Currently viewing the tag: "Miami"

Did you know Miami once had a streetcar trolley network that was one of the most efficient and extensive in the developed world at the time?

The map below shows where Miami’s trolley network went in 1925, back when the area population was around 200,000. Today’s Miami-Dade population is approximately 2.5 million. The green lines show our current Metrorail and MetroMover lines, which pale in comparison to the connectivity we enjoyed in the era of the Miami streetcar (1916-1940), indicated by the lines in other colors.

Miami's Historic Streetcar Lines

To attract people and business in the 21st century, the Miami of the future should look a lot like the Miami of the past.

Thanks to Rogelio Madan from the City of Miami for providing.

Miami Trolley #238

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With all the hype about how many ‘units’ have sold and how much ‘inventory’ is left in downtown, it’s hard to overlook how these ‘dense’ developments are nothing more than vertical suburbs. Why walk around the city when you can live in a “lushly landscaped gated waterfront community”? Gag.  The PR machine is in full swing touting recent condo sales as part of the revitalization of downtown…but you only have to look to the nearest bus shelter (like the one below) to see the reality.

 

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Are the mega-condos of Brickell the key to urban vitality and innovation or are they just cul-de-sacs in the sky? In a keynote speech during the 20th Congress for New Urbanism in West Palm Beach, author Richard Florida challenged the idea that the “rush to density” will unlock and release the potential of our cities.

“This rush to density, this idea that density creates economic growth,” is wrong, Florida said. “It’s the creation of real, walkable urban environments that stir the human spirit. Skyscraper communities are vertical suburbs, where it is lonely at the top. The kind of density we want is a ‘Jane Jacobs density.'”

Vertical cul-de-sacs? Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

In her influential book, Death and Life of American Cities (1961), Jacobs objected to neighborhoods that were made up exclusively of high-rises and instead preferred neighborhoods with buildings that are a mix of different building ages and types - Greenwich Village in New York City, for example. When you consider cities around the world, it is in those types of neighborhoods where you will often find the arts districts, the best music venues, the creatives, the authentic, the local businesses, the innovators, the vitality - and a sense of place and community.

I live in Brickell, in a rented condo on the 23rd story of building built in 2007. It soars for ten more stories above me and sits atop an 8-level parking pedestal where every car has a happy home. It’s surrounded by other residential towers of similar stature. Now, I enjoy Brickell primarily because I can walk for nearly all of my basic human needs - groceries, a barber, a slice of pizza etc. It’s also well-served by MetroRail and Metro Mover, both accessible from my doorstep. It’s a rare Miami neighborhood in that regard. But increasingly, I find myself questioning if Brickell is a “walkable environment that stirs the human spirit” or merely just a semi-walkable streetscape in the shadows of impersonal towers functioning as suburbs in the sky.

No mega-towers needed - "Jane Jacobs" density in Greenwich Village is plenty vibrant.

In many ways, the mega-condos of Brickell share several of the undesirable characteristics of a suburban gated community - despite being the densest neighborhood south of NYC along the east coast. It’s largely impossible to know more than few people in a 50-story building, if you know any at all. The “inclusion” of a parking space (which can drive up the cost of a unit anywhere from 15-30% according to parking expert Jeffrey Tumlin) acts as an incentive to drive, therefore damaging the pedestrian realm. The buildings and their residents, by nature, are segregated by income. The anonymity does not encourage civic engagement - in the recent city commission elections, the Brickell zip codes recorded an 8% turn-out.

That means 92% did not vote.

Meaningful public space in Brickell is severely lacking. With no central plaza, no signature park, no outdoor public room, no farmers market or gathering place, most of the “public” realm is centered around commercial “third places” (Starbucks) or reduced to the street and sidewalks. The latter is problematic because Brickell’s sidewalks are terribly neglected and the streets full of maniacal drivers. (Sometimes you’ll even see a maniacal driver on the sidewalk).

