The following is a guest post by Matthew González, a pedestrian, cyclist, and in-denial vegetarian who blogs his adventures at mgregueiro.com. He formerly worked in Miami with Teach For America and now lives in Spain doing research as a Fulbright Fellow. He launched mgregueiro.com as a place to discuss great ideas with the many great minds hiding throughout the wrinkles and corners of the interwebs. Check out his blog, or follow him at @mgregueiro to join the conversation.
In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians and 618 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles in the United States. The most dangerous state? Florida, with 4.40 pedalcyclist fatalities per million population. Though some states have worked to lower this number by painting bike lanes and posting “Share The Road” signs, it is time American cities move from this temporary solution to a more permanent one: designing streets that serve motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.
The problem with “Share The Road” signs is that they pin cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians against each other by making them responsible for outcomes, i.e., when a cyclist gets hit by a car it must be the cyclist’s or motorist’s fault. This thinking, however, doesn’t go deep enough and will not bring the much needed solutions.
These fatalities are caused by a systemic failure of our city infrastructure to provide safe spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Legislators must understand that “Share The Road” signs are no more than construction signs: they represent the need for work to be done on our city’s roads, not the outcome. Cycling and jogging/running are the two most popular outdoor activities among Americans and it is time our city infrastructure reflect it.
Living in cities designed for and around the car, it is easy to forget that walking and cycling predate the automobile as primary modes of transportation. In fact, crosswalks and bike lanes were a consequence of automobile companies lobbying for changes in street design to make traveling by automobile more practical and lessen the hatred of motorists. (For a brief history on this shift in city design, check out this great TEDx talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen: Bicycle Culture by Design)
By the early 1960s, cyclists had lost the battle for America’s streets: roads were for motorists. But in 1967, cyclists won a major victory with the creation of the first modern bike lane in Davis, California. And twenty years later, the now iconic “Share The Road” sign was adopted by the North Carolina Board of Transportation – now the Department of Transportation Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation (A tip of the helmet to the Tar Heel state).
Unfortunately, more than twenty years later, cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians are still fighting to share the road. And looking at the number of pedestrian and cycling deaths caused by motorist each year, pedestrians and cyclists are losing.
Looking Past “Share The Road”
The solution to these unnecessary deaths is no secret. Denmark and The Netherlands boast the highest number of cyclists per capita. According to a 2011 study published in Injury Prevention, “27% of Dutch trips are by bicycle, 55% are women, and the bicyclist injury rate is 0.14 injured/million km. In the USA, 0.5% of commuters bicycle to work, only 24% of adult cyclists are women, and the injury rate of bicyclists is at least 26 times greater than in the Netherlands.”(Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street)
What is the difference between the US and these countries? Our streets.
The Netherlands has more than 1,800 miles of cycle tracks: bicycle paths that are separated from the street by a physical barrier. Meanwhile American cyclists are still fighting for bike lanes, that are easily ignored by motorist.
To bring an end to these unnecessary deaths, America’s cities need complete streets: roads designed to serve the needs of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. This approach to city infrastructure is not imaginary, it has proven itself to be successful in The Netherlands, Denmark, and many other nations. Moreover, looking at the drastic paradigm shift that swept the nation after the car, it is clear that the US can again change the way our cities approach road design.
The Bear Cut Bridge connects the island Village of Key Biscayne to the Miami mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway.
The following public message just came to TransitMiami from Jimmy Martincak, the Road & Bridge Maintenance Superintendent for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Public Works & Waste Management:
Emergency lane restrictions have been implemented on the Bear Cut Bridge along the Rickenbacker Causeway. The Public Works and Waste Management Department is routing vehicular traffic in a counter flow manner on two lanes of the current eastbound portion of the bridge (toward Key Biscayne).
One lane will be used for eastbound vehicular traffic and the other will be used for westbound vehicular traffic (leaving Key Biscayne). This will reduce traffic flow to one vehicular lane in each direction over the Bear Cut Bridge.
Eastbound bicyclists in the bike lane are being directed onto the off road path. Westbound bicyclists in the westbound bike lane are unaffected [emphasis added].
Should you have any questions or concerns, kindly contact our office.
