Imagine walking out of the Metromover station at Biscayne and East Flagler Street and stepping out onto a linear park that runs under the elevated tracks, and continues north between the travel lanes of Biscayne Boulevard. Parking lots replaced with park space where people are sitting, having coffee, or even doing their morning yoga routine.
Great cities have great parks. What is left of our great downtown waterfront park (after taking out the excessive number of buildings cluttering the landscape -read Museums, Bayside….etc) is underutilized by local residents; separated from area residents and businesses by FDOT’s 8 lane highway design for Biscayne Boulevard. What should be an easy five minute walk for folks living across the street is distorted by excessively wide travel lanes, speeding motorists, and a few crosswalks to get to the park. What Biscayne Boulevard needs is a road diet that reallocates car space, both in the form of travel lanes converted to on-street parking and parking lots converted to park space. This will not only provide a natural expansion of Bayfront Park - at a time of shrinking park budgets and ever growing needs for park space, it will also help traffic calm the street and bridge the distance between the park and the growing population of residents and businesses along Biscayne from I395 to SE 1 Street.
For five days Miamians will be able to get to experience what this space would be like if it were permanently converted into a park. From Tuesday February 29 to Sunday March 4, we will take over the parking lot between Flagler and NE 1 Street, and convert it into a grass covered park with moveable seating, food trucks, exercise equipment and more. There will be street performances throughout the five days, from spoken word to jazz shows, sponsored by Miami-Dade College. Our goal is simple - to activate this space as much as possible with the everyday activities of a typical park.
Please join us for your lunch hour, or stop by after work. We want to show you how great it will be - Bayfront Parkway!
Visit the project website at: http://bayfrontparkway.com/index.php for more information.
I have done my fair share of traveling around the world, and one thing I have noticed about great cities is the use of wide and beautiful boulevards, pedestrian malls, and public spaces. Unfortunately though, while Downtown Miami would like to claim world class status, the public realm is far behind the reality on the ground.
Downtown Miami is currently awash in Heat mania, but no matter how many Lebron’s, Bosh’s, or Wade’s Miami brings down, the reality is right there on the ground. Dangerous streets, few public spaces, autocentric design, missing crosswalks, yawning parking lots, and the list goes on. Unfortunately Miami likes to dwell in its own hype a bit too much.
Biscayne Boulevard, the front porch of Miami, is a giant parking lot. With speeding vehicles on 4 lane streets in each direction, an ocean of surface lots, and enough concrete to fill a river. With Flagler Street, what should be the equivalent to Lincoln Road on this side of Biscayne Bay, officials have been too shy to close the street and create a real attraction worthy of the beautiful South Florida weather. Instead, they have relegated it to a clogged and polluted street, not worthy of the historic character it’s architecture and name carries. As Morris Lapidus, the brains behind Lincoln Road once said: “A car never bought anything” – and boy was he right.
In Brickell, the story is much the same. Brickell Avenue and its massive intersections are uncomfortable and dangerous, a far cry from the world class status officials always describe it as. It is quite ridiculous (and embarrassing) that crosswalks are 3 or 4 blocks apart and one has to see business professionals jaywalking and trudging through bushes along medians in the dense and urban Banking District of Miami. Luckily though, Brickell Avenue is getting a little love after much activism.
My travels have shown me that great cities are built from the public realm up – not by millionaire basketball players and the wealthy fans that visit them. It’s amazing how much weight the city has given to the Miami Heat. One day these players will be gone, and what will we have? The same dangerous, ugly, and unwalkable streets we had before. Great cities are built to benefit the generations to come – not to dwell in the hype of the temporary present, but to look into the future.
In Barcelona, you have Las Ramblas, a spectacular pedestrian boulevard comparable to Biscayne Blvd or Brickell Ave in size. In Rome, the Coliseum was closed off to vehicular traffic and transformed into a magnificent public space many decades ago. The story is much the same throughout most of the great cities of Europe, Asia, and South America. From Istanbul to Tokyo or Columbia to Mexico, the facts are on the ground – beautiful and majestic public thoroughfares and spaces are important components of any world class city. Great cities create a great quality of life, and this attracts talented people, culture, arts, businesses, and tourists.
Even Miami Beach has shown greater sensibility to the positive impacts of pedestrianization (as I would like to call it). Lincoln Road is arguably one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the United States (sales per square foot). If this isn’t a sign of what should happen in downtown Miami, I do not know what is. Ocean Drive as well is a spectacular mixture of architecture, humanity, and nature. A marvelous place to people watch.