Portions of Brickell, especially Brickell Avenue, are dark and full of uninviting blank walls and underpasses. The “pedestrian shed” in Brickell is actually quite small. Aside from disjointed commercial sections of South Miami Avenue, a walk around Brickell is a particularly unrewarding experience. (Crumbling sidewalks, perpetual construction with worker disregard to pedestrians, dark streets, curb cuts galore, bullying motorists, busy arterials with scant crosswalks, the desolation of vacated office towers after business hours)

Brickell Green Space is a project to lobby for a new park in the neighborhood. (Courtesy of BrickellGreenSpace.com)

The businesses attracted to Brickell are beginning to look a lot like those implanted in suburban shopping malls - national franchises like Blue Martini, Fado, P.F. Chang’s - which would be acceptable if there were actually some other businesses opening besides restaurants. The 800-lb gorilla in the room no one seems to be talking about is the future Brickell CitiCentre, a 4,600,000 square foot retail, hotel and condo behemoth and the largest private construction project in the United States at present.

For better or worse, this project will fundamentally transform the neighborhood, if not the entire city. On one hand, it will mitigate the retail deficit that exists in Miami’s urban core. On the other, we can expect plenty of national franchises, thousands of parking spaces and plenty more traffic on the dangerous and uninviting “urban arterials” of SW 8th and SW 7th streets. Ultimately, it may be a series of towers that function more like a suburban shopping mall rather than a seamlessly integrated edifice into the urban fabric with an active pedestrian realm.

Rendering of the Brickell CitiCentre. Courtesy of BrickellInfo.com

It’s obvious that areas like Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District are the emerging centers of Miami’s arts and creative community. Brickell is beginning to seem like a stark contrast to those neighborhoods; identified as a weekend playground for suburbanites, wealthy South Americans on vacation to their second homes and disengaged young professionals. As the housing stock continues to increase in those aforementioned neighborhoods, the divide will become ever more apparent.

The longer term prospects for the Brickell megatowers are arguably quite bleak, as flimsy homeowners associations will face massive maintenance costs and liabilities in an era of expensive energy in their giant-scaled buildings - an increasingly urgent situation that smaller, human-scaled buildings will have an easier time confronting. When these towers require broad renovations, the limitations of their enormity will truly be exposed.

The key to long-term vitality in a neighborhood is whether it’s inhabitants are truly fulfilled with their surroundings. 

To quote Richard Florida, “The quality of a place itself is the single most important factor in people’s fulfillment. There are four parts to this: the degree to which a community: values its history; is walkable and mixed-use; values arts, both street art and high art; and integrates the built and natural environment.”

Aside from Brickell’s walkability, it seems to be failing on the other fronts Florida mentions. Valuing history? Entitled residents are using an ancient burial ground as a toilet for their dogs. Street art and high art? There are no art galleries in Brickell and the only “street art” is the incessant sidewalk spray paint indiscriminately spewed by utility and construction companies. Integrates the built and natural environment? Another fail - all that exists in Brickell is the built environment. (The Miami Riverwalk project would be nice if completed in my lifetime)

There are some improvements on the way - Triangle Park, if ever completed, will be a welcomed, albeit small, neighborhood plaza. There are plans to overhaul South Miami Avenue and 1st St to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly in the coming years. However, it’s relatively unlikely these projects will significantly change the underlying social construct of a skyscraper-burdened place.

I increasingly find myself leaving Brickell on my bicycle in search of more authentic urban experiences found elsewhere in the city. Actually, I need to leave Brickell just to go to a bookstore or bicycle shop….

….usually found in “Jane Jacobs” density.

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During the Congress for the New Urbanism’s annual conference, CNU 20: The New World, held last week in West Palm Beach, I had the opportunity to interview author James Howard Kunstler. Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency, The Geography of Nowhere, the World Made by Hand novels and is a leading critic and social commentator on the American landscape of suburban sprawl.

Over lunch in downtown West Palm’s new urbanism-inspired development, CityPlace, I pried Jim about bus travel in Florida, nostalgia for transit, the state of our current rail system, his own oil paintings (featured in the slideshow) and more.

Special thanks to Duncan Crary for allowing me to use his audio equipment for the interview. Crary hosts a weekly podcast with Jim called the Kunstlercast, posted each Thursday at Kunstlercast.com.

