Currently viewing the tag: "bicycles"
In a recent post, I profiled Quebec’s “Route Vertebikeway, touting it as a “250+ mile long route”. However, I missed a digit in there: the bikeway is actually an astonishing 2,500+ miles long!

In the post I also compared Route Verte’s length to traveling between Miami and Daytona Beach, or between New York and Washington. However, it’s actually roughly the equivalent of a bike path from Miami to San Diego or from Miami to New York and back.

Thanks to Mike from “littlecircles” for pointing this out, and to “Streetsblog“, an awesome livable cities blog in New York, for the plug.

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Another important opportunity to improve cycling in Miami-Dade will occur tomorrow night.

The issue at hand will be the proposed extension of the “Black Creek Trail” 8.8 miles to reach the Krome Trail at the L-31 N levee. Not surprisingly, there’s a vocal and organized opposition to the extension, so it’s important that cycling proponents or anyone who cares about sustainability shows up to this meeting.

The meeting will be held at:

Click here to visit the Spokes N’ Folks blog for details and additional information.


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A few days ago the most recent amendments to Miami 21 were published on the code’s website, www.Miami21.org.

After looking it over, here are some noteworthy amendments:

  • The addition of an official definition of bike lanes and bicycle routes
  • The inclusion of cycling as a form of transportation to be promoted as a means of achieving sustainability
  • The requirement that developers post a “performance bond” at the time of permit application, which will force all new buildings over 50,000 square feet to be at least LEED Certified Silver. Failure to accomplish these standards within one year after the completion of the project would force developers to pay into the Miami 21 Public Benefits Trust Fund (would help fund affordable housing, among other things)
  • Article 3.7.1.d: Bicycle use of thoroughfares should be as follows: Bicycles and vehicles may share use of lanes on thoroughfares with design speeds of thirty 30 mph or less and should not share use of lanes on thoroughfares with design speeds of more than thirty (30) mph. Thoroughfares may include dedicated bicycle lanes. Greenways, waterfront walks and other Civic Spaces should include bicycle lanes.

  • Article 3, Section 3.7.1.e, Thoroughfares: Bicycle Lanes may be made part of thoroughfares that have sufficient paving width to accommodate bicyclists’ safety. A City-wide bicycle plan may designate an interconnected network serving bicyclists with a series of routes that include Bicycle Lanes as well as Bicycle Routes that give bicycles priority, such as those Thoroughfares which parallel major corridors and which can be reconfigured to limit conflicts between automobiles and bicycles.
  • Developers will receive incentives to reach Gold or Platinum LEED Certification
  • Down-zoning of T3-L from allowing 18 units/acre to only 9 units/acre
  • The requirement of at least one bicycle rack for every 20 vehicular parking spaces (it used to be 10 in some cases)
  • Within a half mile radius of a TOD and within a quarter mile of bus transit, the required parking may be decreased by 30%. In T6-48, parking for residential uses located within 600 feet of a Metrorail or Metromover station shall not be required.
  • Bulb-outs may be added where Thoroughfare widths are wide and design speed high, or where sidewalks are narrow in order to facilitate pedestrian safety.
So as you can see, there is some important new language that has either been added or altered within Miami 21. It’s very encouraging to see all the new bicycling components, including language recognizing bike lanes and bicycle routes. However, I’m disappointed that they doubled the number of vehicular parking spaces necessary before even one bicycle rack is mandated. Perhaps most important of all, though, is the language encouraging the creation of a Bicycle Master Plan. This will be where cycling in Miami really takes off, not through a zoning code.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the performance bond. It sounds like a good idea upfront, but I worry that wealthy developers will just say “the hell with LEED” and just plan from the get-go to pay into the special trust fund. Even though the trust fund is designed to help fund affordable housing, we just cannot sacrifice opportunities to have green buildings.

I was very disappointed to see the T3-L designation get down-zoned. Could this be a bone thrown to “suburb-in-the-city” types who fear density and true urban living?

As for the parking reduction language, it sounds pretty good on paper. However, I would much prefer to see it mandated instead of just an option, because developers in Miami do not have a good track record of reducing parking when possible under the current code.

