Are Miami’s proliferating pedestrian overpasses transforming the city into a hamster’s paradise?

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The more we bow our heads in submission to the automobile, the more we lose our city … the more we lose our humanity.
[TransitMiami is hugely grateful to the incredibly talented Mr. Juan Navarro for contributing his artwork to this piece. Thank you, Juan!]

Cities should be built for people, not cars. It’s an irrefutable, almost cliché maxim that still, despite the seeming consensus around the notion, somehow gets lost in the city design and development process.

Greater Miami is a city whose incipient design and development occurred during the apex of the automobile era, an era which is slowly, but surely, dissipating. Our city’s auto-centric legacy thus predisposes planners and engineers to maintain that eroding model of spatial form and function.

The underlying fallacy comes from their failure to recognize the dynamism moving through the city, the revolutionary societal forces changing the way Miamians and metro-dwellers across the planet wish to live in, and interact with, their urban habitats.

Rather, these designers of dystopia look to the increasingly obsolete conditions of the past and — instead of embracing the change around them with innovative design solutions — seek to merely perpetuate the already expired status quo.

To our collective detriment, this status quo expresses itself with bipedal human beings relegated to the bottom of the mobility food chain. In Miami, and with a bit of irony, this demotion often manifests itself upward, where people wishing to get around on their own two feet are forced to ascend up to and move through so-called pedestrian overpasses.

In essence, though, these overpasses are really nothing short of hamster tunnels designed to accommodate and un-impede the movement of cars at the expense of people.

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You may pass, you pedestrian peon, but only after ascending to the tunnel above, traversing through the cage, and descending yet again. Then, and only then, may you cross the street.

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This wasteful, massive piece of infrastructure makes sense only after you’ve been indoctrinated by the dogma that cars take precedent over people. Pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), between the City of Miami and City of Coral Gables.

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Is this the sense of “security” we wish to give to our children? In order to simply cross a street, young child, you must seek refuge in the cage above the unbridled auto traffic below!

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Inside the pedestrian/hamster cage at US-1 and Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), between the City of Miami and City of Coral Gables, on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

These overpasses reify the misguided mid-20th century notion that the automobile reigns supreme. All other modes of transport must make way for, and bow their heads to, the tyrannical king of the road.

Through these pedestrian overpasses, the built environment is effectively screaming at people who choose to use their own energy to get around the city: Step aside, petty pedestrians! Out of the way, bumbling bicyclists! The automobile is coming through!

A relatively complex pedestrian overpass (Coral Way / SW 24th Street & the Palmetto / 826 Highway). In addition to human-sized hamsters, maximum security prisoners would feel right at home.

Apart from the monstrosities in the City of Hialeah, this is one of the more complex hamster tunnels in unincorporated Miami-Dade County (Coral Way & the SR 826 Highway). It evokes scenes from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

Up, up, up, little hamster! Up  and around, around and up, across and over, down and around, down and around! You made it!

Up, up, up, little hamster! Up and around, around and up, across and over, down and around, down and around! You made it!

These are not the messages we should be physically inscribing into the nature of our city. This is not the infrastructure needed to support a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving urban geography.

The overpass at Vizcaya is one of the few warranted ones. A collective sigh of sympathy is nonetheless breathed for that poor cleaning woman tasked with cleaning this hamster path.

The overpass at Vizcaya is one of the few warranted ones. A collective sigh of sympathy is nonetheless breathed for that poor cleaning woman tasked with cleaning this hamster path.

Through the tunnel you go, little hamsters. While this particular tunnel actually makes sense (because it crosses the point where US-1 turns into I-95, at Vizcaya Metrorail Station), these ped overpasses should be very few and far between.

Through the tunnel you go, little hamsters. While this particular tunnel actually makes sense — because it crosses the point where US-1 turns into I-95 at Vizcaya, where a street level crossing would be particularly difficult to engineer — these ped overpasses should be very few and far between.

The caged view from the overpass at Vizcaya. While this is one of the warranted pedestrian overpasses in Miami, the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.

The caged view from the overpass at Vizcaya. While this is one of the warranted pedestrian overpasses in Miami, the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.

As our children and grandchildren inherit from us this little bit of Earth called Miami, they’ll be far more grateful to gain a livable place where they can enjoy the pleasures of the city on their own two feet at the ground level, rather than surrendering to the oppression of the automobile by scurrying through elevated mazes and tunnels.

You want to keep the streets safe for pedestrians? There’s only one real solution: Make the streets safe for pedestrians!

Be on the look-out for a follow-up article where TransitMiami looks at some of the broader social implications of building the proposed pedestrian overpass at US-1 and Mariposa in Coral Gables. Also, be sure to read TransitMiami’s previous piece on that particular proposal, written by TM writer and professional architect Jennifer Garcia.

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10 Responses to Living in a Hamster’s Paradise?

  1. Nadia says:

    Great point and I have to say… The first time I noticed the building of more overpass walkways, I couldn’t help but think “Oh, I thought the cars would fly before we’d have to”

       3 likes

  2. Vinny says:

    As a frequent walker in Miami, I’d rather use the bridges then put my life in the hands of Miami drivers.

       1 likes

  3. Vinny – Therein lies the problem. That shouldn’t be the case.

    Based on reader’s reactions to this article on Facebook and Twitter, I think what is missing here is a discussion of what we want US-1 to be. Should it continue to be a traffic sewer that funnels vehicles (poorly) from South Dade to Downtown Miami? Should Pinecrest, South Miami, Coral Gables, Miami continue to bear the burden that this bad congestion (yes, there can be good congestion) places on their respective municipalities?

    US-1 is a local arterial that has been bastardized to funnel vehicles from the exurbs to downtown Miami. We have the added benefit that a reasonable alternative (metrorail) exists that parallels much of it. Why not tame US-1? Why not create a roadway that isn’t such a hazard to all users (cyclists on the M-path included who are subject to vehicles turning off US-1)?

    This is the conversation that must be had. What shape do we want our community to take? Do we want dense, livable communities where property values retain their value and where mixed-use development provides huge economic benefits? Or do we want a better LOS?

       3 likes

  4. Czarnoff says:

    “…the entire notion of such a bridge should be used extremely sparingly.”

    So how many pedestrian overpasses are there in the whole county? Enough to warrant whining about it I guess?

       0 likes

  5. Brooke says:

    The one pedestrian passage you mentioned that “makes sense” (Viscaya station) closes pretty early.

    I went to a Heat game last year and took the metro to the Viscaya station. When I got off, the pedestrian passage was closed, forcing my friends and I into a terrifying game of Frogger across US1. Public transit and transit facilities need to be available at all hours. Maybe someone might do something crazy and take public transit instead of drinking and driving.

       3 likes

  6. Matthew Toro says:

    I think that was a one-time closure, Brooke. That bridge is open 24 hours to my knowledge.

       2 likes

  7. JM Palacios says:

    Living in an Amish paradise. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOfZLb33uCg Though FWIW, the horse and buggy is less likely to run you over and very compatible with bicycle speeds. So the Amish have it better.

       2 likes

  8. Felipe Azenha says:

    Swire will soon build two or three pedestrians bridges to connect CityCentre. We can probably expect more ped bridges as long as FDOT maintain its so called “level of service” mantra for cars.

       3 likes

  9. javien says:

    what a drama queen

       1 likes

  10. Mike says:

    Agreed!

       0 likes

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