Miami’s drivers are not exactly known for their courteous behavior towards cyclists. But who’s to blame for the road rage? An excess amount of colada in their veins? A lack of (driver) education? Insufficient law enforcement? Too much sun perhaps? It’s probably a combination of all of the above…along with the general apathy towards the right to life of other humans who happen to sit on bicycle. Cyclists are frequently perceived as “entitled” or “arrogant” just because they insist on that pesky right of “sharing the road” (without getting killed). Miami’s Critical Mass does not help much to dispel that notion. There is a definite sense of cyclists and pedestrians being second-class citizens on the road. This cute peek-a-boo road sign in Miami Beach illustrates the attitude well:
This sign seems to say: yeah, there may be bikes out there, sort of watch out for them but don’t go out of your way. Just as the government won’t go out of their way to accommodate for them and install proper signage that is lighted and visible (and bike lanes painted in bright colors…OK I am dreaming now).
Now imagine a sign on I-95 alerting drivers of upcoming exits being hidden in this fashion. Wouldn’t that be rather unsettling? And we are comparing someone missing an exit vs. a human being potentially getting killed by an inadvertent driver here. It’s time to get our priorities straight.
Miamians are taking to the streets on bicycles as they once did prior to the automobile era. Our street spaces and corresponding roadway culture aren’t changing as quickly as they should. This contradiction, marking the growing pains of an evolving transportation culture, will continue to result in unnecessary frustration, violence, and misery. . . . All the more reason to ride more: to make the change come faster.
TransitMiami would like to introduce you to our friend Emily. We wish it were under better circumstances though . . .
You see, Emily is one of those intrepid Miamians who — like an increasing number of Miamians across every neighborhood in the metro region — prefers the invigorating freedom of the bicycle to move around the city. Cycling is Emily’s transportation mode of choice.
That’s great news, of course; something to be celebrated.
Apart from her significantly reduced carbon footprint and her heightened physical and mental well-being, Emily’s choice to use her bicycle as her primary means of transport is also advancing a gradual transformation of our roadway culture.
As a practitioner of regular active transportation, Emily is helping to re-humanize an auto-centric Miami whose residents exploit the relative anonymity of their motorized metal boxes to manifest road rage and recklessness with virtual impunity. She’s contributing to the much-needed, yet ever-so-gradual, cultural transformation toward a shared, safer, more just roadway reality.
The more cyclists take to the streets for everyday transportation, the more motorists become accustomed to modifying their behaviors to honor cyclists’ incontrovertible and equal rights to the road. Likewise, the more cycling becomes a preferred mode of intra-urban transport, and a regular, everyday feature of social life, the more cyclists become conscious of and practice the behaviors expected of legitimate co-occupants of the road.
Indeed, it takes two to do the transportation tango.
And, of course, the more experience motorists and cyclists have occupying the same, or adjacent, public street space, the more they will learn how to operate their respective legal street vehicles in ways that minimize the incessant collisions, casualties, destruction, and death that have somehow morphed into ordinary conditions on our streets.
This cultural shift is one that will take place over several years. Just how many, though, is up to us.
It’s no secret: Miami has a long way to go before a truly multi-modal transportation ethos becomes the norm.
Any delay in the inevitable metamorphosis is due partially to the rate of change in Miami’s physical environment (i.e., its land-use configurations, street layouts, diversity of infrastructural forms, etc.) being slower than the speed with which Miamians themselves are demanding that change.
So what happens when some of the population starts to use its environment in more progressive ways than the environment (and others who occupy it) are currently conditioned for? Well, bad things can sometimes happen. The community as a whole suffers from growing pains.
Take our friend Emily, for example. . . .
On a beautiful Miami afternoon a week and a half ago, Emily was riding her bike through Little Haiti (near NW 2nd Ave and 54th Street), near Miami’s Upper Eastside. She was on her way from a business meeting to another appointment.
A regular cyclist-for-transportation, Emily knows the rules of the road. She was riding on the right side of the right-most lane. She is confident riding alongside motor vehicle traffic and understands the importance of also riding as traffic.
