Miamians are taking to the streets on bicycles as they once did prior to the automobile era. Our street spaces and corresponding roadway culture aren’t changing as quickly as they should. This contradiction, marking the growing pains of an evolving transportation culture, will continue to result in unnecessary frustration, violence, and misery. . . . All the more reason to ride more: to make the change come faster.
TransitMiami would like to introduce you to our friend Emily. We wish it were under better circumstances though . . .
You see, Emily is one of those intrepid Miamians who — like an increasing number of Miamians across every neighborhood in the metro region — prefers the invigorating freedom of the bicycle to move around the city. Cycling is Emily’s transportation mode of choice.
That’s great news, of course; something to be celebrated.
Apart from her significantly reduced carbon footprint and her heightened physical and mental well-being, Emily’s choice to use her bicycle as her primary means of transport is also advancing a gradual transformation of our roadway culture.
As a practitioner of regular active transportation, Emily is helping to re-humanize an auto-centric Miami whose residents exploit the relative anonymity of their motorized metal boxes to manifest road rage and recklessness with virtual impunity. She’s contributing to the much-needed, yet ever-so-gradual, cultural transformation toward a shared, safer, more just roadway reality.
The more cyclists take to the streets for everyday transportation, the more motorists become accustomed to modifying their behaviors to honor cyclists’ incontrovertible and equal rights to the road. Likewise, the more cycling becomes a preferred mode of intra-urban transport, and a regular, everyday feature of social life, the more cyclists become conscious of and practice the behaviors expected of legitimate co-occupants of the road.
Indeed, it takes two to do the transportation tango.
And, of course, the more experience motorists and cyclists have occupying the same, or adjacent, public street space, the more they will learn how to operate their respective legal street vehicles in ways that minimize the incessant collisions, casualties, destruction, and death that have somehow morphed into ordinary conditions on our streets.
This cultural shift is one that will take place over several years. Just how many, though, is up to us.
It’s no secret: Miami has a long way to go before a truly multi-modal transportation ethos becomes the norm.
Any delay in the inevitable metamorphosis is due partially to the rate of change in Miami’s physical environment (i.e., its land-use configurations, street layouts, diversity of infrastructural forms, etc.) being slower than the speed with which Miamians themselves are demanding that change.
So what happens when some of the population starts to use its environment in more progressive ways than the environment (and others who occupy it) are currently conditioned for? Well, bad things can sometimes happen. The community as a whole suffers from growing pains.
Take our friend Emily, for example. . . .
On a beautiful Miami afternoon a week and a half ago, Emily was riding her bike through Little Haiti (near NW 2nd Ave and 54th Street), near Miami’s Upper Eastside. She was on her way from a business meeting to another appointment.
A regular cyclist-for-transportation, Emily knows the rules of the road. She was riding on the right side of the right-most lane. She is confident riding alongside motor vehicle traffic and understands the importance of also riding as traffic.
Emily’s knowledge still wasn’t enough for her to avoid what is among every urban cyclist’s worst fears: getting doored by a parked car.
In Emily’s own words:
I was riding at a leisurely pace and enjoying the beauties of the day and the neighborhood.
I suddenly notice the car door to my right begin to open, so I swerved and said, “Whoa!” to vocalize my presence in hopes that the person behind that door would stop opening their door.
For a split second I thought I was beyond danger of impact, but the door kept opening and it hit my bike pedal. I knew I was going down, and I had the strangest feeling of full acceptance of the moment. In the next split second I saw the white line of paint on the road up close in my left eye.
My cheek hit the pitted pavement with a disgusting, sliding scrape and my sternum impacted on my handlebars which had been torqued all the way backwards. My body rolled in front of my bike and my instincts brought me upright.
The time-warp of the crash stopped; my surroundings started to come into perspective and as I vocalized my trauma. The wind was knocked out of me, but I hadn’t yet figured out that my sternum had been impacted.
I was literally singing a strange song of keening for the sorrow my body felt from this violation and at the same time singing for the glory and gratitude of survival and consciousness.
