Photo: Jacek Gancarz, Miami New Times

A recent article by Isaiah Thompson of the Miami New Times serves as yet another source showcasing cycling and why it should be a major mode of transportation in Miami-Dade. Below I’ve pasted some key points from the article, but if you have the time the entire piece is worth the read.

At first glance, there is nary a place on God’s green Earth better suited to biking than Miami. It’s utterly flat, with weather that lets a cyclist pedal year-round without donning so much as a scarf in January. Its streets are wide and, for the most part, arranged in a tidy, easily navigable grid.

Meanwhile, as Miami totters in place, more cities are looking to bicycles as an answer to everything from traffic congestion and air quality to fitness and green transportation. Paris recently unveiled the most ambitious bike-sharing plan in history, making more than 10,000 bikes available to borrow citywide for anyone with a credit card. American towns like Portland, Denver, San Francisco, and, closer to home, Gainesville, have transformed themselves in a few short years into some of the most bike-friendly places on the planet. New York, already boasting some 200 miles of bike lanes, plans to double that number in the next two years; Chicago proposes that by 2015, every one of its three million residents will live within half a mile of a bike lane.

Despite Miami Mayor Manny Diaz’s grandiose calls for the greening of Miami, the city possesses not a single finished bike lane; the only one under construction, on South Miami Avenue, is less than a mile long. And the county’s plan, adopted in 2001, states no specific targets whatsoever.

“We’re so far behind and in the dark with bikes it’s absurd,” says Chris Marshall, who owns the Broken Spoke bicycle shop at 10451 NW Seventh Ave. Marshall spent years campaigning for bike lanes and “greenways” to connect the beaches to the mainland, before finally throwing in the towel. “I’d say we’re stuck in the Sixties, but it’s worse than the Sixties,” Marshall says bitterly. “In the Sixties you could still get around by bike.”

A county map produced in 2001 grades every major Miami-Dade roadway based on traffic speeds and shoulder widths. Streets that receive an A for bikeability are drawn in black; those that get a D or worse are in red. The map is blanketed in red. From the largest six-lane monstrosities running like swollen rivers through the county, to the crowded, narrow streets of downtown, virtually every roadway is deemed unsuitable for biking. Of the 1.3 percent labeled A streets, the closest one to downtown is more than six miles west, a small forgotten residential byway that dead-ends at the Palmetto Expressway.

In Miami-Dade’s 2001 Bicycle Facilities Plan, 12 projects are deemed “Priority I” — read: “remotely possible.” In the seven years since the plan was drafted, only two of those 12 have been implemented: the first half of the Venetian Causeway and the second half of the Venetian Causeway.

“It’s a question of commitment,” concedes BPAC Chairman Theodore Silver, who presides over meetings with the dry, mechanical patience of a man crossing a vast desert. “And it’s difficult to get governments to commit to a minority that’s not very popular.” BPAC’s monthly minutes read like the drafting of surrender papers. During a presentation on an upcoming resurfacing of Flagler Street, the group asked a Florida Department of Transportation engineer if a three-foot-wide bike lane might be installed along the massive three-lane one-way road. The answer, which lasted more than an hour, was: probably not.

Ricardo Ochoa, who owns the Cuba Bike Shop at 2930 NW Seventh Ave., arrived two decades ago from Colombia. He worked for most of that time as an accountant before taking over the shop five years ago. Working with bikes, he says, showed him a different America.

Ochoa’s theory is that cars have isolated Americans from each other, especially in Miami. “Here people drive all the time, and it makes them lonely,” he says. “It’s like a cloud of loneliness hanging over the city.

I think Ochoa’s theory is quite accurate. It’s just incredible how much more your neighborhood and city feels like home when you’re experiencing the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations on foot or bike – not isolated by a couple thousand pounds of glass and steel.

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6 Responses to Miami New Times: Miami Should be World-Class Cycling City

  1. Anonymous says:

    You should read the comments from the article, and the piece on the bike blog. Some of the anti-bike folks out there have some amazing statements showing how deep their ignorance is. One guy actually claim that bikes use more of the worlds precious energy than do cars. Isaiah breaks it down and slams him with facts. Quite cool.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Great post!

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  3. Warmonger says:

    Apart from one or two ignorant comments, what is clear from the responses to the article is that there are a number of folks committed to making South Florida a better place to bike for folks of all abilities and walks of life. Now to channel that energy into doing something to move Miami forward, rather than simply complain – that is the challenge.
    Do check out the article and comments.

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  4. Isaiah says:

    Thanks for the post, and glad you liked the article. My editor had (understandably) questioned my use of the word ‘nary,’ — I was charmed to see it resurface on your site!

    Isaiah

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  5. Carlos Miller says:

    I just talked to my uncle in Bogota and he said tomorrow is one of two days of the year when they don’t allow cars on the streets, so everybody will be riding bikes.

    It will probably be all over the news tomorrow.

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  6. Ryan Sharp says:

    Lol, thanks Isaiah. Your article was well written. We need as much exposure as possible to help improve the state of biking in Miami-Dade.

    Maybe it’s just the nerd in me, but I can recall using “nary” in conversation/writing once or twice.

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