Currently viewing the tag: "Greenway"

An unreliable* Transit Miami source has informed us that an “unofficial and temporary” FEC Greenway has been inadvertently developed over the past few weeks. We received an anonymous and unverified email this past weekend with pictures of the unofficial FEC Greenway.  Our untrustworthy source tells us that he/she rode from Midtown to Downtown on a mountain bike along the FEC rail line that is currently under construction due to the Port of Miami rail expansion. Here’s an excerpt from the email we received:

 Riding from Midtown to Downtown on the FEC Greenway was an excellent and joyful experience. I rode without fear of being hit by a car. Can you imagine how great it would be if families with children could ride from midtown to downtown without fear of being run over by a car? People could even ride their bicycles to the Miami Heat games safely! An FEC Greenway would also deter crime and homelessness along the rail line as cyclists, walkers, joggers and parents with strollers would self-police the greenway. An FEC Greenway would have a transformative effect on our city and would encourage less experienced cyclists to commute to work.”

Wouldn't this make an awesome greenway?

Can you envision an FEC Greenway?  We sure can. That being said, we desperately need passenger rail service on the FEC line.  Rail is the priority, but we think there is enough right of way (100 feet) to add a permanent and official FEC Greenway. We can only dream. By the way, a greenway would be great PR for the FEC. The FEC would be wise to jump all over this opportunity and support a greenway.

Imagine arriving to a Miami Heat game by bicycle.

Our unconfirmed source suggests riding the FEC Greenway on Sundays as the FEC workers are off on this day or after 5:00pm. Also beware that riding or walking along the FEC is considered trespassing.  He/she suggests riding the FEC with a mountain bike and only intermediate riders should attempt this ride.

Single track through the city.

*We cannot confirm if these photographs are authentic or if they have been photoshopped. Perhaps we just need to get out there and find out for ourselves. Happy trails!

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Last night I attended a meeting at Legion Park with representatives from the FEC and about 50 residents and business owners from the Upper East Side. Also present were Commissioner Sarnoff, a representative from the FDOT and a representative from the Port of Miami. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the upgrades to the FEC rail line which are currently underway and the establishment of a “quiet zone” from the port north to NE 71st Street. In order to qualify as a “quiet zone” the FEC will upgrade the rail crossings which will make blowing the train horn unnecessary. The FEC is also replacing the rail line with a quieter track in order to reconnect service to the Port of Miami in anticipation of the port expansion and dredging to accommodate the larger Panamax ships which are expected to significantly expand its cargo business.

Most resident where supportive of the FEC’s plans, but the conversation quickly turned to passenger rail. The majority of those in attendance wanted to know why passenger service was not moving forward. Commissioner Sarnoff was quick to point the finger at the Miami Dade County MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). He mentioned that both the Broward and Palm Beach County MPOs had already passed resolutions in support of passenger rail service. The FDOT representative confirmed this as well and she actually made it sound like her department was on board with passenger rail service on the FEC. (I was very happy to hear that the FDOT was supportive).

Why can’t our Miami Dade County elected officials get their act together and actually do something that is in the public’s best interest for once? They need to stop playing politics and do what is best for the South Florida community. Last night’s meeting clearly showed that residents and businesses desire passenger rail. Providing passenger rail service on the FEC is really a no-brainer and will make the South Florida region more competitive. For some reason, that is beyond my understanding, our Miami Dade elected officials can’t seem to figure this one out.

Passenger rail is fundamental to our economic success. Young, talented and educated job seekers (as well as employers) are in search for cities that provide a better quality of life. They are not interested in spending countless hours commuting in bumper to bumper traffic. Passenger rail will spur development opportunities for real estate developers to break ground on walkable, mixed-use, transit oriented developments. This is progress, not futile road expansion projects that destroy communities rather than making them stronger.

