FDOT Calls, Tells Us That Cyclists Should Not Use FDOT Roads

The South Florida Bike Coalition is always working behind the scenes to improve conditions for bicycling – here’s one recent (long) story about how we got FDOT to call us, and what happened next.

A Long Saga Over Bird / US 1

I was having a long back and forth with FDOT District 6’s bicycle / pedestrian coordinator Ken Jeffries about the design of the intersection of Bird / US 1, specifically how to make a safe crossing east to west at US 1 to get onto the M-Path. The usual commute involves heading south on the M-Path from the 27th and Bird area.

My main concern is people making illegal left hand turns which in the past has led to a collision. After repeated emails and reminders to Mr. Jeffries (answers were slow in coming), FDOT agreed to install a ‘skip line’ and additional signage. I’m happy that FDOT responded in action, but this simply doesn’t make it safer. It’s a band aid on a broken and dangerous intersection.

US 1 / Bird Road

So, I asked very specific questions about the reasons for this decision and also “Do you think this makes it safer?” and was told: “I suggest that you contact the City of Miami Police Department to address the enforcement aspect of this issue”. Or, as I heard it, Leave us alone. Which I nor the SFBC as an organization can do.  A few days later my phone rang.

It was Mr. Jeffries’ supervisor who introduced himself as an “avid cyclist”! Could this be the turning point? A new leaf in terms of open and honest communication?

It started out on a positive note, with “FDOT’s number one concern is safety. So far, so good.

So, what is a person on a bike to do at Bird & US1?

Then Things Turned Sour

“As a cyclist I would advise you avoid it. It isn’t safe.”

What?! Wait a second. Can’t you do something? What about your big priority, safety?

“I wouldn’t bike there…. There’s nothing we could do.”

So, FDOT is building unsafe roads and just “can’t” improve the safety standard. I guess I shouldn’t be frustrated. FDOT has that track record. So maybe it wasn’t a surprise, but it is still a huge disappointment for all of us here.

The Takeaway

While the comments were not meant to convey official policy, the message became clear: FDOT roads are not built for bikes. When I pointed out that there are plenty of FDOT managed roads that have been rebuilt as of late – think: Brickell or Biscayne Blvd – and none of the redesigns included biking as a viable alternative I was told, again, that I shouldn’t be on those roads. “As a sensible cyclist, why would you go there? I would look for alternatives.” Now, this is all fine and well in a world which consists of highways (let’s call this the FDOT world), but neither Brickell (with has the highest population density south of New York) nor Biscayne are highways. We have I-95 for that.

What about the person who lives in an area, say on Brickell, and who has no good alternative to get to her destination? Despite repeatedly asking that question, the subtext was: You’re out of luck.

Despite honest efforts by FDOT’s own “avid cyclist,” it is clear that the agency does not understand that bikes are transportation. Because on the end, it all boiled down to the dreaded LOS (‘level of service’) argument.

The sad truth is the mindset, prevalent even at this level: We have to put those cars through and if you want to be safe don’t use our roads. Never mind that less and less people drive and more and more people are choosing or being forced to use bikes to get where they need to go.

Our conversation raised other issues, such as the lack of right of way that the County is willing to provide to FDOT. I am not an expert on this issue, but suggested that maybe we have reached the point that we have to make do with what we have. And we would have to do this smartly. Building for more traffic is the opposite of that. To that I also didn’t get an answer.

Where is FDOT?

We would like for FDOT to become engaged. After three years of participating in public meetings – from BPAC to project-specific meetings like Brickell – I have yet to meet bicycle / pedestrian coordinator Ken Jeffries in person. According to his supervisor, Mr. Jeffries has done more than we know for cyclists in this district – I will believe this when I see an FDOT project that takes bikes / pedestrians into serious consideration.

We would like to engage seriously with FDOT. My suggestion for such engagement was that they should attend BPAC meetings themselves (instead of sending an admittedly very knowledgeable contractor) to get a sense of the frustration out there. The reply was that people are busy and have other things to do. I was told that FDOT has a good sense of the sentiment in the cycling community. I don’t know how such sentiments are gauged when you don’t interact.

What now?  

The upshot is that this conversation was more than frustrating. The implication that cyclists should seek alternative routes to those designed by FDOT is telling of a mindset in which bikes don’t play a role.

But I also want to believe that FDOT wants to have a conversation. It may be a long time until we see real progress. In the meantime there is hope.

PS: We invite the FDOT to respond (we also invite FDOT to cycle with us one day). The cycling community, I think at least, wants a conversation.

21 thoughts on “FDOT Calls, Tells Us That Cyclists Should Not Use FDOT Roads

  1. Even worse, this does not seem to be as much of an issue in other FDOT districts. Even in Broward, US1 and many state roads include bike lanes and generally better cycling infrastructure. The bar is pretty low, but is is markedly better just about everywhere else but District 6.

  2. “we also invite FDOT to cycle with us one day”
    I’m reminded of a similar invite a few years ago which was accepted, then canceled by the risk management folks at FDOT D4 because the roads were too dangerous.

  3. Excellent post. I’ve gotten the same exact feelings when speaking to Mr. Jeffries, especially when they try to offload the responsibility for speeding/reckless driving onto the authorities, which could be alleviated in the first place with sensible road designs.

  4. When they come riding with you, be sure to take them on the infinitely safer “bike path” under the metro rail where each and every intersection is an exciting life and death adventure!

      • They just built a bike path in Broward along a canal and under the power lines. It follows Southgate and is on the southern Coral Springs border. I don’t know what they were thinking because the path ends at every street and is far from street corners and crosswalks. I don’t know of any bike riders who are going to want to get off and cross four lanes of traffic and a median where there is no traffic control. I’ve never seen any bikers using this path. I think any area under power lines should be designed as bike super highways. These power lines cross all over both counties and could be a great way to separate bikes and cars.

  5. Rule of thumb: when someone has something to tell you and introduces himself as an “avid cyclist”, usually what will follow will not reflect what a true avid cyclist would think.

    Fortunately, not everyone at FDOT district 6 thinks just like the one you spoke with (as well as Ken Jeffries), and I keep in close contact with them. I will be forwarding this article to them so that they can see it and take the necessary action.

  6. By it’s very nature, the street is a dangerous place for anyone when motorists, cyclists & pedestrians converge to commute. This even applies to your local neighborhood. There are no guarantees in this world.

    • That is not true. It is possible for motorists, cyclists, & pedestrians to use a road in harmony. A quick trip to the Netherlands will demonstrate this.

      • Spot on, Brandt. When a motorist hits a cyclist in the Netherlands, it is 99% of the time the motorist’s fault. This works in a place where the roads make sense for all users. Cyclists are also heavily fined/ticketed when they break rules (ride without lights, against traffic, etc.)

    • It is also an answer that they didn’t want to put in writing or any answer to the original questions that we asked. Funny how that works at times.

      • As commented some years before, in Bal Harbor on A1A it is ILLEGAL to ride a bike on the sidewalk, and the side roads are all blocked off for gated communities, and the boardwalk on the beach is sand and cannot be accessed except through private propery (hotel), so bicycles have NO CHOICE legally than to ride an incredibly busy and dangerous stretch of A1A.

    • flav, as you can see from the post this is just what we did. the invitation is there. whether we get a response from FDOT or not remains to be seen, but we certainly hope so.

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