Emily’s knowledge still wasn’t enough for her to avoid what is among every urban cyclist’s worst fears: getting doored by a parked car.
In Emily’s own words:
I was riding at a leisurely pace and enjoying the beauties of the day and the neighborhood.
I suddenly notice the car door to my right begin to open, so I swerved and said, “Whoa!” to vocalize my presence in hopes that the person behind that door would stop opening their door.
For a split second I thought I was beyond danger of impact, but the door kept opening and it hit my bike pedal. I knew I was going down, and I had the strangest feeling of full acceptance of the moment. In the next split second I saw the white line of paint on the road up close in my left eye.
My cheek hit the pitted pavement with a disgusting, sliding scrape and my sternum impacted on my handlebars which had been torqued all the way backwards. My body rolled in front of my bike and my instincts brought me upright.
The time-warp of the crash stopped; my surroundings started to come into perspective and as I vocalized my trauma. The wind was knocked out of me, but I hadn’t yet figured out that my sternum had been impacted.
I was literally singing a strange song of keening for the sorrow my body felt from this violation and at the same time singing for the glory and gratitude of survival and consciousness.
In all fairness, one could argue that Emily committed one of Transportation Alternatives nine “rookie mistakes” by allowing herself to get doored. She should have kept a greater distance from the cars parked alongside the road, the argument goes. A truly experienced urban cyclist doesn’t make such careless and self-damaging mistakes.
Perhaps . . . but we cannot overlook the errors of the inadvertent door-assaulter either. . . . There was clearly a lack of attentiveness and proper protocol on the driver’s part too.
Who parks a car on a major arterial road just outside the urban core without first checking around for on-coming traffic prior to swinging open the door?
It’s hard to really to lay blame here. And my point is that it is pointless at this stage to even try.
The whole blaming-the-motorist-versus-the-cyclist discourse only exacerbates the animosity that is so easily agitated between the cycling and car-driving communities. The irony is that they’re really the same community. Cyclists are drivers too, and vice versa.
At this stage in Miami’s development trajectory, our efforts should be focused on pushing our leaders to ask one question: How can we change the transportation environment in ways that will minimize troubling encounters like this?
We can start by creating physical street conditions that encourage more cyclists onto the streets, where they belong, operating as standard street vehicles.
Show me a city where the monopoly of the automobile has been dismantled and I’ll show you a city where everybody’s transportation consciousness is elevated.
Best wishes on your recovery, Emily.
We’ll see you out there in our city (slowly, and sometimes painfully) advancing a more just transportation culture by riding on our streets as you should, even if the streets themselves aren’t quite ready for us.
[Public Notice with particular import to residents of MiMo, Upper Eastside, Edgewater, Midtown, Omni areas] FDOT to Host Public Meeting for Roadway Project State Road (SR) 5/Biscayne Boulevard Miami — The Florida Department of Transportation District Six (FDOT) will hold a public information meeting for a roadway project along SR 5/Biscayne Boulevard from NE 13 Street to NE 78 Street.
The public information meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at Unity on the Bay, 411 NE 21 Street, Miami, FL 33137. Attendees may arrive at any time from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Graphic displays of the project will be shown and FDOT staff will be on hand to discuss the project and answer questions after the presentation.
The proposed work for this project includes:
- Installing five new mid-block pedestrian crossings at:
- NE 16 Street
- Between NE 23 Street and NE 24 Street
- Between NE 30 Street to NE 31 Street
- NE 32 Street
- NE 74 Street
- Installing pedestrian signals at the existing signals of NE 15 Street and NE 17 Street
- Installing a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of NE 54 Street
- Installing a raised landscaping median at various locations which include:
- NE 59 Street
- NE 66 Street
- NE 67 Street
- NE 70 Street
- Upgrading pedestrian curb ramps and signals to current standards at various locations Construction is expected to begin in June 2015 and last about four months.
