Posts by: Mike Lydon

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These images are always fun, and instructive.  According to Gizmodo, 42 Brompton folding bicycles fit into one parking space.

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South Florida livable city advocates, don’t forget that Miami 21 makes its way back to the City Commission on Friday, September 4th at 10am. Apparently,  there will be opportunity for the public to comment so it’s really important that you come out to support the effort.  Below is a message sent from Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk  to Miami 21 advocates late last week.

On behalf of the entire Miami 21 team, our sincere thanks for your show of support at the August 6th public hearing. We were gratified, inspired and moved by residents of all ages who came out and spoke so eloquently about why the City needs Miami 21.

We are sure that the positive turnout had an enormous effect on the Commission and is in large part due to why it is coming back so soon for another hearing. While we hope it will move quickly to a Commission discussion, there is still the possibility that the hearing be reopened again for public comment. Thus it is important to have a room full of supporters again. We urge you to attend September 4th at 10:00am to express your support. We remain very hopeful for a positive turnout and vote on this day.

You may also read an article about Miami 21 that I penned for the Next American City Magazine here.

See you on Friday!

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A partnership between the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County has yielded a slew of new bicycle safety bus stop advertisements targeting motorists. The main message: Share the road, give at least three feet of width when passing, and bicyclists have the right to use the full  travel lane. Great message to spread, right?

Just one small problem: many of the ads were placed on the wrong side of the doublesided bus stop advertisement kiosks, which means that motorists (and bicyclists if riding properly) traveling along the city’s many one-way downtown streets will never see them!

I have been told that this unfortunate error will be rectified shortly. Let’s hope so…

Great ad, but not one motorist, bus driver, or bicyclist will see this on Northeast 1st Avenue.

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A recent op-ed published in Newsweek decried the subsidies we give to our rail networks.  Apparently, the author thinks the billions we spend on highways pays for itself.  Thanks to Saint Louis Urban Workshop for flipping this argument on its head. Read carefully to get the full meaning of this truly intelligent post.

The Obama Eisenhower and every subsequent administration’s enthusiasm for high-speed rail endless highway and road building is a dispiriting example of government’s inability to learn from past mistakes. Since 1971, the federal government has poured almost $35 billion $1.89 trillion in subsidies into Amtrak air and highway funding with few public benefits that favor a few over many.

At most least, we’ve gotten negligible reductions—invisible and statistically insignificant- unprecedented and dangerous increases in congestion, oil use or greenhouse gases. What’s mainly being provided is subsidized transportation for a small sliver of the population. In a country where 140 135 130 million people go to work every day, Amtrak has 78,000 daily passengers. A typical trip is Some trips are subsidized by about $50, some more, some less.

Given this, you’d think even the dullest politician wouldn’t expand rail highway and road subsidies, especially considering the almost $11 trillion in projected federal budget deficits between now and 2019. But no, the every administration has made high-speed rail spending more on highways and roads a top priority. It’s already proposed spending $13 billion more than $100 billion ($8 $49 billion in the “stimulus” package and more than $1 $50 billion annually for five years) as a down payment on high-speed rail in 10 “corridors,” including Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and Houston to New Orleans to maintain and build roads between places like Muncie Hollow, OH and Cedar Canyons, IN.

The White House promises fabulous benefits suggests that our transportation policy is too heavily skewed toward unsustainable roads and highways. High-speed rail “will loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways,” says Vice President Biden. A high-speed rail system would eliminate carbon dioxide emissions “equal to removing 1 million cars from our roads,” adds the president. Relieve congestion. Fight global warming. Reduce oil imports. The vision is seductive practical. The audience is willing educated. Many Americans love trains know that train travel can be more efficient and more enjoyable and regard other countries’ systems (say, Spain’s rapid trains between Madrid and Barcelona, running at about 150 mph) as evidence of U.S. technological transportation policy inferiority.

There’s only one catch: The vision is a mirage requires policy changes. The costs of high-speed rail would be huge less than highways and roads, and the public benefits meager greater.

