Posts by: Rima Gerhard

Kidical Mass Miami

We’re please to announce the launch of Kidical Mass Miami! Kidical Mass was first launched in Oregon and has now spread to over a dozen communities throughout the US and Canada and beyond. It  is a legal, safe and FUN bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families.

Kidical Mass is absolutely not like Critical Mass with Kids. Kidical Mass are law-abiding family friendly bicycle rides through a community. The purpose is to raise awareness and teach kids and caregivers riding and safety skills, spreading good vibes and happiness instead of frustration. We are creating awareness for the growing presence of kids and families on bikes and the need for all road users to respect other users of the road. . We are also bringing together families who bike in an effort to provide a positive community experience that will show children how much fun riding your bike can be

We welcome all types of bikes, tricycles, trailers, trail-a-bikes, Xtracycles, longtails, bakfiets, Long Johns, tandems, folders, trikes! We celebrate the fact that Kids are Traffic Too and aim for family fun on vehicles that don’t hurt the future! It’s just another excuse to pedal around town with your family.

Our first event is scheduled for January 2015 in South Miami, look out for more to come!

Join Kidical Mass Miami on Facebook.

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or, “Run Pedestrian, Run.”

 

Miami Beach has become a city that is no longer accessible to pedestrians. This might not come as a suprise since Florida is one of the deadliest states for pedestrians as a whole. However, Miami Beach claims that is “is in High-Gear with Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety” and has “a bicycle and pedestrian safety initiative currently underway, with the goal of reducing the number of accidents between motor vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians through education and enforcement.” (Source: Bike Month Press Release, City of Miami Beach).

Unfortunately, as a pedestrian walking the streets of Miami Beach everyday, I cannot confirm any of the above. On the contrary, conditions worsen evey day, to the point where I can now confidently say that Miami Beach is not safe for pedestrians. Here are just a few of instances where pedestrians cannot at all or just barely cross streets without having to fear for their life or running across.

1. The intersection of West Ave & Lincoln Rd

There is no pedestrian crossing light at all on one side. Why? Is that too expensive to install? Wasn’t Lincoln Rd intended for pedestrians as per Lapidus’ design? So if I wanted to walk to that new restaurant setting up shop, what would I do, since I cannot cross here? Cross West, cross Lincoln, cross West again…or just drive?

Lincoln Road Pedestrian Safety

2. The pedestrian light on West & 16th has been taped shut.

Cross at your own risk.

You cannot cross here walking. Only cars can.

You cannot cross here walking. Only cars can.

3. The pedestrian light on Alton Rd & 10th has been taped shut.

The Whole Foods supermarket is now unreachable for pedestrians coming from the East side of Alton Rd.

No walking to Whole Foods.

No walking to Whole Foods. Pedestrian on the left staunchily ignoring that the Sidewalk is closed.

4. The pedestrian light on Alton Rd & 14th has been taped shut.

The bank of America on one side and the CVS store as well the the shopping mall on the other side are now unreachable for pedestrians on Alton Rd.

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5. The entrance to Lincoln Road on Alton has been blocked off for pedestrians.

Just a tiny whole in the blockade is open to pedestrians. When they get green, cars also turn into their passage. It’s so unsafe it’s ridiculous. Look at these tourists trying to cross, staring in disbelief at the oncoming traffic.

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Lincoln Road blockade

Yup, that is a green light for peds.

Run pedestrian, run.

Run pedestrian, run.

To add insult to inury, the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau launched a taxpayer-funded advertisement campaing including posters and a website (http://discoveraltonroad.com/) “in an effort to improve access to the businesses along Alton Road and West Avenue during the FDOT construction”. The Bureau gets funded yearly $5 million from the City. Couldn’t we get a few of the broken stop lights mentioned above fixed for that price? The only result of this effort, as far as I can tell, was the installation of the free trolley looping on Alton Rd and West Ave. This trolley, of course, doesn’t help pedestrians one bit as it gets stuck in traffic just like all other vehicles and just adds to the total amount of pollution.

Alton Road trolley stuck in traffic like everyone else. No pedestrians in sight - I wonder why?

Alton Road trolley stuck in traffic like everyone else. No pedestrians in sight - I wonder why?