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The province of Quebec doesn’t mess around when it comes to cycling. A 250+ mile long route will be completed this August, making it the longest such route in North America. Known as “Route Verte” (Green Route), the trail has taken over 10 years to complete and will traverse 320 municipalities all across the province. To put that into perspective, it would be like having a continuous trail from Miami to Daytona Beach or New York to Washington.

Wow.

According to the website dedicated to the trail:
“You can cycle the Route Verte all at once, section-by-section, or by following your own itinerary. Some people regularly use the sections close to their homes, while others make a special trip a few times per year. The Route Verte can be a personal challenge or a relaxing place to spend your leisure time. You can enjoy it alone, as a family, or with friends. Every year numerous groups organize special outings along portions of the bikeway. When it comes to leisure, tourism, health, and the environment, the Route Verte is an invaluable asset”.

Furthermore, Route Verte is marked with signs that display route information, including nearby services or attractions, making it very user friendly for locals and tourists alike.

Way to go, Quebec.

I think Florida is currently underutilizing one of the nation’s most scenic roads - A1A. If the state wants to send its own bold message that it is serious about cycling, while simultaneously providing a fantastic coastal transportation asset that would traverse hundreds of communities, it would step up and create a continuous A1A trail. It could be our “Orange Route”.

Photos courtesy of SamediVelo.com, Wikipedia, and Canadatrails’ flickr account

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A commenter from another blog recently brought up a point about Miami’s climate, and how it may affect transit and mobility, as well as why it is rarely mentioned on Transit Miami. Because it’s true we speak little of local climate-related issues and many people use Miami’s climate as an excuse to drive everywhere, I thought now would be a good time to formally address the concern.

The reason weather is rarely discussed on this site is because we think for the most part it is a non-issue. By and large, Miami‘s climate doesn’t pose any more problems than in any other city. Sure, we get a lot of rain during the wet season, but our frequency of rain is actually less than that of many other cities. What I’m saying is, it may rain hard in parts of Miami for short periods, but rarely will the same location get poured on day-after-day-after-day. On the other hand, it can be rainy, wet, foggy, and cold all day long in London, Copenhagen, or even Boston and New York. It’s not unusual for this to happen across the entire city, for several straight days anytime during the year. This doesn’t stop nearly 40% of Copenhagen residents from biking to work each day. Nor do several month long bouts of frigid weather stop people from using transit from Montreal to Moscow. Miami is fortunate enough to have six months of practically rain-free weather with temps between 75 and 82 degrees – most cities that are already transit-oriented could only dream of having such a climate.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most people commute early in the morning when temperatures are nearly at their coolest, which is certainly bearable even during Miami‘s hot wet season. Thus, riding a bike at a leisurely pace with mild morning temperatures, you probably won’t even break a sweat. However, businesses and/or buildings should be equipped with shower facilities in case you were to break a sweat. Toronto, for example, has a program in place which is aimed at being bicycle-friendly, whereas all new buildings of a certain square footage must be equipped with shower facilities. Moreover, with improved transit and new lines, people can bike short distances to transit, then ride in AC downtown or wherever you are employed.

In poorly designed places, heat does have the potential to be oppressive. This is why it’s so important to adhere to quality urban design principles, with buildings having short setbacks coupled with awnings or sidewalk shade trees (this usually means higher density – one more reason why it’s not an evil thing). Mayor Diaz is trying to attack this issue with a Tree Master Plan, with goals to improve the City’s tree canopy by 30% by 2020. Developers need to do their part, too, by making their street frontages more protected from sun.

This is one more reason why low-density sprawl is so bad, especially in South Florida‘s climate. Think about it: If you’re walking along a typical suburban, car-oriented street where everyone has a driveway and one-story flat homes are set way back, you’re probably baking in the sun. However, walking along Miracle Mile or Main Highway is much more pleasant because trees and/or urban design elements are providing shade.

And lastly, rain is definitely a non-issue for pedestrians - all you need is an umbrella!