The estimated construction cost of the project is $780,000. Please contact Public Information Specialist Sandra Bello if you have any questions about this project at (305) 470-5349 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FDOT encourages public participation without regard to race, color, national origin, age, gender, religion, disability or family status. Persons who need special assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or who need translation services (free of charge) should contact, Brian Rick at (305) 470-5349 or in writing at FDOT, 1000 NW 111 Avenue, Miami, FL 33172 or by email at: email@example.com at least seven days prior to the public meeting. www.dot.state.fl.us
Consistent, Predictable, Repeatable
www.dot.state.fl.us February 4, 2014 Maribel Lena, (305) 470-5349; firstname.lastname@example.org
Topics of relevance include:
• Workplaces of the Future
• Thriving in a 21st Century City with Less Parking
• Successful Reuse
• Moving People and Making Places…TOD
• Future of Residential Development…Renaissance or Replay?
• Trends in Real Estate Financing
• Jumpstarting Important Community Projects through TAPs
• Managing Your Real Estate Career
On Monday, February 3rd 2014, The City of Miami Beach is launching a new free trolley bus that serves Alton Rd and West Ave between 5th St. and Lincoln Rd. The purpose of this trolley is “to help you get to Alton Rd and West Ave businesses” during the FDOT construction project of the same streets. The Alton/West Loop trolleys will travel from 5 Street to Lincoln Road, along Alton Road and West Avenue, with 21 stops along the way.
The service will run approximately every 10 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday. The trolley has a capacity of 25 passengers and has an external bike rack and free Wi-Fi (coming soon). In addition to the free trolley, the City is providing Free Four-Hour Parking at Fifth & Alton Garage with the Trolley Voucher.
While I am not usually one to criticize public transportation projects, especially FREE ones of any sort, I do have some concerns about this particular trolley. Since the goal is to get people to shop at Alton Rd/West Ave businesses, the City seems to have assumed that the reason people are currently staying away from this area is because there is not sufficient parking available. However, this is, at least for me, not at all the reason I do not shop on Alton Road. I thought I would enlighten the City with my TOP 5 REASONS I’M NOT SHOPPING ON ALTON RD RIGHT NOW (and won’t even if the City sends me a free limo).
1. It is more scenic to walk in the trash dumpster alley between West and Alton than on Alton Rd.
Alton Rd is just plain ugly right now. It has always been ugly but now it’s uglier than ever. It’s just not a pleasant walk looking at all those construction signs and the torn up road. Why would I sit in a coffee shop on Alton, looking at a ripped-up street if I can enjoy a coffee on pleasant, pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Rd just a few blocks away? I guess I am not the only one to think this way since the local Latin cafeteria next to my building on Alton Rd recently closed shop.
2. It isn’t safe to be on West and Alton or Alton Rd.
I would rather not die like this. And you?
3. I’d rather not subject my lungs to breathing in the combined exhaust of 10,000 cars.
Yep, it looks like that around here lately. A lot.
4. The traffic lights suck for pedestrians.
Wait, I have to wait 3 minutes for the light to turn green for me, and then I get 22 second to spurt across the street? Nah, that sucks. I don’t even know how someone without my athletic abilities will achieve this (elderly, handicapped…). Pedestrians are really made to feel like second-class citizens with this kind of treatment. That’s why so many of them simply disrespect the lights and decide to cross anyway.
5. There is no bicycle infrastructure on Alton Rd/West Ave
So, as you can see from above, it’s kind of impossible, or really annoying, to be around Alton Rd by foot right now and since driving is not an option right now, there is really only one other alternative. Biking. Needless to say, the treatment for cyclists is even worse than the one for pedestrians since there is simply no infrastructure at all. No bike lane, no bike parking, not even a cutesie sharrow (I say cute because I like the little bike paintings on the street but consider them completely ineffective – but that’s another topic).
So instead of showing you a really great bike lane on Alton Rd, since there is none, I’ll show you one of the Ciclovia held in Bogota, a weekly event where the main street in Bogota is entirely shut down to traffic. This event is a huge success and is attended by thousands of people walking, biking, scooting, and running through downtown Bogota. It seemed to work real well for the local businesses to, as it is held on a Sunday morning which would otherwise not generate such a large crowd. As it turned out, to get people to downtown, no free trolley busses had to be installed by the city. People say Miami is South America – I can only hope this will be true one day.