Thank You, Jimmy
James Martincak, Road & Bridge Maintenance Superintendent
Miami-Dade County – Public Works And Waste Management
4299 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne, Florida – 33149
Be sure to contact Mr. Martincak with your thoughts on the matter.
While many paid money to be stuck in motor traffic in smelly, vomit-ridden taxis, this handsome chap chose to cruise to his New Year’s celebration with the fresh ocean breeze blowing in his perfectly groomed hair.
He chose to travel the smart way: by riding a bicycle . . . all while oozing style, no less.
We know nothing more about him . . . All we know is that he was the classiest New Year’s reveler on Miami Beach . . .
Ride on, my friend . . . ride on . . .
This won’t come as news to many of you, but for several months now, the experience on Metrorail has been improved tremendously.
The transition from 6- to 4-car trains since the grand opening of the Orange Line to the brand new Miami International Airport Station (a.k.a., Central Station) in late July 2012 has certainly been a welcome change.
The trains now come much more frequently, reducing:
- 7-8-minute rush hour wait times to 5-6-minute rush hour wait times,
- 15-minute off-peak hour wait times to 7-8-minute off-peak hour wait times, and
- 30-minute weekend wait times to 15-20-minute weekend wait times.
Apart from that indispensable improvement to the system, you’ve almost certainly also noticed the improvements to the physical layouts to the inside of the train cars themselves. In nearly every Metrorail train car, one now finds that two sets of seats have been removed and, from the resultant additional space, there is now a much-needed area for standing passengers and bike and luggage storage.
Below are some pictures of the new Metrorail space in action. It’s great to see people regularly using the space, especially during rush hour, when there simply aren’t enough seats for everybody (not to mention that many people, myself included, actually prefer standing over sitting).
The additional standing room is an improvement of which I’ve personally been a long-time advocate. In November 2011, I presented a set of possible policy changes to the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee pertaining to the many issues surrounding the Metrorail Bike & Ride Policy. The removal of seats to create more standing and storage area was the primary proposal of the presentation. It’s great to know that Miami-Dade Transit is listening to its riders! Now we just need more people speaking-up!
One of the overarching problems with the Bike & Ride policy (notwithstanding the utterly ineffective Bike & Ride permit system) has always been that bicycles were relegated to the back of the train. This created lots of confusion and often overcapacitated the rear train car with bikes.
The new Miami-Dade Transit Bike & Ride policy (last updated July 24, 2012) permits bikes in any train car containing the sign depicted above. That’s a huge improvement! The only problem is that Miami-Dade Transit has yet to install signs on the exterior of the train cars so that riders can identify which cars are appropriate to enter with their bicycles.
Another positive change is that the new Bike & Ride policy doesn’t explicitly specify a maximum number of bikes permitted in each train car. The previous number of bikes allowed on the train was a mere four. As you can imagine, that policy was ridiculously impossible to enforce, and completely undermined the point of having a policy in the first place. If you’re going to make rules, make sure they make sense and can be enforced, otherwise the entire system is delegitimized. Fortunately for us, limits are no longer specified.
There are still problems, of course. Miami-Dade Transit still hasn’t improved the system for distributing and enforcing its Bike & Ride permits — that’s a whole other issue!
Still, it’s undeniable that, with regard to the overall Metrorail system, layout, and policies, things are evolving for the better. Until the new Metrorail train cars are acquired in the last quarter of 2014 (for installation and usage estimated for the first quarter of 2015), we’re going to have to appreciate what we’ve got and continue making our voices heard to make it better!
We received some good news from County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa a few minutes ago in response to our email this weekend:
I would like to thank the cycling community for expressing their opinions and concerns about this item that is of importance to all the residents of Miami-Dade, as many of us rely or know of someone who relies on bicycles as a means of transport and/or recreation. My intent in sponsoring this resolution was not to prevent bike lanes from being created. On the contrary, I support and embrace establishing bike lanes Countywide. I acted out of concern for the safety of cyclists, particularly on SW 57 AVE from SW 8 ST to SW 24 ST, where customers of businesses along this stretch of road back their cars directly onto SW 57 AVE. I am concerned that this would create an unsafe environment for cyclists. Additionally, I sought greater cooperation between FDOT, Miami-Dade County, and Municipalities to make sure we create an atmosphere where bike lanes continue to be encouraged while ensuring safety.