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):

ROUTE #1: Coral Gables to the Health District via the M-Path

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):

ROUTE #2: Miami Beach to Coconut Grove via the Venetian Causeway

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 . . .

 

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Check out this upcoming meeting co-hosted by Transit Miami friends: the ULI Young Leaders, the Townhouse Center Blog and Miami Urbanist (among others). Meetings like this help spread the word that urban infill is the way to go….

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It’s always a fun experience to ride the Metrorail following a major community event, especially following the annual Corporate Run.

This year marked the run’s 27th anniversary. Apart from being a great community- and team-building event, the Corporate Run also never fails to highlight how convenient travelling via transit really is.

The picture below gives a glimpse of just how packed the train was following the 5-kilometer run.

It's always nice to see our Metrorail at maximum capacity. More rail please . . .

People realize that when roads are packed, the most viable and efficient way to move around the city is with trains and buses. And these days, it’s rare to find streets in our community that aren’t congested.

Let’s stop wasting our tax dollars on expanding highway and road systems that leave us trapped in metallic boxes on four wheels and start investing our tax dollars in rail and public transit systems.

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The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a plan yesterday to move forward with a local and express commuter rail along the famed corridor that once carried Flager’s train to Key West. The decision by the board will advance a “fast start” plan proposed by Tri-Rail administrators to leverage existing administrative costs and recently purchased locomotives to run service along the FEC line from Jupiter to Miami within 3-5 years.

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The plan is an answer to FDOT officials who had previously proposed giving the concession to run trains directly to the FEC company in an effort to privatize the system. Tri-rail planners, though, say this is not necessary as they are already 80% privatized and can run the service for half the price as the proposed FEC plan. “For the same [capital] cost as the FEC- FDOT plan, we can provide 56 trains on the FEC between downtown Ft Lauderdale and downtown Miami, while also providing connectivity with the rest of the region,” said Joe Quinty, Transportation Planning Manager with the SFRTA.

Under the “fast track” proposal, which will now go to the tri-county MPO’s for approval and further cost feasibility, trains would use the FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County. Stops include 163 Street, 125 Street, 79 street, 54 Street, 36 Street, 11 Street/Overtown, and Government Center. As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $15 million a year in operations costs by expanding existing contracts with Bombardier and Veolia. The FDOT plan would have cost $25 million a year and provided fewer stops in Miami-Dade County.

The project was approved 6-1, with the lone exception being FDOT District 6 representative Gus Pego. The plan envisions several types of service along the line, beginning with direct service between Ft. Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Regional service beyond Ft.Lauderdale will be established at Atlantic Boulevard, where a line connects the existing Tri-Rail tracks with the FEC service.

FDOT has been studying rail service along the FEC for years, with the latest SFECC Study looking at an integrated service, similar to what is being proposed, at a cost of over $2billion for the tri-county area. This plan hit a wall this spring when the Miami-Dade County MPO balked at moving forward with the study because of concerns over cost.

Tri-rail planners say that the fast track project is a way to get service running on the line as the South Florida East Coast Corridor study advances and addresses the MPO concerns. As currently planned, the service would not require any county or federal funds for operations or construction.

One third of the additional operational costs will come from farebox revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations of between $350,000 - $550,000. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million, which will come from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Quinty went on to say,  “We believe this new SFRTA is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly (by avoiding the Federal project development process), provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds.”

You can say that the urban fabric of Paris (and indeed  all great cities) is composed of some basic elements: first are the famous civic buildings from the travel book checklist: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre; and second, the townhouses and small scale urban buildings in between, typically with cafes and stores at street level. Then there are the variations on public space, ranging in character from the monumental green gardens of Luxemborg and the hardscaped plaza at the entrance of the Louvre, to more intimate spaces, as in the lively outdoor rooms of the Latin Quarter. Finally, lets not forget to count the great pedestrian streets: avenues for dining and shopping like Champes Elysee, the bridges that receive the breeze of the Seine, the continuous sidewalk connections between one’s front door and the day’s daily coffee and bread.

