At the City of Miami Beach’s Neighborhoods and Community Affairs Committee meeting today, City staff attorneys were directed to challenge the Florida State Statutes that require the inclusion of bicycle facilities on state roads, and protested the inclusion of bike lanes on the Alton Road reconstruction project on the same safety grounds that require the facility contained in the Statute.

You might remember that Transit Miami has been pushing the department to consider alternatives to a traditional bike lane since the first time FDOT ventured on the island back in June of 2008 . We later reported on the progress of the project here and here, all the while hoping that FDOT would try using more that one tool in their bicycle planning toolbox. Finally, after years of lobbying and advocacy, FDOT presented several alternative options for a bicycle facility on Alton Road at the quarterly progress report on the $40 million dollar project.

Too bad Miami Beach City Commissioner’s told FDOT to take their bike lanes and put them, well, somewhere else.

Not only that, Commissioner Gongora  convinced his fellow policymakers of the idea to attack the law requiring FDOT to consider other users for the roads they build and maintain.  The Commission added to the Legislative Agenda of their paid Tallahassee lobbyist  to get the provision of the Florida Statutes 335.065 removed or changed by giving the municipalities the ability to opt out of bicycle facilities required by the DOT. (Mind you we are talking about Miami Beach  - arguably some of the best urbanism in the entire State of Florida, and the one place most poised to take advantage of a well designed bicycle network.)

So today FDOT comes back.  The Mayor had said that the bike lanes should not be next to the flow of traffic but between the curb and the parked cars  - a parking protected cycle track.

FDOT showed that.

That required a three-foot buffer between the four-foot bike lane and the 8-foot parking lane, reducing the sidewalk to six feet.

Then Commissioner Ed Tobin, who used his power while he sat on the MPO, asked for a physically separate cycle track.

FDOT showed that.

That resulted in an Alton Road with 10-foot sidewalks and a four-foot bike lane separated with a four-foot jersey wall from the traffic, but no parking lane.

FDOT then showed an option with a 16-foot sidewalk and four-foot bike lanes, and again with no parking.

For it’s part the City’s Public Works Department showed their alternative which was to make West Avenue an alternative to having a bike lane on Alton Road. FDOT responded by requiring that all the numbered east-west streets between Fifth and Michigan Avenue be retrofitted with bike lanes, which would require millions of dollars the City would have to borrow and permanent removal of 56 parking spaces.

The kicker is that work would have to be done before FDOT gets started on Alton Road.

So we’re back to  Alton Road.

You have the heap on the credit to FDOT. We are used to giving them hell here on Transit Miami, but we have to give credit where credit is due. They have done a lot of work and shown they can see a different type of road in the future for many of our city’s streets. They should make certain that all of their projects get such attention to detail in nurturing the mix of users. FDOT is realizing it’s responsibility to make getting from one place to another as enjoyable and safe as possible for everyone.

Not just those in cars.

And that’s what we need.  We need to stop building the same old roads that provide for only one type of mobility.  Alton Road needs more people walking, taking transit, and riding a bike- not driving in their cars.

Commissioners Jerry Libbin, Michael Gongora and Jonah Wolfson disagree and voted to challenge whatever design FDOT plans to build on Alton Road that includes a bike facility – on safety grounds.

It was one of the most twisted uses of the law I have ever seen. 40 years of research and data supporting the safety and efficacy of bike lanes by the Federal Highway Administration and the current work of Dr. Jennifer Dill dismissed by two lawyers and a politician.

The City is doing its best NOT to have FDOT build a complete street. I pray every night the City would use half the effort it puts into fighting bike facilities, into building them along with better sidewalks and crosswalks.

Where were these same politicians when FDOT used the Baylink infrastructure promised to us when they rebuilt the Macarthur for the port tunnel?

And with everything in South Beach going down the tubes,  except the water, faster than you can say Atlantic City, the only hope we have for a stable economic future and decent quality of life is to allow for more mobility on this tiny island through as many modalities we can offer, not just expecting everyone to get around Miami Beach in a car.

