There is a book launch event this Sunday, March 2, for STREET DESIGN: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns hosted by the City of Coral Gables and Books and Books. Selected streets from our very own Coral Gables, South Miami and Miami Beach are highlighted in the book to exemplify the true value of properly designed, pedestrian-friendly streets. This how-to guide is written by locally-based planner, Victor Dover, and NYC architect, John Massengale.
Coral Gables’ Director of Planning & Zoning, Ramon Trias, will make introductory remarks, followed by a short presentation by Victor Dover. The book will be on sale in the Museum gift shop.
What: Reception, Talk & Book Signing with Victor Dover
When: Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Where: Coral Gables Museum, Community Meeting Room located at 285 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida 33134
RSVP on Facebook
The South Florida Community Development Coalition will be hosting a discussion on
Complete Streets in Miami
Thursday, March 6
The speaker line-up for the event should make for some good, substantive discussion. They’ve got:
- Jose (“Pepe”) Diaz, Miami-Dade County Commissioner,
- Cesar Garcia-Pons, Sr. Manager, Planning + Design at Miami Downtown Development Authority,
- Tony Garcia, Principal at the Street Plans Collaborate and former TransitMiami.com Editor,
- Joseph Kohl, Principal at Dover, Kohl & Partners, and
- Marta Viciedo, Transportation Action Committee (TrAC) Chairperson
There is a fee ($20 in advance, $25 at the door) to attend, but the SFCDC will be using those proceeds for streetscape improvement projects, including tree planting and bike rack installation, on the 79th Street Corridor — a worthwhile investment of your Andrew Jackson.
Is the optimal place for bicyclists really between speeding traffic and swinging car doors or is bicycle planning in most cities still just an afterthought? Can it really be the case that major arterial roadways planned for reconstruction like Alton Road in Miami Beach which are between 100′ and 120′ really have no room for bicycles?
The plan for Alton Road which the City of Miami Beach approved is still the wrong one but neighborhood organizations are not accepting that the plan is set in stone until the concrete is poured and dry.
Though Miami Beach is in the top 10 cities in the nation for biking to work according to the US Census, a perfect storm of Department of Transportation heavy-handedness, local bureaucratic impassivity, and ineptitude on the part of elected representatives has led to a hugely expensive design no one endorses. Alton Road, expected to become a showpiece of island multi-modalism, will instead become a wide-lane, high-speed, completely-congested Department of Transportation boondoggle say residents. If Miami Beach can’t get a multi-modal design with its committed and educated pedestrian and cycling advocates is there any hope for the rest of the country?
Thousands of major arterials around the country are in the process of reconstruction right now as the first roadways of the Highway Act of 1956 are being rebuilt. And despite the amazing strides made in a few exceptional places, the default design on the traffic engineer’s books is still the wrong one. The difference now is that residents know better. This is making the job of elected officials who have always trusted the DOT very difficult. Something’s got to give.
Residents are available to discuss this important issue further.
On Facebook: Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition.
On the web:
Miami Beach Resident and Urban Planner
A pedestrian bridge above US-1 at the University MetroRail station was recently approved by Miami-Dade County and is currently moving closer to an agreement. Though a state and federally funded project of $6 million, the University Centre mall owner has raised some concerns and is refusing to allow the county to build the bridge on its property. The bridge to channel university students, middle school students, metrorail riders, and others to the popular strip mall has been in the works for several years, joining the other existing US-1 overpasses. The Pedestrian Safety Access Committee formed with the long-term goal to build the pedestrian bridge in direct response to 3 student fatalities at the intersection since 1990, along with several accidents.
