For the past couple of weeks I have been eating, drinking, and biking my way through France. My wife and I spent a week honeymooning in Provence and another week in Paris.
We spent the first week of our honeymoon cycling through the heart of wine country in Provence. Our tour was organized by Headwater and was truly epic. When you travel on a bicycle you get to fully experience your surroundings. You smell the country side, you feel your environment and you interact with the locals. There is something about traveling on a bicycle; for those that have done it you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that haven’t, you should really consider it. You can find our itinerary here.
I can’t say enough about how wonderful this city is. Unlike Miami, most motorists actually yield to pedestrians. All intersections are clearly marked with wide zebra crosswalks. I also noticed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are much lower than the pedestrian crosswalk signals here in the United States. Placing the pedestrian crosswalk signal closer to eye level makes it easier for both pedestrians and motorists to notice them. Also, traffic lights are placed before the crosswalk and not in the middle of intersections. By placing the traffic lights before the crosswalk it forces motorists to stop before the crosswalk, giving pedestrians the right of way they deserve. Another feature I also observed was the pedestrian fences. In areas where pedestrians should not cross the street, tasteful pedestrians fences have been erected to corral the pedestrians towards the large zebra crosswalk. Sidewalks, for the most part, are wide and inviting.
The Velib bicycle share system in Paris is absolutely spectacular. Because Paris is so walkable, I only used it once, but the system is very easy to use and is well connected to mass transit. I was amazed to see Parisians from all walks of life using the Velib bicycles. I saw stylish women and men using the bicycles, as well as businessmen, businesswomen and the elderly using the Velib.
Bicycles lane were clearly marked and in many areas were allowed to share the bus-only lanes. Buses are equipped with an electrical horn that sounds like a bicycle bell. Bus drivers use this electrical bicycle bell to politely warn cyclists and pedestrians that the bus is coming.
The metro and the bus system are easy to use. At the metro stations and bus stops there are electrical boards advising transit users when the next train or bus will arrive.
Most crosswalks have provisions for the blind and I even found a train station that had a textured path that could be felt with a walking cane.
Parks are scattered throughout Paris. The parks I entered were active and drew a wide array of people of different ages.
Today was my first day back on the road bike since the deadly accident two weeks ago on Bear Cut Bridge. Quite frankly, I was a little spooked by the accident and it has taken me a couple of weeks to build some courage to ride again.
As usual hundreds of bicyclists and pedestrians were on the Rickenbacker Causeway enjoying the gorgeous day. I noticed that there were more police officers present on the Rickenbacker Causeway than usual. This is certainly an encouraging sign. Both Miami Dade County and Miami Police officers were noticeably present. Enforcement certainly is a step in the right direction, but it is not the solution for our speeding problems on the Rickenbacker Causeway. As long as we have a roadway designed to induce speed, the speeding will continue and bicyclists and pedestrians will continue to get hurt. Even with increased enforcement I noticed several cars on the William Powel Bridge traveling in excess of 65 mph.
My ride was going fairly well until I caught up to a small group of riders on Virginia Key. I was ridding in the back of the group (10-15 bicyclists) when all of the sudden a bicyclist in the group clipped the rear tire of the rider in front of him. He took the rider behind him down with him; somehow I avoided crashing too.
The first cyclist to crash landed head first into the asphalt. Although he remained conscious he most likely has a slight concussion, his helmet was cracked in half. The second cyclist to crash walked away from the accident with a little road rash, but was OK. Fire-Rescue was called and within 10 minutes they arrived.
In all fairness, this group was riding slowly and they were not ridding aggressively as some groups do. This really was just an unfortunate accident. Nevertheless, it was the 6th accident in the past 6 months that I have personally witnessed while riding in groups/pelotons. I will no longer ride in large groups and quite frankly I believe something needs to be done regarding aggressive groups/pelotons which ride irresponsibly. I am not sure what can be done. If you have any suggestions please let us know. This problem needs to be addressed asap.
About ten minutes after witnessing this accident and still a little shook up, I was nearly t-boned by a car that was attempting to turn into the Marine Stadium. I was traveling in the bike lane heading north back to the mainland, when a car traveling south bound on the Rickenbacker Causeway attempted to make a left turn into the Marine Stadium entrance. Rather than waiting for me to pass, the driver tried to make the left turn; I yelled and he stopped halfway through his turn. Luckily for me there was a Miami Police officer right behind him. He witnessed the entire incident and pulled the car over. I turned around to thank the officer and then continued back home. I’m not sure if the police officer gave the driver a warning or a ticket. My hope is that he was ticketed. Regardless, I am happy to see that the Miami Police department is being proactive and is pulling over drivers for reckless behavior.
After the second incident I decided to call it a day and cut my ride short; too many close calls for a Saturday morning.
fyi: A little road rash makes you look tough.
Askmen.com just released its Top 10 bicycle-friendly cities in the world and Miami did not make the list. Hopefully this will change soon. The Miami Bicycle Master Plan was created last year, now we need to implement it.
Congratulations to the City of Miami Beach for installing new speed humps on Prairie Avenue. They look great and for the most part were installed correctly. They even took the bicycle lane into consideration when installing them! Speed humps are excellent traffic calming devices. I’m dreaming of speed humps in Miami.