President Obama’s The current highway and road network may will never be built maintained. It’s doubtful private investors will advance the money, and once government officials acknowledge the full costs, they’ll retreat. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office U.S. Department of Transportation cited a range of construction maintenance only costs for highways and roads, from $22 million a mile to $132 million a mile of about $850,000 per mile per year. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser figures $50 million a mile might be a plausible average. A 250-mile system would cost $12.5 billion and 10 systems, $125 billion.

That would be is only the beginning. Ticket prices All roads and parking lots would surely continue to be subsidized; otherwise, no one would ride the trains drive their car or park anywhere. Would all the subsidies be justified by public benefits detrimentsless more congestion, fewer more highway accidents, lower higher greenhouse gases?

In an blog-posted analysis, Glaeser made generous some assumptions for trains (“Personally, I almost always prefer trains to driving”) and still found that costs vastly outweigh benefits expanding our passenger train network is worth exploring. Consider Obama’s claim about removing the equivalent of 1 million cars. Even if it came true (doubtful), it would represent less than one-half of 1 percent of the 254 million registered vehicles in 2007 thousands of tons of greenhouse gases not released into our atmosphere.

What works in Europe and Asia won’t will work in the United States (think the Autobahn and Medicaid). Even abroad, passenger trains highways and roads are subsidized. But the subsidies are more justifiable because geography and energy policies differ.

Densities are much higher, if you insist on counting places like Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and others, and high densities favor rail with direct connections between heavily populated city centers and business districts. In Japan, density is 880 people per square mile; it’s 653 in Britain, 611 in Germany and 259 in France. By contrast, plentiful land and $Billions in subsidies in the United States has led to suburbanized homes, offices and factories. Density is 86 people per square mile. Trains can’t pick up most people where they live and work and take them to where they want to go. Cars can. Though densely populated corridors in the U.S. have population densities greater than Germany or France.

Distances also matter. America is big; trips are longer, though not in our densely populated urban corridors. Beyond 400 to 500 miles, fast trains can’t compete with planes. Finally, Europe and Japan tax car transportation more heavily, pushing people to trains assessing the true cost of driving a car to the driver. In August 2008, notes the GAO, gasoline in Japan was $6.50 a gallon. Americans regard $4 a gallon as an outrage. Proposals for stiff gasoline taxes (advocated by many, including me) go nowhere are opposed by those invoking folklore and asphalt as good policy.

The mythology of high-speed rail endless highways is not just misinformed; it’s antisocial. Governments at all levels are already overburdened. Compounding the burdens with new continued and increasing wasteful subsidies would squeeze spending for more vital needs—schools, police and (ironically) mass transit. High-speed rail could divert augment funds from invested in mass-transit systems that, according to a study by Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute, have huge maintenance backlogs: $16 billion in Chicago; $17 billion in New York; $12.2 billion in Washington; $5.8 billion in San Francisco. According to the Christian Science Monitor the highway, road and bridge maintenance backlog is $155 billion and growing as the $75 billion in annual spending cannot keep pace with infrastructure deterioration. Any high-speed rail system highway or road should be financed locally; states should decide and pay for their transportation priorities.

All this seems familiar, because it’s Amtrak our national transportation policy writ large: the triumph of fantasy ignorance and folklore over fact. The same false arguments used to justify Amtrak roads and highways (less congestion, pollution, etc. individual freedom, the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, etc.) are recycled. Evidence and experience count for little. Obama and Biden pander to popular prejudices seek a new transportation policy instead of recognizing blindly adhering to past failure. Boondoggles become respectable. A White House so frivolous serious in embracing dubious commonsense spending cannot must be believed when it professes concern about future taxes and budget deficits.

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‘Just a friendly reminder that Bike Miami Rides is set to take place tomorrow at 8:30 am. Meet us at Mary Brickell Village for a pleasant, police escorted ride through some of Miami’s most interesting neighborhoods.

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I was fortunate enough to vacation in Ecuador last week. I was certainly impressed with  the country’s diverse, natural  landscapes, but also appreciated how the capital city of Quito is  starting to approach transportation.