Looking at this situation at face value, this project makes perfect sense: people are dying on the intersection, so take the people off the intersection. But I challenge you to stand back and examine the bigger picture of crossing US-1 at this intersection and every other one in Coral Gables, South Miami, and beyond. Is the problem uniquely at this intersection, or along the entire stretch of the fast-moving, 6-lane highway? Due to very high speeds, awkward street-level pedestrian crossings, unbuffered and narrow sidewalks, and poor street lighting, I think we can agree that this stretch is hostile to non-motorists. Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit stated back in 2007 that ‘the main purpose of the long-term bridge project is to encourage pedestrian safety while making the Coral Gables community more “walkable.” Yes, ‘channeling’ pedestrians into a bridge does have the potential of keeping pedestrians safe, but does it encourage walkability?
Pedestrian Convenience. A walkable community is possible when the built environment is convenient to the pedestrian, bicyclist, student, parent with baby stroller, etc. Making decisions that inhibit pedestrian convenience such as narrowing sidewalks, reducing crosswalks, ‘forcing’ people to go up and over a street – then these decisions make the built environment inconvenient and therefore, less walkable. But if we redesign the street to discourage speeding, add wider sidewalks buffered from vehicular traffic, pedestrian street lighting, and common-sense street-level crossings (and using a lot less than the $6 million) we could achieve both safety and walkability for all road users.
Neighborhood Unity. Instead of creating a street that welcomes its neighbors, we are making decisions (like numerous pedestrian bridges) that add up toward creating an automobile sewer. This is the root of the problem, and the reason for these vehicular deaths in the first place – we are literally trying to put a highway into the middle of a community. Why are we surprised that pedestrians, students, children are trying to cross the street in their own neighborhood? Instead of encouraging to further dissect this area, we need to consider the potential to transform this massive right-of-way into the safe neighborhood center the university, middle school, and residents deserve.
Traffic Priorities. The problem in this dangerous intersection is not the pedestrians, but the unobservant drivers. But who are we punishing? the pedestrians. And who are we prioritizing for dominion over the street even more? the drivers, observant or not. A walkable neighborhood is not void of cars, drivers, and traffic, but rather re-prioritizes its road space to accommodate a full range of transportation choices. Slowing traffic down does not guarantee more congestion either. In fact, some of the most efficient roads in the world are in slow-speed, walkable environments. By humanizing the thoroughfare with better street-level crossings, lighting, wider sidewalks, street trees, narrower traffic lanes, and even on-street parking, we can effectively slow traffic, and persuade drivers to be more alert, attentive, and vigilant, fostering a safer atmosphere for all.
If building this University Station pedestrian bridge could save just one life, then yes, its construction is more than worth it. But what’s next in encouraging safety and walkability? Are we going to continue constructing pedestrian bridges at every intersection over Dixie Highway – and with whose funds? And does that leave the people who will still cross at street level with a more dangerous thoroughfare? I challenge this community, the Pedestrian Safety Access Committee, Miami-Dade County, FDOT, and others involved to improve the pedestrian experience on the street level. In many ways the easiest solution is to build the pedestrian bridge. However, six million dollars can provide a lot of funding for this community if our residents and leaders are brave enough to tackle the root of the problem. We should not take these deaths lightly, but we do need to consider the full range of options to improve the safety, convenience, and value of the US-1 corridor. Just as Michelle Simmon from Miami-Dade Transit stated, “A livable community has to be a safe community.” By humanizing this dangerous, dissecting thoroughfare, we can not only save lives, but also our community.
A busy holiday weekend reminds me that Miami is trying to be a “real” city – but is it yet? I’m sure we all wish it could be as easy as a Pinocchio fairytale of making a wooden puppet into a “real” boy with just the touch of a wand. But in reality, our city needs a whole lot more than just some magic stick. We host all these weekend events – Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Miami Boat Show, and other President’s Day weekend activities – to showcase our Magic City to our visitors. And yet what we end up with are packed busses with long headways; clogged highways; and other congestions making our city, well, far from magical to our visitors.
Its not the events, its the experience. Despite a little rain on Friday and Saturday, this weekend’s events were a success – attracting people from all over the state and country. But how was their time actually in our city? Special events are a reason to come to the city, but the experience is what attracts people back. We need to offer reliable transportation options so they can really experience all of Miami.