Having said that, I still love to shop on Lincoln Rd so I will from now on refer to this trolley as the free Lincoln Rd shuttle. I’m sure tourists will be delighted they have a free connection between Ross and Lincoln Rd now. And of course, the homeless will be grateful for an air-conditioned place to rest their weary bones. However, I’m not sure it’ll do anything at all for those businesses suffering along on Alton Rd.
It’s not often that something leaves me without words in Miami. But this does it.
Yes, that’s the Rickenbacker Causeway bike lane. Yes, that’s a giant sign blocking it, forcing bicycle riders into fast moving traffic. This is also located on arguably the most dangerous existing segment of the Powell bridge, where cyclists traveling downhill at higher speeds must be aware of merging traffic on the right (and vice versa).
This picture is all the more appalling considering that in the past few weeks alone, safety concerns along the Causeway have become even more urgent. A number of local media outlets again reported on the issue following an ugly incident earlier this month in which a drunk driver struck multiple cyclists. These reports included editorials in the Miami Herald, a WPLG news segment highlighting the dangerous conditions, and a public response from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez only nine days ago.
How in the world can anyone believe that Miami-Dade County is taking this issue with any grain of seriousness? As one commenter on Transit Miami’s Facebook page said, “You can’t complain about the common sense in this town because there isn’t any.”
Our invitation is still on the table for Mayor Gimenez to come out with us for a ride and see the situation first-hand.
Special thanks to Transit Miami reader Ruben van Hooidonk for the picture. See something we should post? E-mail us or let us know on Facebook.
via the Knight Foundation
Andrew Frey is executive director of Townhouse Center, a not-for-profit that promotes fine-grain urban neighborhoods. Below, he writes about a studio course in architecture at Florida International University, produced in collaboration with Townhouse Center, that is receiving $60,000 in new support from Knight Foundation. Photo credit: FIU College of Architecture + The Arts.
Make a list of your three favorite urban neighborhoods in the world, complete neighborhoods with residents, jobs and stores. Maybe Little Havana in Miami, the North End in Boston and the West Village in New York. Maybe the historic centers of Savannah, Ga., Cartagena, Colombia, and Penang, Malayasia. Now in your favorite neighborhoods, picture the buildings they are made of: most likely many small buildings, each low- or mid-rise, and mixed-use.
Compared to your three favorites, every urban neighborhood in Miami deserves to be just as remarkable in its own way. Focusing on key steps can dramatically increase the probability of greatness, for example, most vibrant urban neighborhoods are made of many small mixed-use buildings, not large towers. Unfortunately, few of these small buildings have been built in Miami in recent decades, and the development community is out of practice: developers, architects, contractors, etc.
To help Miami build great urban neighborhoods, one of the key steps is that the next generation of architects relearn how to design small mixed-use buildings. Knight Foundation support made such a course possible at the FIU Department of Architecturein the spring semester of 2013, and the results were encouraging, enough so that the foundation recently extended its support for an additional two years: the current semester and spring semester of 2015.
Directed by Department of Architecture Chair Jason Chandler in collaboration with Townhouse Center, the course leads each student through documenting an existing small mixed-use building in Miami, visiting Savannah for a long weekend to study and draw urban prototype buildings different from Miami, and, for the remainder of the semester, designing a new small mixed-use building. The best student work is curated into anexhibit and book (paperback or free e-book).
Knight Foundation’s new support will also give us more capacity. The course will expand from 75 students to 125, and add an additional day in Savannah. The Department of Architecture is also requiring the course for all first-year master’s degree students, demonstrating FIU’s commitment to building great urban neighborhoods in Miami. After three years, the course will have trained more than 300 young architects for the challenges and opportunities of small mixed-use buildings.
The course builds on other collaborations between the Knight Foundation and Townhouse Center to promote better urban neighborhoods in Miami, such as the South Florida’s Best Block photo competition and the Hi-Res Miami free building plans. Best Block, presented with the Miami Herald and WLRN, generated broad community debate about what makes a great urban block. Hi-Res Miami is award-winning Interface Studio Architects’ design for the typical small site in Miami, which anyone can download and share.