Safety Issues for Pedestrians Along the FEC

Wendy Stephan, former president of the Buena Vista Homeowners Association, asked the FEC representative if they intended to make the area surrounding the tracks more pedestrian friendly. In particular she cited the area from NE 39th- 54th Street along Federal Highway which does not have any pedestrian crossings. She pointed out that people cross these tracks (including her mother-in-law in her pearls, lol) to get to the Publix and Biscayne Boulevard from Buena Vista and the surrounding neighborhoods because there aren’t any proper crossings for 15 blocks.

One of the FEC representatives then began to refer to the people crossing the tracks as “trespassers”. I took issue with his statement and I quickly pointed out to him that the FEC cannot possibly expect for people to walk 15 blocks out of their way just to cross the tracks to catch a bus on Biscayne Boulevard or purchase food at Publix. Further north we find the same problem from NE 62nd –NE 79th Street where we there is only one crossing at NE 71st Street which the FEC has asked the County to close, but the County so far has denied this request. Its worth mentioning that I see small children crossing the train tracks from Little Haiti every morning on their way to Morning Side Elementary School on NE 66th Street. There are numerous schools along the FEC corridor from downtown north to NE 79th Street and nearly not enough pedestrian crossings. An FEC representative basically said this was not their problem. Commissioner Sarnoff said his office would look into building bridges or tunnels for pedestrians to get across the tracks safely. Instead, I think we should look into at-grade pedestrian crossings (see below) rather then spending big bucks on tunnels or bridges which will most likely not be used by anyone besides drug addicts.

No need to be gimicky; we don't need bridges or tunnels to get across the rail line safely. Proper pedestrian rail crosswalks are less expensive and more effective.

How about an FEC Greenway?

Friend of Transit Miami Frank Rollason asked the FEC representative about their responsibility of being a good neighbor and properly maintaining the right of way (ROW). He pointed out that there were homeless people living on the FEC ROW, people using drugs as well has hiding stolen goods in the overgrown shrubbery. The FEC representative snubbed Frank and said, “We do maintain it”. (Yeah right).

I told the FEC representative that the FEC could be a good neighbor by including an FEC Greenway into their plans. An FEC Greenway would root out homelessness and drug use as joggers, walkers, parents with strollers and bicyclists would discourage undesirable activities with their presence. I was also snubbed by the FEC representative and was basically given a look that said “yeah right kid, good luck with that, looks like you are smoking crack with the crack heads on the FEC line, there is no chance we are putting a greenway on the FEC.”

Overall the meeting was very positive. The FEC and the City of Miami need to work together to find solutions to add more crossings for pedestrians. Pedestrians shouldn’t be forced to walk 15 blocks to cross the tracks. The City of Miami should also press the FEC to incorporate a greenway into their plans. A greenway would deter crime and improve the quality of life for everyone that lives near the train tracks. That being said, rail is the priority. The FEC has 100ft of ROW; if they can somehow safely squeeze in a 10-12 ft greenway they should.

Lastly, we must all write a quick email to our County Commissioners and tell them to stop playing politics with our future economic prosperity. We need local and commuter passenger rail service today, not in 15 years. You can find our recommendations for passenger rail service on the FEC here. Let’s make this happen South Florida!

We love trains and bicycles here at transit Miami. Since the FEC is currently making improvements to the existing rail line that will connect the port of Miami to an inland port in Hialeah, why not add a patch of gravel and create a greenway from midtown to downtown? This can be done very inexpensively.

Wouldn't this make a great greenway to connect midtown to downtown?

Come on FEC help us out on this one! Let’s make this happen together.

Friend of Transit Miami Brad Knoefler jumpstarted this idea a couple of years ago, but the momentum subsided. We should not allow this idea to die.

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Miami today is reporting that work on the $1 billion port tunnel has (unofficially) begun. Environmental work is underway and rigs have been set up on MacArthur Causeway’s median to begin taking soil samples. The project officially breaks ground in May and will take approximately 4 years to complete.

Not only will we have a very questionable new port tunnel, but according to Ms. Alice Bravo district director of transportation for FDOT, a new lane of traffic is planned in each direction of the MacArthur Causeway. Do we really need another lane of traffic in each direction? Wouldn’t it be better to instead bring Baylink into the transportation mix?  This would also be a great opportunity for FDOT to include a protected greenway in each direction on the MacArthur Causeway. Expanding the roadway to accommodate more cars is not the solution; providing more transportation options is the answer.

