was completely designed around the use of cars.

    In your argument the public realm was created originally with the sole concept of the technology and has since been adapted(slowly, but the changes are there) to suit everyone.

    You however end your argument with exactly what you told me not to do. Human beings are the adapters of the technology, they are not a separate group. human beings are being prioritized, as i stated earlier the people who live on the key who rely on their technology to live and work and go to school are taking precedence.

    I am not a big time bike rider so correct me if I’m wrong, but many, likely most, bikers use this path for recreation / exercise. So in terms of human being priorities what is more important? supporting your family and daily life or a recreational activity?
    In this situation I see human beings being prioritized.

    and I’m sorry but what does (expensive) technology have to do with anything?

       1 likes

  4. JJJJ says:

    Miamiarchi, nobody is saying cars and trucks should be banned from Key Biscayne. But why is it so critical that there be 4 lanes of vehicle traffic? Why not two or three? Removing a lane doesnt eliminate any motorist from crossing.

       1 likes

  5. JJJJ says:

    Also, I didnt realize you were an expert at knowing which trips were for leisure and which are for sport. Youre saying every car on the bridge is for a job? Not for a LEISURE trip to the aquarium or a LEISURE trip to the beach or a LEISURE trip to a tennis match?

       0 likes

  6. B says:

    That crossing at the south side of the bridge is really a joke. It’s on one of my running routes, and drivers routinely SPEED UP as they approach the crosswalk! Though the traffic is now slower, the intermittent breaks in traffic are now essentialy gone, making it actually more hazardous to cross. I hope they consider putting a patrol car or better yet a signalized crossing there, because that crossing in its current configuration is not acceptable, especially if you force all southbound cyclists to use it.

       1 likes

  7. Rocco says:

    MiamiArchi – I do appreciate your response. I guess my main concern is what JJJJ said – why should there be 4 lanes for cars and zero for pedestrians/people on bikes. The delays have not been that severe. Even during ‘peak’ times the inconvenience to motorists has lessened as people may have adjusted their trips accordingly. But basically, other human beings are being screwed in lieu of motoring pleasure.

       0 likes

  8. MiamiArchi says:

    JJJJ in my first post i talked about how i got the numbers i referenced a few times. they are far from scientific but i specifically said that i wasn’t taking into account any leisure trips for sport or otherwise to key Biscayne. I also believe i severely underestimated the amount of people who commute out of Key Biscayne so really the numbers of cars is likely much greater. But I am in no way trying to say this is scientific information just an educated hypothesis.

    To Rocco and JJJJ I was wondering that as well. I have heard different stories from Key biscayne residents some say traffic at peak hours is horrible other say its over exaggerated so idk.
    I’m assuming the biggest reason for this move is the upcoming Sony Ericsson that regularly turns the whole area into a crazy traffic jam even with the bridges working as they should be. I’m assuming this is a move to prepare for the large scale need of the Sony Ericson and make sure everything works smoothly.

    The thing I feel like I’m missing (and I haven’t ridden on the bear cut bridge since this all began so feel free to explain to me in more detail) is isn’t half of the bridge that has the problems closed down allowing for pedestrian and bicycle traffic? essentially isn’t it the same amount of space just all placed on one bridge instead of being split between the two? I know this means that all pedestrian traffic is now on one side of the bridge but i personally don’t find it to be THAT horrible of a solution. I would love to hear why you guys think its such a bad one.

    apparently crossing is even harder then before and i think that’s what should really be concentrated on to make this a much better and safer strategy while repairs are made. a larger, and signaled crosswalk is clearly a necessary key component to this plan.

       1 likes

  9. B says:

    Agree with the above that we really need a signaled crosswalk on the south side of the bridge, at the entrance to Crandon Marina. This would presumably be a permanent (and very welcome) feature after the bridge repairs are done.

       0 likes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.