In light of your concerns, I am requesting this item be temporarily deferred to ensure nothing in this item will negatively impact the cycling community. Your opinions are always welcome.
Commissioner Rebeca Sosa
Miami-Dade County, District 6
Transit Miami would like to thank Commissioner Sosa for pulling the item from the agenda. We look forward to working with her office to work through some of the issues we raised with regards to item #121569 while fostering a healthy redevelopment of 57th Avenue that both enhances the mobility of all roadway users and supports the needs of local businesses. While we do agree that greater cooperation is needed between FDOT, Miami-Dade County, and the local municipalities, we believe that this discussion should take place in a public manner and in a fashion that affords the communities greater say over FDOT roadway projects.
What can we learn from the Miami of the past?
With some extra ‘indoor time’ over the past few days due to tropical storm Isaac (when I wasn’t bike riding or taking photos of the devastation), I spent a good deal of time looking at old photos of Miami on FloridaMemory.com. It’s fascinating to observe the evolution of Miami and it’s environs; how some areas drastically transformed while others stay remarkably similar though the years. What’s also captured here is the insidious destruction the automobile wrought on downtown Miami through the 50′s and 60′s after the streetcars were town out, historic buildings were razed and parking lots sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rainfall.
I’ve been posting a few photos on our Facebook page, but without further adieu, here is a collection of my favorites.
Which are yours?
Check out this video explaining the “Idaho Stop” law that allows cyclists to yield at some intersections, rather then coming to a complete stop. It’s been on the books for the past 27 years in that state.
The Oregon legislature is considering passage of a law that would allow bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. These “rolling stops” would allow bike riders to preserve some of the momentum they depend upon for efficient travel, just so long as they don’t infringe on the safety and rights of others.
The law is based on one that’s been successful in Idaho for the last 27 years, so it’s come to be known as the “Idaho Stop” law.
I’ve long contended that if a person on a bicycle is expected to come to a full stop at every single intersection no matter the circumstances, it’s the equivalent of a car driver putting their vehicle into ‘park’ and turning off the ignition before continuing through.
Aaron Bialick at SF Streetsblog weighs in with a powerful argument supporting “Idaho Stop” law in California.
The stop sign law in effect in almost every state has a fundamental flaw: It assumes that bicycles are just like cars, creating the unrealistic expectation that someone on a bike should make a full stop at every stop sign, even when there are plainly no cars or pedestrians nearby.
The problem with this is that it effectively criminalizes the way that people naturally negotiate stop sign intersections on a bike: by slowing, checking for traffic, and being prepared to yield to others. Try the experiment a million times, and you’ll get the same results: everyone, including SF police officers (and probably the lawmakers themselves), will negotiate this way.
The reason behind this is, basically, that operating a 30-pound bicycle is quite different from driving a multi-ton, motorized vehicle. A bicycle doesn’t encase the user in a bulky metal frame that hinders vision. Bicycles can also stop on a dime compared to cars. It’s for these reasons that when driving a car, the care needed to avoid a crash is drastically higher.
To reflect this reality, Idaho amended its stop sign law to allow bicycle riders to treat stop signs as yield signs. This means that while a bicycle rider still can’t blow through stop signs or violate anyone’s right-of-way — which is dangerous and should be enforced — they are allowed to slow down, check for traffic, and proceed legally. The law has clarified expectations between road users, and, as the above video (produced by Spencer Boomhower in support of an effort in Oregon to pass an Idaho-style law) notes, it has a 30-year track record.
Would you support an “Idaho Law” in Florida?
Political will and courage is necessary to step Miami’s bicycle network up a notch.
Sharrows. Chevrons. Shared lane markings. Little painted bicycles on the street.
Like fungi after a spring rainfall, Miami has seen a rapid proliferation of these markings on her streets, designed to remind motorists to be aware of cyclists and their right to the lane. While the markings are a welcomed improvement to our otherwise naked, auto-dominated streetscape, the sharrow boom is raising some concerns in Miami’s cycling community and beyond.