Why is it important to promote fine-grain urban neighborhoods? Convenience and economic opportunity are part of it, but it also helps people develop deeper attachments to their cities. Charles Montgomery writes in “Happy City” that people feel happier and more engaged on crowded, messy blocks than they do near large buildings with blank facades. And Richard Sennett writes that “The Holy Grail” is to build “mixed-use environments in order that the inhabitants develop a more complex understanding of one another.” Any way you say it, it’s a formula for successful communities.
Frey is also a development manager at CC Residential, a developer of luxury rental apartment communities.
To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) will offer free exhibition tours featuring the theme of social justice at 11am and 2pm. The tours are led by trained museum guides and last 45 minutes.
Visitors who arrive to PAMM by Metromover on January 20 will receive FREE museum admission. A PAMM visitors services staff member will be at Museum Park Station with museum passes, good for Monday, January 20, only.
We’re supposed to have a sunny and cool (72 degree F) day.
Go out, honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and contributions to civil rights and social justice, and visit our city’s spectacular new art museum on a gorgeous January day.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent us an email yesterday in response to our post last week where we questioned his commitment to safety on the Rickebacker Causeway because of several recent crashes on the Rickenbacker Causeway that involved cyclists being struck by cars. As the Mayor noted in his response, we would like to acknowledge that one of the crashes (crash #2 below) that we highlighted did not happen on December 31, 2013 as we had stated. The Mayor’s office correctly pointed out that this particular crash happened nearly a month earlier. Transit Miami, and I personally would like to apologize for this oversight; our source was incorrect and we failed to validate the claim provided to us, perhaps due to our disbelief regarding the circumstances of the original crash that occurred that morning.
As for the third crash, however, while there was no police report (as validated by Mayor Gimenez’s Office), it did occur. In fact, Mayor Gimenez received an email about the hit and run from a respected Miami attorney shortly after the crash occurred. Transit Miami was forwarded this email and we believe that the source was credible and that the crash was valid (but not reported to Police).
Regardless, our position remains the same: there have been too many crashes on the Rickenbacker Causeway and an insufficient response on the part of our elected officials. From our perspective, not enough is being done in the short-term to prevent crashes. In his email Mayor Gimenez stated that 1,447 citations have been issued in the past year. To put that in perspective, that is an average of 4 citations per day. As evidenced by this video, which shows at least a dozen cars speeding on the Rickenbacker Causeway within a 5-minute period, there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to enforcement. If we want to send a strong message about speeding, we should issue 20 citations per day, not 4.
We would like to acknowledge that there are some improvements in the pipeline, however most improvements are likely 5-10 years away. More can be done now, but the County fails to recognize that the major flaw of the Rickenbacker Causeway is its design. A facility like the Rickenbacker warrants a grade-separated bicycle lane adjacent to the roadway. In it’s current design, the Rickenbacker is akin to a highway with a design speed of 50+mph. Unfortunately, until the County can come to terms with this very basic and simple concept, we can expect more deaths and serious injuries on the Rickenbacker Causeway. From our perspective, the County has done a fantastic job of discouraging cyclists from riding the Rickenbacker Causeway. I no longer ride there and I know of many other cyclists that have quit riding the Rickenbacker Causeway because it is unsafe.
I think it is fair to say that the County has not been proactive when it comes to truly making the Rickenbacker safer. The real crux seems to be that the Mayor and his administration do not understand the real problems with the Causeway. They fail to recognize that an unprotected bike lane adjacent to a highway with a design speed of 50+mph is not safe. Yes, there are improvements with the building of wider sidewalks on Bear Cut Bridge, but what about the Powell Bridge were many cyclists have been injured? The proposed improvements are welcome, but they fall short of actually addressing the real problem. The County can narrow the lanes all they want, but the wide-open perception creates the illusion of a highway. The Rickenbacker needs to be rethought.
Although I do not ride the Rickenbacker Causeway, I am willing to put my life at risk and would like to extend an invitation to Mayor Gimenez and his family to ride the Rickenbacker Causeway with me, but I sincerely doubt he’ll take me up on the offer. Any logical human being can see that the Rickenbacker Causeway is not a safe place to ride a bicycle - this shouldn’t be the case.