 

What the City wants you to think Alton Road looks like

Alton Road Miami Beach

What Alton Road really looks like

Alton Road Miami Beach

 

Given the above, you can imagine my astonishment when the City of Miami Beach’s Director of Transportation, Jose Gonzalez, whom I contacted regarding the lack of pedestrian safety, writes to me that “please be assured that the City and FDOT are working collaboratively to help improve livability during this difficult construction period. ” And just what, Jose, are FDOT and the City doing? Because, I’m not seeing any of it, when I run past those taped traffic lights, you know.

The current situation also means that pedestrians cannot access businesses on Alton Rd. The businesses, which are already suffering from a loss of customer base since the FDOT Alton Rd project, are thus further losing clientele. The complete list of businesses killed by the FDOT project is a subject of a future post.

I’d like to close by reminding our government that “The car never bought anything” -Morris Lapidus. A city that cannot be navigated by foot, is a dead city as far as I am concerned. No people - no children - just cars (and trolleys), pollution, traffic jams, and broken traffic lights? Welcome to Miami Beach.

 

Pedestrians in Miami Beach jaywalk. You see them crossing intersection guerilla-style, ignoring red lights, ignoring oncoming traffic, ignoring all traffic laws that clearly state that “pedestrians may not cross between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation.” Here are some jaywalkers I have caught in the act, strutting their smug pedestrians selves surly across the street. You can clearly see the red light is showing for them.

 

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach

Pedestrians Jaywalking Miami Beach


Why do they do this?

Are they in such a rush that they cannot wait for “their turn” to cross the street? They are walking, so they cannot be *that* concerned about reaching their destination quickly. Is it to piss off drivers? To make them slow down, inconvenience them in their arduous commute home or to the office by having to slightly tap their break pedal?  Are they trying to educate Miami drivers to look up from their cell phones, set aside their mascara, and be more alert to their surroundings?If so, they are doing this at the risk of their own life. Is educating South Florida drivers really worth paying for…with your life? Why are these pedestrians stepping into traffic, dangerously exposing themselves to oncoming motor vehicles?

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The Answer.

A little bit of context goes a long way at explaining what is really happening. At both intersections pictured above (Alton RD & 13th St and Lincoln & West, respectively), pedestrians have to wait 3 minutes to get a green sign. Then, they get 20 (!) seconds to cross. Now, 3 minutes may not seem like a lot. But these are 3 minutes of loud, smelly, stinky traffic zooming by you. And after you diligently waited for your turn, the countdown for you to rush over starts a few second after you set foot into the street. To put it in perspective, you have to wait 9 times as long as the time you are allotted to cross. How’s that for making a pedestrian feel like an equal participant in the road usage? The answer is, and very clearly to the pedestrian, that the pedestrian is NOT as important as the vehicle traffic passing by. That the pedestrian is an inconvenience that needs to be begrudgingly dealt with, and removed as soon as possible.

So there, since we are such an inconvenience, we efface ourselves from these streets as fast as we can. We run across intersections. We don’t want to force a red light on anyone so we take our chance and rush. I have never seen as many running, nervous pedestrians as in the USA. And I lived in Paris. But it’s here, in the US, where pedestrians truly feel like they should not be here. Because that is how these streets, these traffic signals make us feel. They tell us, you’re not worth it. Go away. You’re stopping traffic. So, we jaywalk.

And just for fun, term “jaywalking” originated in Chicago. It is “a derogatory slang word that was coined, in part, by local auto clubs and dealers, which was an attempt to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong. Automotive interests used these propaganda campaigns to put the blame on pedestrians who walked in the streets and crossed them whenever and wherever they wished, which was the same way they had done for centuries before the automobile became popular.” (Source: http://www.coyelawaccidentcenter.com/jaywalking-laws-in-florida.html)

 

A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How living in Miami Beach used to make me smile…

That was - until FDOT took control of Alton Rd, hijacked West Avenue, a formerly quiet residential Boulevard, and dumped thousand of trucks, busses, taxis, and motorcycles right in front of our homes for the duration of over 1 year, turning it into an urban superhighway.
Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Act 1

March 2013.

As soon as the mega-project was announced, I contacted the City of Miami Beach and FDOT to inquire about what their plans were to mitigate all the traffic and what their plans were for pedestrian safety. The aide to then-mayor Matti Bower, Gabrielle Redfern, took the time to respond.