Its not the funding amount, its the investment. We all know times are rough, and money is tight. But yet its obvious that we are still focusing our funds into tired highway transportation that literally gets us no where. Of course we don’t have the funds to plop NYC subway system on Miami – but we can start our smart investments incrementally.
Its not the mode, its the freedom of choice. Transportation, transit, transport, or whatever you want to call it is a broad category – as are the choices it should provide. The priority shouldn’t be on one particular mode of transportation, rather a priority to provide a wide variety of options. Its about the freedom of choosing bus, rail, bike, car, walk, skate, etc to get around.
Not that we need to put up a false front for our brave visitors on special weekends, nor care more for our tourism than our own livability – because we already know these are facts that we have been discussing for years. Its about revisiting our city from another viewpoint. Just think how many visitors we could transport between Miami Beach and downtown if Baylink existed; or the improved bus experience if we had shorter headways at least on event weekends; or the number of DecoBike rentals if the M-Path was cohesive; or the successful storefronts and valuable real estate if the streets were more pedestrian-friendly.
Is Miami ready to be a “real” city and cradle a wide-mix of diverse groups. If so, lets see the real investment in multiple transportation options – or where is that fairy with the magic wand when you need her?
Dear City of Coral Gables,
I love you. You truly are the City Beautiful, a title and reputation well deserved and well maintained. (Well, at least when you’re not knocking out your own teeth by forfeiting precious building space for a parking lot).
Despite my deep affection for you, you lovely gem of a greater Miami municipality, you disappointed me today.
I love riding along your M-Path curves, but I will not tolerate one of your very own Public Works Department employees coming between us like this.
If this is going to work out, you’ll have to promise that you’ll never again allow one of your city employees to violate our relationship. I better not encounter a motor vehicle on the M-Path ever again, especially not one bearing your city seal and colors.
I strongly doubt you’d allow one of these guys to block one of your motor vehicle lanes. Who do you think you are allowing them to block a multi-use path?!
Miami-Dade’s Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to vote on legislative item 121569 this Thursday. (The meeting was postponed from September 4 to September 6.)
Four specific bike lanes come under attack in this legislative item. They’re meant to demonstrate examples of “state roads in Miami-Dade County that may not be particularly suitable for bicycle lanes”.
One of those four lanes is that located on the MacArthur Causeway. Its supposed lack of suitability is due to the fact that, on this particular state road, “the speed limit is 50 mph”.
The lane on the MacArthur Causeway can indeed be a dicey one to traverse, especially with all of the on-going Port of Miami Tunnel construction, the South Beach partiers driving back from their nights of inebriation, and the overall speeding automobile traffic.
Nevertheless, even at 50mph, the bike lane on the MacArthur functions.
Of course, it could function better — by making it wider, buffering it from automobiles, and some other possible retrofits — but it functions, nonetheless.
The people are hungry — not only for more bicycle facilities, but better bicycle facilities too. Please . . . feed us!
Early last month, a seemingly pro-bicycle legislative item was introduced to the Board of County Commissioners. It goes up for vote this Thursday. The resolution appears well-intended. However, upon closer examination, one finds it saturated with contradictions that could actually harm the community.
On August 3, Rebeca Sosa, County Commissioner for District #6, introduced Miami-Dade Legislative Item #121569. Its extremely long title sums-up the ostensibly well-intended gist of the proposal:
“Resolution urging the Florida Department of Transportation [FDOT] to Work Cooperatively with Local Governments When Installing Bicycle Lanes on State Roads; Urging the Florida Legislature to Amend Applicable Statutes to Require Such Cooperation and Provide Greater Flexibility to the Florida Department of Transportation Related to Bicycle Lanes”
Sounds great, right? Indeed. Upon reading the resolution’s title appealing for a more cooperative, more flexible, trans-agency approach to planning for and implementing bike lanes on state roads, how could one not support this county resolution?
