Currently viewing the tag: "Downtown Miami"

Streetsblog is reporting that over the past decade London has been reducing speed limits from 30 mph to 20 mph throughout the city.  Today London has over four hundred 20 mph zones. As s result, Londoners have benefited from a 46% decline in fatalities and serious injury within the 20 mph zones during the past decade according to British Medical Journal.

A 2008 map of London's 20mph zones. Image: London Assembly.

The high speed limits within our densest population pockets discourage people from walking or riding a bicycle. Brickell Avenue has a 35 mph speed limit and Biscayne Blvd. has a 30 mph speed limit. However, the design speed of both of these roads often encourages drivers to travel at speeds of 40-45 mph.  The first step to making our roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians would be to reduce speed limits throughout Miami Dade County. The second step would be to introduce self-enforcing traffic calming measures such as: raised junctions, raised crosswalks, chicanes, road humps and roundabouts.

Source: peds.org/2009/01/

So what’s it gonna take for us to step up to 20 mph speed limits?  Can you imagine how much more livable our streets would be if speed limits were reduced on our city streets?  The results of the London experiment were so glaringly obvious after 4 years that in 2004 the World Health Organization endorsed 20 mph speeds as an essential strategy to save lives.

Heard on the C bus from the Beach to Downtown this afternoon, 5 o’clock:

English tourist: “I am trying to get to downtown Miami, will this bus take me there.”

Bus Driver: “Oh honey, there ain’t no reason for you to go there after 5pm. There isn’t anything to see!”

While I slightly disagree with the well-intentioned driver, is this the kind of downtown we want, the one where the bus driver discourages anyone from going?

Brickell has made great improvements in nightlife of late, however downtown still lags behind. What type of nightlife would you like to see in downtown Miami?

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The long anticipated South Pointe Park in South Beach was finally unveiled this spring. I have delayed sharing my thoughts because I wanted the park to be “broken in” and discovered by its regular users before venturing out to see it. Well, without a doubt the park was worth waiting for.  Stretching the length of the tip of South Beach and connecting to the lower western waterfront’s pedestrian promenade, South Pointe Park is an undeniable success. Users of all kinds seem to be flocking to the park at all hours to take in its beautiful vistas. Sunbathers enjoy the constructed ridgeline overlooking Government Cut and the cruise ships that pass by, picnickers enjoy the shade trees and well-manicured grass, families bring kids to enjoy the playgrounds, splash pads and fountains, and  exercise fiends traverse the park in droves. Indeed, I altered my daily running route to include the park.

I must admit, however,  I first questioned the lack of formal active playspace (basketball,  tennis courts, soccer etc.), but it seems they aren’t missed. Indeed, the park  balances a fine mix of passive and active use areas, as well as  organic and formal landscaping. Furthermore, the presence of the swank steak house-Smith & Wollensky -seems to further activate the park, especially along the outside bar located on a primary spine of pedestrian activity. Perhaps the park could included another, less formal and inexpensive dining option… then again, you can just bring your own!

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, downtown Miami has reintroduced the Paul S. Walker Urbanscape, a hardscaped mid-block pocket of missed opportunity. Oh, was that too harsh? Maybe,  as the mini park is certainly a vast improvement on the vacant lot that occupied the space previously. Moreover,  I am not aware of all the programming, design and logistics that went into the formulation of this space. However,  why offer a space clearly intended for the lunchtime crowd and not encourage the adjacent restaurant-Viaggios-to freely spill out onto a portion of the plaza with tables, chairs and dining service?  Doing so would have made that or any future restaurant that occupies the space a truly unique setting in downtown. Or perhaps recruit Miami’s best lunch time street vendor and either insert them into the park, or let them hang right outside, as that would  further activate the park beyond the 12-2pm lunchtime crowd. The  landscaping does its best to hide the long blank western side wall, but one imagines even a windows or a door would go a long way.

Beyond that issue, the proportions feel too tight given the building bordering the eastern edge rises high  (unavoidable), and the space still feels sterile despite its somewhat soft edges.  For now, I will withhold any real judgment until a further date, as the urbanscape is brand new so perhaps there will be movable tables and chairs for lunchtime use in the near future.  I sure hope so, as the park’s use  seemed somewhat sparse during the Monday lunch hour  given the amenity such a space ostensibly provides.  In defense of the park, I will say that the attractively designed sliding doors are a nice feature, and functional too, as I am guessing they close this space up at night to prevent vandalism. Smart move.