In all fairness, one could argue that Emily committed one of Transportation Alternatives nine “rookie mistakes” by allowing herself to get doored. She should have kept a greater distance from the cars parked alongside the road, the argument goes. A truly experienced urban cyclist doesn’t make such careless and self-damaging mistakes.
Perhaps . . . but we cannot overlook the errors of the inadvertent door-assaulter either. . . . There was clearly a lack of attentiveness and proper protocol on the driver’s part too.
Who parks a car on a major arterial road just outside the urban core without first checking around for on-coming traffic prior to swinging open the door?
It’s hard to really to lay blame here. And my point is that it is pointless at this stage to even try.
The whole blaming-the-motorist-versus-the-cyclist discourse only exacerbates the animosity that is so easily agitated between the cycling and car-driving communities. The irony is that they’re really the same community. Cyclists are drivers too, and vice versa.
At this stage in Miami’s development trajectory, our efforts should be focused on pushing our leaders to ask one question: How can we change the transportation environment in ways that will minimize troubling encounters like this?
We can start by creating physical street conditions that encourage more cyclists onto the streets, where they belong, operating as standard street vehicles.
Show me a city where the monopoly of the automobile has been dismantled and I’ll show you a city where everybody’s transportation consciousness is elevated.
Best wishes on your recovery, Emily.
We’ll see you out there in our city (slowly, and sometimes painfully) advancing a more just transportation culture by riding on our streets as you should, even if the streets themselves aren’t quite ready for us.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. This particular photo speaks to the state of pedestrian safety in Miami — beat-up and run-down!
According to Keith Lawler, the Brickell denizen who submitted this photo, this well-intended, yet seemingly ineffective, pedestrian safety signage is now, as of May 29, gone completely . . .
Something’s got to give . . .
The following is an article from Elsa Roberts from Emerge Miami.
“What are you doing?”
“I almost get hit every time I cross the street with my daughter.”
“Get a job!”
“Thank you for doing this.”
These are just a few of the comments we heard in 40 minutes walking the crosswalk for pedestrian safety in Coral Gables on October 20. One older gentleman complained that he doesn’t feel safe crossing the street and said that he couldn’t sprint out of a car’s way anymore – he is 77. Another woman crossing with her children thanked us and proceeded to explain to her daughter why we were demonstrating for safer streets.
Motorist reactions were mixed. There were many instances of driver misbehavior and disrespect. Several drivers illegally blocked the intersection trying to turn left after their green arrow was gone and many making right turns came within inches of our legs; angrily demanding with their vehicles that we yield our space. The strangest comment we received was from a woman in an SUV trying to make a right turn while we were lawfully crossing the street, she rolled down her window, stared into our faces and our signs urging drivers to take care and reminding them that we are all pedestrians, and shouted angrily, “Why don’t you get a job!” Three of us looked at her and simply stated, “We have jobs.” “In fact, we’re here on a Saturday, raising awareness about an issue that kills and injures hundreds of people in Miami every year.”
Unfortunately, too many people care more about getting to a destination a little quicker than they do about looking both ways and yielding to pedestrians, and that is why Miami is the 4th most dangerous city in the U.S. for pedestrians and cyclists; a dishonor shared by three other metropolitan areas, all located in Florida (the Orlando-Kissimmee area is 1st, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 2nd, and Jacksonville is 3rd). Our cities are not designed to facilitate safe travel for pedestrians, an issue that has repeatedly been brought before the FDOT multiple times (see TransitMiami’s archive), but which they are reluctant to acknowledge as a problem.
This is an issue that will only be solved by repeatedly bringing it into the public eye. Each time a pedestrian or cyclist is injured or killed, the public must cry out and encourage media coverage. We must continue with walks like this to engage the community in Miami; together we can raise awareness and make our streets safer. We will be planning another Walk for Safety in December. Stay tuned to details!
We could not be more grateful for our loyal Transit Miami followers and readers. While we often enjoy spirited conversion on the issues we cover, the dialogue is always civil, educated and thought-provoking. It’s our readership that makes Transit Miami the agent for change we strive to be in moving Miami forward. Below is a collection of quotations from our readers in light of this weekend’s tragic crash outside of Marlins Park via our Facebook page and here.