The mayor is also concerned about how this construction will effect traffic. The City has done its best to work with FDOT to make the project as painless to the residents as possible. Please continue to share your thoughts with the mayor. Your feelings are very important to her.”

I felt emboldened and encouraged that the mayor cared about my feelings. But what was their plan for pedestrian safety?

Act 2

November 2013.

When FDOT started reconfiguring West Ave to 2 Southbound lanes in late 2013 I reported several noise complaint to the City. For some reason FDOT thought it was a good idea to tear open the street to remove those traffic lines in the middle at 4am. I sent a few angry emails about the nighttime noise to Heather Leslie, FDOT’s Public Information Specialist. Her answer went,

The current nighttime work is to restripe West Avenue from 17 Street to 6 Street in order to prepare for the next phase of work on Alton Road. The contractor is completing this work at night because the striping operation requires lane closures and potential detours. We understand the ongoing work has been difficult, and the team will continue to do its best to mitigate the inconveniences.

Where apparently, “mitigating the inconveniences” means “occasionally answering your emails”.  The city never answered to these complaints.
It turns out, that nighttime noise was going to be the least of our problems. As soon as the traffic was re-routed to West Ave that November, it was as though the gates of hell had opened and unleashed previously unknown amounts of nightmarish traffic, noise, and pollution onto West Ave. At the same time, there was no enforcement of speed limits of any sort or any kind of traffic calming for pedestrians. We were left to fend for ourselves. The residents of my condominium quickly gathered at the face of this danger. We contacted the City and FDOT again. A neighbor sent the following email:

I live at 13th and West Avenue.  I am a Senior Records Clerk for a local Police Department and my wife is employed a a local Hospital as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit.  We have two daughters under the age of 2.  We have lived at the same address for over 10 years.  West Avenue is not the same roadway as when we first began living here.   There have been so many occasions where my family have sat at the crosswalk on West Ave and 14th Street as car after car passes us by, not so much as giving us a glance.  Recently, I entered the crosswalk and an oncoming vehicle southbound did not slow down.  I had to throw my daughter behind me and scream at the top of my lungs for a car to stop in the far left lane.  When he did, he actually gave me the finger and told me to get out of the way.  My wife and I no longer cross West Avenue at all.  It is not the same for my family, let alone the other many families who live in the area, or the many elderly citizens who frequent this intersection.  I watch from my balcony as cars fly by, not yielding whatsoever to pedestrians who have the right of way.  Now that southbound West Avenue has been increased to two lanes it is more dangerous than ever.  Without a stoplight, or a speed bump of some kind, it is without question that it is a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed at that intersection.

This seemed to have gotten FDOT’s attention. A meeting was scheduled for December. Heather Leslie, Enrique Tamayo,  Amanda Shotton, and Ivan Hay from FDOT as well as Lynn Bernstein from the City met us in front of our building on West Ave. Ivan remarked how he could never live here (no wonder). That day they actually witnessed a girl nearly getting hit that morning at the intersection. They all agreed it was unsafe. FDOT then conducted a traffic study and determined that a stop light was needed on 14th and flashing lights were needed on 9th and 12th Streets. After this was determined a whole lot of nothing happened for a whole lot of time.

Act 3

May 2014.

I keep emailing Heather once every month to ask for updates. And then, just 6 months after meeting FDOT….
BAM! We have FLASHING PEDESTRIAN CROSSING SIGNS!!
Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

Pedestrian Signs! Flashing!

I feel as excited about this basic safety improvement as I would for the fanciest Birthday gift! Finally, our concerns were heard and the powers that be show that they actually care…or do they?

Still nothing has happened on 13th Street or 14th Streets. Ms Leslie has informed me that “The final design plans for the temporary signal at 14 Street have been completed and the materials are currently being procured. The light will be installed once the materials arrive. As discussed, these pedestrian features require engineering plans, as well as the coordination with the various agencies.“) . I emailed FDOT a link to some traffic calming devices on Amazon, for $1600 and asked why they couldn’t just buy one of those but I guess they were not amused by that suggestion.

