The following letter was sent to Gus Pego, District 6 Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, from Scott Timm, outgoing Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee. Scott and other MiMo stakeholders like Barabara Gimenez and Nancy Liebman have been vocal proponents of improving pedestrian conditions on Biscayne Boulevard, recognizing the connection between successful commercial frontage, and vibrant pedestrian culture.
As you know, the MiMo Business Improvement Committee (BIC) has been advocating modifications to the current design of Biscayne Boulevard, especially the section between 61st and 77th Streets. I understand that at the time the project was being presented to the community, there were competing interests and requests that resulted in the current design. And I certainly understand that budgets are tight, and would not advocate needlessly spending taxpayer dollars.
But the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is a disaster, and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured along this stretch. Your office says that more enforcement is the solution to the problem. Do parents with small children rely on enforcement only to protect their youngsters from danger, say from toxic chemicals under the sink? No, they add easy-to-install cabinet locks to make the environment safer, so that 24/7 enforcement is NOT required. Why insist we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on ongoing enforcement solutions when the roadway could be designed once to enforce safe speeds and conditions?
This item recently posted to the TransitMiami blog illustrates the all-too-common problem – speeding cars flying off the road and smashing streetlight poles and bus shelters. This has been a ongoing occurrence in this neighborhood, and yet all of our meetings with your staff end with the apology that “there’s nothing we can do.”
We think there is something you can do. The MiMo BIC has proposed a re-striping scenario to restore parallel parking to Biscayne Boulevard, creating safer sidewalks for pedestrians and safer speeds for motorists. We’re told that FDOT can do nothing until Biscayne Boulevard is identified as a priority, specifically in the City of Miami’s Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan (MCNP).
Interestingly enough, we are in the MCNP. Policy TR-1.4.5 defines the “Urban Street” as “a pedestrian and vehicular way whose primary function is to serve adjoining residential neighborhoods and the businesses that serve them.” The policy identifies some city roadways as prime examples of Urban Streets, and Biscayne Boulevard is the first one listed. Quoting further from the MNCP: “Principles that will guide the design process will include, as appropriate: lower design speeds and control of traffic volumes utilizing traffic calming devices including but not limited to modification of lane widths consistent with lower design speeds; wide sidewalks; medians; roundabouts; landscaping; attractive lighting; creative and informative signage; on-street parking; and other design features and amenities as appropriate.”
All we want is a neighborhood that is safe for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. A neighborhood that will encourage pedestrian activity as a way to revitalize the local businesses. A neighborhood where the historic roadway serves as a point of pride. Unfortunately, the current design of Biscayne Boulevard is flawed, and for the sake of safety – if not esthetics – it needs to be repaired before someone else is injured or killed.
I would also encourage you to become a regular reader of the TransitMiami blog. There you will learn about problem spots throughout Miami-Dade County where pedestrians and cyclists are forced to fight for their lives; spots that could be made safe with simple roadway design changes.
For personal and family reasons, I am leaving my position at the MiMo BIC, to return north. But know that the BIC, and scores of local residents, business owners, and property owners, will continue to advocate for safer streets and sensible design. We hope that FDOT will partner with us in that journey.
Scott Timm, Executive Director of the MiMo Business Improvement Committee
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