Below is the email we received from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez:
Thank you for your email. The safety of all users of the Rickenbacker Causeway is a priority to Miami-Dade County (County). I have reviewed all the emails received along with the proposed short and long term goals outlined in Mr. Azenha’s posts of January 5, 2014 onwww.transitmiami.com and, most recently, Ms. Fabiola Santiago’s Miami Herald column on January 10, 2014. We have been working hard to keep the public informed of the improvements being made along the Causeway, but before outlining the County’s efforts, I would like to clarify information regarding the three (3) recent accidents involving cyclists on the Causeway, which have been misrepresented:
1. The police report detailing the accident that occurred on the William Powell Bridge in the pre-dawn hours of December 31, 2013 indicated that the driver was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and was therefore arrested. There was no roadway or traffic engineering defect which contributed to this tragic accident.
2. The second referenced accident occurred on Wednesday November 6, 2013, not two (2) hours later on December 31, 2013 as reported in Mr. Azenha’s post. That accident involved two (2) cyclists who were struck by a driver making a left turn into MAST Academy. The police report indicated that the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the cyclists, and was therefore cited for the accident. Again, no engineering defect or roadway design created conditions which contributed to the accident.
3. The third accident was referenced in Mr. Azenha’s second post and Ms. Santiago’s column regarding a BMW striking a cyclist on Monday January 6, 2014 while leaving Key Biscayne. County staff has not been able to identify any records of an accident report filed by either the Village of Key Biscayne, City of Miami or Miami-Dade police departments for this date and alleged by Mr. Azenha or the other resident who wrote to the Herald.
Unfortunately, there is no amount of roadway design or safety improvements that can be implemented to mitigate a driver’s failure to follow basic road rules or to address reckless, irresponsible behavior on the part of a motorist.
Please be advised that over the last several years, the Public Works and Waste Management Department (PWWM) has taken proactive steps to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety on the Causeway, and other major roadways throughout the County. The County’s commitment to cyclist and pedestrian safety is clearly evidenced by the inclusion of new 14-foot wide bicycle/pedestrian paths at a cost of approximately $8.5 million as part of the ongoing repairs to the Bear Cut Bridge. To implement these improvements the bridge is being widened by 20 feet. Additionally, all new roadway improvement projects include dedicated or shared bicycle and pedestrian paths where possible in compliance with the Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) and State and Federal guidelines.
Finally, with respect to the short and long-term goals outlined by Mr. Azenha, the County offers the following:
Short Term Goals for the Causeway
• Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints – Over the last year the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) has conducted periodic traffic enforcement in conjunction with the City of Miami and Village of Key Biscayne Police Departments. This has been done utilizing speed control signs and uniformed and motorcycle officers to conduct traffic enforcement and education. During this period, MDPD has issued more than 1,447 citations and more than 500 verbal warnings. MDPD will continue its efforts to ensure the safety of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike along the Causeway in partnership with the City of Miami and the Village of Key Biscayne.
• Reduce speed limit to 35 mph – PWWM proactively reduced the speed limit on most of Crandon Boulevard inside Crandon Park from 45 mph to 40 mph many years ago. Also, based on a PWWM speed study conducted approximately 5 years ago, PWWM requested regular enforcement of posted speeds from the Police Departments referenced above and installed 14 speed feedback signs to assist motorists in self-policing their speed. In addition, staff reviewed all of the speed limits along the causeway in preparation for the construction of the Bearcut and West Bridges and as a result adjusted the speed limits to 35 mph and 25 mph in the construction areas.
• Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am - This would not be feasible since the daily placement of cones each weekend would create new falling hazards for bicyclists and present significant maintenance challenges. Furthermore, the causeway is mostly made up of two lanes going each direction and therefore shutting down a lane during the weekend would cause traffic delays and more safety issues.