Has the the sharrow obsession come at the expense of more substantial bicycling infrastructure?
Sam Ollinger at Bike San Diego argues that her city has fallen into this trap, using sharrows as copout to real change.
“In the last year, San Diegans have seen the increasing number of shared-lane markings, also called “sharrows.” Sharrows are appearing everywhere: Adams Avenue, Park Boulevard, Broadway, El Cajon Boulevard, Grand Avenue, Voltaire Street, Chatsworth Boulevard, Hotel Circle South, Pacific Highway and more. However, these sharrows are being used as a cheap band-aid instead of implementing real change on our roadways that would increase the number of people riding their bicycle for transportation or recreation.
For starters, San Diego’s Bicycle Master Plan recommends sharrows on roadways that are too narrow for bike lanes. Sharrows are recommended on roads that have a minimum width of 14 feet. Bike lanes are recommended on roads that have a minimum of 15-17 feet. El Cajon Boulevard, for example, has three travel lanes in each direction – it has more than enough room for a bike lane.”
The same argument can be made for Miami. When I take a look at our current bicycle lanes, I cannot imagine a single one that required the removal of a vehicle travel lane or parking. It seems that Miami’s current bicycle lane striping, like on S. Miami Avenue in Brickell, NW 1st Avenue in Overtown, on Coral Way through the Roads for example, was the “low-hanging fruit”, meaning that the existing pavement was wide enough to add bicycle lanes without a significant alteration of the existing street configuration, save perhaps narrowing the travel lanes a foot or two. It’s a commendable feat, but what needs to come next are the “hard miles” of lanes to achieve connectivity and encourage ridership.
What are “hard miles”? New York City DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan used the term in a November article for the New York Times. Hard miles, Ms. Sadik-Khan puts it, are bicycle lanes in the densest, most contested parts of town to achieve connectivity with the lanes that were easier to complete. Many of the 280 miles of bicycle lanes NYC has built in the last four years have been of the “hard mile” variety.
Miami’s answer for the “hard miles” seems to be the cheap sharrow. And it ‘aint cutting it anymore.
One of the loudest gripes with Miami’s current bicycle infrastructure is the lack of connectivity, where lanes seemingly begin and end at random, forming an incongruous network. It’s obvious that the sharrow seems to be the answer du jour. But how effective is this treatment and are they coming at the expense of better, safer facilities?
A recent study of the sharrows on Washington Avenue (.pdf) in Miami Beach showed that before sharrow implantation, 55% of bicycle riders were on the sidewalk. After the sharrows, that number reduced to 45%. Clearly, many riders still feel safer on the sidewalk, despite the painted bicycle in the middle of the road. The sharrows are probably doing very little, if anything, to encourage would-be riders to take to the streets.
From the Bike San Diego piece:
A recent report from the Mineta Transportation Institute, an institute that was established by Congress to research “multimodal surface transportation policy and management issues”, concluded that in order to attract a wide segment of the population, a bicycle network’s most fundamental attribute should be low-stress connectivity, that is, providing routes between people’s origins and destinations that do not require cyclists to use links that exceed their tolerance for traffic stress, and that do not involve an undue level of detour.
Conventional sharrows are not accomplishing the “low-stress connectivity” emphasized in the report. The infographic above is from a study in Portland, OR that found 60 percent of people surveyed were interested in cycling, but concerned for their safety. The “1% strong & fearless” and the “7% enthused & confident” are the ones most likely to appreciate the sharrow. But what about about the biggest chunk of prospective riders? To encourage more people on bikes, we need safe, dedicated infrastructure. And that almost always requires some sacrifice at the altar of the automobile.
In early 2012, I wrote a piece called The Year in Bicycles where I wondered if this would be the year Miami saw it’s first protected bicycle lane. As we approach the annual halfway mark, that question still remains unanswered.
The real question is, when will we see the “hard miles” of bicycle lanes in Miami to enhance and connect our network? Because conventional sharrows aren’t cutting it.
Marlins need to step up to the plate and encourage healthy transportation.
The Miami Marlins won two games over the Colorado Rockies earlier in May, but they’re taking us to school out in Denver on encouraging healthy ways to get to the ballpark.