Work is moving ahead very slowly on the M-path. Too slowly actually. This work in progress has become a hazard for bicyclists. I’m not sure who is in charge of the M-Path project, but I know they can do better.  Someone may get hurt out there. Please use caution when using the M-Path.  The Transit Miami eye is watching the M-Path project very closely…

Beware of obstacles and the uneven roadway

Beware of obstacles and the uneven roadway

Caution Work in Progress

Caution Work in Progress

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I spent the better part of this long weekend wandering through the many parks of New York City.  The weekend weather was absolutely perfect to spend the whole day in a park and as you’ll see from the pictures below - I wasn’t the only one who thought so.  Now, I know I’ve said this before but, Miami could learn a lot from these cities.  New York’s ever growing park infrastructure is absolutely amazing.  Over the weekend, I wandered through Central, Union Square, Washington Square, and most importantly: the new Hudson River Parkway and Hoboken’s Pier A Park.  NYC and Hoboken have rejuvenated their waterfront with quality design and infrastructure, enabling access to the vast open space along the shores.  There certainly is not a valid reason why our Waterfront parks and river greenway shouldn’t be able to emulate the success of these great public spaces.  A brief walk through of either of these two linear riverside parks will reveal why they too will become great public spaces - accessible green space, limited concrete, varied structured and unstructured activity spaces, and multimodal connectivity…

We began the day Saturday with an obligatory trip into Central Park.  This was the scene pretty much throughout the park.  The park offered us a great escape from the crowds we had just walked through in Midtown - it seemed like the other half of the city had flocked to Central Park.

This was the scene at Hoboken’s Pier A, just across the Hudson River from NYC’s Hudson River Parkway.

This whole park is built upon a pier and provides some great open space in which to enjoy the panoramic views of Manhattan.  It reminded a lot of Brooklyn Bridge Park on the opposite side of Manhattan…

Like the Hudson River Parkway, New Jersey is working to connect their entire waterfront park system with bicycle paths - creating safe, healthy, and clean ways for residents to access the waterfront, transit, and Business Districts.

Shade.  If there had’t been a nice cool breeze, I’m sure we would have seen more people enjoying this area.

Being the transit junkie that I am, I just had to go for a ride on the Hudson Bergen Light Rail.  These trains are fast, efficient, quiet, and a wonderful way to commute through Jersey.

The Not-In-My-BackYard syndrome rages on in Broward County. If there is one facility that seems calm, sedate, and most likely to be desired in one’s backyard, it would be a shared use path for bicycles and pedestrians. No engine noise, no fumes, no rushing traffic. Just some neighbors going for a leisurely stroll or a quiet bike ride. It sounds pretty relaxing, right? Apparently residents in Plantation Acres don’t think so.

The Sun-Sentinel reported last week that some residents near a proposed multi-use path that is part of Broward County’s Greenways fear it will cause a rise in crime. One resident even offered a long list of things that were recently stolen from cars in his neighborhood. The article points out some data supporting that bicycle paths do not cause rises in crime, but fails to point out common sense.

First, if there’s crime now, that doesn’t mean a shared-use path will increase the level of crime. If crime went up after a path was put in, it would be a post hoc fallacy to assume that because of the path the crime went up. But the residents’ reasoning doesn’t even go that far! The residents are talking about a future project and doing nothing more than expressing their paranoia. They are seeing a rise in crime in their neighborhood now. Naturally, this is creating a little nervousness for them. They happen to see a project that might bring outsiders into their neighborhood, so their nervousness increases. Normally there might be something to it, but not so if you stop to think about it.

How are crimes committed? How do criminals get away with the loot? Generally, not by bicycle or on foot. If they want to steal electronics and weapons from cars or houses, they will need a vehicle to stash the goods. It ensures a quicker getaway without attracting attention. So where could anyone even get the idea in their head that a path for bicycles and pedestrians will make it easier for criminals to enter their neighborhood?