“Whether this was a freak accident is beside the point when human traffic is an afterthought. If you step back and think about it, it is absurd that 4 inches (maybe) of elevated concrete is supposed to be safe.” – Leah Weston
“No matter the causes behind the vehicular deaths, it is still made so much worse by being so vehicular-oriented. A person suffering a heart attack or other medical crisis on a train, bike or foot would not only cause less trouble to others, but also be more likely to survive themselves.
And then you get into secondary harm. Orienting to the automobile destroys our economy, ecology and society. Autos should be tools, not careless gods.” – Karja Hansen, Barrio Workshop
“I think of truly great baseball stadiums like Wrigley Field, where thousands gather before and after games to fill the streets, purchase merchandise, food and drinks. This Marlins stadium is nothing like it. I’ve already made up my mind to never go there and to boycott this ridiculous waste of taxpayer money and now, to save my life.” – Rima Gerhard
“The departments that are responsible for such roadway designs defend those designs on the grounds that they are “safe.” If we demand street trees, on-street parking, fewer curb cuts, wider sidewalks, they say “those are unsafe” or “those features worsen congestion.” We should be ashamed of ourselves. I’m sickened to call myself a Miamian when I read such reports. We should shame the decision-makers into providing more layers of protection for our pedestrians and cyclists. If we don’t, we are less than human.” – Andrew Georgiadis, Dover Kohl and Partners
“Our straight and wide streets encourage speeding and reckless lane changes that often lead to motorists losing control of their machines. This needs to change.” – Roger Williams
“As nice a venue as the new stadium is, the infrastructure in that community is not designed for the masses of humanity that attend an event.” – James Camp
Metrorail riders beware! There seems to be a criminal on the loose targeting unsuspecting passengers! This just in from the University of Miami police department:
April 26, 2012
Event Description: Serial Robber Targeting Metrorail Riders
Campus police and security have received information about a serial robber who has targeted Metorail riders. One victim boarded a northbound train from the University Metrorail station. The offender, whose picture and description appears below, sits next to passengers shortly before a stop, brandishes a firearm and demands property from his victims. If you see the subject, avoid him and call police immediately.
This information is being provided to help keep our communities informed and safe.
SUBJECT INFORMATION: Black Male, 6’0” to 6’2” tall, about 180 pounds, no facial hair, and has a short haircut. He has consistently worn dark suit pants and a vest (presumed to conceal a firearm). He has also worn a light tan sport jacket, as in the picture. If you see the subject at other rail stops call 911 and/or report the subject to on duty security.
Anyone with information regarding this crime or information that may lead to the apprehension of this individual is asked to call:
- MDT DISPATCH CENTER: 305 375-2700 or
- CRIMESTOPPERS: 305 471-TIPS (8477)
Callers will remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward.
As regular Metrorail riders know, the train is a safe, efficient, stress-free, and pleasant way to get around town (at least certain parts of town). Don’t be discouraged by this isolated incident by some goon trying to disturb the peace typically found on our Metrorail.
The incident conveyed in the above crime advisory got me thinking about the unnarmed volunteer group founded in New York City, the Guardian Angels. By the late 1970s, conditions on the NYC subway system had gotten pretty rough, and a group of citizens got together to provide a sense of security for the passengers on the trains.
For the most part, crime on our Miami Metrorail is not common. Furthermore, whatever minimal criminality does manifest on our public transportation system is nowhere near the scale of that in NYC a few decades ago.
In any case, be viligant out there folks. The Metrorail belongs to us, the people, not some thug with a gun.
Here’s a snapshot of the local vehicular carnage in South Florida over the past weekend. Also, bear in mind there there were no reports of any injuries or deaths on Tri-Rail, Metrorail, MetroMover, DecoBike, b-Cycle or city busses this weekend.
MIAMI – An 81 year old motorist wildly loses control of his car on NE 106th St near Biscayne Bay. In spectacular fashion, the vehicle cartwheels into the water and begins to drift and sumberge. Some bystanders, including a Miami Beach detective, jump into the water and pull the driver to safety.
