This morning a dusted off my mountain bike and made my way to Virginia Key to check out the new mountain bike trails. The former landfill now has four miles of single-track and the Virginia Key Bicycle Club seem to be expanding the trails; I saw a small army of volunteers working with chainsaws today. The trails are simply spectacular. I can’t express how great this is for Miami.
There were at least 30 cars parked at the trailhead. I saw a bunch of families with young children riding the trails. It is safe to say that this urban park is a total success and very unique. How many other cities have a mountain bike park in the middle of the city? I can’t think of very many…
We need to send a Transit Miami shout-out to John Voss. Mr. Voss was incredibly persistent and without this vision and resolution Miamians would not have this gem of a park in their back yard.
Now if we could only get the County Public Works Department to make the Rickenbacker Causeway more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, perhaps it would encourage more people to ride their bicycles to the Virginia Key mountain bike trails, rather then drive. A big first step would be to put a roundabout or crosswalk at the entrance to Virginia Key in order to calm traffic so that cyclists and pedestrians aren’t get killed while trying to cross a 6 lane highway just to get to the park. Just a thought.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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