Photo courtesy of slowernet’s flickr photostream

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Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald

Good news for bicycle advocates: the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway is getting closer to becoming a reality. The proposed 42-mile trail would be the first and only bike trail in the U.S. to connect two national parks (Biscayne National Park & Everglades National Park).

The landmark proposal is still “largely conceptual, with designs nearing completion”, according to park planner at Everglades National Park, Fred Herling. As it currently stands, however, the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway is to be composed of two routes. The first route would originate at Biscayne National Park and travel westbound through Homestead and then to the Ernest P. Coe Visitor Center just past the entrance of Everglades National Park. The second route would then originate at EPC Visitor Center, then travel back eastbound to Biscayne National Park via Florida City this time.

According to the Herald, the Greenway would be replete with trail amenities including benches, rest stops, scenic mile markers, vegetation markers, and even occasional outlets for kayaking and canoeing.

How much is this going to cost, and who’s going to pay you ask? Current estimates are approximately $30 million. Homestead has applied for federal funding, which officials feel confident they will receive. Miami-Dade County has agreed to pick up a portion of the tab so far, but only for a small eastern segment.

I must say, though, while it is very encouraging to see this level of support for such a large bicycle project, it still appears that cycling is considered a “recreational pursuit” and not so much a legitimate form of transportation within this county. We need to continue to pressure for a Bicycle Master Plan – one that includes a vast network of urban bike lanes and greenways as well as recreational trails. Hopefully the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway will be the first step in a new direction for bicycle transportation policy in Miami-Dade County.

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It’s great to see that pro-bicycle momentum continues to grow in Miami. Last week, the Miami Beach city commission voted to approve bike lanes on 16th Street from Collins Avenue to Alton Road. This was part of an improvement plan for 16th Street, which included other traffic calming elements and pedestrian realm enhancements such as planting shade trees and widening sidewalks.

Amazingly, the bike lanes almost didn’t happen. One of Miami’s 387,962 NIMBY groups masquerading as a neighborhood improvement organization, the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, had been a vocal opposition to the bike lanes on 16th. “I understand cyclists want bike paths, but why 16th Street”? Nice argument - I’m sure NIMBYs everywhere were proud.

According to the Sunpost, the real issue at hand is the right-of-way along 16th Street that would need to be taken back by the City in order to accommodate the bike lanes AND widen sidewalks. Similar to the Grove’s opposition over the quality 27th Avenue enhancement project, Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association members are concerned that the City will reacquire public right-of-way between buildings and the sidewalk that has been used for private means (e.g. landscaping). Commissioner Richard Steinberg took the stated position that “widening the sidewalks toward the buildings would not, in fact, encroach on private property, but in reality the private property was encroaching upon the city land”. It’s great to see an elected official embrace the public realm and what’s best for the city as a whole and not the private interests of a few NIMBYs.

photo courtesy of huwkan’s flickr account

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I’m convinced that bicycles will play a major role in Miami’s transportation future. Why? Because biking can act as a major facilitator bridging the gap between driving and walking, especially within moderate proximities to transit. Biking is much faster than walking, but non-motorized. However, I have not seen the vision to make this happen yet.
On my way to Coconut Grove station recently, I noticed a flyer promoting a forum for county residents to come comment on a proposed enhancement project to the southern tier of the “M-Path”. I immediately thought this was a horrible idea, and regret that my frenetic schedule did not allow me to attend this forum. This is the kind of project that should be pursued only after you have a thriving, comprehensive mass transit system, city-wide latticework of bike lanes/greenways, and an outstanding pedestrian realm. Not only do I believe this project lacks vision, but it is redundant. Instead of encouraging people to ride bikes under the metro’s only rapid transit line, emphasis should be on connecting neighborhoods and thoroughfares to transit stations.

A good example for realizing such a system can be found within the 27th Avenue beautification project, which should be finalized in the next couple months. I find this to be one of the most encouraging, visionary projects in a long time in Miami. The concept is simple: implement bike lanes on 27th Avenue, between US-1 and South Bayshore Drive, giving bicyclists a dedicated right-of-way from the bay to the Metrorail. Of course the improvements in the pedestrian realm are also much needed and will certainly enhance the corridor from that aspect; however, the biking infrastructure will make the prospect of riding transit much greater for those living near 27th Avenue and >0.5 miles to a transit station.