The four elements of all great cities: fabric buildings, civic monuments, great pedestrian streets, & public spaces.

What if Paris could only keep one of these elements? Which is the more essential to Paris’ identity? Which is more important to the visitors who make Paris a top travel destination in the world? Imagine that the French Ministry of Transportation was to reduce either the great monuments or the great neighborhoods to parking lots to accommodate increasing auto ownership. Imagine that Corbusier’s plan for Paris had been taken seriously.

My guess is that even the ever-present Eiffel Tower is actually a small part of the lives of the millions of resident Parisians. My guess is that newlyweds would still go to Paris from throughout the world to sit in cafes and wonder upward at the cast iron balconies considering what life was like in one of the world’s most liveable cities — even if Paris lacked the Arc D’Triumph.

To choose between public spaces and streets is more difficult, but I doubt that the parks and plazas of Paris would be used as much, or at all, if they required a freeway commute to reach.

Paris does not have to choose between its dignified urban residences, inspiring civic buildings, great streets and cherished public spaces. Even secondary elements such as the subway system or bicycle network, are in place and the city is committed to them. But as urbanists in Miami we must prioritize. To achieve high-quality urbanism of this kind, as has not been built as the norm in the US in one hundred years, requires an education process, a reprioritisation of public funding, a hundred instructive meetings with both the public and the responsible agencies.

The latest economic downturn is making us choose between these four elements of great cities, not because we haven’t any longer the resources to build them all, but because the budgets that would otherwise be spent on planning, education, and involvement, on the dialogue about urbanism as a choiceworthy endeavor, has been reduced, and we must focus our energies. Consider this ranking: great streets, dignified fabric buildings, proud public spaces, and monumental civic buildings.

The popular dialogue in Miami concerning these four elements seems to value the reverse order. Starchitect new buildings (the stadium, Arsht Center, etc.) and experimental forms of landscape architecture (Bicentennial Park) are most likely to be on the minds of the city and county commisioners. But the streets and buildings of our daily routine need, if only by virtue of being more plentiful items than the other two, far more consideration than they are currently given. If I take just one point home as an urbanist visiting Paris, it is that we should focus our effort to make Miami a truly liveable city by building high-quality, walkable, multi-modal streets with urban infill buildings that define the street as a place of shared activity — in the way of Paris.

Jason King, AICP is a Town Planner at Dover, Kohl and Partners Town Planners and has worked on numerous award winning city and regional plans . 

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Last night I attended a meeting at Legion Park with representatives from the FEC and about 50 residents and business owners from the Upper East Side. Also present were Commissioner Sarnoff, a representative from the FDOT and a representative from the Port of Miami. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the upgrades to the FEC rail line which are currently underway and the establishment of a “quiet zone” from the port north to NE 71st Street. In order to qualify as a “quiet zone” the FEC will upgrade the rail crossings which will make blowing the train horn unnecessary. The FEC is also replacing the rail line with a quieter track in order to reconnect service to the Port of Miami in anticipation of the port expansion and dredging to accommodate the larger Panamax ships which are expected to significantly expand its cargo business.

Most resident where supportive of the FEC’s plans, but the conversation quickly turned to passenger rail. The majority of those in attendance wanted to know why passenger service was not moving forward. Commissioner Sarnoff was quick to point the finger at the Miami Dade County MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). He mentioned that both the Broward and Palm Beach County MPOs had already passed resolutions in support of passenger rail service. The FDOT representative confirmed this as well and she actually made it sound like her department was on board with passenger rail service on the FEC. (I was very happy to hear that the FDOT was supportive).

Why can’t our Miami Dade County elected officials get their act together and actually do something that is in the public’s best interest for once? They need to stop playing politics and do what is best for the South Florida community. Last night’s meeting clearly showed that residents and businesses desire passenger rail. Providing passenger rail service on the FEC is really a no-brainer and will make the South Florida region more competitive. For some reason, that is beyond my understanding, our Miami Dade elected officials can’t seem to figure this one out.

