Against the backdrop of what has been a tragic month on South Florida roadways, City of Miami residents and businesses can take solace that the upcoming Coral Way resurfacing project will now include numerous pedestrian safety improvements. Thanks to the work of District 4 City Commissioner Francis Suarez and the Transit Miami team, the residents of the Coral Way corridor will soon enjoy improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as a lower 35 mph speed limit as part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s upcoming 2.5 mile Coral Way resurfacing project.
The changes to the project come after FDOT officials originally presented designs for the corridor in November 2011 which were panned by advocates and elected officials for lacking pedestrian improvements; the plans maintained the meager crosswalk spacing and high speed design that typifies the corridor today.
Following the initial public meeting, Transit Miami was asked by District 4 staff to compile a list of pedestrian improvements that could be incorporated into the design. As a road resurfacing project, we were mindful that there was a limit to the improvements that could be made without drastically increasing the cost of the project. As such we identified a series of low cost, high impact interventions that could be incorporated into the project, which included:
- Additional north/south crosswalks across Coral Way at every side street intersection – 13 total
- Higher quality pedestrian crossings at major intersections (4 total)
- Lower speed limit throughout
These recommendations were forwarded to Secretary Gus Pego by Commissioner Francis Suarez’s Chief-of-Staff, Mike Llorente, along with a note from that said, “The basic message – that the contemplated project fails to capitalize on the opportunity to make Coral Way more pedestrian friendly – is echoed by City Commissioner Suarez and several area residents who attended the community meeting on Wednesday. As you know, the contemplated project does not include any additional pedestrian crosswalks. As a result, pedestrians will continue to have access to only one crosswalk every five blocks, or .5 miles. The lack of crosswalks makes this area very difficult to navigate on foot.” (A phenomenon Transit Miami went on to document in a video post.)
After intense lobbying by the Commissioner and his staff, FDOT agreed to perform additional pedestrian counts and a speed study to gauge whether demand warranted additional crosswalks and a lower speed limit. Not surprisingly they documented a corridor whose pedestrian activity is growing despite the lack of adequate pedestrian facilities.
The analysis led District 6 staff to include five additional crosswalks across Coral Way; 4 with flashing beacons, and one new full intersection. In addition, the City will be able to financially contribute to enhanced crosswalks at major intersections, to include raised pavers and timed crosswalk signals. These measures will be accompanied by a reduction in the speed limit to 35 mph (throughout), and the inclusion of bicycle “sharrows” along the entire corridor from 13 Avenue to 37 Avenue. While not all of the recommendations were followed, FDOT agreed to a majority of what Transit Miami recommended.
Though still governed by their ‘data driven design’ mantra, FDOT’s changes to this project should be seen as encouraging news for green mobility advocates because they reflect an increase in pedestrian activity, even as measured by FDOT engineers. District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Project Manager Ramon Sierra were clear that additional crosswalks could be requested in the near future as the corridor continues to develop more pedestrian activity. We’ve been documenting the rise of Coral Way for six years now, and now more than ever the corridor can boast that it has a vibrant future ahead.
Kudos to Commissioner Suarez and his staff for going to bat for complete streets, and major kudos to FDOT for reevaluating their project and working together with elected officials and advocates to make these improvements. We hope that this project is an indication of how we might move forward, together to make our streets safer for all.
Put this in the “Things that can make life better NOW” category.
The project was based on a feasibility analysis that indicated it would improve traffic flow on 6th and 7th Avenue and improve traffic safety along Broadway. Both before and after implementing Green Light for Midtown as a pilot, NYCDOT collected extensive data on travel times, traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes and traffic accidents in the months just prior and just following project implementation. According to this data, the project is delivering on its expectations.
DOT collected and analyzed extensive data from GPS units in taxis to understand the impacts on this project for travel in and around midtown. Findings show:
- Travel speeds for northbound trips throughout West Midtown improved 17% from fall 2008-2009, compared with 8% in East Midtown.
- Travel speeds for southbound trips in West Midtown fell by 2% while East Midtown showed an increase of 3%.
- The speed of eastbound trips increased by 5% and westbound trips by 9% over the same time period.
- Bus travel speeds increased by 13% on 6th Avenue and fell by 2% on 7th Avenue.
Safety has also been vastly improved as a result of this project.
- Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project area are down 63%.
- Pedestrian injuries are down 35%.
- 80% fewer pedestrians are walking in the roadway in Times Square.
And the project has had additional benefits as well.