The body of the resolution goes on to highlight the myriad benefits of bicycle-based active transportation (including, among others, saving money and reducing ecological footprints). It emphasizes how long-standing, and on-going, planning efforts have been made to harness the power of bicycle ridership to improve the livability of our community. It even reminds the commissioners of the increasing price of gasoline (being driven even higher due to the closure of Gulf Coast refineries precipitated by Hurricane Issac), and how non-fossil-fuel-consuming modes of transportation are the ways toward a sustainable future. Importantly, it also reminds the county commissioners of FDOT’s legal obligations to improve bicycle facilities wherever possible on the roads they manage.
All of this language is extremely encouraging and is exactly how such a resolution should be written. The problem, though, starts with how this resolution reads after all that good stuff. Beyond those points, the proposed resolution is littered with nonsense that would — with no far stretch of the imagination — actually curtail the expansion of bicycle facilities throughout our community.
Four specific bike lanes, intended to exemplify inappropriately located bike lanes, come under attack in the current language of the resolution. This is where it implodes, demonstrating the detachment of many of our elected officials to the non-automobile reality on the streets. Let’s have a look at some of the underlying complaints against these facilities:
“[the bicycle lanes conflict with] many storefront businesses with parking that requires vehicles to back out onto [the road]”
“[the bicycle lanes conflict with] vehicles travel[ing] at a high rate of speed, with a speed limit between 45 and 55 mph”
“[the bicycle lanes conflict with] curbside parking, limited space and considerable traffic”
Unbelievable! There’s so much to say here — too much! I’ll keep it short:
- A huge part of bike facilities is about raising the profile of cyclists as legal street vehicles. In addition to the more functional purpose of giving cyclists a physical space on the road, bike lanes also serve the function of raising awareness that cyclists belong (practically, ethically, legally) on the road.
- Local storefront businesses should be catering to cyclists for all of the business they bring and revenue they create.
- By allocating just one or two automobile parking spaces for bicycle parking, you could fit far more bikes and bring-in far more business.
- It’s the responsibility of the motorists backing-out of the (oft-excessive) on-street parking to exercise caution to not hit cyclists. All road-users must watch-out for negligence, negligence by any type of road-user.
- The point of bike lanes is to give cyclists a safe, separate space apart from motorists on the road, especially at roads where motorists drive quickly (i.e., “45-55 mph”).
- If the roads weren’t so fast (35 mph or less), FDOT and the cities would try to get away with just painting some sharrows, giving themselves a pat on the back, and calling it a day. (As noted in a recent TransitMiami post, sharrows just aren’t cutting it for true bicycle network connectivity.)
- “Considerable traffic”?! Has the steady expansion of the monthly Miami Critical Mass movement taught you nothing? WE ARE TRAFFIC!
Now, there are some very valid concerns embodied in the language of this proposed resolution. They hit at the irrefutable reality of many of our community’s bike facilities, even the most well-intended ones — many bicycle facilities in South Florida are sub-par. A bike facility is useless if it’s not actually designed to be used.
We all understand why many riders completely avoid the bike lane on the 50mph MacArthur Causeway and opt for the Venetian Causeway instead. We all know why some riders still ride on sidewalks, even when freshly-painted sharrows or bike lane stripes are on the road. These facilities weren’t properly designed for bicycle safety and accessibility. We’ve allowed FDOT and the cities to rest on their laurels by increasing the quantity of facilities while paying little regard to the quality of the facilities. Quantity is not quality.
Many lanes in our community adhere to the bare minimum design standards. They often provide the absolute minimum width, and rarely offer any sort of buffering between the bike lane and non-bike lane.