 

Epilogue

I never heard from the newly elected mayor Mr. Levine, but judging from his Facebook account he is busy meeting celebrities or running in Washington DC.
I’ve never seen police give tickets for nearly running over pedestrians on West Ave. And yet, this happens all day, every day. There is a police officer parked on 17th St and West which is great but that is just one intersection of many on West, and in my opinion not the busiest one for pedestrians.
We have an older lady in our building who leaves the house with a little walking stick so she can threaten cars who do not cede to her passing.
When I cross I am usually wave like a lunatic at those cute little “Stop for Pedestrians” sign in the hope of getting drivers to look up from their cell phones, into my face.
Why is it that we cannot have some adequate traffic enforcement and traffic calming to ensure people do not DIE on the streets of our “world-class” city?

 

Miami’s drivers are not exactly known for their courteous behavior towards cyclists. But who’s to blame for the road rage? An excess amount of colada in their veins? A lack of (driver) education? Insufficient law enforcement? Too much sun perhaps? It’s probably a combination of all of the above…along with the general apathy towards the right to life of other humans who happen to sit on bicycle. Cyclists are frequently perceived as “entitled” or “arrogant” just because they insist on that pesky right of “sharing the road” (without getting killed).  Miami’s Critical Mass does not help much to dispel that notion. There is a definite sense of cyclists and pedestrians being second-class citizens on the road. This cute peek-a-boo road sign in Miami Beach illustrates the attitude well:

Bicycle Sign Miami Beach

Peek-a-boo

Bicycle Sign Miami Beach

..I see you!





This sign seems to say: yeah, there may be bikes out there, sort of watch out for them but don’t go out of your way. Just as the government won’t go out of their way to accommodate for them and install proper signage that is lighted and visible (and bike lanes painted in bright colors…OK I am dreaming now).

Now imagine a sign on I-95 alerting drivers of upcoming exits being hidden in this fashion. Wouldn’t that be rather unsettling? And we are comparing someone missing an exit vs. a human being potentially getting killed by an inadvertent driver here. It’s time to get our priorities straight.

 

On Monday, February 3rd 2014, The City of Miami Beach is launching a new free trolley bus that serves Alton Rd and West Ave between 5th St. and Lincoln Rd. The purpose of this trolley is “to help you get to Alton Rd and West Ave businesses” during the FDOT construction project of the same streets.  The Alton/West Loop trolleys will travel from 5 Street to Lincoln Road, along Alton Road and West Avenue, with 21 stops along the way.

TROLLEY ROUTE

The service will run approximately every 10 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday. The trolley has a capacity of 25 passengers and has an external bike rack and free Wi-Fi (coming soon). In addition to the free trolley, the City is providing Free Four-Hour Parking at Fifth & Alton Garage with the Trolley Voucher.

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While I am not usually one to criticize public transportation projects, especially FREE ones of any sort, I do have some concerns about this particular trolley. Since the goal is to get people to shop at Alton Rd/West Ave businesses, the City seems to have assumed that the reason people are currently staying away from this area is because there is not sufficient parking available. However, this is, at least for me, not at all the reason I do not shop on Alton Road. I thought I would enlighten the City with my TOP 5 REASONS I’M NOT SHOPPING ON ALTON RD RIGHT NOW (and won’t even if the City sends me a free limo).

1. It is more scenic to walk in the trash dumpster alley between West and Alton than on Alton Rd.

Alton Rd is just plain ugly right now. It has always been ugly but now it’s uglier than ever. It’s just not a pleasant walk looking at all those construction signs and the torn up road. Why would I sit in a coffee shop on Alton, looking at a ripped-up street if I can enjoy a coffee on pleasant, pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Rd just a few blocks away? I guess I am not the only one to think this way since the local Latin cafeteria next to my building on Alton Rd recently closed shop.

Miami Beach's main drag isn't quite as scenic as NY's 5th Ave or the Champs Elysees.

Miami Beach’s main drag isn’t quite as stunning as NY’s 5th Ave or the Champs Elysees.

Nice and quiet! No traffic! No one is speeding! I'll walk right here.

Nice and quiet! No traffic! No one is speeding! I’ll walk right here.

2. It isn’t safe to be on West and Alton or Alton Rd.

I would rather not die like this. And you?

Just another accident on West Ave, the second in this very spot since the construction began

Just another accident on West Ave, the second in this very spot since the construction began

3. I’d rather not subject my lungs to breathing in the combined exhaust of 10,000 cars.

Yep, it looks like that around here lately. A lot.

Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

Cars, exhaust, pollution. Welcome to West Ave.

4. The traffic lights suck for pedestrians.

Wait, I have to wait 3 minutes for the light to turn green for me, and then I get 22 second to spurt across the street? Nah, that sucks. I don’t even know how someone without my athletic abilities will achieve this (elderly, handicapped…). Pedestrians are really made to feel like second-class citizens with this kind of treatment. That’s why so many of them simply disrespect the lights and decide to cross anyway.

Fed up with waiting for a light that never changed.

Fed up with waiting for a light that never changed.

5. There is no bicycle infrastructure on Alton Rd/West Ave

So, as you can see from above, it’s kind of impossible, or really annoying, to be around Alton Rd by foot right now and since driving is not an option right now, there is really only one other alternative. Biking. Needless to say, the treatment for cyclists is even worse than the one for pedestrians since there is simply no infrastructure at all. No bike lane, no bike parking, not even a cutesie sharrow (I say cute because I like the little bike paintings on the street but consider them completely ineffective - but that’s another topic).

So instead of showing you a really great bike lane on Alton Rd, since there is none, I’ll show you one of the Ciclovia held in Bogota, a weekly event where the main street in Bogota is entirely shut down to traffic. This event is a huge success and is attended by thousands of people walking, biking, scooting, and running through downtown Bogota. It seemed to work real well for the local businesses to, as it is held on a Sunday morning which would otherwise not generate such a large crowd. As it turned out, to get people to downtown, no free trolley busses had to be installed by the city. People say Miami is South America - I can only hope this will be true one day.

Ciclovia in Bogota

Ciclovia in Bogota

Having said that, I still love to shop on Lincoln Rd so I will from now on refer to this trolley as the free Lincoln Rd shuttle. I’m sure tourists will be delighted they have a free connection between Ross and Lincoln Rd now. And of course, the homeless will be grateful for an air-conditioned place to rest their weary bones. However, I’m not sure it’ll do anything at all for those businesses suffering along on Alton Rd.

So long, little Lincoln Rd shuttle.

So long, little Lincoln Rd shuttle. The tourists will love you. The locals, not so sure.

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FDOT Collins

When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced that they were simultaneously performing major road work on Miami Beach’s two main thoroughfares, Collins Ave and Alton Road, most beach residents shook their heads in disbelief. Was it really wise to shut down half of Collins Ave from summer 2013 - 2014 (1 year) and also detour all of Alton Road’s southbound traffic to West Ave during the same time and beyond (2013 - 2015)? After all, these are the main roads that allow tourists, trucks, busses, and locals to navigate Miami Beach from it’s Southern tip towards the Middle and North areas. Not to mention, there are major events happening during the winter months, from Art Basel, South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Boat Show to NYE, something is always happening that requires people to, well, drive to the beach since there is no public transportation to Miami Beach to speak of. Some locals worried about a “carmaggedon” and started pressuring the city government and FDOT to provide some better alternatives for those who need to get in and out of Miami Beach.

Little did those worriers know about FDOT’s master scheme. You see, FDOT is not simply blind to the traffic gridlock that hit Miami Beach since the construction started. Neither are FDOT’s engineers and project managers insensitive to local’s concerns over pollution and congestion. In fact, FDOT is simply helping us out by finally providing ample parking spaces that were badly needed. Everyone knows that parking in Miami Beach is a mess. Now, you no longer need to hunt around the beach looking for that elusive spot, only to find that it’s in a Tow Away Zone (don’t mess with Beach Towing). Simply drive to Miami Beach, and conventiently park your car right on West Ave.

FDOT West Ave

Convenient Parking right on Miami Beach thanks to FDOT

FDOT West Ave

Safe during day and night, just park and go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here, you can explore the area, dine in one of our neighborhood restaurants, and take a pleasant walk (don’t mind the smell of exhausts, or do like Sarah Palin and learn to simply love the smell of it).

If you like, you could also park right on Venetian Causeway (as mentioned in yesterday’s post), this comes in handy during those busy weekends when you just cannot wait to get to your event and simply need to park right away.

FDOT Miami Beach

Ample Parking on the Venetian Causeway

The great thing is that your car will be in the exact same spot even hours later.