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The above is not a streetcar or light rail station. Rather, it Quito’s Bus Rapid Transit system called Trole (Trolley Bus).  Note that riders (more than 220,000 per day on its  single  line) pay the fare before entering the station, which speeds boarding time. Also, most of the line operates on physically-separated bus lanes with signal prioritization so that the system does not have to compete with motor vehicle traffic.  Additionally, buses run on short headways, 60 seconds during peak hours, which allows for an extremely high level of service. While  such BRT systems have yet to find much traction in the United States, South American cities  like Bogota and Quito seem to be having good success with BRT as a cheaper than rail, but more effective than  normal bus, transportation solution.

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Quito has also implemented phase 1 of its first physically-separated bicycle system, dubbed Ciclo-Q. The fledgling system operates within the road right-of-way in many places, while using sidewalk space in others. In my estimation, those segments within the roadway (pictured above) operate more smoothly than those on the sidewalk where too many curb cuts, fairly narrow sidewalks, and driveways interrupt the bikeway, create conflict with pedestrians, and compromise safety (pictured below). Bikeways on sidewalks have been known to work in many places, but are typically placed on sidewalks with much wider widths and offer a commensurate level  of safety countermeasures, such as  prioritization signals and stark pavement/material contrast to delineate the bikeway.

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Pati Menas, the city’s alternative transportation coordinator had this to say about  the Ciclo-Q system and its low level of use, “even if now there are not many cyclists on the route, it is necessary to provide the people with infrastructure. Otherwise, we will never start promoting non-motorized transport.”  I couldn’t agree more and expect that with their own “Bike Miami” like ciclovias now humming, the Ciclo-Q will only see more use as the network is expanded.

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In the small  town of Banos, located just outside the larger city of Cuenca,  I was particularly enamored with the ratio of pedestrian space to motor vehicle space. Within the town center, along its traditional grid, the roadway comprises no more than 1/3 of the public realm.  The rest of the space is dedicated purely to pedestrians in the form of wide sidewalks. This ratio makes for an enriched street life and allows for safe bicycling within the town’s streets. Sadly,  such a humane ratio is normally just the opposite in American cities, where pedestrians are lucky to have 10% of the space between buildings.

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Other traffic control devices  that caught my eye were the sheer number of speed bumps used within the Ecuadorian roadway system. One may find them throughout the cities and even on  some of the more rural highways.  Speed bumps can be controversial for many types of users, but they are certainly well-respected traffic-control devices in Ecuador. Finally, when traveling around the country one notices dozens of unique pavement markings that come in the form of blue hearts. The hearts, I am told, designate the location of traffic fatalities. Such awareness building techniques are sobering, especially when one sees a grouping of hearts. Nonetheless, they offer a vivid reminder that roadway safety remains an important issue. With over 40,000 traffic-related fatalities a year in the United States, one would think that such measures may also prove powerful.

In general, you find that any place you visit outside of the United States seems to have a richer, more embellished public realm. Moreover, transportation innovation also seems to be taking place outside of the US as well.  For those of us who are urbanists, this certainly makes vacationing a real pleasure. However, iIt also provides inspiration for what we can, and should be doing better here in the United States.

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Just a quick reminder that tomorrow, at 6pm, I will be unveiling portions of the Miami Bicycle Master Plan. Collin Worth, the city’s bicycle coordinator will also be providing an update on those bicycle projects that are already in the works.

Please join us at the Grapeland Park Recreation Center, located at 1550 NW 37th Avenue in Miami.

I look forward to hearing your questions and input for the final draft.

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Back in July we alerted TM readers to Dwell Magazine’s ReBurbia competition. Well, the submissions are in, and unsurprisingly, the 20 finalists are filled with super creative, but fantastical, totally outrageous proposals.

We know suburbia needs retrofitting. The 20th century was about building the damn thing, but seeing the results, we have to use the 21st century to correct all of the  ills proffered by such an untenable way of organizing the built environment.  Indeed, retrofitting suburbia is likely to be  the biggest collective project for 21st century urban planners.

With that in mind, please considering visiting the Reburbia finalist site and voting for the Sprawl Repair Kit, designed by Galina Tahchieva and others at DPZ.  Simply click on the little red house in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Voting closes tomorrow night.