Rather than simply create more bike lanes, we must create better bike lanes! We need buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks (segregated bike facilities), and shared-use paths. We need to make the process of planning and designing bike facilities more participatory. And, most importantly, we need to stop designing bike facilities as lower tier or secondary to automobile facilities. We must emancipate ourselves from our auto-centric notions of how our streets should function.
The proposed County Commission resolution is not the path (pun unavoidable) to improving bikeability in Miami. As it currently stands, the language in the item would reverse the little progress we’ve thus far made.
Commissioners: A change of language is needed in Miami-Dade Legislative Item #121569. Please do not support any resolution that would allow FDOT and the municipalities to get even more slack on bicycle network safety, connectivity, and accessibility.
Citizens: Please contact your district’s commissioner and let her/him know how you feel about this seemingly innocuous, yet potentially detrimental, resolution. They’ll be voting on it September 6. You can find your district and commissioner at this interactive County Commission District map.
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, District7@miamidade.gov, District8@miamidade.gov, DennisMoss@miamidade.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, District12@miamidade.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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. (email@example.com)
The article below is a repost. It was originaly posted on November 15, 2009. The FDOT has made some very small striping improvements since the article was originally published. Needless to say, it is not enough. The FDOT must do more.
Inspired by the recent Dangerous by Design report produced jointly by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and Transportation for America Transit Miami will begin documenting existing conditions that are dangerous and potentially deadly to pedestrians and bicyclists. In what will likely be an infinite collection of posts, the MacArthur Causeway will be the first roadway evaluated for Transit Miami’s very own Dangerous By Design exposé.
Although the MacArthur Causeway is actually designated as bicycle route, I don’t like to ride it because I fear for my life. The Venetian Causeway is a much safer alternative. This morning all bicyclists and pedestrians were forced to take the MacArthur Causeway because the eastern drawbridge on the Venetian Causeway was broken. Non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians had no other alternative to traverse the bay other than the MacArthur Causeway. I decided to make the most of my MacArthur Causeway crossing, so I took the opportunity to more closely inspect FDOT’s current resurfacing project on the MacArthur Causeway. Sadly, it seems like FDOT did not seriously consider pedestrians and bicyclists during the design phase of this resurfacing project.
My intention was to allow FDOT to finish the project before critiquing it, but that won’t be necessary, because what little work remains to be completed is mostly cosmetic (i.e. painting bicycle lanes and symbols). As one of only three arterial roads that connects Miami to Miami Beach, it is imperative that this wide, high speed, high capacity thoroughfare have safe pedestrian and bicycle provisions. FDOT’s current design consists of an unprotected bicycle lane that doubles as an emergency shoulder. Sorry, but anything less than a separated and protected multiuse path is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists. For this reason the MacArthur Causeway is being regrettably recognized as Dangerous By Design. If FDOT were genuinely concerned about the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists they would have designed a separated and protected multiuse path. Below are examples that should have been considered.
Below are a few photographs taken this morning of poor design standards on the MacArthur Causeway:
The Upper East Side neighborhood, loosely considered the area around the Biscayne Boulevard corridor from NE 50th Street to NE 85th Street, has tremendous potential for redevelopment. Unfortunately FDOT’s current streetscape design for Biscayne Boulevard is suffocating the neighborhood and stunting its growth.
FDOT recently resurfaced Biscayne Boulevard, but they did a disastrous job. They essentially designed a highway through a historic commercial and residential neighborhood without considering the needs of the businesses and residents that call the area home. As long as Biscayne Boulevard remains unfriendly to businesses and pedestrians conditions in the Upper East Side will not improve. The redevelopment of the Upper East Side begins with Biscayne Boulevard. FDOT must understand that they play a central role in the economic redevelopment of this community. They cannot persist to enable the decline of communities through poor roadway design that is unfriendly to businesses and pedestrians. If FDOT continues to design roadways with the sole purpose of moving cars faster, communities will suffer and they will not prosper.