• Better signage – In 2007, PWWM milled and resurfaced the Causeway from the Crandon Marina west to the mainland. The work included the installation of bicyclist height handrails on the north side of the three (3) bridges and the conversion of the roadway shoulders into bicycle lanes with appropriate bicycle related traffic signage and pavement markings, in compliance with State and Federal standards. As new federal traffic sign and pavement marking standards are developed, PWWM reviews them to determine appropriate locations for implementation of the new standards. For example, as a result of updated standards, PWWM modified the markings on Hobie Island alongside the eastbound bicycle lane. In 2012, PWWM installed wide vibratory lines to alert drivers moving into the bicycle lane. More recently, new signage has been implemented on the Bear Cut and West bridges and updated frequently based on construction conditions and feedback from the Causeway users including bicycle groups.
Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.
Five years after moving to Miami to start working at UM, it is a good time for a quick recap: the good and the bad. And while what happens (and crucially: doesn’t happen) on the Rickenbacker Causeway is important, it is symptomatic of much larger systemic issues in the area.
Let’s start with some of the good developments. They are easier to deal with as unfortunately they aren’t that numerous. Miami-Dade Transit has – despite some questionable leadership decisions and pretty awful security contractors – put into place some important projects such as a decent public transit connection from MIA and while the user experience leaves a number of things to be desired, it generally works; so do TriRail and the express buses to Broward and elsewhere; a number of cities have local trolley systems and while not a great solution in some places, it’s a start; Miami Beach has DecoBike and it seems that it is being used widely – and the service is slated to come to the City of Miami some time in 2014; Miami is finally becoming a city, albeit an adolescent one with a core that, while still dominated by car traffic, is more amenable to foot and bike traffic than it was five years ago (and there are plans for improvement); and at least there is now a debate about the value of transportation modes that do not involve cars only.
Yet at the same time, it seems like Miami still suffers from a perfect storm of lack of leadership, vision and long-term planning, competing jurisdictions which makes for easy finger-pointing when something goes wrong, civic complacency and the pursuance of self-interest. Add to that a general disregard for cyclists, pedestrians and those taking public transit. All of this leaves the area as one of the most dangerous places to bike and walk in the country. And instead of actively working towards increasing the safety of those – in an area where many drivers are behaving in a dangerous manner – that do not have the protection of the exoskeleton of 4000 lbs of steel or aluminum, infrastructure is being built without regard for the most vulnerable.
Poor Leadership and Lack of Political Will
At the top of the list is the rampant lack of genuine support for the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as public transit. The area remains mired in car-centric planning and mindset. While other places have grasped the potential for improving the lives of people with walkable urban environments, we live in an area whose civic and political leadership does not appear to even begin to understand this value (and whose leadership likely doesn’t take public transit).
This starts with a mayor and a county commission (with some exceptions) whose mindset continues to be enamored with “development” (i.e. building housing as well as moving further and further west instead of filling in existing space, putting more and more strain on the existing infrastructure). How about building a viable public transit system on the basis of plans that have existed for years, connecting the western suburbs with the downtown core? How about finally linking Miami Beach to the mainland via a light rail system? How about build a similar system up the Biscayne corridor or, since the commission is so enamored with westwards expansion, connect the FIU campus or other areas out west? And while we’re at it, let’s do away with dreamy projects in lieu of achievable ones? Instead of trying to build the greatest this or greatest that (with public money no less), one could aim for solidity. What we get is a long overdue spur (calling it a line is pushing it) to the airport with no chance of westwards expansion.
Few of the cities do much better and indeed Miami consistently ranks among the worst-run cities in the country (easy enough when many city residents are apathetic in the face of dysfunctional city government or only have a domicile in Miami, but don’t actually live here). When the standard answer of the chief of staff of a City of Miami commissioner is that “the people in that street don’t want it” when asked about the installation of traffic calming devices that would benefit many people in the surrounding area, it shows that NIMBYism is alive and kicking, that there is no leadership and little hope that genuine change is coming.