Best of all? The parking is completely FREE of charge! (Residents agreed to chip in a bit by putting up with a the extra noise and pollution, but what is that compared to FREE PARKING in Miami Beach??)

Isn’t that something to be grateful for? Little by little, FDOT is not only fixing our streets, but is also addressing our parking problem without the need to hire any starchitects at all, just using our existing, previously underused, streetscape. Now, if that was not a stroke of genius, I don’t know what is. Thank You, FDOT!

 

Stop for PedestriansIf you think walking and biking in Miami is risky, dangerous, and perhaps even a bit of a suicide mission…then you can probably imagine what it would be like to navigate our nightmarish streets with a baby in a stroller in tow. Oh!, you exclaim, certainly our famously rude drivers would change their nutty ways at the sight of a cute little one peeping out of it’s carriage, right? Sure, they may not stop for a regular annoying pedestrian who is waiting to cross a “STOP for pedestrians - It’s the Law” intersection … but they must stop for a baby!

Well, in short: Nope. After having high hopes for my pedestrian future with a newborn, picturing polite drivers waving me across the street, I have had a rude awakening that stroller or not…to Miami drivers, I’m still just an annoying pedestrian not really worth stopping or even slowing down for. It’s become a nearly perverse enjoyment for me to stare down drivers at a marked intersection, looking right into their faces, brandishing the baby in front of me as if to say - what’s it going to be? Your car, or our lives? Who has the stronger will, who will give up first? Will you stop, or will I step out of your way to let you speed by on your extremely important mission to reach the next (red) stoplight 1 block down the road?

Unfortunately, it’s not just Miami’s drivers who make walking with a stroller a bit of a risky proposition in this town. Check out this sidewalk on Venetian Causeway, and answer me this question: in which side do you pass with a stroller? (Hint: there is no correct answer. There is no way to pass with a stroller here as the sidewalk is too narrow at all openings).

Let’s say you somehow manage to navigate past this obstacle and  made it onto Venetian Causeway. Here is the next nerve-tingling adventure awaiting you on the bridge. Please have a look at this sidewalk.

IMAG0830

Now, you better focus! Because just 1 little step in the wrong direction…perhaps during a moment of sightseeing while a mega luxury yacht cruises by…and your stroller is off of that tiny little sidewalk, on the road, which is very heavily traveled by cars flying by at high speed…not a nice thought at all! Oh, and if some unlucky other mom wants to pass you by here with her stroller? Let’s just say that is Mission Impossible Miami style.

Too bad the Venetian Causeway Toll cash cannot be used to make this road with it’s pleasant sea breeze and breath-taking views more accessible to non-motorized, stroller-rized traffic.

 

The FDOT Alton Road project has officially begun. While the impact is still rather manageable as only the North part of Alton Rd is  undergoing construction, this massive project is soon to take on more importance as South Beach’s major and one and only North-South highway will be shut down in parts. The complete construction  schedule for April 8 - 25 can be found here.

While resident groups such as the Flamingo Park Neighbourhood Association and the West Avenue Neighbourhood Association have raised major concerns of the project and expressed them to the City of Miami Beach, there has been no response from City Hall. I recently emailed Mayor Matti Bower and all commissioners asking for their stance on this project and expressing my concern of the impact to those who walk or bike along West Ave:

I am extremely concerned about the FDOT construction plans for the Alton Road project […] I am afraid that it will no longer be possible to safely take my daughter for a walk or to school. I am worried about noise, pollution, congestion […]. Furthermore, we are shocked that Alton Road is going to offer “sharrows” for bicycles. Sharrows are not a safe option on Alton Road. We also understand that no bike lanes are planned for West Ave either and feel very disheartened that a city that aims to provide bike alternatives to residents simply ignores this alternate mode of transportation for such a long foreseeable future.
Please provide me with your thoughts on how the City plans to ensure that West Ave will still be a livable place for the next 2.5 years.

The only answer I received was from Gabrielle Redfern, a former Transit Miami writer and current Chief of Staff to Mayor Bower: “The mayor is also concerned about how this construction will effect traffic.  The City has done its best to work with FDOT to make the project as painless to the residents as possible.  However, a complete road reconstruction, with the addition of much needed drainage, will not be without some inconvenience to us all.