Mexico City, a “third world” city, has shown an amazing ability to integrate wonderful public spaces, promenades, and pedestrians malls into the chaotic city of 25 million people.
Paseo de La Reforma, a street not unlike Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell Avenue in terms of density and traffic, boasts a wonderful promenade along the median covered with beautiful flowers and foliage. It also has something that most major cities have and downtown Miami lacks, many (and consistent) crosswalks.
Horacio Street in Mexico is another beautiful example, located in the densely populated neighborhood of Polanco. The street boasts a wide and beautiful median, with occasional fountains, parks, flower stands, and roundabouts. Amazingly, their are no traffic lights on Horacio Street and during my time here, I have felt perfectly safe. Why? Because the speed limit is no more than 15 miles an hour, creating a calm and pleasant environment along the entire street for both cars and pedestrians. In many ways Horacio is more than a street, rather, it is a long linear park covering more than three dozen blocks.
Even in the “Centro” of Mexico, which is the chaotic and historic downtown, officials have begun making improvements towards the pedestrian realm that other great cities have made. Francisco I Madero St, which leads into the Zocalo (the second largest public square in the world), is currently being converted into a pedestrian mall. Other neighborhoods throughout the city have also transformed various streets into pedestrian malls and today they are FULL of people enjoying the city.
If the City of Miami truly wants to make downtown Miami a destination, they need to get past the hype and the Miami Heat, and realize that great cities are created from great public spaces. And not just one for that matter, but rather, an integrated network of connected public spaces and thoroughfares.
They could easily start by converting the parking lots on Biscayne Blvd into a pedestrian promenade worthy of the location it has. Biscayne in downtown Miami as it stands now is a pedestrians worst nightmare. Missing crosswalks, massive streets with speeding cars, 8-10 blocks of concrete lots, and more. It truly is ridiculous when the entire (beatiful) waterfront of downtown Miami and its attractions are isolated from the city by 150+ feet of roadways and surface lots - one can count the crosswalks across the entire waterfront of downtown with one hand.
Parking could easily be replaced in one (yes one) parking garage (perhaps even underground). Street parking could also be used along the blocks, to buffer the traffic from the promenade, but also to make up some of the lost parking – thereby reducing the speed down Biscayne Blvd through design. Imagine a linear park and slower traffic complementing the beautiful skyscrapers, parks, and attractions already there. One could easily argue that this could become one the most beautiful places in the city.
In Brickell, the redesign of Brickell Avenue needs to take into account the drastic density increase over the last (and next) few years and create a more pleasant landscape for residents and tourists. One crosswalk every three or four blocks is absolutely ridiculous, so is the current speed limit, and massive intersections. Again, luckily (and after much activism) some of this is being taken into consideration during the current redesign of Brickell Avenue. Nevertheless, enough is not being done.
Another great improvement would be the transformation of historic Flagler Street into a pedestrian mall. With historic architecture, cheap rents, great public transportations, and a fabulous location, Flagler has the potential to become one of downtown’s most popular attractions. I have often heard the argument that Flagler cannot be transformed because there are no alleys behind the buildings for the service trucks. This is true rubbish. Many pedestrian malls around the world allow service vehicles (and only service vehicles) to drive through at very slow speeds (5 mph). Just because the occasional service vehicle needs to come in, it does not mean we should relegate Flagler to ugly and undeserving conditions it faces today. Cross streets could also be used as staging ground for delivery trucks and such.
It is truly a shame that the City of Miami does not see the large tourist potential of downtown Miami. Miami has unbelievable weather that makes a well designed outdoor space a “hot” commodity. Miami Beach understood this many years ago, and now it is arguably one of the coolest urban environments in the Unites States.
The unbelievable development that occurred over the last few years is just the beginning of a transformation that will happen over the next few decades. With millions of tourists descending on Miami Beach every year, the City of Miami should take care to create the type of environment travelers have come to expect - it wouldn’t be hard to pull some of those tourists to this side of the bay. In fact, some have already started crossing over, as is evident by the growing numbers of tourists on the streets of downtown and Brickell. Nevertheless, more must be done if we expect the to come back in greater numbers.
The private realm has done its part in the last few years to bring masses to downtown Miami, the city and the state nevertheless, have done very little to adjust the streets and public spaces that must accompany the massive redevelopment of the last few years.