Below is an e-mail from the Colorado Rockies announcing their “Bike to the Game” event. Fans that bike to Coors Field this Sunday will enjoy free, attended bicycle parking and can enter a drawing for fun prizes which include a chance to take batting practice with the Rockies before a game. The rest of the e-mail highlights other initiatives the Rockies undertake to improve their community, including a season-long program in which the team plants a tree for every home run hit.
The Rockies aren’t alone in their active transportation initiatives. Other teams like the Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and others offer free bicycle valet and other benefits for those that leave the car at home.
Contrast these programs with the Miami Marlins idea of “bike friendliness” which includes bicycle racks in the middle of car-clogged parking garages and a few hitches around the stadium. The list pretty much ends there.
If you are curious on how to get to Marlins Park by bicycle or on foot, prepare to dig through the team website to find any helpful information. Bicycle and pedestrian directions are buried at the very bottom of their “Parking at Marlins Park” page. This begs the question – why would pedestrian directions be under the parking information? By putting this information last, it makes walking or biking seem like the least attractive option. This of course, is pretty misguided – The Miami New Times already proved that biking is the fastest way to get there.
The included area map is also tremendously disingenuous, as it includes routes labeled as “funded greenways”, “funded sharrows” and “funded bicycle lanes” which don’t exist yet. The Marlins also consistently brushed off requests from the City of Miami to assist in making the area more bicycle friendly. The team did widen a few sidewalks immediately adjacent to the ballpark.
The bicycle racks the Marlins installed are like putting a dollar bill inside a wasps nest. Your average Joe probably isn’t going to stick their hand inside. Despite some quiet Little Havana streets around the stadium that are easily navigable and pleasant for riding, many fans are unfamiliar with them. The arterials of NW 7th St and NW 17th Ave are downright hostile and nasty – for motorists as well. The Marlins do absolutely zero to encourage riding to the game like other teams do, including the Rockies.
Even more bewildering is that despite the new stadium being recently awarded a LEED Gold certification, the Marlins have no active transportation programs for their fans. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) is a rating system designed by the United States Green Buildings Council to guide newly constructed, high-performance buildings that minimize their impact on the environment, are operated in a more efficient manner and are healthier for those who use the building.
But how the majority of fans are arriving to the park is anything but “green”. Attendance at the park is already waning. The Marlins should step up to the plate, follow the lead of other teams and encourage more active transportation to the ballpark.
The cost is minimal and the greater Miami community will appreciate the outreach from a team in desperate need of improved public relations. Bicycling isn’t a fringe activity in Miami any longer and the Marlins should take notice.
(Updated 5:05 pm) The Marlins can show their interest by supporting the upcoming Green Mobility Network Marlins Stadium Ride. Working together with City of Miami Bicycle Coordinator Collin Worth, GMN will be identifying the best routes to the stadium, and will be having a kickoff ride June 30 to “show residents of Miami that it is possible to bike to the Marlins stadium,” according to organizer Eli Stiers. Time for the Marlins to step up to the plate.
It’s that time of year again, folks . . . Time to give yourself a break from the self-imposed captivity of the automobile and reintroduce yourself to that two-wheeled stallion eagerly waiting to transport you to wherever your heart desires (and, in this case, even that place you may not wish to be: work).
Friday, May 18 is National Bike to Work Day!
In fact, this entire week (May 14 – May 18) is National Bike to Work Week, one of many events being held in celebration of National Bike Month. (Here in Florida, our official Bike Month is celebrated in March.)
The City of Miami’s Bicycle Coordinator, Mr. Collin Worth, has done a great job organizing some group rides for Bike to Work Day. At least two group rides have been planned for commuters working in the City of Miami.
The first ride starts in Coral Gables and ends downtown in the Health District (click on the link for route map and details):
Start Location: University Metrorail Station
Start Time: 7:00am
Stop Location: Health District
Stop Time: 7:40-8:00am (depending on group comfort level)
Total Distance: ~9 miles
The second ride starts in Miami Beach and ends in Coconut Grove (click on the link for route map and details):
Start Location: South Point Park
Start Time: 7:00am
Stop Location: Coconut Grove
Stop Time: ~7:50-8:10am (depending on group comfort level)
Total Distance: ~12 miles
And, of course, any rider wishing to join can simply meet-up with the groups anywhere along the way . . .