Mayor Bower sent her own answer in her e-mail newsletter today, providing a beautiful example of the true art of double-think so masterfully employed by politicians. Double-think, is, of course “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… “. Here goes her version:


“This week I traveled to Tallahassee to participate in Dade Days.  This organized lobbying trip is undertaken to ensure that your feelings are made clear to our legislators in our State Capitol.  I focused my meetings on economic development, sand replacement and making our streets safer for our children as well as protecting our ability to establish living wage ordinances and offer domestic partnership benefits in our community.”

 

And then, further down in the newsletter:

“DEATH, TAXES,…AND ROAD CONSTRUCTION. Faced with the trials and tribulations of our Alton Road, no doubt Benjamin Franklin would have added “road construction” to his list of life’s unhappy certainties. While we can all look ahead to the benefits of the current FDOT Alton Road project, putting to work thirty-two million in gasoline tax dollars: a safer Alton Road with better drainage, upgraded water delivery service, and pedestrian lighting along with new landscaping, I’m pretty sure no one is looking forward to the two and a half years it will take to complete the work.

Next week, work will be concentrated from Dade Boulevard to Michigan Avenue, with construction crews working between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. weekdays. During this period, one south-bound lane will be closed, and there will be no left hand turns southbound onto Dade Boulevard. Intermittent lane closures will also occur from 10th Street to Bay Road.

Additionally, one eastbound land of the MacArthur Causeway will be closed as part of the ongoing Port of Miami Tunnel project, at the same time that Alton Road below 5th Street, from South Pointe Drive to Commerce Street remains closed to allow for installation of a new larger sewer pipe.

Dade Boulevard eastbound, from Alton Road to Convention Center Drive, may be closed at times for continuing work on a new seawall and multi-use pathway; and lastly, Collins Avenue, north of Lincoln Road as far as 26th Street will also experience some intermittent lane closures.”

What gives, Mayor Bower? If it is the children you are concerned about - shouldn’t the Alton Road project features wider sidewalks to make walking there safer? Are sharrows on Alton Road really safe options - for kids or adults? And lastly - all this construction - and what do we get out of it? MORE ROADS. MORE CARS. MORE TRAFFIC. MORE CONGESTION. Not exactly what I think of when I envision “making our streets safer” for kids!

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FDOT held public information meetings last week to present their Alton Road reconstruction project. The project is scheduled to kick off just 1 week, April 1st 2013, and lasts until “summer 2015″ and costs an estimated $32 Million. The presentation by FDOT touched on the main work items, in particular the 3 pump stations and drainage system that will be installed, as well as the reconstruction (repavement) of Alton Road. The project Fact Sheet gives an overview of the project.

Residents and business owners listened attentively as FDOT presented the project. Almost everyone agrees that the project is necessary as flooding has been a huge issue in this area of Miami Beach. However, the project includes re-routing Alton Road traffic onto West Avenue for the majority of it’s duration. For this purpose, West Ave is reconfigured into a 3-lane road (currently 2 lanes with a turning lane). For a period of at least 6 months, all Alton Road traffic will be North-bound-only, and all South-bound traffic will be re-routed to West Ave.

As a resident of West Ave, this certainly caught my attention. West Ave is a rather residential street that is home to large condominiums such as the Mirador, the Waverly, the Floridian and many smaller buildings.  According to the 2010 Census, over 30,000 people live within 10 blocks of this 15 block section of Alton Road. As opposed to busy Ocean Drive or Washington Ave, West Ave does not host many tourist-geared businesses, and the few restaurants and shops are mostly frequented by locals. People enjoy walking their dogs and strollers on West Ave, stopping by Whole Foods or Epicure for some groceries, or linger over a coffee on Starbuck’s patio. There is a lot of Decobike usage on West Ave. So when the FDOT representative announced without a blink of his eye that this same West Ave would be “reconfigured to allow for alternate traffic flow” - my heart skipped a beat.

Alton Road FDOT

 

I began wondering what it will be like to have the street I live (and bike, and walk, and run, and take my daughter for walks) on turned into a one-way 3-lane highway from one day to another. As it is, cars are rather disrespectful on West Ave and, despite beautiful little reminders posted in the intersections that it’s the LAW to YIELD to pedestrians, I am usually forced to speed-walk across West Ave when there is a short pause in traffic. How will this be when delivery trucks, county buses, tourists, taxis, and simply everyone else that needs to get on or off the beach will be driving past my front yard? Examples of other one-way 3-lane highways such as “Calle Ocho” in Miami prove this setup is deathly to the neighbourhood (when is the last time YOU decided to stroll on Calle Ocho for fun?). Let alone the pollution and noise caused by such a major highway - now I am worried that I won’t even be able to exit my condo without actually risking my life. As one speaker at the public forum begged FDOT to understand - “we live here. And  - we paid a lot of money for it…”.