I honestly cannot figure out why the Sun-Sentinel even bothered to publish an article based on the opinion of a few paranoid people! To make it even more ironic, they point out that Plantation Acres is an equestrian community. Broward County’s Greenways page makes it clear that the paths are for equestrian use as well as bicycle use. These people will have a chance to ride their horses across the county on this and connecting trails, yet they still rise up against it.

It looks like FDOT will be installing fences to quell the fears of these residents. If the residents have any sense, they will take the time to install their own fences now to avoid the crime issues that are happening now. Their crime problems are happening now, and they have no reason to take out their frustration on one of FDOT’s better projects.

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Recall the post where I had the opportunity to interview Miami Beach chief of Staff AC Weinstein? Good, because here are some thoughts I drew up on the conversation, many of which I commented directly to AC throughout our first of many discussions on the future of Miami Beach…

Now, the first question on development, I fear, may have been interpreted a little bit too literally, but that is what happens when you try to be so precise with the wording of questions. The intention was never to correlate the cranes in Miami ensure economic vitality, but rather insinuate how in such a difficult market would Miami Beach continue to grow in order to ensure a steady tax revenue stream and thus guaranteeing the future economic vitality of Miami Beach industry. I was also hinting that height restrictions and true urban density should not be so interconnected with increased congestion on the Beach and that absurd limitations would only hamper future economic options for Miami Beach.

I was disappointed (not surprised) upon hearing Mr. Weinstein’s reply regarding Baylink, but was utterly dismayed when discussing the reasoning behind it. The basic arguments presented against Baylink (by the Beach) have been: Hurricanes, Washington Avenue, the Flexibility of Buses, and now apparently Historic Character. Hurricanes, we’ve addressed, this is a moot point considering all wires and structures will be built to hurricane standards and underground wires are not out of the realm of possibilities. Coincidentally, the reconstruction of Washington Avenue occurred at time when Miami Beach officials were beginning to object to Baylink (remember the famous quote around then: “Baylink will further enable those people to readily access the beach?“) Baylink would only further enhance the Washington Avenue streetscape, requiring only insertions of tracks while leaving much of the rest alone. My Favorite: “Flexibility of buses.” Miami Beach is like what, 11 blocks wide where most of the streetcar will be traveling? I doubt selecting any of these two streets will pose a problem when the streetcar will be virtually within a 4 block walk of nearly every address South of the Bass Museum. You really can’t go wrong. As for the Historic City comment, please look below at the Miami Beach Streetcar Map in 1928, or click here for some solid video evidence.
My qualm with the whole Baylink discussion was that the office of the mayor has yet to provide a legitimate alternative transit solution to handle the city’s current and upcoming demand. The reports I’ve seen both indicate that congestion will reach unbearable levels by 2011 (the economic vitality I was hinting at earlier would certainly suffer) all but promoting the idea of a longer termed solution. The office mentioned no plans to improve (or green) bus capacity, build transfer stations, or work with MDT to enable better signal prioritization along key corridors.

We’re pretty excited the Mayor’s office created the Green committee, however we’re not quite sure what tasks the committee will be tackling or what the stated goals of the committee are. There aren’t any plans, yet, to push for mandatory LEED certification on new construction or considerations for alternative fuels, car sharing, or other equally progressive programs.

The Bikeways and expanded bike lanes were a breath of fresh air. It’s reassuring to see the city take the necessary steps to move in a bike-oriented direction and even require bicycle parking. I hope the city (and perhaps the green committee) see that the addition of transit will only further enhance the cycling options while creating a much cleaner environment along the beach.

All in all, my conversation with Mr. Weinstein proved to be beneficial to us here at Transit Miami, as well as with many of the Miami Beach constituents. Mr. Weinstein provided us with a glimpse of the mentality issues we’ll have to face in the coming years in order to see real public transportation options come into fruition while providing a fresh, new perspective on the bicycle/pedestrian improvements the Beach hopes to make.