MIAMI – A motorcyclist is rear-ended by a reckless motorist on an SR 836 on-ramp. The driver then flees the scene while the motorcyclist lay injured on the roadway.
Despite the headline of the WSVN story above, leaving the scene of a crash, especially when you struck a vulnerable road user, is no ‘accident’. It’s time we retire that word to the dustbin of our vocabulary when referring to crashes like this.
Violent Collision in Allapattah
LAUDERHILL – In another crash worthy of an acrobatic score, a driver in a Toyota Corolla plows through a fence in reverse, propels airborne over a swimming pool and crashes into the back of a house in Lauderhill. Miraculously, the homeowner, three children in the house and the motorist were not seriously injured, though the home suffered significant damage.
MIAMI – Thugs ram a stolen Nissan Maxima into the front doors of Nail Bar in Midtown early Saturday morning. They steal an ATM machine from the business and speed away in a waiting getaway vehicle, leaving the crashed Nissan at the scene.
WEST PALM BEACH – According to deputies, Juan Diego Martinez, a 26 year old motorist, plowed into 3 vehicles in a parking lot outside a local nightclub shortly after midnight Saturday. Luis Jimenez, a West Palm Beach taxi driver was struck and killed by the reckless driver as he was chatting with friends outside. Two other innocent bystanders were also injured.
JUPITER – Three elderly people were killed Sunday afternoon after their car veered off Interstate 95 and went into a drainage ditch full of highway runoff water.
Today, we’d like to introduce a new feature we created to help track and identify unsafe intersections and roadways for pedestrians and cyclists. The 2010 Greater Miami Collision Database, provides us with a grim view of our local streets, depicting locations where cyclists and pedestrians have been struck-by vehicles over the past year. While the data is unpleasant, we’re hoping to call attention to problem locations over time (and through previous data sources, when made available).
It’s important to note, the markers on the map are not just waypoints, these are people. Lives lost or maimed because of poor infrastructure, careless drivers, or the likely combination of several variables – all of which contribute to the 40,000 people who die annually in vehicular collisions (Note: 5,000 cyclists and pedestrians are killed annually by vehicles). Enough is enough – we’re launching an aggressive campaign to reverse this trend.
This database is a collaborative process. We’d like to invite readers to submit (movemiami(at)gmail.com) information concerning any collision between a car and a pedestrian or cyclist. We’ll be updating the map soon (to a new platform) that will allow you all to participate more freely. And, as soon as we get our hands on some historical data, we’ll be sure to plot it out as soon as possible to illustrate some historical trends.
Shortly after the Dangerous by Design report came out, I filled out a letter at the Rails to Trails website to be sent to the Florida Legislature on the subject. I just got a form-letter reply from Speaker Larry Cretul that I’d like to share.
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. I welcome the opportunity to learn of your concerns and I appreciate your suggestions for improving transportation safety.
Please know the Florida Legislature is concerned about the number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities, and has worked to make our state safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. State law requires walkers and riders to be fully considered in the development of transportation facilities. In addition, the Legislature passed legislation in 2005 that requires motorists to completely stop for sight impaired pedestrians with a properly identified guide dog or service animal, and 2006 legislation requires motorists to allow three feet clearance when passing a bicyclist. These efforts have resulted in increased pedestrian safety, as this past year saw pedestrian deaths decrease five percent over the previous year.
The Florida Department of Transportation’s Safety Office bicycle/pedestrian coordinator works with many offices within the department to provide input and suggestions throughout the various stages of planning and design. This position also serves as a member of the Strategic Intermodal System technical advisory committee to ensure a focus on safety with alternate modes of transportation. In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation has a bicycle and pedestrian interest group that meets regularly to discuss safety issues.
I would encourage you to work with your local government and metropolitan planning organization on pedestrian and bicyclist safety needs in your area. State law requires the plans and programs for each metropolitan area provide for the development and integrated management and operation of transportation systems and facilities, including pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities that will function as an intermodal transportation system. I assure you that I will keep your concerns and suggestions in mind throughout the legislative process
Thank you again for writing to me. If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.