With the bike lanes, cyclists could get from Tigertail Ave to US-1 in five or six minutes riding at a leisurely 10MPH pace. From near the Bird Ave intersection it could be even quicker. With additional bicycle parking at Coconut Grove station (and of course, at all stations), someone living in the South Central Grove could be on the platform waiting for the train in just 7-10 minutes, consistently, without ever having to worry about traffic, parking, or gas. Moreover, during rush hour trains run about every six minutes and the ride from Grove station to Government Center is less than 10 minutes (only 6 minutes to Brickell.)

This model should be adapted for the following streets, at a minimum:

  • SW/NW 27th Avenue
  • SW 37th Avenue
  • SW 57th Avenue
  • SW 72nd Street
  • SW 88th Street
  • SW 67th Avenue
  • SW/NW 12th Avenue
  • NW 20th Street
  • NW 79th Street
  • Coral Way
  • If a plan like this was to be implemented, thousands more citizens would have easy, fast access to Metrorail stations. With ample bicycle parking available at each station, riders would have the option of bringing the bike aboard and using it after they reach their destination, or they could park it for free and not have to worry about lugging it around the office.

    This also has the potential to significantly reduce congestion on these thoroughfares, especially during rush hours . Under the current system, massive park-n’-ride lots are designed to encourage people who want to use Metrorail, but cannot easily (or quickly) get there by walking, to drive to stations. Then, they are faced with $4.00 parking fees. Biking to the stations instead would eliminate these issues.

    Furthermore, if Mayor Diaz really wanted a world-class Green Policy, he would embrace this plan by requiring all new commercial buildings in the CBD and Brickell to provide bicycle parking and locker rooms with showers so riders could clean up before work if necessary. Toronto has amended its zoning laws to require that new large-scale developments provide storage and showering facilities for bikers. Given the excessive parking requirements currently mandated by the City, I don’t think it would be too much to ask to provide these bike-friendly facilities - at least if you really care about sustainable transportation and traffic reduction.

    Lastly, providing the bike infrastructure has inherent benefits even without everyone using it to connect to transit. Biking presents a fast, efficient, dirt cheap transportation alternative to the automobile. If you use 10MPH as an average biking speed, one could go from Downtown Coral Gables to Downtown Miami in just 20 minutes; it would take just seven minutes to travel one mile. This is significant, given that nearly two-thirds of trips under one mile are taken by the automobile.

    This is part II in a series on biking in Miami. Part III will look more specifically at some potential routes…

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    What is taking Miami so long to embrace bicycle-oriented policies? Given the area’s fantastic year-round weather, terrible traffic congestion, underdeveloped mass transit, and fairly dense urban core (i.e. Miami proper, Miami Beach, downtown Gables), one would think Miami would be at the forefront of developing bicycle-oriented infrastructure. This certainly hasn’t been the case, however. As of this day, there are only a handful of bicycle lanes in all of Miami-Dade County, and they are located primarily in the suburbs of Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
    Mayor Diaz’s Green initiatives provide an excellent foundation for sustainability in Miami, I find that a bicycle-boosting initiative is conspicuously missing. If you google “Miami” and “bike”, you’ll sadly get more results for bike-related activities in Ohio’s Miami Valley then in America’s southernmost metropolis. Doing some quick research, the only mention of bicycle projects was at the MPO’s website. However, there are only a very small number of bike projects being considered, and all of them are either fragmented suburban routes or recreational trails. It appears there is very little direction or leadership for improved bicycle policy in Miami. Meanwhile, many cities across the county and around the world are pedaling full speed ahead (pun intended) with their own initiatives to promote bicycling as a popular, sustainable, safe, and effective means of transportation.