So break from the routine of stop-and-go traffic and miserable motorists. Hop on that bike of yours and get to work in style, with a cool breeze in your face as the sun rises to what will certainly be a very non-routine day. It could very well change your life . . .
Discussion reveals frustration with FDOT as a common thread, and a maturing Complete Streets advocacy movement.
O Cinema in Wynwood was packed to the rafters last night for the SafeStreetsMiami Forum – a public meeting organized by the Green Mobility Network to engage elected officials, government employees and the general public on how to make Miami-Dade County roads safer for all road users.
The meeting comes on the heels of the Bicycle Safety Summit on February 29th, organized by Commissioner Xavier Suarez after the death of cyclist Aaron Cohen on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Wednesday night’s forum allowed attendees to submit written questions directed to the panelists, including Miami-Dade Bicycle Coordinator David Henderson, and Jeff Cohen from the Traffic Engineering Division of Miami-Dade County Public Works, City of Miami Bicycle Coordinator Collin Worth, City of Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Miami-Dade District 7 Xavier Suarez, and representatives from Miami-Dade Transit.
The written questions created a more directed, poignant conversation, in contrast to the free-flowing public input at the District 7 Bicycle Safety Summit. The Q/A format allowed public officials to answer directly to the folks who use the streets. The Safe Streets Forum was about showing our elected officials that there is a strong and growing bicycle constituency, and that real changes need to be made in the way that we design our streets.
Over the course of the evening, one common thread emerged – that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is one of the largest roadblocks to implementing more complete streets throughout the county. Roads including Biscayne Boulevard, Brickell Avenue, Coral Way and the MacArthur Causeway, among many others, are ‘state roads’ and fall under the jurisdiction of the FDOT, who adhere to arcane, auto-centric standards ill-suited for safe streets in an urban setting.
Commissioner Sarnoff explained his frustration with the FDOT, particularly on the issue of Brickell Avenue. Together with Transitmiami, Commissioner Sarnoff has lobbied FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego hard for a safer 30 mph speed limit for Brickell Ave, while Pego and the FDOT are opposed. As Sarnoff explained, the FDOT prioritizes moving cars as fast as possible, rather than accommodating – in FDOT speak – “non-motorized units”.
“I will treat Brickell as a neighborhood, while FDOT will only treat it as a pass through,” said Sarnoff.
Sarnoff and others stressed the importance of continued advocacy and maintaining pressure on officials and agencies like the FDOT. He also suggested that local advocates form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to support candidates that align with their goals.
We are happy that Sarnoff suggested increased public pressure on the FDOT for more pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets. We support this call, as we at Transit Miami have been some of the loudest, most consistent voices in demanding change at the FDOT (only to receive information that TransitMiami.com is blocked from FDOT computers).
The first step in knowing you have a problem is denial.
Additionally, no one from the FDOT attended the forum. (surprise, surprise)
One question asked was what could be done to improve the pedestrian experience of NW 36th street, which divides Miami’s pedestrian-friendly Midtown and Design District neighborhoods with an intimidating wall of roaring traffic and scant crosswalks.
“It’s a state road,” said Collin Worth, who also expressed frustration at the FDOT’s reluctance to fully embrace “non-motorized units” as a priority in roadway design.
“Sitting outside a restaurant there is harrowing,” said Worth.
A map of pedestrian fatalities in Miami-Dade county shows the problem is widespread though out the city and county. “It’s a problem, that affects everyone, all neighborhoods, all ethnic groups,” said David Henderson of Miami-Dade MPO.
But a closer examination reveals a chilling fact – the most dangerous streets for pedestrians are clearly FDOT roads, with dense clusters of pedestrian fatalities along Flagler Street, Calle Ocho and along US-1.
The meeting did include information on some exciting plans that are in the works. The most interesting of which included:
- Progress on a bike-sharing system like DecoBike for the City of Miami. The current plans call for 50 stations and 500 bikes from Coconut Grove to Midtown, focused mostly on the eastern side of Miami. The plans are currently making their way through the various government approval processes.