We need this Alton Road reconstruction project – but we also need better mobility on Miami Beach. I am dismayed at the lack of vision in this community.  Everyone on a bike or on foot, on a board or on skates or in a stroller or wheelchair or scooter is a person not in their car.

What a wonderful place this could be.

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25 Responses to Miami Beach Becomes First Municipality In Florida to Challenge Mandatory Bike Lane Law

  1. We need this Alton Road reconstruction project – but we also need better mobility on Miami Beach.

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  2. As a member of the Miami Beach Bikeways Committee, reading this makes me want to tear my hair out. This invalidates all the work the committee has done and sought to do for years, and makes us both a laughing stock and a sham there only for the mayor to have something to point at and say, see, I’m doing something about bikes!

    Disgusting.

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  3. Kevin says:

    This is a shocking twist. What is wrong with the city of Miami Beach?!

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  4. Minty says:

    As a 40-year Miami Beach cyclist and native resident, I can tell you that I will never use a bike lane on Alton or that ridiculous sharrow on Washington or any other street that is just as dangerous. I like actual safety more than a false sense of one. West Ave is the clear, sane solution. I will continue to use it even if there are bike lanes on Alton. It’s just more sensible.

    But those who think that removing parking on the cross streets for bike lanes is a good idea aren’t taking the handicapped and elderly into consideration at all. Many can’t easily park in the big garages (try that with a customized van) and walk or wheelchair themselves out and then several blocks, especially in the summer heat.

    Those bike lanes as well as being inconsiderate would be a waste of resources. They’re not necessary on most if not all the cross streets. Take that money and extend the beachwalk north instead. That would be considerably more useful (It’s illegal to ride on the wooden boardwalk).

    (FYI. I bike or walk to 90% of my destinations. 90% of my driving involves ferrying an elderly person so I live, everyday, both sides of the argument.)

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  5. Tony Garcia says:

    Minty: cycle tracks are not bike lanes, they are protected bicycle facilities that are used in the most bicycle friendly cities around the world. You may not use a bike lane, but what we are advocating for are alternatives to bicycle lanes. Protected facilities that most people use (look up parking protected bike facility or cycle track to see what we mean).

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  6. Judy says:

    Let’s hope Gran Fondo takes next year’s ride out of Miami Beach! They don’t deserve the tourist dollars.

    SHORT SIGHTED BUREAUCRATS.

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  7. Minty says:

    Tony,

    if they can maintain parking and bike lanes, I’m all for that, but when that has come up at meetings in the past, people have complained that there’s not enough room on the sidewalks for furniture and trees and whatever else they want. It’s also a huge waste of resources when you consider there is a superior alternative just one block over.

    I still won’t use Alton because the intersections are the most dangerous part of using Alton. I often walk my bike at them because of the danger. Bike lanes and having the right of way don’t fix broken bones.

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  8. Tony Garcia says:

    Minty: we are working on getting the drawings. Intersections are a huge challenge and will remain so until bike boxes and bicycle intersections are implemented.
    Also I agree about the parking. Parking is essential to successful pedestrian friendly urbanism. It acts as a traffic calming element, and if designed correctly can be used to create a parking protected cycle track – arguably the most urban and safe of all the bicycle facility types.

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  9. Gabrielle says:

    (It more of a matter of who says they won’t ride on a bicycle facility. That kind of rhetoric from a cyclist hurts me to the core. ) It is a matter of altering the transportation matrix. FDOT should be responsible for considering all modes of transportation when building facilities. This is an example where they do their job. You may not ride there, Minty, but others will and in great numbers. And when they do, traffic counts for bicycles go up and cars go down. Don’t we want to see more folks making the kind of transportation choices we make, and choose to pedal? We encourage that through the proliferation of bicycle facilities the way paving roads made more people buy cars. Believe me, if the roads were not paved, we’d all be better on horseback.

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  10. Tony Garcia says:

    Well said G.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    The statute does NOT require bike lanes… they are required to be ‘considered’ in all roadway projects in urban areas. West Ave is certainly a viable alternative as it is only a block over and has much less traffic – even as it is without bike lanes it’s an enjoyable ride. Alton needs street trees, wider sidewalks, and parking. Just like on Collins, you can’t have everything.

