This past July, we celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which among other things prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability. A major component of the ADA mandated paratransit service to help mobility-impaired and disabled Americans get from one place to another. The ADA act is focused on inclusion - adopting standard practices in urban design that make our buildings, streets, and transit more universally designed to accommodate all. A component of the ADA act requires sidewalks to be at least 3 feet wide to accommodate wheelchairs.

Naturally, I was shocked when I came across the following site a few weeks ago when I was near Merrick Park in Coral Gables.

This is the site of a recent FDOT project aimed at resurfacing Bird Road from 57th Avenue to 38th Avenue. In this image I’m standing at the Southeast corner of Ponce De Leon and Bird Road, looking north. I didn’t have the time to measure the distance between the curb and the concrete electric pole, but in person the distance certainly appeared to be less than 3 feet wide.  Here is how the FDOT describes this improvement:

This project is repaving and restriping the roadway. Work also includes widening the bridge and road shoulder; building a new sidewalk on the north side of Bird Road; upgrading sidewalks and curb ramps; installing drainage materials to alleviate water build-up in the swale area; performing root pruning and trimming; removing landscaping; upgrading the lighting and installing new traffic and pedestrian signs and signals; removing existing guardrail and installing new guardrail at various locations and installing a pedestrian bridge.

Miami’s walkability level, already fairly dismal because of our autocentric growth, only deteriorates further when we litter and obstruct sidewalks with other urban clutter. Electric poles, bus stops, lights, trees, benches, and trash receptacles all have a place and a role in our urban environments; sidewalks shouldn’t sacrifice their  limited alloted space within the right-of-ways to accommodate these fixtures.

We’re going to reach out to our friends at FDOT and the City of Coral Gables to see what can be done to enhance the pedestrian realm rather than simply “beautifying” and accentuating existing barriers. And, while its probably too late to have any significant impact on this project as it was slated for completion in October 2010 - we hope we can help affect change on any future improvements to the pedestrian environment throughout South Florida.

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10 Responses to Sidewalk Clutter

  1. Mike Moskos says:

    This problem is endemic throughout South Florida, but most disappointedly, it shows up all over new road construction (see Biscayne around the 50-60s).

    Walking would be so much more pleasant if they could design out all this litter from new construction and plant trees that fully shade the sidewalks (the tendency in road construction is to plant roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the trees that needed to be there, which means that they’re not being planted for the pedestrians, but rather eye candy for the speeding motorists).

    Businesses should be screaming that the gov. discourages pedestrians from visiting their stores (forcing them to provide expensive parking lots). But truthfully, I think the heart of the problem is that most of the planners wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus and thus simply have no conception of how to do it the job right.


  2. Eddie Suarez says:

    This happens too in South Miami and in Downtown Dadeland. I’ve documented with photos on my facebook page:


  3. Great collection of images Eddie - thanks for sharing.


  4. Ryan Sharp says:

    agreed, thanks Eddie.


  5. Jeff says:

    Thank you Gabriel for being an advocate. There are many examples of this throughout Miami-Dade; being that one can easily just walk on the grass next to the pavement its easy to forget about others that may not have the same level of mobility.


  6. Anon says:

    The concrete pole appears to be a old signalization strain pole and the new galvanized pole in the background appears to be the new signalizaiton mast arm pole. If this is the case, the concrete pole will be removed once the new signalization equipment is put into operation.


  7. anonymous says:

    I agree with the title of the article however, there are much worse intersections than this all over and this project is not even complete yet. They obviously are going to remove the concrete pole that has a box around it missing concrete- unfortunately many times FPL, FDOT, and other agencies do not coordinate as well as possible. Look at Biscayne Boulevard for poor temporary conditions.


  8. Mike Moskos says:

    Does anyone know the exact ADA regulations for sidewalk access? I think I’ll start carrying a measuring tape when I’m out on the streets and check for problems.

    Of more concern, I noticed at one of my favorite bus stops what I think is a new light pole going up (I think part of a large project to improve lighting on 36th Street on the north side of the airport). No way can wheelchair can get by it. I just don’t know if I should tell the city now or enjoy seeing them moving the new poles later. (They’ll learn more if they have to move the poles, but I hate to see the waste of money.)


  9. Dayngr says:

    Agreed! What a disaster.


  10. Mike Moskos says:

    After a few days of really looking at this, I have come to the following conclusion: most sidewalk litter is there not because the engineers are uncaring or morons, but because it is easier to put the sign, the street light pole, bus bench, etc. on the sidewalk so they don’t have to deal with buying property/getting to the rights to the adjoining property. I notice they go to great care to ensure that a bus bench or sign never extends on to private property. That explains why a sign pole is not drilled into the far right hand side of a sidewalk (for maximum pedestrian clearance); they don’t want the actual sign to protrude into the property owner’s land.


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