Transit Miami is pleased to see that FDOT included bicycle lanes on Coral Way, but upon reviewing the design more carefully, we believe the bicycle lanes need to be improved. Although even a poorly designed bicycle lane probably encourages bicycling, it does not ensure the safety of bicyclists. Simply painting a white line and a bicycle symbol on the roadway surface does not go far enough. We do not want to detract from the fact that bicycle lanes now exist on Coral Way; this is certainly a step in the right direction, but we should not be satisfied just because new bicycle lanes exist. The quality of the design of the bicycle lanes is instrumental to its overall success.
As shown by the new lanes on Coral Way, the minimum standard that FDOT uses to “officially designate” a bicycle lane a bicycle lane is:
- Painting white lines
- Placing one bicycle symbol per block
- Bicycle signage
The minimum standards do not guarantee safe bicycle lanes, especially for a street as heavily traveled by motor vehicles as Coral Way. The minimum standards applied on this main thoroughfare are not adequate, although they would probably be acceptable for a secondary side street.
Below are a few handlebar observations I made last week from the saddle of my bicycle:
- Not enough bicycle symbols in the bicycle lanes
- More bicycle signage (I’ve been told they are coming, we need to be patient)
- The bicycle lanes end and begin at every intersection
- Poor road marking transition where the bicycle lanes begin and end
Here are a few suggestions for improvement:
- Paint the bicycle lanes green at all intersections and all conflict areas (i.e. driveways). The only real distinction between the bicycle lanes and the car lanes is a single white line. In fact, the bicycle lanes look more like a shoulder or parking lane. In addition to painting the bicycle lanes green at every intersection, there should be at least three bicycle symbols per block. Also, there should be two white lines to more clearly define the bicycle lanes, a single white line is not sufficient.
- The bicycle lanes should continue through the intersections with dashed lines in addition to being painted green; this keeps the continuity of the lane while also making bicyclists aware that motorists will be turning through the lane.
- Add signage: “Share the Road” and “No Parking in Bicycle Lane”
- The Coral Way bicycle lane needs a seamless transition to the already existing SW 15th Road bicycle lane.
- Road diet. Narrowing travel lanes to ensure motorists travel at slower speeds. Although the speed limit is 35mph, most vehicles exceed the posted speed limit. Narrowing the travel lanes calms the speed of traffic.
FDOT should consider hiring a bicycle consultant for all of their future projects that involve bicycle lanes. Too many important details were overlooked with the Coral Way project that could have a significant impact on the safety of this important bicycle facility. These projects need to be planned correctly from the beginning with the help of an expert. Poor bicycle lane design only ends up costing the taxpayer more in terms of repairs and potential lawsuits. FDOT needs to ensure the safety of bicyclists through properly designed bicycle lanes. Even though FDOT is moving in the right direction, there is certainly room for substantial improvement.
In the final moments of last night’s BPAC meeting, Jeff Cohen of Miami-Dade Public Works announced that Mayor Alvarez is getting somewhat serious about improving bicycling conditions. So much so that the County committed one million dollars to expanding bicycle lanes throughout the County in 2009. Their preference is to find those thoroughfares where all they have to do is restripe and add signage. At present, the County officials have already identified $500,000 worth of these “paint ready” lanes, but are still in search of another half million dollars worth of bicycle lane projects. If you have a route you think could accomodate lanes, please contact Mr. Cohen (305.375.2746) or Dave Henderson (305.375.1647) and let them know your ideas.
Obviously, this is a great show of support from Mayor Alvarez and Miami-Dade County. However, as I mentioned in last night’s meeting, the County should also consider improving existing lanes with additional safety measures at major intersections and crossings. Adding brightly colored lane markings through intersections would certainly do much to improve safety. And with any luck the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control (MUTCD) will finally approve sharrows and bicycle boxes before the county moves forward with these projects. Such improvements would do even more for bicycle safety.
OTHER BPAC NEWS
As you may recall, last month we reported plans for two developments seeking easements over the M-Path. BPAC asked the developer of the southernmost parcel, at the corner at the corner of S. Dixie Highway and LeJeune Road, to mitigate the curb cut intrusion with numerous bicycle safety improvements. Last night, the developer unveiled the latest plans, which to his credit included all of the improvements. After much deliberation, members of the BPAC reluctantly passed a resolution in support of the project. Recognizing that it sets a dangerous precedent, however, they also moved to limit further development from encroaching on what is Miami-Dade’s longest bicycle path.
Researchers from FIU and the University of Florida also presented an online bicycle mapping tool that they have been developing for Broward County. Hoping to bring the tool to Miami-Dade, they presented what looks like a promising, and flexible mapping program that is capable of tailoring routes to a number of different riding preferences. I’ll post a link to the beta site later.
- Pedestrians don’t belong on 1-95…
- Yet another person dies trying to bypass a Tri-Rail railroad crossing…
- Buy local produce! It’s a key part of creating a sustainable society, a great way to keep money in the local economy, and an effective measure to reduce pollution (less overseas and transcontinental shipments…)
- Get ready for strict water restrictions next year and pretty much every year after that. Anyone else think that perhaps the County should mandate the installation of water saving devices (such as technology which reuses sink greywater for toilet use) for all new construction?
- The return of Urban Parks. Finally!
- After they created the largest bike sharing network (note the absence of the popular word scheme, its a network, not a ploy) in the world and reintroduced streetcars to their urban landscape; Parisians are now getting ready to embrace electric car sharing service…
- Collapse of the housing market signals the end of suburban sprawl? James Howard Kunstler thinks so…
- Bike Boxes, what a novel concept to show drivers they aren’t the only ones on the road. Dual bike lanes and Bike Boxes in NYC are even more progressive…
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