Your vote is important, as it will send the message to all Dwell readers and beyond that as fun as flying airships and treehouses are, we need practical and realistic solutions for a very serious 21st century problem.  As a side note, the techniques outlined in the preferred proposal above encompass those very same principles embodied by Miami 21.

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The Herald reports that five people standing outside of an Allapattah bar were injured last night when an enraged driver stole a car and plowed into them. The suspect in the hit-and-run has been identified, but not apprehended. If you have any information, please contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.

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Miami Mayor Manny Diaz’s statement on Miami 21 vote
I am exceptionally proud of the number of Miamians who embraced Miami 21 and was proud to sit through the debate last night. There can be no doubt that we successfully raised the public discourse in our city. Speaker after speaker stressed the importance of sustainability, climate change, walkability, pedestrian-friendly streets, bicycling, historic preservation, open spaces, health, obesity, etc. Speaker after speaker reflected the new Miami, a different demographic that embraces the urban experience and advocates for a very different Miami.

However, I am also extremely disappointed with the Commission’s final vote on Miami 21. This disappointment is not for me, but for the thousands of Miamians who participated in designing a new Miami during the course of the last four years. Regrettably, Miami’s residents will continue to be exposed to the monthly victories of the special interests that place their particular projects over the public good. Individual properties will continue to be re-zoned without regard to their neighborhood context or their place in the fabric of the entire city. The status quo will continue to promote a Miami with a little and mostly hostile public realm, uninviting streets, unsightly and exposed parking garages, poor or nonexistent transitions in residential neighborhoods, non-functioning public spaces and ugly commercial corridors.

For the moment, we are unclear as to next steps. However, I am very clear in my deep concern that last night’s Commission action is a sign of things to come, a return to the old Miami of politics as usual.

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Miami 21 will likely be ongoing for hours longer….you may watch it live here.

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Anti-Miami 21 Activist Richard Strell has penned an ill-informed screed citing that Miami 21 is anti-bicycling. This is a clear attempt to rouse confusion and anger amongst an interest group that has gained a considerable voice in the past two years. As a professional urban planner who specializes in bicycle planning, I must weigh in.

The crux of Strell’s argument seems to fall upon the issue of street width and pedestrian accommodation, claiming that the provision of narrower streets and wider sidewalks is inherently bicycle-unfriendly. This is not true, and a crude simplification of how street design happens in Miami.

First, Miami 21 is a zoning code that primarily regulates land use and the form and relationships of buildings. It is not a street design manual. It is not a pedestrian master plan. It is not a bicycle master plan. Rather, Miami 21 sets out to ensure that those buildings, and the land uses housed within them, relate better to each other. In doing so, Miami 21 is concerned with creating and supporting a better public realm,  one that is more conducive to walking and bicycling. The current zoning code does this miserably and does nothing to support the needs and interests of bicyclists and pedestrians.  All one has to do is try to walk or bicycle through the city to witness this.

Because Miami 21  does not set forth street design provisions,  the City decided instead to pursue its own Complete Streets legislation, which was adopted earlier this year. The Public Works and Planning department are currently writing these standards so that all future roadway projects include the interests of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, and yes, motor vehicles. Balancing all of these needs is not easy, but the policy will be in place  so that Miami’s street design matches up with the proposed improvements to land use regulation under Miami 21. The two,  are therefore intended to maximize the mobility and accessibility for all Miami’s residents and to be mutually supportive. You can’t have great streets without good land use, and vice-versa.

Furthermore, the City of Miami  does not have jurisdiction over a large percentage of the streets appropriate for bicycle facilities. Indeed, the major streets and avenues within the city are regulated, designed, and maintained by FDOT and the County. What the above Complete Streets legislation does do is give the city an official policy to use when working with FDOT and the County to ensure that wider sidewalks and bicycle facilities get included in projects where they previously were not.

So what about the claim that pedestrians needs will taken into account before bicyclists?