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  12. Tony Garcia says:

    Anon: it is not an either/or debate. Why choose between the options? There is room to accomodate wide sidewalks and a parking protected cycle track. Street trees and all.
    And sure, West Ave is a great route, but why does it have to be one or the other. How about both? We are not doing cyclists any favors by including bike facilities – this is about making a coherent on-street network that is safe for everyone to use.

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  13. Gary says:

    This is addressed to Minty,
    I agree 100% with not biking on major roadways, protected only by a symbolic white stripe. I believe that by putting the parked cars between the bike track and the moving traffic rather than the bicyclist between the parked cars and moving traffic, not only will biking be safer it will also increase the usage of bikes. I believe that the selection of routes for bike facilities should be in descending preference, 1, exclusive bike paths, 2, protected bike tracks, 3, bike lanes on low use roads that run parallel to high use roads and lastly when all else fails, 4, the same old bike lanes that DOT promotes, stuck between parked and moving traffic protected by a magic white stripe on high use roads.
    The removal of parking on the cross streets is insisted on by the FDOT manual if the Alton road bike lane is moved to West Avenue to connect West Ave with all points eastward- Stupid overkill in my opinion but hopefully if the city prevails against the Alton Rd bike component, they will also be relieved of eliminating the cross street parking. I personally think that the whole issue of cross street parking removal would be avoided by having the protected bike track on Alton. That would invite bikers to travel and shop safely and increase the number of bikers beyond the low numbers we have in this county.

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  14. Craig Chester says:

    If the NYC DOT can add mile after mile of protected lanes on the most congested streets in the country, we can find a way to do it in Miami Beach. End of story. Just because there is a protected lane on 8th Avenue, does not mean they don’t put 9th Avenue. The Miami Beach commission has no perspective to the rest of the civilized world.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Actually 335.065 doesn’t even require the consideration of bike lanes specifically… it requires that ‘bicycle and pedestrian ways be established in conjunction with construction, reconstruction….’ Since bicycles are permitted by state law to be operated on sidewalks, providing a sidewalk alone would meet the requiremens of the statute. The title of this post is very misleading and shouls be changed.

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  16. Tony Garcia says:

    good point. Bike facilities does not mean bike lanes – but for the sake of clarity saying bike lanes is in the headline is not misleading or wrong. “Miami Beach challenges mandatory consideration of bicycle and pedestrian ways in conjunction with construction and reconstruction” is a little too long. since bike lanes are a type of bikeway is a reasonable statement.

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  17. Gary says:

    The alternate plan that FDOT presented, I believe it was #1, did include a protected bike track but was unattractive because the excessive amount of sidewalk width that would be lost. The option included the five car and turn lanes flanked on north and south with parked cars with the bike track between the parked cars and the curb and sidewalk at road level. The incongruity of their alternative plan was that while the traditional FDOT bikelanes which place the cyclist sandwiched dangerously between moving cars and parked cars provide 5′ wide bikelanes, the bike track alternative used up 7′, 4′ for the bike track and an extra 3′ for sloppy car parking wiggle room. The concept that being between moving cars and parked ones where every vehicle has a driver that may fling open a door requires less room than a protected bike track where perhaps 20% of all vehicles may have a passenger to slice you and you are in more danger from cars in mid-park procedure is so absurd that it makes me feel the FDOT folks included the extra space as a poison pill. They clearly didn’t want any backtalk when they presented their original bad plan and presented the alternatives only after the original met withering criticism.

    I agree with anonymous that a wide sidewalk with perhaps low buttons and a stripe delineating a 4′ bikelane would eliminate the 3′ extra space that FDOT says would be required if the cyclist was down at road level but even if the track was kept at road level, then the passenger-side line of parked cars could be enforced by a white stripe and the same low buttons.
    I think that all bikers should be pulling for the City of Miami Beach to crack the lock off FDOT’s manual so they can be free to redisign bike facilities that people will enjoy using and feel safe doing it.
    Gary

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  18. Tony Garcia says:

    Gary – good observations. a 3′ buffer for a parking protected lane is pretty standard for that type of facility. That being said you are right on in wondering why the ‘regular’ bike lane doesnt have the buffer. Do you remember how the curb/gutter is handled? is that included in the 4′ width of the cycle track? there is room for tightening up the section to give space back to the sidewalk. or alternatively – just have the cycle track be a part of the sidewalk. that would give the most flexibility in the design, attract the most riders, and address the need for a wide sidewalk.