Passenger rail is fundamental to our economic success. Young, talented and educated job seekers (as well as employers) are in search for cities that provide a better quality of life. They are not interested in spending countless hours commuting in bumper to bumper traffic. Passenger rail will spur development opportunities for real estate developers to break ground on walkable, mixed-use, transit oriented developments. This is progress, not futile road expansion projects that destroy communities rather than making them stronger.

Safety Issues for Pedestrians Along the FEC

Wendy Stephan, former president of the Buena Vista Homeowners Association, asked the FEC representative if they intended to make the area surrounding the tracks more pedestrian friendly. In particular she cited the area from NE 39th- 54th Street along Federal Highway which does not have any pedestrian crossings. She pointed out that people cross these tracks (including her mother-in-law in her pearls, lol) to get to the Publix and Biscayne Boulevard from Buena Vista and the surrounding neighborhoods because there aren’t any proper crossings for 15 blocks.

One of the FEC representatives then began to refer to the people crossing the tracks as “trespassers”. I took issue with his statement and I quickly pointed out to him that the FEC cannot possibly expect for people to walk 15 blocks out of their way just to cross the tracks to catch a bus on Biscayne Boulevard or purchase food at Publix. Further north we find the same problem from NE 62nd –NE 79th Street where we there is only one crossing at NE 71st Street which the FEC has asked the County to close, but the County so far has denied this request. Its worth mentioning that I see small children crossing the train tracks from Little Haiti every morning on their way to Morning Side Elementary School on NE 66th Street. There are numerous schools along the FEC corridor from downtown north to NE 79th Street and nearly not enough pedestrian crossings. An FEC representative basically said this was not their problem. Commissioner Sarnoff said his office would look into building bridges or tunnels for pedestrians to get across the tracks safely. Instead, I think we should look into at-grade pedestrian crossings (see below) rather then spending big bucks on tunnels or bridges which will most likely not be used by anyone besides drug addicts.

No need to be gimicky; we don't need bridges or tunnels to get across the rail line safely. Proper pedestrian rail crosswalks are less expensive and more effective.

How about an FEC Greenway?

Friend of Transit Miami Frank Rollason asked the FEC representative about their responsibility of being a good neighbor and properly maintaining the right of way (ROW). He pointed out that there were homeless people living on the FEC ROW, people using drugs as well has hiding stolen goods in the overgrown shrubbery. The FEC representative snubbed Frank and said, “We do maintain it”. (Yeah right).

I told the FEC representative that the FEC could be a good neighbor by including an FEC Greenway into their plans. An FEC Greenway would root out homelessness and drug use as joggers, walkers, parents with strollers and bicyclists would discourage undesirable activities with their presence. I was also snubbed by the FEC representative and was basically given a look that said “yeah right kid, good luck with that, looks like you are smoking crack with the crack heads on the FEC line, there is no chance we are putting a greenway on the FEC.”

Overall the meeting was very positive. The FEC and the City of Miami need to work together to find solutions to add more crossings for pedestrians. Pedestrians shouldn’t be forced to walk 15 blocks to cross the tracks. The City of Miami should also press the FEC to incorporate a greenway into their plans. A greenway would deter crime and improve the quality of life for everyone that lives near the train tracks. That being said, rail is the priority. The FEC has 100ft of ROW; if they can somehow safely squeeze in a 10-12 ft greenway they should.

Lastly, we must all write a quick email to our County Commissioners and tell them to stop playing politics with our future economic prosperity. We need local and commuter passenger rail service today, not in 15 years. You can find our recommendations for passenger rail service on the FEC here. Let’s make this happen South Florida!

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Florida At Risk of Falling 20 Years Behind Other States

It is summer vacation season. Perhaps you just returned to South Florida from one of the world’s great cities. Chances are, you probably experienced bicycle facilities that are generally better than what we have here in South Florida. While recently there has been significant improvements to the bicycle infrastructure in Miami-Dade County, there is still a key design element that is missing from our streetscape.

Image Courtesy of New York City DoT

A cycle track, is a physically separate and protected bike lane and is considered by bicycle planners and experts as the safest and most enjoyable way to ride a bicycle through an urban environment. Widely seen as a catalyst to encourage riding because of the inherent safety of the protection from traffic - either by a curb, bollards, parked cars or pavement buffer - cycle tracks are revolutionizing the way people view cycling in an urban context.