    • New York, NY: An elaborate city website exhibits all the bike information you could ever need, including maps. The City already has several hundred miles of bike lanes cris-crossing all five boroughs, yet plans to implement another 900 lane miles of bike lanes and greenways. NYC even has a bicycle master plan, which, if I am not mistaken, is completely foreign to any municipal body in Miami-Dade.
    • Louisville, Kentucky: The City is in the process of implementing a citywide system of bike lanes and paths. Mayor Jeffrey Abramson, who keynoted the 2007 National Bike Summit in Washington, has adopted a “complete streets” policy that requires bike lanes as apart of all major road improvements.
    • Seattle, Washington: Creating safer cycling conditions is the City’s top priority. The City is about to implement its own Bicycle Master Plan, a 10-year strategy to create 200+ miles of bike lanes citywide.
    • Portland, Oregon: A national leader in urban bicycle policy, the City’s fantastic website has extensive biking information. Everything from maps, guides, and brochures - it’s on the website.
    • Copenhagen, Denmark: Perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city on Earth, 32% of residents bike to work. This is despite being a city with a climate that is cool, wet, and dreary for much of the year - the antithesis of Miami (so much for all those lame weather excuses Miamians use to drive everywhere). So 32% of residents bike to work…fantastic, right? Not good enough for Copenhagen. The City has set a goal to increase this percentage to 40%.
    Photo courtesy of Flickr account: vj_pdx

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    While Miami doesn’t even have car sharing yet, Paris is about to implement a massive bike sharing program. This is yet another indicator of how far behind Miami is in terms of being a truly sustainable, pedestrian-oriented city. Following a similar model used in Lyon, France, Paris will be implementing over 20,000 bikes for rent at 1,450 stations citywide.

    Jean-Louis Touraine, Paris’ Deputy Mayor, says the program was meant “not just to modify equilibrium between modes of transportation and reduce air pollution, but also to modify the image of the city where humans occupy a larger space”. Wow - you won’t find any language like that in city codes and master plans around here. The closest echoing would be the objective of “balancing vehicular needs with pedestrian needs”, which invariably means a built environment where cars rule.

    Why are we always preaching compact urban form and mixed-use? Because that kind of environment allows a program like this to flourish. Consequently, most trips for bike renters will be free because they only have to travel a short distance. In Lyon, France’s third largest city, 95% of approximately 20,000 daily bike rentals are free because of the short nature of most trips there. Moreover, Lyon’s 3,000 rental bikes have logged about 10 million miles since May 2005, helping to eliminate roughly 3,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Also, vehicle travel has decreased by four percent. Officials are estimating that each rental bike in Paris will be used 12 times per day, which equates to 250,000 trips per day and 91 million per year. Just imagine what could be accomplished with a program like this in Miami (or most American cities, for that matter) when you consider that most car trips in this country are within one mile from origin.

    Rental fees will be free for the first half hour and then will double every half hour thereafter to facilitate faster turnover, making a 2 hour 30 minute rental $9.10. Membership would be $38 per year. To release the bikes, riders would use a prepaid card or a credit card at a computerized console. To discourage theft, each rider must leave a credit card or refundable deposit of about $195 along with personal information. Also, each bicycle rack will have a computer that can tell where the bikes are as well as their condition.
    JCDecaux, outdoor advertising giant, will fund and operate the program for 10 years, including start up costs of approximately $115 million. All revenue from the program will go to Paris’ coffers, including an additional $4.3 million per year. In return Paris is giving JCDecaux exclusive rights to all city-owned billboards, including revenues.

    I think Miami is a long way off for a citywide program like this to be feasible. However, there are sections of the city and county (Downtown, Brickell, Coconut Grove, South Beach, North Beach, Little Havana, Downtown Coral Gables, Midtown area) where small bike stations could be located. As the program increased in popularity, it would increase pressure on planners and politicians to allocate more space to bicyclists in the form of bike lanes and greenways. Gradually, more stations could be added based on demand. This is the kind of program that could help bridge the gap between driving and walking, decrease automobile trips, decrease pollution, and even make people healthier.

    Photos courtesy of Flickr accounts: DennisWorld & mknely

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