Oleta River State Park: Getting Mountain Bikers to the Park by Bicycle

For us mountain biking urbanites that long for some single track every once in a while, Oleta River State Park fulfills our needs quite well.  As the largest urban state park in Florida, this patch of green space has approximately 14 miles of well maintained mountain biking trails. The trails are clearly marked and they are classified as easy, intermediate, or expert. Although fourteen miles of trail may not sound like very much to some people, let me assure you, there is enough single track to keep even the most hardy of mountain bikers occupied for a couple of hours. This man-made mountain bike park has some relatively technical trails, with even some small climbs and descents. If you are not careful you can get hurt, especially on the intermediate and expert trails.

Trail Head is Clearly Marked

Trail Head is Clearly Marked

Trails are somewhat technical in some areas

Trails are somewhat technical in some areas

Oleta River State Park is located in North Miami Beach off of  163rd Street. Unfortunately, the vast majority of mountain bikers that use this park come by car.  The bicycle infrastructure that connects to the park is virtually non-existent and the bicycle lanes that do exist on 163rd street (SR 826) are unsafe and inappropriate considering the design speed of this major thoroughfare.

Bicycle lanes on 163rd street are not physically separated and protected

Bicycle lanes on 163rd street are not physically separated and protected

A few years ago FDOT, in their never-ending quest to do the bare minimum for bicyclists, painted a couple of white lines, some bicycle symbols and put up a few “Bicycle Lane” signs on 163rd street and decided to call it a bicycle lane. For those of you that are not familiar with 163rd street it essentially a 3 lane highway. Considering that most of the vehicles traveling on this street are usually traveling above the posted speed limit of 45mph, you would think that FDOT would have designed a bicycle facility with an emphasizes on safety. Quite the opposite is true.  FDOT is in fact encouraging unsafe bicycling by including poorly designed bicycle lanes in some of their projects. If FDOT were sincere in their attempts to encourage bicycling, they would have created a physically separated and protected bicycle facility to promote bicycling on 163rd Street.

Physically separated and protected bicycle path would be safer and much more appropriate

A physically separated and protected bicycle path would be safer and much more appropriate

To make matters worse, the unsatisfactory bicycle lanes that FDOT designed on 163rd Street begin and end at the entrance of the park. In other words, the bicycle lanes do not connect from 163rd Street over the bridge to Collins Avenue, where the population density is located. There seems to be systematic choice by FDOT not to include appropriate bicycle facilities on bridges and causeways (i.e. Julia Tuttle and MacArthur Causeway).  FDOT needs to understand that they have an obligation to consider the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians and failure to do so is negligent behavior on their part.

What happened to the bicycle lane? It just disappeared.

What happened to the bicycle lane? It just disappeared.

FDOT has to play an active role and encourage bicyclists to ride to Oleta River State Park by bicycle rather then driving there. Since this is a major bicycling facility for the county, bicycle infrastructure should branch out from Oleta River State Park to encourage more bicycling to the park. The first step would be to design a proper bicycle facility for 163rd Street.

You can find more information about Oleta River State Park here.

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6 Responses to “Oleta River State Park: Getting Mountain Bikers to the Park by Bicycle”


  1. 1 Prem

    I don’t even like going on the bike lanes heading to collins. I much prefer riding on the side north of 163rd because at least then I don’t have to worry about crossing the many lanes at some point with almost constant oncoming traffic.

  2. 2 cb

    Biking on 163rd is a deathwish!

  3. 3 Roger

    That’s a beautiful bikepath…not the one on 163rd…where was that photo taken?

  4. 4 Felipe Azenha

    I pulled it off the Internet. I’m pretty sure it’s NYC.

  5. 5 JOhn Voss

    hey gang.. i hear you about 163rd bicycle lanes, but its better than nothing. By the way, virginia key mt bike trails are a comin’

  6. 6 Felipe Azenha

    John,
    Something is better then nothing, but I know FDOT can do better. They need to start designing better and safer bike lanes especially on streets were the design speed exceeds the speed limit; such is the case on 163rd street where the majority of cars exceed the posted 45mph speed limit. The bike lane design used on 163rd street is better suited for streets where the design speed does not exceed 35mph.

    I’m looking forward the mtn biking on Virginia Key. Let us know when you have more info. Tks!

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