The first step to redeveloping the Upper East Side neighborhood is to redesign the Biscayne Boulevard streetscape. Lucky for the FDOT, University of Miami Professors Chuck Bohl and Jaime Correa have provided the MiMo Business Improvement Committee with a Biscayne Boulevard Streetscape Vision plan. At the very core of redevelopment are the businesses; they need to be on solid footing to thrive. Accessible parallel parking is the cornerstone for businesses to flourish. Without it businesses will continue to go bust and prospective retailers will continue to turn their back to the area.
Once parallel parking is in place, a number of things will occur which will transform the neighborhood. Existing business will blossom and new businesses will relocate to the neighborhood. Parallel parking will help to calm traffic as well; bringing the current 45 mph design speed closer in-line with the 35 mph speed limit. (The speed limit should be reduced to 30mph). Once the design speed is reduced to 35 mph, Biscayne Boulevard will become more pedestrian friendly. Additional crosswalks and bicycle sharrows would also be introduced, further calming traffic and enhancing the pedestrian realm.
As a result, there will be a domino effect in the neighborhood. More businesses will open and remain open. A sense of place will be created and residents and visitors will begin supporting local retailers because the area will be more pedestrian friendly. More importantly, crime will decline since there will be more “eyes on the street”.
Last but not least, the 35 foot building height limit needs to increase to 53ft. Without it, real estate developers will not invest in the area. One of two things will occur if the 35 foot building height limit remains- 1) Empty lots will remain or 2) The area will be filled with Discount Auto Parts type buildings. Contrary to doomsday conspiracy theorists that believe increasing the building height will destroy the neighborhood, the 53 ft building height is not out of scale. If we want good development to come to the area, the neighborhood must support an increase of the building height. If you want crappy development, keep the 35 foot building height limit.
So how do we make this happen? Well, we here at Transit Miami are trying to mobilize the Upper East Side HOAs. Tonight we will have an informal meeting with several HOA representatives. The Upper East Side HOAs need to come together with the MiMo Business Improvement Committee and the MiMo Biscayne Association and agree that streetscape design is the most pressing issue for the neighborhood. If the community speaks with one voice we can apply enough pressure on Commissioner Sarnoff and shame the FDOT to make these necessary and relatively inexpensive changes to make the economic redevelopment of our community a reality.
The Upper East Side Neighborhood must plan for its future now and begin envisioning the future for this historic district. We need to consider a week long charette and bring all major community stakeholders to the table within the next year. Let’s make this happen neighbors!
FYI: Speeding is clearly an issue on Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side neighborhood. I have documented three accidents in the past 4 months. There have been more, but I just have not had time to document all the accidents.
Today’s quote of the day comes from Transit Miami reader Ruhappy in response to my post FDOT, MiMo Historic District, and Complete Streets. Several of our readers came out to defend FDOT, putting the blame on area businesses for the current design of Biscayne Boulevard in the MiMo Historic District. Ruhappy sets the record straight:
Over and over, it is repeated that during those public meetings in the 90s the only choice FDOT gave the community was 10 continuous blocks of medians with no turn-ins OR nothing (no medians at all). One can’t expect a struggling business to count on customers driving 9 blocks out of the way & turning around to return. Likewise residents weren’t thrilled at the choice either – it was a lose-lose for the neighborhood. Missing was someone to suggest a solution rather than letting FDOT achieve their goal to MOVE TRAFFIC swiftly through the main street of a neighborhood.”
There is, however, some good news. The MiMo Business Improvement Committee commissioned a MiMo Streetscape Study. Architects and planners from the University of Miami produced three streetscape scenarios that could be easily implemented. These scenarios achieve several objectives. They emphasize safety and are business friendly. They also calm traffic and encourage pedestrian activity. Pretty much a no-brainer and a win-win situation for everyone.
I’m a new resident to the area, so I wasn’t present at any of these FDOT meetings. Given FDOT’s track record of poor roadway design, I’m willing to bet the ranch that FDOT did not produce design options that were agreeable to residents and businesses. They probably gave them a couple of options: bad or worse. Businesses and residents chose the lesser of two evils.