- 74% of New Yorkers surveyed by the Times Square Alliance agree that Times Square has improved dramatically over the last year.
- The number of people walking along Broadway and 7th Avenue in Times Square is up 11% and pedestrian volume is up 6% in Herald Square.
Based on these findings, Mayor Bloomberg has decided to make these changes permanent. NYCDOT will begin a capital project to design and build the plazas and corridor treatments with permanent, high quality materials.
If you have visited Midtown lately – Miami’s pedestrian-oriented development between Wynwood and the Design District – you probably noticed a vast sea of recently-planted sod between Buena Vista Avenue and NE 1st Avenue.
Jared Goyette covered this development for Beached Miami in early February, citing Midtown residents’ push for a permanent park or playground, and developer Alex Vadia’s stonewalling of their requests.
I happened to meet Mr. Vadia recently and asked him about the future of the plot. He said that the site was slated for future development and they did not want to build anything ‘permanent’. In Goyette’s article, Vadia is quoted as saying “we’re evaluating anything that will enhance the community.”
Well, right now the space is simply that – space. It’s a nebulous swath of grass I can only imagine will become a fecal carpet for canines in due time, if it isn’t already. With no designated dog area, play area or any type of area or features, the site has fallen victim to the apparent catch phrase of the year – ‘green space‘.
Author and speaker James Howard Kunstler argues we should rid our vocabulary of this term and instead be specific when educing meaningful public places. In an article for Orion Magazine in 2001, Kunstler writes,
“The terms open space and green space are themselves very problematical for a number reasons. They are abstractions. They do not describe anything particular. A farm and a neighborhood square are both “open spaces,” both “green spaces,” but they differ hugely in function, character, and ownership relations with society. In my travels and public appeals, I’ve advocated that we simply drop these two terms from the public discussion because they are too abstract to be meaningful. If we want to talk about preserving rural land or agricultural land then let’s use the appropriate terminology: farms, forests, wetlands. If we’re talking about the human habitat, let’s adopt the vocabulary of urban design: a park, a square, a plaza (distinguished from a square, generally, by its predominate pavings), an Italian garden, a baseball field, a bike trail. If you ask for an abstraction (green space) it will be delivered as an abstraction (grassy berm).”
While this particular area of Midtown will most likely experience development in the near future, other areas of Midtown will not. According to the Miami 21 code (.pdf), Midtown is required to have a minimum of 10% of the property reserved as “open space”. The code defines open space as such:
Open Space: Any parcel of land or water, excluding public right of way, that is at ground level or open to the sky and designed and intended for the common use of the residents, tenant and the general public and may include parks, linear parks, plazas, and landscape areas. Additionally, canopy trees and large palms planted within pedestrian zones of the public right-of-way in accordance with the design standards shall respectively each count as four hundred (400) square feet and one hundred seventy-five (175) square feet of open space. Open Space is substantially free of structures other than structures that contribute to the common use of the space.
The nondescript language in the code means that Midtown residents must be vocal and specific in what their visions are for this valuable 10% (minimum) of land. Do they want a public square? An urban farm? An outdoor public room in which to watch movies and host events? Whatever they do, asking for ‘green space’ (or not asking for anything at all) is a virtual guaranty that another iteration of the current uninspired, amporphous Midtown ‘green space’, on a smaller scale, is inevitable.
Goyette’s article mentioned Midtown residents pushing for a playground. I propose they take it a step further. Get the actual kids involved in the conversation! Who knows what kind of playground a developer would build if left to their own devices. Community engagement that includes residents, developers and the actual tikes that would be using the playground would yield a truly endearing place, rather than a profit-driven builder simply plopping down some monkey bars.
It is also worth nothing that some of our country’s best urban places are not “green spaces”. Take Washington Square Park or Union Square in Manhattan as an example. Even in a concrete jungle like New York City, people seek respite in these places because they are appealing even without an abundance of grass or flora. Of course you have to consider why a majority of people go to parks or plazas in the first place – it’s often just to watch other people.
People watching isn’t very interesting on a flat swath of dog-pooed grass. So let’s be creative and imaginative when conceiving the future of Midtown’s ‘open space’ mandate.
And ask for it.
Discussion reveals frustration with FDOT as a common thread, and a maturing Complete Streets advocacy movement.
O Cinema in Wynwood was packed to the rafters last night for the SafeStreetsMiami Forum – a public meeting organized by the Green Mobility Network to engage elected officials, government employees and the general public on how to make Miami-Dade County roads safer for all road users.