The City of Miami must take ownership over Biscayne Blvd and Brickell Avenue, and force the Florida Department of Transportation to listen to the needs of residents, businesses owners, and city officials. I am tired of local and state officials “passing the buck”. They must take Flagler Street and create an attraction from the most historic street in South Florida. Brickell Ave, Biscayne Blvd, and surrounding streets must accommodate and integrate with the urban setting they inhabit. The city must create a cohesive pedestrian environment throughout the entire downtown area and beyond. The current fractioned landscape is a far cry from what is needed.
I will not accept the argument that the City of Miami is a world class city when the facts on the ground say something very different. Don’t believe the hype!
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.
This damaged light pole has been lying on the corner of Biscayne Blvd and NE 62nd Street for almost two weeks. Part of the pole is actually in the street; there is glass everywhere, and electrical wires are exposed. Pedestrians have a difficult time walking around the pole as it is lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Disabled persons in a wheelchair are screwed; they simply cannot get around the pole safely. There should be a simple workflow within the city; when there is an accident a cleanup should follow. Debris from an accident should not take almost two weeks to cleanup.
FYI: This accident occurred on an FDOT designed road. Biscayne Blvd. should have a design speed of 30mph, not 45+mph. As long as FDOT continues to design roads with the sole purpose of moving cars faster, Florida will continue to hold the #1 spot for most pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the country.
Well folks, yours truly, is moving from Brickell to Belle Mead. I’ve just purchased a home with my wife and we should be moving into the neighborhood in a couple of weeks. So don’t be surprised to hear a lot more about issues affecting the Upper East Side on this blog.
I’ll start by saying this, “Biscayne Boulevard is a disaster”! There ain’t no two ways about it. The recent FDOT resurfacing project, for the most part, was designed solely to move cars faster. Pedestrians and cyclists were not given much consideration while designing this roadway. I consider myself an experienced cyclist, but even I will tell you to avoid riding your bike on Biscayne Boulevard. And if you are a pedestrian then forget about it, crosswalks are few and far in between and of poor quality. Biscayne Boulevard is extremely wide, making it difficult for anyone that is not in tip-top shape to cross the street.
Travel lanes are extremely wide, which encourages cars to speed. The speed limit is 35mph, but the design speed of the roadway is closer to 45-50mph. Needless to say, not pedestrian or cyclist friendly either.
That being said, we have a chance to ask FDOT to design a roadway at a more human scale.
FDOT is conducting a Pedestrian Mobility and Safety Study along Biscayne Boulevard at the request of area residents. The limits of the project extend from NE 77th Street to NE 87th Street.
Possible upgrade include the restriping of crosswalks for greater visibility, enhancing signals and adding traffic control devices to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the road.
A public information meeting is being held on Thursday, July 15, 2010 from 6-8 p.m at Legion Memorial Park, located at NE 7 Ave, Miami, FL for more information contact Gus Pego, District 6 Secretary”.
Hope to see you there!
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.
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.
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.
Today was the first time I used one of the bike racks mounted on the MDT buses, as I did a bike-bus commute from South Beach to FIU Biscayne Bay. I boarded the 93 bus at Omni station and loaded my bike onto the rack closest to the driver. I should note that I ride a steel city bike with a pair of panniers - this is a heavy bike with an even heavier rear wheel area. But I got it on and locked it into place following the instructions on the MDT website. It still felt wobbly so I asked the driver if I’d done it correctly, to which she responded with a non-committal sound I took to mean yes.
Long story short (the longer version was posted to my blog), the locking mechanism slipped off the front wheel and the bike fell off the rack at my stop on 135 St & Biscayne Blvd, being hit by the bus into the next lane. It wasn’t run over, thankfully, but it was damaged so I couldn’t ride it. The driver reported it but did nothing else, shifting the blame entirely onto me and then leaving without even saying sorry. I filed a complaint via the MDT website but I fully expect them to blow their nose with it. I accept it was partly my fault because I may not have locked it properly, but I also asked for confirmation from the driver and received none. The driver also obviously was not paying attention to the bike otherwise she would have noticed when the locking arm slipped off.
I see bikes on the bus racks every day and I assume these reach their destination fine and dandy. But while I realize my case may be out of the ordinary, I cannot be the only person who has used these racks for the first time and did not know if they were used correctly. The buses should have better signage explaining the proper operation of the locking mechanism, and the drivers should be trained (and frankly required) to make sure that bikes are properly secured, especially when people ask them explicitly. While MDT may not make itself responsible for every single bike that goes on one of their bus bike racks, it cannot be good for business (to appeal to the basest denominator) if cases like mine happen more often.