Well, they should be! Every trip starts off by walking, and the vast majority of people in this city are able to walk with their own two feet. If we don’t allow that to happen safely, then we certainly shouldn’t expect to get transit or bicycling to work either. And since the city has control over the neighborhood streets, I think its wise to keep those streets narrow, add adequate sidewalks (so many still don’t have them!) and let proper, contextually sensitive bicycle facilities work within the framework of a walkable city. Indeed, in most of the residential neighborhoods, widening the streets to accommodate bicycle lanes would mean either taking sidewalks away, or taking property from private land owners. I am guessing that Mr. Strell would not want either, especially in his own Edgewater neighborhood.

Finally, the city is taking great strides to improve bicycle conditions within the city limits. If anything, I have chronicled those efforts extensively on this blog. The current master plan, which was actually recommended in Miami 21, is part of that effort and will work well, and in parrallel with Miami 21 as both are implemented.  Bicycle parking is expanding, safety signs are being placed around the city in cooperation with the County (Anyone been on 14th Street in Park West lately?!), and new bicycle facilities are either being planned or are under construction. I have full confidence that the City will continue to support bicycling after Miami 21 is adopted. Both go hand in hand, and both will help Miami become a healthier and more sustainable city.

So, the question remains, if Richard is so concerned about bicycling, why have I never seen him at a single bicycle event, meeting, or rally? Why aren’t all of the bicycle activists who forwarded his email on to me familiar with him? Don’t be fooled, Richard does not care about bicyclists so much as he cares about derailing Miami 21.

Desperation is a stinky cologne and Richard Strell’s anti-Miami 21 screed is as odoriferous as it gets.

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Steve Mouzon, a prolific writer, architect and progenitor of the Original Green movement, has weighed in on Miami 21.  Steve says:

Miami 21 is not without controversy. Chief amongst the detractors are architects, who deride Miami 21 because they think it will take away their design freedom. Apparently, they want to be able to zig, zag, and wiggle any way they choose without regard to the fabric of the city their buildings are helping to create. But we’ve seen nearly a century of this approach, and the results have been disastrous. Buildings that shout “look at me” as they twist and writhe with no concern for the street might provide notoriety for their architect, but they normally do nothing for the neighborhood.

By now many of you readers have probably seen the latest Herald article published online last night. Journalist Andres Viglucci does a solid job covering the result of the ongoing  Biscayne Boulevard corridor, which is redeveloping using Miami 21’s core tenets. To those who know and understand the power and importance of form-based codes, the results come as now surprise.

There is little magical or glamorous along the 12 blocks, from Northeast 18th to 30th streets. It’s no South Beach. But the success of city planners’ efforts, using principles that underpin Miami 21, seem undeniable: They have fostered commerce and pedestrian traffic by mixing retail and residential uses, while retooling how new buildings meet the street to make them sidewalk-friendly.

Along sidewalks where prostitutes once owned the night, there are people pushing baby strollers — with babies in them. There are people riding bicycles, jogging, shopping, walking dogs, grabbing lunch or coffee with a friend — even walking to work.

Never mind Starbucks (although there is a new one anchoring the north end of the reviving stretch, at 30th Street). If dog groomers are any measure, the Boulevard along the old Edgewater neighborhood has truly arrived. It has two.

‘You know what’s attractive? There are dry cleaners and restaurants and all the little conveniences you need, and there didn’t used to be,” said David Carolan, director of sales for the new City 24 residential and commercial project on 24th Street, whose ground floor is home to a personal training gym, wellness center and the New York Bagels shop.

‘There is a new shop every month, and we’re in the worst economic downturn in 75 years,” he said. ‘That’s pretty powerful.’

Particularly important are the images attached to the online article. These show the stark differences in what the old zoning code 11,000 is known to produce, and what Miami 21 can replicate along the city’s commercial corridors.  To be perfectly clear, however, buildings need not be 8-35 stories high to create this type of livability. Rather, redeveloping or building new buildings at 2-4 stories that conform to Miami 21 will also do much to alter Miami’s urban pattern. As Tony mentioned yesterday, Miami 21 makes this possible. At present the current zoning code does not allow for any development in this nice urban, but human-scale middle ground.

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