The meeting comes on the heels of the Bicycle Safety Summit on February 29th, organized by Commissioner Xavier Suarez after the death of cyclist Aaron Cohen on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Wednesday night’s forum allowed attendees to submit written questions directed to the panelists, including Miami-Dade Bicycle Coordinator David Henderson, and Jeff Cohen from the Traffic Engineering Division of Miami-Dade County Public Works, City of Miami Bicycle Coordinator Collin Worth, City of Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Miami-Dade District 7 Xavier Suarez, and representatives from Miami-Dade Transit.
The written questions created a more directed, poignant conversation, in contrast to the free-flowing public input at the District 7 Bicycle Safety Summit. The Q/A format allowed public officials to answer directly to the folks who use the streets. The Safe Streets Forum was about showing our elected officials that there is a strong and growing bicycle constituency, and that real changes need to be made in the way that we design our streets.
Over the course of the evening, one common thread emerged – that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is one of the largest roadblocks to implementing more complete streets throughout the county. Roads including Biscayne Boulevard, Brickell Avenue, Coral Way and the MacArthur Causeway, among many others, are ‘state roads’ and fall under the jurisdiction of the FDOT, who adhere to arcane, auto-centric standards ill-suited for safe streets in an urban setting.
Commissioner Sarnoff explained his frustration with the FDOT, particularly on the issue of Brickell Avenue. Together with Transitmiami, Commissioner Sarnoff has lobbied FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego hard for a safer 30 mph speed limit for Brickell Ave, while Pego and the FDOT are opposed. As Sarnoff explained, the FDOT prioritizes moving cars as fast as possible, rather than accommodating – in FDOT speak – “non-motorized units”.
“I will treat Brickell as a neighborhood, while FDOT will only treat it as a pass through,” said Sarnoff.
Sarnoff and others stressed the importance of continued advocacy and maintaining pressure on officials and agencies like the FDOT. He also suggested that local advocates form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to support candidates that align with their goals.
We are happy that Sarnoff suggested increased public pressure on the FDOT for more pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets. We support this call, as we at Transit Miami have been some of the loudest, most consistent voices in demanding change at the FDOT (only to receive information that TransitMiami.com is blocked from FDOT computers).
The first step in knowing you have a problem is denial.
Additionally, no one from the FDOT attended the forum. (surprise, surprise)
One question asked was what could be done to improve the pedestrian experience of NW 36th street, which divides Miami’s pedestrian-friendly Midtown and Design District neighborhoods with an intimidating wall of roaring traffic and scant crosswalks.
“It’s a state road,” said Collin Worth, who also expressed frustration at the FDOT’s reluctance to fully embrace “non-motorized units” as a priority in roadway design.
“Sitting outside a restaurant there is harrowing,” said Worth.
A map of pedestrian fatalities in Miami-Dade county shows the problem is widespread though out the city and county. “It’s a problem, that affects everyone, all neighborhoods, all ethnic groups,” said David Henderson of Miami-Dade MPO.
But a closer examination reveals a chilling fact – the most dangerous streets for pedestrians are clearly FDOT roads, with dense clusters of pedestrian fatalities along Flagler Street, Calle Ocho and along US-1.
The meeting did include information on some exciting plans that are in the works. The most interesting of which included:
- Progress on a bike-sharing system like DecoBike for the City of Miami. The current plans call for 50 stations and 500 bikes from Coconut Grove to Midtown, focused mostly on the eastern side of Miami. The plans are currently making their way through the various government approval processes.
- Preliminary plans for a “Miami Bike Station” – a centrally located downtown facility where bike commuters could securely park their bicycles, use a locker and shower after a ride to work. No timeline was given on this project.
- A plan for a protected bike lane/cycle track design on North Miami Avenue is being worked on by city and county officials.
We also applaud the public officials involved for finally engaging the bicycle community. Hearing Commissioner Xavier Suarez at the Bicycle Safety Summit say “We have a paradigm shift going on, and if we don’t recognize it, we’re not serving our constituents,” is a fundamental shift in the political dialogue. Together, with groups like Green Mobility Network taking the lead, we can bring complete streets advocacy to the next level in Miami-Dade County.
On Wednesday, March 7th, the Green Mobility Network is hosting a public forum to discuss how to make all of Miami-Dade streets and roadways safe for all users. This event is open to all those concerned about the future of shared use streets in the greater Miami-Dade area.
