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.
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