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For anyone interested in seeing downtown Miami develop further, please join the Downtown Development Authority for at least one of the following public workshops:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 6pm-8pm

Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall
Joyce and M. Anthony Burns Green Room
1300 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132 (Take Metromover Omni Loop to Omni Station)

Thursday, March 26, 2009, 6pm-8pm
Mary Brickell Village
901 S. Miami Avenue, Suite 304
Miami, FL 33130 (Take Metromover Brickell Loop to Tenth Street Promenade Station)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 6pm-8pm
Miami Downtown Development Authority
200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2929
Miami, FL 33131 (Take any Metromover loop to Bayfront Park Station)

Thoughts and general questions may also be provided by email at masterplan@miamidda.com; or by phone at 305-579-6675 (ask for Javier Betancourt, Manager of Urban Planning & Transportation).

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  • What a coincidence: seems like transit financing is a problem in NY where a combination of dropping real estate tax, sales tax, and state tax revenues are putting the MTA in the red. The conclusion reached in the article: we need more government subsidy to make up the difference.
  • President Obama is moving to undo Bush era changes to weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. I thought this was interesting, considering our own problems with ignorant state legislators trying to do away with growth laws in the name of commerce“But in a statement, Bill Kovacs, the vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, condemned the action as an unreasonable interference with needed projects.”
  • Marlins Stadium Update: A new bill is on the floor of the state legislature that would require a county referendum on the use of tourist dollars for the stadium, even as City and County leaders shuffle meetings and complain about  each other. Mayor Alvarez is pissed about the way negotiations have been going….join the club dude. Then there is the reappearance our friend Glenn Straub who is offering the old Miami Arena site as an alternative. I like it. This would allow the city to reduce its investment in parking by relying on its existing downtown parking supply. And don’t forget there will already be a neighborhood growing up around the Park West thanks to the Miami WorldCenter project. And it has transit connections. And it frees up the Orange Bowl site for other purposes (can anyone say Manny Diaz Memorial Park?) BUT we still don’t know all the details, and you know what they say about details…
  • Miami-Dade is getting serious about skate parks. Cool.
  • Those state legislators - what schizophrenia. While trying to undo growth laws (a bad move) they go and push ahead with the recently named Sunrail (a really good move).  “He pegs the price of SunRail at close to $1billion. But that is a bargain, SunRail enthusiasts say, when compared to the estimated $7billion it would cost to add one lane in either direction to Interstate 4 for the 61.5 miles covered by the train.” Sounds convincing to me. This is really cool, and will hopefully coincide with the Obama administration’s push for a national intercity railway network. Tamiami trail here we come.
  • The FTA just released the Federal Register Notice describing the allocation of the $8.4 Billion transit stimulus. More on this later….

Nestled within towering glass-and-brick canyons across this country are illuminated urban nightlife scenes replete with bistros, bars, pubs, clubs, and fine-dining establishments. This isn’t the case in downtown Miami. We’re not talking about pretty Brickell and its merry Mary Village chain gang of eateries. Nor are we speaking of the lower tip of Flagler Street, where Il Gabbiano, PrimeBlue Grille, Area 31, and Manny’s Steakhouse have set up shop; excepting the last, these places are set away from the streets that dummy developers designed in a manner more conducive to cars than cafés.” - Lee Klein, who writes about Miami’s lack of downtown nightlife, but praises its cheap and plentiful lunch time eats.

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Regular TM reader and bicycle commuter Ellen Haas offers the following report from downtown this afternoon.

I’ve noticed that many Miami bicycle and pedestrian police officers are patrolling the streets of downtown, keeping cars from flagrant traffic violations, like intimidating pedestrians in the crosswalks and illegal turns that block traffic. Also public service aides keeping cars from parking in tow-away zones. It seems…nicer?

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The first annual Downtown Riverwalk Festival is set for this Saturday, November 22nd, 10am-4pm. For more info, click here.

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Evidenced by the articles below - our work with various groups (like the BAC) has already led to minor additions and improvements for Miami’s Bicycling Community.  Now, with the Coral Way Bike Lanes underway, we turn our attention to another city project that could benefit from some public input.  The city of Miami is working to redesign N Bayshor Drive north of the Venetian Causeway and initial plans omitted bicycle lanes.  This project is critical.  The addition of Bicycle lanes would provide a much needed outlet for cyclists crossing the Venetian Causeway’s bicycle lanes.  It would provide a northern safe route to the Edgwater district (hopefully extending later into the design district) and Margaret Pace Park.  

Send us letters in support of the addition of Bicycle lanes to this project and we’ll forward them along to the City’s planning and public works departments.

This next segment is the beginning of a new series here on Transit Miami where we will look at certain actions or policies that will invariably counteract true urban progress.