Where: O Cinema
90 NW 29th Street, Miami, FL 33127
When: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 – 7:00pm until 10:00pm
Free attended bicycle parking will be provided.
RSVP Here: Safe Streets Miami on Facebook
Wedneday’s forum is the first major event in a long-term campaign being launched by Green Mobility Network called SafeStreetsMiami, with a primary goal of instituting lasting changes that will make the streets of Miami-Dade County safer for all users—bicyclists, pedestrians, runners, children, families, people who can’t afford to drive, and motorists.
The forum will present information about current plans to improve the safety of streets in Miami-Dade County and provide an opportunity for members of the public to make comments and ask questions of a panel of relevant elected officials and decision makers. Leaders in both Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami will be present.
Green Mobility Network also intends to organize a follow-up forum during Bike Month 2013 (March). The purpose of the 2013 forum will be to assess what has been done and what changes and improvements have been made in the past year. The SafeStreetsMiami forum may become an annual event.
Please come and lets all start being part of the solution together.
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.
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.
A summit coordinated by Xavier L. Suarez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 7; has been scheduled for Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at 10:00 AM, to discuss bicycle safety on Rickenbacker Causeway and other areas within District 7. Elected officials from Key Biscayne, City of Miami, and Coral Gables will be in attendance.
Bicycle Safety Summit
Wednesday, February 29th – 10:00am
111 NW First Street – 2nd Floor Press Room
Miami, FL 33128
Transit Miami will be covering this meeting and will post a complete recap afterwards.
Exactly how long does it take to cross Coral Way safely?
In the below video, I am at the Lady of Lebanon Church at 2055 Coral Way in Miami. My destination is the eastbound bus stop located directly across the 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 pedestrian improvements and zero new crosswalks.
Here is the current situation…..
9 minutes, 52 seconds – even with crossing against the stuck pedestrian signal.
The disingenuous excuse for not adding more crosswalks is that the latest FDOT ‘study’ did not measure a sufficient number of pedestrians or cyclists to warrant more accommodations.
Let’s explore that notion.
1. There are plenty of pedestrians, as seen in the clip.
2. The experience of being a pedestrian on Coral Way is so inhospitable to begin with, rational people simply avoid it if they can. No FDOT study can measure human decision-making.
3. Even more pedestrians are present during lunch and “rush hours”. This clip was filmed at around 10:00 am.
This is a classic example of how the FDOT diminishes value from an urban neighborhood by dictatorially imposing arcane, auto-centric design standards and their stubborn adherence to them. Coral Way has all the makings of a vibrant, walkable neighborhood – a healthy mix of medium-density residential and commercial buildings that interact well with the street, including offices, restaurants and shops, beautiful shade trees and room for on-street parking.
But the FDOT’s 40 mph traffic-sewer configuration of Coral Way unquestionably stifles this potential. Their objective is to move cars as fast as possible – a one-dimensional perspective that asphyxiates the economic potential and simple enjoyment of being on Coral Way. As one of the FDOT project managers said to me in the earlier meeting, “Well, some of these cars are going from downtown to West Kendall and they have to be accommodated too.”
Let’s take that theoretical (and farfetched) car commuter into consideration for a second. How many times have they sped past the Greek or Spanish restaurants on Coral Way and never knew they existed? How many times has that person never realized the new clothing boutique, hair salon or bicycle store? Cars and their drivers move through Coral Way like submarines move through water; semi-consciously passing through, hermetically sealed off and disassociated with their actual surroundings. It is pedestrian life that is essential to economic development in an urban neighborhood, not how many trivial seconds you can shave off someone’s commute.
Roaring traffic is simply not compatible with pedestrian enjoyment – and with enjoyment comes time and money spent in a place worth caring about.
The Coral Way neighborhood is one that could actually be quite special to a larger number of Miamians. But when it takes 10 minutes to merely cross a street, who in their right mind would want to be there? With ‘acceptable’ roadway design like this inflicted across the entire state, is it any wonder why Florida is the deadliest state for pedestrians in the nation?
For Coral Way to truly thrive, the FDOT needs to apply context sensitive solutions including a 30 mph speed limit, additional crosswalks, wider sidewalks, improved lighting and more on-street parking.
E-mail FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and demand the application of sensible design standards that will add – rather than diminish – value to our neighborhoods.
“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.
In communities across the country, open streets initiatives are redefining citizens’ relationships with public spaces and encouraging millions of Americans to get active. To foster the growth and development of these exciting initiatives, the Alliance for Biking & Walking and the Street Plans Collaborative have launched two new, innovative resources: The Open Streets Project website and the Open Streets Guide.