 

Before you read any further, watch this short video via StreetFilms.org on the new cycle track in Queens, New York City. On a personal note, I was in New York last weekend when this facility opened. Having cycled in the same area prior to the building of this lane, I was awestruck. Seeing so many people enjoying an area of Queens that was previously a miserable traffic-choked hellhole, the experience was almost surreal.

There are numerous studies that show cycle tracks are proven to increase ridership tremendously versus unprotected, striped lanes. A new protected lane on Manhattan’s busy First Avenue saw cyclist counts rise by 152% throughout the year the facility was opened. As most people cite safety issues as their biggest barrier to cycling for transportation, cycletracks offer a solution that not only makes traveling safer for the cyclist, but for the motorist as well. Numerous studies have found that crashes between bicycles and traffic diminish when a protected cycle track is available.

While many cities throughout the USA and world have installed such facilities like the Queens example to great success, Miami-Dade County does not have a single on-road protected bicycle lane/cycle track. The feeling of unparalleled uplift I experienced upon riding the Queens lane quickly faded to frustration when I realized the challenges ahead for Miami.

So what is the problem? Simply put, the Florida Department of Transportation does not recognize cycle tracks as an approved bicycle facility. Therefore, some of the FDOT’s biggest roadway projects in Miami-Dade County like the proposed redesigns of Alton Road in Miami Beach, Flagler Street in Little Havana, Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard will not include cycle tracks. In fact, the feasibility of such facilities have not even been studied by the FDOT in these projects because the design standards of cycle tracks are not approved. Even worse, some of these projects have start dates in 2016 with completion dates approaching 2018, 2019 and 2020.

If the FDOT does not adopt the cycle track as an approved design standard as these major projects move forward, FODT will be 20 years behind other states and cities in implementing accepted bicycle facilities. The benefits are obvious. We’ve spent a lot of electronic ink here at TransitMiami in lambasting the FDOT’s outdated auto-centric designs and how they imposed them on the Florida landscape. This is not the time for that. Simply put, it’s time for the FDOT to join the ranks of the enlightened world of modern urban design and adopt cycle tracks that will create the conditions for safe and sustainable urban transportation. Give us the facilities that will lead to safer streets, healthier people, clean air and stress free commutes.

Here is an abbreviated list of American cities that have built segregated bicycle facilities. It’s time for Miami to join this list.

Chicago, IL
Madison, WI
Davis, CA
Long Beach, CA
Denver, CO
Boulder, CO
Portland, OR
San Francisco, CA
Minneapolis, MN
Cambridge, MA
Boston, MA
Washington, D.C.

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The relentless siege on pedestrians and cyclists rages on in South Florida. In June alone, local media outlets reported on an embarrassing number of tragic accidents in the greater Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano area. While the recent Miami Bicycle Summit touted many plans and accomplishments in bicycle infrastructure, the troubling frequency of high-profile accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists requires a more aggressive response from local agencies and leaders. Below is a summary of some recent accidents. (The dates correspond to the date of the coverage, not the actual accident.)

Is this a more appropriate warning for pedestrians and cyclists in South Florida?

June 14th, Ft. Lauderdale

Officials: Pickup Truck Hits Woman, Baby

A mother and her baby, who was in a stroller, were taken to the hospital after being struck by a pickup truck in Ft. Lauderdale.

June 13th, Lake Worth

Man Riding Bike Hospitalized After Being Hit By Tractor Trailer in Lake Worth

In what appears to be a classic ‘right-hook’ accident, a bicyclist is in critical condition after being struck by a tractor-trailer. No word on any charges facing the driver.

June 10th, Miami

Pedestrian Stuck and Killed

In this horrific accident, the innocent victim, who was on the sidewalk, was actually severed in two by a vehicle after it collided with another vehicle at an intersection in Miami.