In the end FDOT got their way and designed this roadway according to their modus operandi-to move cars as rapidly as possible and putting safety of pedestrians and bicyclists last. It is glaringly obvious that complete streets is not in FDOT’s vernacular.
According to the MiMo Biscayne Association 3 light poles were hit by vehicles between April & November 2010 in the historic district. This could have easily been pedestrians on the sidewalk.
The upcoming Brickell Avenue resurfacing project has been an enlightening experience for Transit Miami. Through this process we have discovered that FDOT is broken. Let’s use our recent experience to illustrate some fundamental problems with FDOT.
We first found out about the Brickell Avenue resurfacing project in August. I contacted FDOT and they provided me with their design plans. I then proceeded to take a field trip with two FDOT engineers on Brickell Avenue to discuss other improvements which they had not considered. This was just the beginning of the battle for a ped-friendly Brickell.
The Transit Miami led coalition has worked very hard to raise awareness about this project. Together with organizations like the South Florida Bicycle Coalition, we have made a concerted effort to reach out to all the major Brickell Avenue stakeholders. We meet with the Brickell Area Association, the Brickell Homeowners Association, and the Miami Downtown Development Authority. We then personally sat down with Mayor Regalado, Commissioner Sarnoff, and Representative Luis Garcia to talk about our efforts.
Now it seems that everyone’s collaborative hard work may pay off. Two weeks ago the Miami Herald covered this very important story and this past weekend the Miami Herald Editorial Board wrote a piece in support of ped-friendly improvements to Brickell Avenue.
FDOT seems to be slowly reacting. How much they will do is still unknown. Apparently, sufficient pressure has been placed on FDOT to motivate them to at least listen to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, this was only accomplished because of the initial efforts of the Transit Miami coalition with the help of the greater Brickell community. We engaged as many stakeholders as possible and built consensus. This took a lot of time and effort on our part, but we love a good fight and made plenty of new friends along the way.
Herein lies the problem with FDOT. Why does it take an entire community to beg for overdue improvements? Shouldn’t FDOT have been proactive and taken the initiative to introduce improvements from the beginning? Why didn’t FDOT reach out to the community to get their input?
Together we will make a difference on Brickell Avenue, but only because so many people are directly affected by this poorly designed road. It was relatively easy to engage the community because so many residents and businesses inhabit this corridor. In areas that are less urbanized it will be more difficult for advocates to garner a critical mass of people to convince FDOT to design roads for all users. FDOT should lead the charge to design complete streets, not Transit Miami. As much as we would like to, we cannot oversee every FDOT project.
It is the intentionally decentralized nature of FDOT that makes it so difficult to work with this agency. The only way to fix FDOT is to have a FDOT Secretary in Tallahassee that works to change how things get done. Will Governor Rick Scott make this necessary change? I sure hope so. If not, FDOT will remain broken.
Perhaps FDOT engineers should read this article Confessions of a Recovering Engineer. It’s not about speed, it’s about safety.
A few weeks ago on this blog, Felipe pointed out how incomplete streets are more than just an inconvenience for some people. For people like Lance, who rely on active transportation for exercise or just simple mobility, designing and maintaining our roads and sidewalks to accommodate everyone is the difference between being able to get to where you need to go – or not.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary recently profiled the new Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation, Richard Devylder, in his blog. Mr. Devylder is an impressive guy, someone who understand first hand why curb cuts and complete streets are critical to equal access to our transit systems. He talks about it in a number of videos on the Fast Lane blog. Meet Richard, listen to his story and reconsider what makes livable streets fundamental to a fair and just society.
Some visual aids:
And by the way, since we are celebrating birthdays, Happy 20th Anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plus, if you’re into disability news and pop culture, be sure to check out WheresLulu.com.
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