But wait, there is more! If at least this massive project provided some safer options for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate Alton Road in the end, it might all be worth it, right? After all, as was previously pointed out by Transit Miami, “Miami Beach bikes and walks to work“, and Miami Beach claims that “the City and residents of Miami Beach have identified bicycle improvements and programs as part of their strategic plan and as a priority goal“. So surely, some improvements must be planned for Alton Road to meet this “priority goal”! Perhaps Alton Road will boast broad tree-covered sidewalks, with a bike lane, and patios for restaurants? This would give us something to look forward to at the end of all the years of noise, traffic, congestion, and pollution…perhaps Alton Road will look something like this, as envisioned by the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association?

Alton Road Vision

One can always dream…well, in short: this is not what Alton Road is going to look like. Alas, there is no grand plan by FDOT (suprise!) and there will be no bike lanes on Alton Road. However, FDOT is kind enough to include sharrows on Alton Road. Yes, you read that right. According to Daniel Iglesias, the engineer in charge, given studies and research from their side, sharrows are “the safest option“. Let that sink in for a moment. Now - there may be some lunatics crazy enough to bike just about anywhere - on mountain tops and in river beds - but I challenge anyone to actually bike on an inner-city highway heavily frequented by buses, trucks, and careless Miami drivers - on a sharrow. This thought would be funny - if it weren’t so terribly sad.

The Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association has expressed significant opposition to the FDOT plan for the reconstruction of Alton Road. In their view, “Alton Road reconstruction is a once in 50 year event to properly address the multiple needs of all user groups – multi-modal mobility options for pedestrians, bikers, autos, and transit users, contribute to a functional environment for business and with trees, landscaping and street furniture foster an attractive and safe neighborhood for our residents and visitors […]. This ill-formed Alton Road project is going to create safety issues for all types of transportation (pedestrian, motorized and non-motorized vehicles) and create a detrimental impact on the businesses and property owners along this essential commercial corridor. […] Join us in our outrage over a plan that emphasizes speed at the expense of safety, economic vitality, and quality of life.”.

The West Avenue Neighbourhood Association has also expressed concerns with the project, stating that “FDOT is placing an undue burden on a highly residential neighborhood“.

We will keep monitoring this project closely and provide status updates.

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FDOT Alton Road ProjectFDOT is planning a two-year Alton Road construction project. Alton Road will be closed at several intersections and all traffic re-routed to a parallel street (West Ave). The project is scheduled to start this April. The project includes plans for reconstructing the road, installing new drainage, installing new lighting, signs, and pavement markings, and constructing concrete islands.

Given the duration and scale of the project, and the inevitable impact on the surrounding residential neighborhoods, residents have been asking FDOT for details on the implementation. As a result, FDOT has scheduled two public information meetings to provide the public with more information.

To me, there are many questions that still need answers. Will there be a bike lane on Alton Road? Will there be larger sidewalks and shade trees planted? Will it be easier and safer to cross Alton Road? When I attempt to cross Alton Road on 13th Street, the “count-down” next to my walking sign is on as soon as I step on the crosswalk. I have exactly 26 seconds to shuffle across - good thing I’m not an old lady with a cane. Cars, on the other hand, get 3 full minutes before the stop light turns green for pedestrians. Just another instance of how pedestrians in Miami are made to feel like second class citizens.

The project has a lot of potential to make Alton Road safer and a more desirable place for pedestrians and bikers. In its current state, I stay away from Alton Road as much as possible as it is nothing but a highway in the middle of the city, noisy, stinky, trafficky, and dangerous. Let’s see what FDOT has in store for us.

Middle Beach Meeting
6pm Tuesday March 19th
Miami Beach Golf Club
2301 Alton Road
Miami Beach FL 33140

South Beach Meeting
6pm Thursday March 21st
Police Athletic LEague
999 11th Street
Miami Beach FL 33139

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