One year ago, I moved away from Miami to Washington, DC. Just last week, I took my first trip back to the Magic Ciy – and here’s what I saw.

When I arrived at MIA around 5pm on Monday, an Orange line train was already waiting to depart the new Metrorail Station. After an unintelligible announcement over the loudspeaker, the train pulled away from the station with my car completely empty aside from me. A quick glance around confirmed that no 50 State Security guards were on board, so I managed to snap this picture without getting Carlos Miller’d and taken off the train. (Reminder: photography is legal on the Metrorail despite what some security guards think)

From Government Center, I hopped into a nearby Car2Go and was sitting at one of my favorite bars, The Corner, within minutes. The total travel time from the airport to downtown barstool was less than 30 minutes. Pretty terrific considering those options didn’t exist only a few months ago, but where is Decobike for the city of Miami already?

Here’s a makeshift bus station bench downtown I passed. Not sure this qualifies as a tactical urbanist street seat intervention.

The rest of my trip consisted of a smattering of pan con bistec, cortadito, bicycling and walking around. Of course, there were the demeaning reminders of Florida’s auto supremacy. Like at this new mid-block crossing on NW 36th Street dividing Midtown and the Design District, where FDOT reminds us to Thank the Driver.

Thank the driver? For what, exactly? Not running me over? Following the law? Perhaps they should include direction #5: Call 911.

Oh hear ye royal motorists of Miami! Allow me to offer my sincere gratitude for permitting me to cross your streets!

After a few minutes of watching pedestrians try and use this crosswalk, I’ll concede it’s definitely an improvement over nothing. Some drivers actually did stop for the flashing beacon. But it was mid-afternoon and traffic was relatively light. I can imagine it’s a different story during a weekday rush hour where a bonafide traffic signal would work better.

Most people go to the beach on their vacation to Miami. I watched people trying to cross a street. Sad, I know.

Most people go to the beach on their vacation to Miami. I watched people trying to cross a street. Sad, I know.

Friday evening, I rode the monthly Miami Critical Mass ride though Little Havana, Downtown and Coral Gables with about 2,500 other bicyclists, tricyclists, skaters and wheeled riders of all sorts. The rain kept the numbers down a bit but the pace was slow and the group stayed together. It was one of the better rides I’ve been a part of.

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The next day, the eastbound car traffic on the Venetian Causeway was so heavy, I must have passed over 200 idling cars on my way to the beach. The bicycle traffic on the other hand, was not an issue.

Whizzing by so many people entombed inside giant climate-controlled SUV’s while it’s a perfect 78 degrees outside with gentle on-shore breeze always makes me feel a bit sad and a bit smug at the same time. The only real downside is having to breathe in the fumes from all of these clumsy machines on what is otherwise a pleasant, scenic and relatively safe route to the beach.

Below is a picture of arguably Miami Beach’s most famous building.

I’ve expressed my disdain for Miami Beach’s ‘starchitect’ parking garage addiction on here before, which serve as narcotics for cars that only encourage more driving and more traffic, degrading the experience on Miami Beach for everyone. Former TM writer and author Mike Lydon adds it’s “another lauded building destined to be reviled.” At least DecoBike is a viable way to simply opt-out of the motordom.

Newsflash: We’ve been trying to build our way out of traffic congestion for almost 100 years now. Guess what? It’s never worked – and it’s time for a different approach.

A visitor from New York that I follow on Twitter, the Newyorkist, also noticed that Miami Beach has their priorities all out of whack when it comes to making space for people over cars.

He even spoke to a few local residents on the street about the issue…

Newyorkist also noticed that we don’t have many parks and suggested some underused parcels be transformed.

It’s a valid observation, considering Miami is losing more parks than it’s gaining. Miami is already ranked #94 out of the top 100 US cities for acres of parkland per resident – and that number is set to fall. A number of city parks have been closed due to toxic contamination and the temporary lease for downtown’s Grand Central Park expired this week as well.

Speaking of Grand Central Park, I rode by this tragic scene on Saturday morning…

Like the band that played on the deck of the Titanic until the ship went down, the skaters stayed until the last remaining pavement was ripped up from under their wheels.

Ah Miami. For all of it’s problems and weirdness, a sublime breakfast at Casablanca along the Miami River is the perfect place to forget about it all and just enjoy the moment.

Until you pull up the news on your iPhone and find out this happened the night before…

I was soon off to the airport, where I deftly avoided taking one of Miami’s infamous taxi cabs in favor of another Car2Go trip.

Soon I was 10,000 feet in the air snapping this picture – thanks to the new American Airlines policy allowing electronic devices at takeoff.

¡Hasta Luego, Miami! Until next time…when hopefully there will be some new bike lanes.

 

8 Responses to I spent a year away from Miami – and here’s what I saw on my first trip back

  1. Jaime Umana says:

    I used to live in Miami until I moved to Washington DC as well and let me tell you that there way to explain how Miami has and will always be a great city. It needs a lot of improvements but there is no way to replace the sun and beaches.

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  2. Gabrielle says:

    With regrets I can say there will be less bike lanes on Miami Beach in the New Year. Commission has voted to remove bike lanes that are on Alton Road south of fifth street. Look to see more planned and already striped lanes removed. Miami Beach has not met a bike lane it does not like or want! I predict the first bike lane, on 42 Street, will be the only one left in five years. So sad. All because people who do not ride believe a sharrow works just as well and takes up less space so why not substitute! And away we go!

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  3. Craig Chester says:

    Wow Gabrielle. That is terrible about the bike lane south of 5th! What was their reasoning for that removal? To add parking?

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  4. TransitDave says:

    Interesting to hear the perspective of a former Miamian who has spent a year in D.C., with it’s world-class metro. I always felt that if Miami had a similar metro system, we could generate similar ridership, given other similarities like the large numbers of out of towners and tourist destinations, population density, etc. Any way you might elaborate on this theme of using the D.C. Metro as a case study of what could be in Miami Dade? You’re certainly in a perfect position to do it…………

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  5. Gabrielle says:

    Craig: The neighbors wanted a wider median……the commission made changes to the Atlantic Greenway Master Plan with no public hearing opportunity. The item came up as a discussion item. Sad, so sad……

       0 likes

  6. Myles O'Stooley says:

    mediocre Miami..forever young and never mature..forever emotional and never rational

       3 likes

  7. SEFTA says:

    As a former resident of DC, the lifestyles are incomparable. I had a car when I lived in DC that got trashed because I never used it and left it at the curb. I was a bike messenger there. I could ride from Capital Hill to Reagan Airport with little interaction with traffic. Miami has no plans for the future other than selling itself off to the highest bidder. Our population is growing. No master plans in place or even being discussed. Just the same talk of the newest, tallest tower or parking garage like a giddy school girl. No parks. No bike trails. No mass transit. No community. No leaders

       2 likes

  8. JJJJ says:

    The “thanks the driver” picture is especially amusing because the instructions are so different in spanish….including telling the person to specifically hold the button for 2 seconds.

       1 likes

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