Car-Centric, Not People-Centric, Road Design
One of the most egregious culprits is the local FDOT district, headed by Gus Pego. While the central office in Tallahassee and some of the other districts seem to finally have arrived in the 21st century, FDOT District 6 (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties) has a steep learning curve ahead and behaves like an institution that is responsible for motor vehicles rather than modern transportation. Examples include the blatant disregard of Florida’s legislation concerning the concept of “complete streets” (as is the case in its current SW 1st Street project where parking seems more important to FDOT than the safety of pedestrians or cyclists – it has no mandate for the former, but certainly for the latter) or its continued refusal to lower the speed limits on the roads it is responsible for, especially when they are heavily frequented by cyclists and pedestrians. All of this is embodied in its suggestion that cyclists shouldn’t travel the roads the district constructs. According to their own staff, they are too dangerous.
The county’s public works department – with some notable exceptions – is by and large still stuck in a mindset of car-centricism and does not have the political cover to make real improvements to the infrastructure. Roads are still constructed or reconstructed with wide lanes and with the goal of moving cars at high speeds as opposed to creating a safe environment for all participants. Yes, that may mean a decrease in the “level of service”, but maybe the lives and the well-being of fellow humans is more important than getting to one’s destination a minute more quickly (and if you have decided to move far away from where you work, that’s just a factor to consider). The most well-known example is the Rickenbacker Causeway which still resembles a highway after three people on bicycles were killed in the last five years and where speeding is normal, despite numerous assurances from the political and the administrative levels that safety would actually increase. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make things much better and that is all that has happened so far. But even on a small scale things don’t work out well. When it takes Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami months to simply install a crosswalk in a residential street (and one entity is responsible for the sidewalk construction, while the other does the actual crosswalk) and something is done only after much intervention and many, many meetings, it is little wonder that so little gets done.
(Almost) Zero Traffic Enforcement
It continues with police departments that enforce the rules of the road selectively and haphazardly at best, and at least sometimes one has the very clear impression that pedestrians and cyclists are considered a nuisance rather than an equal participant in traffic. Complaints about drivers are routinely shrugged off, requests for information are rarely fulfilled and in various instances police officers appear unwilling to give citations to drivers who have caused cyclists to crash (and would much rather assist in an exchange of money between driver and victim, as was recently the case).
The above really should be the bare minimum. What is really required – given the dire situation – is for public institutions to be proactive. But short of people kicking and screaming, it does not appear that those in power want to improve the lives and well-being of the people that they technically serve. I view this issue as an atmospheric problem, one that cannot easily be remedied by concrete action, but rather one that requires a mindset change. A good starting point: instead of trying to be “the best” or “the greatest” at whatever new “projects” people dream up (another tall “luxury” tower, nicest parking garage [is that what we should be proud of, really?], let’s just try not to be among the worst. But that would require leadership. The lack thereof on the county and the municipal level (FDOT personnel is not elected and at any rate, is in a league of their own when it comes to being tone-deaf) means that more people need to kick and scream to get something done (in addition to walking and biking more). Whether this is done through existing groups or projects like the Aaron Cohen initiative (full disclosure: I am part of the effort) is immaterial. But if there is to be real improvement, a lot more people need to get involved.
A Transit Miami shout-out to the Village of Miami Shores and the Miami Shores Police Department. Everyday should be bike to school day if only the County and the FDOT could get their act together and design streets that are safe for children to ride on. Unfortunately, they only way to ride safely is with a police escort.
Open Transit: Transit Design for Urban Living
By studying transit landmarks like Grand Central Terminal, visited by 750,000 commuters, diners, and shoppers daily, and Rockefeller Plaza, essentially a large subway transit concourse, guest speaker Peter Cavaluzzi shares his Key Principles of Open Transit.
- Learn what’s essential to successful contemporary urban design and redevelopment.
- What makes successful iconic urban spaces and discover how to apply these principles to any building development.
- Leverage and position transit facilities and infrastructure to create iconic designs without dominating the view.
A white BMW hit a cyclist going out of Key Biscayne at Bear Cut Bridge this morning. The driver didn’t stop. Fortunately, the cyclist was not seriously injured. This is the sixth cyclist in a week that has been hit on the Rickebacker Causeway.
Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.
Here are our recommendations to improve safety on the Rickebacker Causeway:
Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
• Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints
• 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.
• 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
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