Has anyone else out there had a problem with the MDT bus bike racks?
FDOT just recently repaved a section of Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown. I’m not sure why, but several major intersections were left without a pedestrian crosswalk. I really can’t think of a reason as to why FDOT did not take this opportunity to include 4 crosswalks at every intersection. There is enough density and pedestrian activity to justify 4 crosswalks at every intersection. Aside from helping pedestrians cross three lanes of fast moving traffic, crosswalks serve as traffic calming devices as well.
To make matters even worse, the intersection on Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th street had an existing crosswalk and crosswalk signal, but not anymore, FDOT decided to remove them. Check out the old crosswalk and signal right here: View Larger Map
Here are just a few examples of intersections without crosswalks:
Using data collected from 2005-2007, Floridaroads.org is a new website that visually displays whether traffic congestion is increasing or diminishing along major thoroughfares. Click the hyperlink to see how a street near you is performing. For livable streets advocates, those roadways experiencing a decrease in congestion may be candidates for future “road diets.” Similarly, the data could be used to fight expansions along roadways that are not experiencing significant increases in congestion. One good example: Miami’s Lower Biscayne Boulevard, like other streets in downtown, have seen a significant decrease in traffic (14%). This may be attributed to construction, higher gas prices, transit behavior changes, and likely, the slow influx of new residents who no longer have to drive to their place of employment.
Whether you support Museum Park or not, livable streets advocates should take a modicum of joy in hearing that the Miami City Commission has reduced the city’s parking requirements for the proposed civic development. As the Miami Times reports, Museum Park will now have 440 parking spaces, not 480 as originally planned. Granted the decision was made only because of a siting/financial issue, I hope advocates may look to this as precedent for parking reductions in future projects. My guess is that those 40 spaces will not be missed.
Now, let’s see if we can get FDOT to reduce the number of travel lanes along the lower Biscayne corridor so that all those parking spaces marring the once elegant boulevard median can be moved to parallel parking stalls along the outside sidewalk-a perfectly sane idea that would reduce speeds, increase pedestrian comfort, and restore Miami’s signature thoroughfare. I think Admiral Miguel Grau-Knight of the Seas- would agree, right Admiral?
I recently moved to NE 25th St. and Biscayne Boulevard. I am happy with the neighborhood as I think it is exciting what is going on throughout the whole area.I am happy that the city is trying to bring people into the city, but would it not be common sense to at least add crosswalks to your main boulevard? You would think this would be an automatic thing.Yet I find it utterly embarrassing and disappointing that Biscayne Boulevard (arguably the main artery of Miami’s inner core) hardly has crosswalks or even signals to cross the street. I risk my life every day just to cross the street with cars whizzing by from both sides and nowhere safe to walk. Even for Miami this to me is surprising and Miami as far as urbanity goes is a pretty backwards place as we all know.- Transit Miami reader, Jorge de Cardenas
I figured Chopin’s Funeral March would fit this slide well because this street is good as dead Dead…
Incomplete building? Designed well from 3 angles, the Marina Blue design team apparently fell asleep when working on the western facade. A blank, exposed backside will greet visitors viewing the Miami skyline from the west, a stark contrast from the stunning blue and green glass facade facing the Museums and bay. Another Arquitectonica and Hyperion development building, Blue, up in the design district suffers from the same 3 sided design syndrome…
Who needs public transit when we have enough space for every car? Logically, the best thing to place facing a metromover station is the entrance of the 12 story parking garage with enough space to handle at least the 2 cars each of the 516 units owners will have. Forget creating usable retail space fronting the metromover, the patron’s of this building will likely be arriving at the valet station anyway, it’s not like they have any other reasonable option anyway…
Of course, if we aren’t going to plan for the use of public transit then why would we expect pedestrians to access the building either? Beyond the absurd canopy placement, the 3 foot elevated platform will completely decimate any hopes of creating a vibrant and pedestrian friendly boulevard. The second picture shows just exactly how much width was provided for sidewalk cafes and activity, none of which will be possible thanks to the blank wall and guardrails which are placed accordingly to keep Marina Blue residents and visitors in.
Note: This picture is still prominently displayed on the DDA website…
I can’t help but think that for every step we take forward (dense urban living in an easily accessible location) we take two steps backwards (building enough parking to house a dealership and failing to adequately integrate the building with the surroundings…)
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