- Preliminary plans for a “Miami Bike Station” – a centrally located downtown facility where bike commuters could securely park their bicycles, use a locker and shower after a ride to work. No timeline was given on this project.
- A plan for a protected bike lane/cycle track design on North Miami Avenue is being worked on by city and county officials.
We also applaud the public officials involved for finally engaging the bicycle community. Hearing Commissioner Xavier Suarez at the Bicycle Safety Summit say “We have a paradigm shift going on, and if we don’t recognize it, we’re not serving our constituents,” is a fundamental shift in the political dialogue. Together, with groups like Green Mobility Network taking the lead, we can bring complete streets advocacy to the next level in Miami-Dade County.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle, Quoted at the funeral of Aaron Cohen by his grand-father Ron Esserman
I have only been a county commissioner for about eight months, but already have a deep scar in my heart from a tragedy that seems, in retrospect, so avoidable.
Aaron Cohen has been wrenched from our lives. And the sense of loss is overwhelming, despite the wisdom imparted by rabbis and family members. Because the tragedy happened in my district and because my daughter Annie practices medicine with Jim Esserman (Aaron’s first cousin), the loss hits home in a particularly poignant way.
Was the tragedy avoidable? I don’t rightly know, but I know we didn’t try hard enough to avoid it. We know the Rickenbacker Causeway is a narrow, dangerous, treacherous, alluring, spectacularly located and majestic roadway, rising as it does from the shallows abutting the mainland to bring us all (joggers, bikers, motorists) closer to heaven and then quickly deposit us in an island that is mostly unspoiled – as befits a critical wildlife refuge of some 400 acres.
In between the moments of sorrow, my Annie and I discussed the physics of the problem that led to this tragedy or, rather, the unavoidable elements of the circumstance that make this awful accident likely to happen again in the future.
I refer to the simple variable that physicists call “momentum.” Simply put, a 4,000-pound vehicle, travelling at 45-50 mph, possesses about 100 times the momentum of a biker/bicycle whose combined weight is 150 pounds and who is struggling up the bridge at 12-15 mph. A collision between two objects, one of which has 100 times the momentum of the other, means that the smaller object will suffer, in displacement and consequent damage, 100 times more than the bigger object.
In the short term, there is only one variable we can change in the above equation – and that is the speed limit for cars. I consider that reform a no-brainer that should be instituted without delay. Of course, a reduction in the speed limit needs to be accompanied by traffic management devices (including electronic surveillance) to monitor law-breakers.
The other possible solution is separation. I think, in that context, that we all agree that a simple painted strip (as exists now) is not enough. We will have to consider either rubber cones or well-lit corrugated surfaces which alert and deter the motorist from trespassing on the bike lanes.
Beyond the physics of the problem, beyond the traffic engineering and enforcement, there is the human dimension. And that brings me back to Aaron, whose name technically means, “tower of strength,” but was further interpreted by the rabbi as referring to someone who loves life and who runs for life. Aaron Cohen loved to run more than we can imagine. He loved scuba diving and every kind of water sport; he loved ceramic arts and cycling, and – most of all – he loved his wife and two children.
As described by family and friends, he was special because he found something special to love in everyone he met, regardless of their station in life. He took time, on the way to the airport, to buy M&M’s so that he could pass them out to the flight attendants.
He was, his sister Sabrina told us, like Elijah, the unforeseen guest for whom we keep the door permanently open, with a cup of wine ready, just in case the prophet visits us.
Perhaps the most appropriate analogy was offered by another rabbi who explained that the whole world is like a narrow bridge. We must do our best to co-exist in the narrow space.
We must, as another relative said in her eulogy, think “WWAD.” What Would Aaron Do?
For myself, I will strive to reduce the chances that such a tragedy will happen again on the Rickenbacker Causeway – which just happens to be where I myself jog.
I will do it because it’s my obligation as an elected official and also because of Aaron – in his memory.
I never met him, but I already miss him as if he had been my best friend.
Commissioner Xavier Suarez represents District 7 in Miami-Dade County. He represents numerous municipalities including the City of Miami, the Village of Key Biscayne, the City of Coral Gables, the City of South Miami, the Village of Pinecrest, as well as areas of unincorporated Miami-Dade County.