Open streets initiatives temporarily close streets to automobiles, allowing residents to walk, bike, skate, dance and utilize the roadways in countless creative and active ways. From Los Angeles to Ottawa, and Missoula to Miami, open streets have become a way for cities to build community, promote active transportation and reconnect neighborhoods divided by traffic.
The website, www.OpenStreetsProject.org, showcases dozens of current initiatives across the continent and allows municipalities and advocacy organizations to share information and resources on their open streets initiatives as they evolve and expand. The Open Streets Guide features best practices from 67 initiatives across the continent, and serves as a tool for cities looking to start or grow an open streets initiative. Click here to download the free electronic copy of the guide. A print version will be available on March 21, 2012 at www.OpenStreetsProject.org.
“Open Streets initiatives are transformational for people and their communities,” said Jeffrey Miller, Alliance President/CEO. “When communities open their streets to people, they inspire citizens to see their roads as public spaces, and provide a welcoming gateway for residents to engage in healthy lifestyles and active transportation.”
“The Open Streets Project aims to support these exciting initiatives by providing advocates and organizers a comprehensive overview of organizational and implementation strategies,” said Mike Lydon, Principal of The Street Plans Collaborative. “We believe the Project will be a catalyst for the continued growth of the open streets in communities across the continent.”
If your city or organization has information to share about an open streets initiative in your community, please contact Mike Samuelson, Alliance Open Streets Coordinator, at (202) 449-9692 x7 or mike@PeoplePoweredMovement.org.
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.
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. (email@example.com)
A recent Sun Sentinel investigative report revealed deeply disturbing data on police driving behavior on South Florida roads. The three-part series investigated an idea that many south Floridians already believed to be true – police officers sworn to uphold the law are amongst the worst speeders on our roads and are not held accountable for their behavior, even when deadly. The data the Sun Sentinel revealed is a telling story of entitlement, danger, tragedy and a nauseatingly pervasive, dysfunctional culture.
By collecting data from SunPass Records, the Sun Sentinel reporters gathered a stunning array of unnerving facts, including:
Since 2004, Florida officers exceeding the speed limit have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths. Only one officer went to jail — for 60 days.
The three-month investigation found almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies driving 90 to 130 mph on our highways.
Miami officers were among the most chronic speeders, with 143 of them driving over 90 mph — all outside city limits. More than 50 Miami cops broke 100 mph — one more than 100 times.
What struck me about the investigation was that it only took SunPass data into account – meaning only highway driving was measured. The nuisance and danger speeding drivers (civilians and police) represent on our on our local and secondary roadways is well-known to South Floridians – pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.
Take for example the Miami officer that inexplicably managed to drive up a utility pole on a quiet neighborhood street earlier in December. Many in our community laughed and shrugged it off as a bizarre accident. I wasn’t so quick to chuckle. This example of negligence and monumental stupidity are the type of things that erode public confidence towards police departments.
The investigation challenges another myth that pervades in South Florida – that we’re known as ‘terrible drivers’ because of our diverse citizenry importing driving habits from around the globe. While there may be elements of truth to that claim, it is not the sole reason the particular brand of driving in South Florida often resembles a demolition derby.
Take the ‘broken window’ theory into consideration. Coined by Kees Keizer of the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands, Keizer’s research focused on the idea that witnessing disorder and petty criminal behavior leads people to perpetuate such actions. (Like how broken windows on a vacant house invite litter, graffiti, etc.)
On South Florida roads, the ‘broken windows’ and litter are represented by the speeding police officers that pass you at 110 mph, screech around corners, roar through intersections, drive up poles and run over innocent beachgoers lying on the sand.
This type of behavior by police trusted to uphold the law has a ‘trickle down’ effect, meaning average citizens eventually feel entitled to speed without repercussion, perpetuating the behavior they observe daily from the police. Who’s enforcing anything? The risk seems small. Combine this collective mentality with urban roads like Biscayne Boulevard designed with suburban design standards that practically encourage speeding, and you have a recipe for the motoring chaos we see everyday.
Three basic ways to begin addressing the anarchy on our roads is enforcement, education and infrastructure (traffic calming). Sadly, enforcement has to begin within our own police departments on a broad scale.
Though perhaps we reached the tipping point today – Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa was involved in a car crash that sent a person to the hospital this afternoon.
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