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I had the opportunity recently to sit down an speak with Miami Beach Chief of Staff AC Weinstein, who on Mayor Bowers’ behalf, was kind enough to answer some critical questions for us on the future of Miami Beach. I’ll post the questions/Answers below and follow up with some commentary tomorrow:

TM: The greater Miami area is awash with development, cranes, and construction, a sign of prosperous economic times, without permitting overdevelopment in Miami Beach, what will you do to continue to ensure the economic vitality of one of our strongest engines?

AC: All the development in Miami Beach does not ensure economic vitality; rather the economic vitality will continue to be the proper balance of reasonable development and respect for our residential neighborhoods. Overdevelopment does not ensure economic vitality of Miami Beach.

Referendum questions in height variance above 3 feet must go to the voters.

TM: Recent studies conducted by various planning experts suggests that Miami Beach will be ready (from a congestion standpoint) for an effective public transportation system around 2011. What is your position on improving public transportation on Miami Beach, particularly concerning the Baylink proposal? If you are against the proposal, please share your concerns, reservations, and alternative plans you suggest.

AC: MPO committee member informed the subcommittee will not see baylink in our lifetime. The Mayor has always leaned against the baylink system, because residents want to remove overhead wires. The shuttle buses are more compatible with our historic city and are more reliable than streetcars. The city recently completed a Washington Avenue Streetscape and would not want to tear up the roadway to install tracks.

TM: The environment has become a hot topic both locally and across America. This issue is obviously a concern to Miami Beach due to the possibility of rising seas, extensive beach erosion, and loss of vital fish habitat. What plans do you have to push Miami Beach in a more ecologically friendly direction? (I am specifically referencing LEED certification, reduced vehicle demand, and water conservation.)

AC: The Mayors office has created a green committee to specifically research this issue and looks forward to the recommendations of this committee.

TM: Given the fact that approximately 50% of Miami Beach residents do not rely on a vehicle as a primary means of transportation, what improvements can you foresee evolving to make the city more hospitable to pedestrians and cyclists?

AC: The Mayor has established a Bikeway committee to address this question and with commission approval new bike lanes and greenways will be moving forward. Greenway could be possible along Indian Creek, however, we need ROW from property owners.

TM: How do you feel about a Bicycle sharing program similar to the Velib recently installed in Paris

AC: It is an interesting program that I think would work well with our city. New construction will be required to include bicycle racks.

We recently received some fan mail from loyal TM reader Chandler, asking (hoping, too) that the development occurring just north of the 836 on 27th Avenue and north of the 836 along 37th Avenue would be some sort of transit project or park-n-ride facility. He was kind enough to shoot a few pictures for us as he zoomed westbound along the Dolphin:

To answer his question, sadly, the two projects he referenced are not Transit related developments however, the two sites happen to be City of Miami parks undergoing extensive renovations and facility upgrades. The Park along 27th Avenue is Fern Isle Park, currently undergoing the addition of a Park building, two baseball fields, basketball courts, a play structure, and pavilions.

The Park along 37th Avenue, adjacent to the Melreese Golf Course is Grapeland Park, the subject of a more adventurous City of Miami Park reconstruction project. The first phase of construction brought about the refurbishment of the park’s baseball fields, facilities, and courts. Phase two, which began sometime early this year, will feature a municipal water theme park. The water theme park, designed by C3TS, will cost nearly $20 Million and will feature two water slides, a lazy river, and 800 seat community activities and banquet facility.

Taken from the C3TS Site:

“This project will take an underutilized and poorly planned tournament complex and transform it into a regional, needs-based park which will include a water theme park, an 800-seat community activity and banquet facility, as well as a state-of-the-art baseball tournament complex.

The needs for access and parking encroachment into the surrounding areas were identified as one of the principal complaints by the stakeholders as this program was developed. As such, the design of Grapeland Park, located adjacent to a densely populated urban neighborhood, will be able to accommodate both multi-modal transportation access and all required parking.”

For More information visit the Miami Parks Masterplan site

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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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