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  19. Gary says:

    Agreed, but the FDOT manual apparently doesn’t ALLOW any such configuration and is so rigid that the results are poorly designed, little used projects. If the bikelane could be at the sidewalk level adjascent to the curb, it could be designated by either a different paving material or color or simply by a stripe with 4″ diameter 1″ buttons. In europe they have signs showing various combinations of pedestrian and cycle combinations. I gave the FDOT a sketch showing exactly that after they rolled out their project a few months ago. What we would need, I hate to admit, is enforcement of a bell or horn for all cyclists because for sure pedestrians will be on the bike side but I think that the end result will be like the boardwalk or Lincoln Rd.- a major success for shopping, people meeting and non-car oriented trips. I make a big distinction between the high stress “regular” bikelane experience and a pleasant safe bike experience.

    I didn’t get up close to the sketches FDOT presented but I believe there was, from the centerline of the road, the two travel and 1/2 turn lanes then the parking lane then 3′ for “extra”? parking then 4′ of bike track. Then the roadbed ends and the curb raises up to sidewalk level. I doubt that the curb width was added into the 4′ because the more width used up diminishes the sidewalk more, making that alternative less attractive, and that seemed to be the intent of the designers.

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  20. Tony Garcia says:

    re: sidewalk level bike facility – agreed 100%!
    my guess is that the gutter was not included in the 4′ dimension, which it very well could be – adding an additional 18″ to the sidewalk.

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  21. Gary says:

    What is your best estimate on getting the FDOT manual changed to reflect better safer designs that adapt to different conditions rather than steamrolling through the same old stuff, when we have cheerleaders for FDOT’s plans that constantly use the regulations to say “no you can’t do that” or “that’s not allowed”. Even though I think moving the bike lane from Alton to West Ave. does put the bike facility on a less trafficed road, the resulting lane will still be less safe than a bike track, I am hoping that the legal challenge by the city to the FDOT mandate may get the 400 lb gorilla to change his style.

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  22. Tony Garcia says:

    A change leadership, and/or continued public pressure for better design. Challenging the law is not the best solution (i think) because it gives FDOT something to fall back on. “We tried” will be their answer. Pushing state legislators to hold FDOT accountable is a start. Ultimately the change in standards will have to come from within – a culture shift in the agency has to take place. They are still stuck in the highway design mentality.

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  23. Mari Chael says:

    Warning: Nerd Speak.
    Please correct me if I’m wrong: While I’m all for the idea of protected bike lanes, with on-street parking as a buffer, one drawback is that the 18″ sidewalk gutter is width not considered as part of the bike lane, so you have a 4′ bike lane PLUS 1′-6″ of sidewalk gutter space. Street right-of-way is way too precious to go to waste, and who likes overly wide streets in the first place? In the scenario where you have on-street parking, the 1′-6″ sidewalk gutter is included within the 8′ dimension of the parked car. So an alternative: Bike lane added to the sidewalk width. How about that?

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  24. Tony Garcia says:

    Sure, that is one of the many options available for a cycle track. As with all street design challenges there are tradeoffs with each option. The sidewalk level cycle track might reduce pavement width, but increase pedestrian/cyclist conflicts. The at-grade option makes a clear distinction between ped space and bike space. It is not a once size fits all solution.

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  25. Mari Chael says:

    I now just read what Gary just wrote: So now I wonder: 1′-6″ gutter, plus 4′ bike lane, plus 3′ “wiggle room”? (I say redesign the gutter then.) Is it time to make some North South streets car-free? Just might have reached the tipping point where it could be considered, with center lane for trolley or tire trolley
    ….

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