June 7th , Hollywood

Dania Beach Man Questioned In Deadly Hollywood Hit-and-Run

On May 13th, Wilmar Galeano was riding his bicycle on the Sheridan Street Bridge, when he was struck from behind and killed by a speeding white van. The accident was caught on video, but the driver fled and the accident is still under investigation.

June 6th, Ft. Lauderdale

Police ID Man Struck by Car, Killed in Ft. Lauderdale

Jamie Valderrama of Miami Beach tried to leave the scene after striking and killing a pedestrian, Juan Herrera, with his Lexus. Charges against Valderrama are pending.

June 6, Lauderdale Lakes

Bicyclist Hospitalized After Collision With Car

June 2nd, Coral Gables

Pedestrian Dies After Being Struck At Gables Intersection

In this tragic accident, 4 pedestrians were struck when two cars collided in an intersection and careened into the sidewalk. One of the pedestrian victims, Olatz Conde Salcedo, who was head of human resources for Nextel in Bilbao, Spain, later died from injuries suffered in the accident.

Has South Florida actually become more dangerous for pedestrians? A recent Transportation For America Study showed Miami-Ft. Lauderdale to be the 4th most dangerous region in the USA for pedestrians. Is South Florida about to climb in this dubious list? Where is the vocal leadership on this most basic of issues that deteriorates our quality of life and the viability of our cities? How can a city thrive when it’s dangerous to simply cross the street or walk the sidewalks?

Of course, if you have money, you can drive recklessly and kill with impunity in these parts. Need proof? Read about the outrageously light sentence recently handed to Ryan LeVin who murdered two pedestrians in Ft. Lauderdale in 2009.

When are our public agencies and elected officials going to take pedestrians seriously? Streets are for people - not just cars.

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As reported in the April 21st issue of Miami Today, Marlins Stadium stakeholders are meeting monthly to devise ways for fans to travel to the games at the new Marlins stadium, set to open for the 2012 season. While recent news mentions options including trolleys, bus transfers and water taxis, premium mass transit and bicycle connections to the stadium remain elusive. 

The new Marlins stadium is set to be the first LEED-silver certified baseball stadium in the USA. As criteria for this certification, the stadium’s design incorporates an impressive array of environmentally sound measures. As reported in this NBC story on April 19th, the stadium will also feature “2,000 spaces for bicycles”. After an inquiry to the Marlins via the team’s website, FanFeedback@Marlins.com replied, “We will have 536 spots reserved for bicycles all around the stadium for those whom do not commute by car.” However, we at TransitMiami wonder if that simply means unattended bicycle racks spread around the stadium, or a secure valet/bicycle check like that of San Francisco’s AT&T Park as seen in this clip (via Streetfilms.org). While there is a discrepancy in the number of spaces and questions regarding security, it is encouraging news for cyclists at the ballpark either way. TransitMiami will continue to look into the details of these accommodations.

But what about getting to the new stadium by bicycle? The site is less than 3 miles from the heart of Downtown and Brickell. It would make complete sense to connect these two dense residential areas and the stadium with a safe bike route for a multitude of obvious reasons. TransitMiami is calling on the Miami-Dade Public Works Department, the City of Miami and the Marlins to be pro-active in this regard.

Personally, I rode from Brickell to the stadium site this weekend via NW South River Drive and NW 4th street. It is mostly a pleasant ride of less than 20 minutes through leafy residential areas of Little Havana. Of course, there are a few perilous intersections with little consideration given to pedestrians or cyclists along the route. But overall, a designated bike route seems entirely feasible on a variety of roadways to link the densest areas of Miami with the stadium. I can even envision a Marlins ambassador leading a group ride from Downtown/Brickell during day games.  What a perfect way for the Marlins to promote the LEED certification of the new ballpark as well as provide a fun and hassle-free way for their local fans to get to the game!

Commuting to baseball stadiums by bicycle is wildly popular in cities like Denver, San Francisco and Washington DC as those stadiums make significant accommodations for cyclists. In an age of soaring gas prices, traffic congestion and expensive parking, Miami needs to ‘step up to the plate’ and provide cyclists a safe route to the game.

As said in the baseball movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.”

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