It doesn’t say much that I didn’t expect; the Legislature pats itself on the back for the few advancements that have made and then it passes the ball to the local government and to us as citizens. The really bothersome part of that is, if I were to go ask people in the various micro-City Halls of Miami, they would all point me back to Tallahassee as the one I need to talk about improving the traffic situation unveiled by the Dangerous by Design report.
When your arguably four major cities are all listed as Russian roulettes for pedestrians and bicyclists (compounded by the hit-n-run epidemic), this isn’t a matter only for the local government, this is a state-government matter, and a very serious one. Take responsibility and take action.
The Rickenbacker is the heart of South Florida’s recreational bicycle scene. Indeed, a recent Saturday morning count found 950 bicyclists entering the Causeway from the hours of 6:30am – 9:00am.
And while recent bicycle lane improvements have done much to improve safety along the Causeway, it’s entrance/exit at the Miami Avenue-Brickell-Avenue-South Dixie Highway-Southeast 26th Road intersections remain perilous for almost all users. The diagram that I made below reveals just how complex the environment is for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle drivers. If you know the area’s traffic patterns, many of the necessary maneuvers forced upon bicylists and pedestrians, or taken by choice, are illegal and unsafe.
We now know the County is looking to improve traffic flow so that there is less automobile congestion. Yet, any “improvements” in motor vehicle flow will have to be met with a commensurate improvement in pedestrian and bicycle safety. Otherwise, it will be one step forward, and two steps back.
Streetfilms has produced a short film demonstrating an innovative pedestrian crosswalk design in Seattle.
One has to wonder if such design could have helped save Dr. Robert Geronemus on Brickell Avenue, Ashley Nicole Valdes on SW 80th Street, and Mario Reyes on the MacArthur Causeway.
11 Bicyclists were struck by a cab driver this morning while bicycling across the Macarthur Causeway. Although one remains listed in critical condition, fortunately no one was killed. The cab driver admitted to falling asleep, inadvertently sending 6 of the 11 bicyclists to the hospital.
Reactions to the accident have been mixed. What were bicyclists doing on the Macarthur? Why was a cab driver, likely working the graveyard shift, still on the road? Why won’t those damn bicyclists get on the sidewalks where they belong?
These are just some of the comments over at the Herald’s online news comments section. Normally, I can’t stomach the inanity of reader comments that follow most Herald articles, but this particular story and its attendant comments provide remarkable insight into several important issues.
1) The Macarthur Causeway is a limited access highway. In almost all cases, bicyclists are prevented from riding only these types of roads because of the elevated level of danger they present. Yet, the Macarthur is actually designated with signage as a Bicycle Route. Here in Miami, it seems we promote bicycling on only the most dangerous street for bicyclists and leave the safest ones unmarked. What a terribly backward twist on an already poor situation. Today’s accident is a case in point, and it is a wonder that more accidents do not occur. It is my opinion that the Macarthur needs to either be improved dramatically so that all users will be safe (including pedestrians) or the designated Bicycle Route sign needs to be removed, as its existence only promotes bicycling along an unsafe highway, that quite frankly, is not designed for bicycle safety where bicyclists need it the most. Save your own live, take the Venetian Causeway instead. It may leave your two blocks further north, but believe me it is worth it.
2) Motorist education is sorely needed. Now. Not tomorrow. Now. Most motorists seem relatively clueless about traffic laws here in Miami, let alone how to overtake bicyclists safely. Police must start enforcing traffic laws in this city, although perhaps they should learn to follow them first.
3) Bicycle safety education is needed as well. In this instance, it seems the bicyclists were not engaging in unsafe riding practices. However, as a daily commuter I can’t even count the amount of times I have seen fellow bicyclists take their own lives into their hands just to run a red light. Bicyclists and motorists must learn traffic safety laws and heed them.
4) Hostility toward bicyclists in this city is out of control. Ignorance to the benefits of bicycling comes in all forms here in Miami, but motorists must understand that not only do bicyclists have a right to the road, they are also out there lessening traffic congestion and pollution and promoting a livable city.
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