This article was first posted two years ago (Febuary 2, 2010) after Christophe Le Canne was killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Since then not a single one of our recommendations has been implemented. How many more lives must we lose on the Rickebacker Causeway before the County Public Works Department does something to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians? This is not rocket science. An unprotected bike lane adjacent to a highway with cars speeding in excess of 65mph is simply NOT a good idea.
The Rickenbacker Causeway is similar to Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive; everyday thousands of people descend upon our beautiful causeway for recreational purposes. This is particularly evident on Saturday and Sunday mornings when runners, walkers, rollerbladers, parents with strollers and bicyclists come in droves to exercise. The Rickenbacker Causeway recently completed a major resurfacing project. Unfortunately, this resurfacing project only really considered the needs of motorists.
The Rickenbacker Causeway/Key Biscayne already has several parks/attractions. These attractions include:
- Miami Seaquarium
- Crandon Park/Tennis Center
- Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
- Mast Academy
In addition, the Miami Marine Stadium is slated to be renovated and Virginia Key will be converted into a major urban park, which will also include several miles of mountain bike trails. We have an exhaustive inventory of attractions/parks in close proximity that requires safe connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Pedestrians (runners, walkers, rollerbladers, and parents with strollers) have been relegated to using a multiuse path that has many dangerous intersections. In addition, this multiuse path is often shared with bicyclists that do not feel comfortable riding in the bicycle lane. The bicyclists’ discomfort is justifiable; the bicycle lane is placed adjacent to the roadway without adequate protection from speeding cars.
Crosswalks on the Rickenbacker Causeway are poorly marked. If and when crosswalks do exist, they are dangerous to cross. Crossing a 6 lane highway is pretty tough to do if you are healthy person. Imagine if you are a parent with children, disabled or an elderly person trying to cross the Rickenbacker Causeway. You will need Lady Luck on your side.
Most would agree that something needs to be done to improve the safety for all users, including motorists, which often travel at high speeds.
There will be no cheap or easy fix for the Rickenbacker Causeway. Short term safety enhancements need to be made urgently, but at the same time we need to have a long term goal for the Rickenbacker Causeway. Below you will find the short and long term goals that Transit Miami will be advocating for.
Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
- Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit
- Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
- Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
- Better signage
- Motorist and bicyclist education campaign
Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:
- Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
- Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
- Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
- Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.(see below: off-setting crosswalks)
- A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
- Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
- Motorist and bicyclist education campaign
Our County Public Works Department has a real opportunity to show their residents that they value safe recreation for all users. It should begin with the most popular destination for pedestrians and bicyclists in South Florida.
If you believe that the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be improved please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email and ask for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway for all users. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Emerge Miami hosted another family-friendly bicycle ride on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the recently striped bicycle lanes on South Miami Avenue in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.
Around 70 cyclists came out for the “Brickell Neighborhood Bike Ride and Celebration”, a leisurely-paced ride that took riders through downtown Miami, Coral Way and the Brickell neighborhood.
A noteworthy aspect along the four mile route was that nearly every pavement segment was marked for cyclists in some fashion – either by striped lanes or “sharrows” – the shared-lane markings that remind motorists to ‘share the road’ with bicycles. Other features spotted along the way included bicycle-specific way-finding markers and “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs.
The ride ended at El Vato Tequila and Taco Bar in Brickell. Special thanks to El Vato manager Juan Angulo, who offered food and drink specials to cyclists as well as reserving the parking spaces outside the restaurant so riders could form an on-street bicycle parking corral!
“This was really enjoyable. If you told me ten years ago that an event like this would happen in Miami I wouldn’t believe it,” said rider Andrew Jacque, as he reflected after the ride on the emerging bicycle culture in Miami. The group was not limited to Miami locals either. A visiting couple from Montana found the event details online and figured it would be a fun and interesting way to explore the city.
In addition to enjoying the mild weather and supporting a local business, the ride was a way of saying ‘thank you’ to all the groups responsible for implementing the Miami Bicycle Master Plan across the city and to urge our local officials to adopt and embrace new features to make Miami a truly bicycle-friendly community.
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