This might be the ultimate mistake in zoning history; constructing a ½ billion-dollar opera/ballet house and later allowing a Wal-Mart to settle in next door.  On the way to the ballet, you can pick up some cheap shit foreign made goods, contribute to the massive trade deficit, and support the public financial burden caused by an employer who perennially underpays employees.  A Wal-Mart in the urban core continues the suburbanization mentality of building we have seen here in Miami – that is, tall, dense structures only accessible by car.  In a sense: Urban from far, but far from urban.

Now, it is not just the zoning that is the issue; imagine spending another billion dollars to rid the downtown of the majority of port-bound truck traffic, only to allow a retailer that will generate hundreds of weekly truck trips to nestle in that very same downtown core.  Seems a bit counterproductive, if you ask me, but then again this is Miami, why should we be surprised?

From the beginning, we were not against a mixed-use retail center rising alongside the performing arts center.  We viewed the complex, coupled with the PAC, as a formidable component to a thriving media-arts district, filled with nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and well, worthy destinations, not big-box retail.  A Wal-Mart anywhere in the downtown region automatically negates that key phrase every Miami politician loves to toss around wildly.  You know the one, it goes a little something like: “This _____ will put Miami on the map, this going to a real “world-class” _____.”  I guess you can fill in the blanks with Wal-Mart if there is such thing as a “world-class” Wal-Mart, perhaps third world class…

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff recently said it best:

“I thought the idea for that neighborhood was to create a walking neighborhood and not a big box for the Beach,”

Frankly, we envisioned something similar to Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, nothing revolutionary, just a proper mixed-use development complete with theaters (imax too), restaurants, hotels, and corporate businesses (DB HQ, Price Waterhouse offices, Sony, etc.)  From wikipedia:

…The rebuilt Potsdamer Platz now attracts around 70,000 visitors a day, rising to 100,000 at weekends, and some critics have been surprised by the success of the new quarter. Fears that the streets would be dead after 6pm have proven false. At almost any time of the day, the place is alive with people. It is a particularly popular attraction for visitors: the “Arkaden” shopping mall contains around 150 shops and restaurants on three levels, the lowest (basement) level being a food floor; there are also four major hotels, and Europe’s largest casino (the “Spielbank Berlin”)…

Note: in this last image the two large buildings on the bottom right is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  The situational resemblance is uncanny.

After a recent Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting I agreed to help Miami-Dade County MPO Bike/ped coordinator, Dave Henderson, count bicyclists. Dave has been doing his annual bicycle count all around downtown Miami recently and I decided to help  him out with the Venetian Causeway portion.

The task was simple: find out how many bicyclists are using the Venetian Causeway between 7am and 9am on weekday mornings. By tallying these users on an annual basis the County will better understand how and where bicyclists are riding, especially as it relates to commuting.  I conducted my survey last Tuesday.

Certainly no single day bicyclist count can determine average daily use numbers. Nonetheless, randomly tallying users on any given day provides us with an idea of how often bicyclists are using the streets and/or the few existing bicycle facilities that do exist. While counting I did my best to not double count. That is, to not include those bicycling past me east bound, only to whiz by me 20 minutes later heading west bound.  This happened frequently, demonstrating that many people use the Venetian Causeway for exercise, not one-way morning commutes.

What I discovered is instructive. Overall, I counted 90 bicyclists. Interestingly,  I saw no children, kids, or teens.  About 60% of the riders were headed east, while another 40% were heading west. Those readily identifiable as recreational bicyclists were doing loops, while the rest, with their backpacks, saddle bags, and lack of spandex, were probably on their way to or from work.

Men outnumbered women by 40%, which says something about users, safety and preference.

As it relates to bicycle behavior, 100% of users were using the on-street bicycle lanes, opting to stay away from the sidewalks. What is more, 100% of bicyclists were riding with traffic. Almost anywhere else in Miami these impressive percentages would surely diminish. Indeed, when I bicycle downtown, west on SW 7th Street, Eastward on calle ocho, or all over the Grove, I typically see 50% of riders on the sidewalks or going against traffic in the wrong direction.

One can only attribute these virtuous behaviors to the presence of a bicycle lane (despite its shortcomings) clear and consistent signage, directional on-pavement arrows, and an ingrained bicyclist culture where riders know what is expected of them on the Causeway. To be sure, I do see bicyclists along the Venetian exhibiting less than safe behavior. Nonetheless, they are few and far between. What is worrisome, however, is that 46% of bicyclists were not wearing helmets. One must remember that a bicycle lane does not always mean you are safe.

Overall, the corridor is very active and relatively safe. It is just unfortunate that so many recreational bicyclists do not carry on into the the City of Miami. This is probably because the bicycle lane simply stops on the Miami side of the Causeway. Further more,  it seems the general perception of downtown Miami and many of its inner neighborhoods is that of an unsafe and unattractive place for recreation. Sometime in the future the baywalk may coax recreational bicyclists further into the city, but for now efforts should concentrate on street facilities that help non-commuting or non-expert riders explore their city safely and without being  isolated inside a hulking metal carapace.

Miami, meet Ellen Haas, a 45-year old commuter bicyclist who lives on 8th Street and 62nd Avenue. Citing fitness, economic, environmental and personal reasons, Ellen recently started bicycling 6.5 miles to work downtown. Transit Miami has asked her a few questions about her commute.

Transit Miami: What was the impetus to start commuting by bicycle?

Ellen Haas: I promised myself that when gas reached $4 a gallon for the lowest octane, I would search for an alternate form of commuting. I decided on bicycling after doing some Internet research on public transit, carpooling and bicycling. Bicycling won out because I keep my independence.

TM: How was the first experience?

EH: The first experience was exhilarating. I rode like a bat out of hell, terrified, almost full speed the whole way thinking that I was going to be maimed or killed by a big dump truck or Metrobus, leaving my daughter with no mother. I was amazed when I arrived downtown intact. Riding home that first day was much more difficult, more traffic, intense sun, exhaust fumes, thunderstorms. Every day when I get home, I feel like I have summited Mt. Everest.

TM: Where do you ride and what is your route of choice?

EH: I head east on Eighth Street [Calle Ocho] at 62nd Avenue. I merge left onto Beacom Blvd. in Little Havana at 22nd Avenue. Then I merge onto Southwest First Street and head all the way downtown. I think it’s about 6.5 miles one way. My route of choice would be Coral Way east/west if it had designated bike lanes. It is a lovely shady street and not as manic as Eighth Street SW or Flagler.

TM: What are the challenges to bicycle commuting?

EH: The biggest challenge by far is car drivers ignorance of laws regarding bicycles and their aggression accordingly on the streets of South Florida. Another thing I didn’t realize is how bumpy poorly maintained roads are on a bike with no shock absorbers. The poorer the neighborhood, the less maintained the streets.

TM: What are the joys?

EH: There are many more joys than challenges. I am saving a lot of money on gas and will save more when I give up my parking space that I will surrender to a poor, deserving, still driving co-worker August 1st. I will also notify my auto insurance carrier that I drive a fraction of what I used to. I am also getting into good shape cardiovascularly.

TM: What type of bicycle do you ride?

EH: I ride a Trek 21 speed track bike. I’m not at all technical, so I don’t know the model or whatever.

TM: Do you have showers at work?

EH: There are showers at work but I would be able to deal with a sink and a washcloth if I had to.

TM: How about safe and reliable bicycle parking?

EH: No. I park over at the public library. I have approached the building management people but they look at me as if I have two heads and cite “security” concerns.” Soon I will ask a superior in the building with more “pull” than me to contact building management.

TM: What advice do you have for people who may be considering commuting by bicycle, but have not yet made the leap?

EH: Like Nike says, “Just Do It”. I am an overweight asthmatic 45 year old single parent. If I can ride 6-7 miles to work, ANYONE can. If you live further than that, consider biking part of the way and using MetroRail or Metro Bus for part of your commute. Everybody I talk to who is still driving has an excuse as to why they can’t.

TM: You have a daughter. What type of values do you think you are instilling in her by bicycling to work?

EH: I hope to instill in her a sense of strong individualism. When the new school year begins next month, I would like for us to bike commute together and I am quite sure no other student in her school rides a bicycle to school. We are becoming active in city, county, state and federal politics; carefully noting candidates’ stands on bike lanes and alternative forms of energy. She also has asthma so I want us both commited to improved health.

TM: What does Miami need to do to become more bicycle friendly?

EH: I could go on for paragraphs about how Miami-Dade County needs designated bike lanes with accompanying signage. Drivers need to be educated via “public service announcements” on television and radio to be broadcast in English/Spanish/Kreole about bicycle [e.g. the “Steer Clear” law] safety. I’ve noticed abandoned train tracks, perfect areas for bike paths. We each need to contact our elected officials and start making ourselves known, on the streets and off.

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Mayor\'s Hemispheric Forum

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend part of the Mayor’s Hemispheric Forum by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.  The hemispheric forum occurred prior to the US conference of Mayors, also here in Miami, which officially began yesterday.  Mayor Diaz is being inducted as the President of the Mayors Conference.  I’ll cover this critical event in some more detail next week.

Mayor Diaz Speaking at The Hemispheric Forum

Related Articles:

It’s been a rough week with the site being down, but we’re glad to be finally back up and running and can’t wait to dive back into action. We’ll be working out the kinks over the next few days or so…

Let’s end the week on a lighthearted note, with images of Sony’s recent “Spring Cleaning” of Downtown Miami:

Via A Welsh View

More Images

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