FDOT continues to promote car-centric and dangerous solutions

When we go to BPAC meetings, we oftentimes leave with a feeling that county and city projects in Miami-Dade County take too long to come to fruition. But at least most of the time there at least appears to be some sense that the people working on the city and county level are genuinely trying.

Most of the time when FDOT appears you scratch your head and leave with a feeling that the agency and its representatives simply don’t understand – or worse, don’t want to understand (and from this criticism we specifically exclude their regular contractor-representative Stewart Robinson), despite having had some assurances from FDOT employees that they actually care about bikes. The September BPAC meeting was no exception.

That’s not quite true. FDOT brought an actual member of the agency to the meeting (though we have yet to see the bicycle / pedestrian coordinator for District 6 at a BPAC meeting), together with a contractor who was the main spokesperson. After initially presenting a project on SW 1st Street between 27 Ave and 2nd Ave as well as portions of Flagler Street with bike facilities over the course of the planning stages, the current plans have now removed dedicated bike lanes on large portions because it would take parking away and it may slow down traffic.

You could be forgiven to think “here come the old arguments again”. Given that there has now – for a long time – been evidence that higher speeds kill more pedestrians and cyclists when hit (for those really eager, take a look here a  review of the data by the U. S. Department of Transportation), one would have thought that FDOT would have taken note. The push back from the committee members was virtually unanimous. All those who spoke expressed their concern that the agency did not live up to its mandate. For some reason, FDOT appears to think that providing parking is part of their mandate. We have yet to find that in any pertinent legislation or regulation and are happy to stand corrected (yes, this is an explicit call for FDOT to provide documents to that effect) should the reverse be true.

When confronted with the fact that the Miami Parking Authority had determined that parking spaces on one side of SW 1st Street could be removed without a discernible decrease in the level of parking provided (parking is underutilized and parking spaces exist on both sides of SW 1st Street), the argument was brought forth that FDOT had no mandate to take something away that already existed. This is exemplary of FDOT’s mindset: don’t inconvenience anyone that drives a car – which almost by default decreases the safety for cyclists.

What FDOT’s mandate actually entails is to provide safe streets. For those within FDOT that need a reminder, please take a look at your own website which has this nice-looking document:

There is also a requirement to build complete streets, to the extent possible. For anyone wanting to take a closer look at the legislative mandate that FDOT has, you can find it here. In a nutshell, there are three reasons that FDOT can bring forward for not including bicycle and pedestrian facilities in their projects (note also that “special emphasis shall be given to projects in or within 1 mile of an urban area”, which SW 1st Street undoubtedly falls under). These are limited to

– where the establishment of bicycle and pedestrian ways would be contrary to public safety;

– when the cost would be excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use;

– and where other available means or factors indicate an absence of need.

None of this applies in the context of SW 1st Street. Public safety actually demands the inclusion of such facilities, the costs are negligible for FDOT since they do not have to purchase land to put these facilities in place and there is certainly a need for such facilities. Note also that the toolbox that FDOT can rely on for such facilities does NOT include sharrows. One wonders why the FDOT representatives made arguments that do not rely on its actual mandate, but bring forth other reasons which happen to be more convenient for one mode of transportation (cars), but increase the risk for all others (bikes, pedestrians, public transit).

The question ultimately comes down to this: is FDOT willing to actually follow the legislative mandate or is it trying to make arguments that have nothing at all to do with that mandate? Is FDOT finally willing to give priority to safety over car parking? This means – and this appears to be the biggest challenge to the thinking in FDOT District 6 – that the prioritization that is currently in place is wrong. What became apparent is that car parking is more important to FDOT engineers and project managers than the lives and the well-being of people. Given FDOT’s dismal track record in District 6, we should not be surprised.

We simply expect more from FDOT. We expect FDOT representatives to be familiar with studies (see here, here and here) that show that bicycling facilities actually increase business and increase property values. We expect that (in line with comments by BPAC member Matthew Toro) that planners  think in a forward-looking fashion rather than applying the same old methods that have moved this state to the sad state it is in – home to the four most dangerous metro areas in the country for pedestrians (and it is no stretch to think that the same is true for cyclists). This would include providing studies that take account of an increasing number of people who – voluntarily or involuntarily – will not drive in the future (as opposed to presenting a large increase). It would also involve taking these studies seriously in the projections of users that FDOT provides. That would then open the toolbox for FDOT to think more creatively about a five lane street – three of which are reserved for moving traffic and two of which are used for parking – by thinking about and enabling systems like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or at least dedicated bus lanes / shared bus and bike lanes (see here and here) so as to advantage public transit over individualized motor traffic. None of this is possible in the minds of people whose only idea – we are not talking about prioritization – appears to be moving cars.

So, here we go again. FDOT must be more serious about having a conversation about creating a safe environment for all road users. In our last blog entry about FDOT, we said that we

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.

We still have hope. Please send Gus Pego, the head of FDOT District 6, an email (if you have trouble with the link, his email address is gus.pego@dot.state.fl.us) stating that the proposed design for this project and others is inadequate and that FDOT – yet again – does not fulfill its required mandate to provide safe streets for all users.

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News from the County Public Works (and something else) Department …

We received the following email from Miami Dade County. It took some time after we were told that “no option is off the table”, but it appears that a small chance is finally coming. Thank you to those making biking safer in the county.

 

MODIFICATION TO PAVEMENT MARKINGS ON RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY

BEGINS ON TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012

 

(MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Florida, May 18, 2012) – The Public Works and Waste Management Department will modify the pavement markings on the Bear Cut Bridge, William Powell Bridge and West Bridge of the Rickenbacker Causeway to provide a safety improvement.  The marked separation between motor vehicles and the bicycle lanes will be upgraded to a double white line with the left of the two lines incorporating vibratory ridges.  This will have the combined effect of reinforcing the prohibition of motor vehicles entering the bicycle lanes as well as providing a vibrating effect to alert drifting vehicles.

This work is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at approximately 9 a.m., and should be completed by the end of the day, weather permitting.

During the installation of the pavement markings, a partial roadway closure will be in effect. The timing of the work is being scheduled to avoid the rush hour periods; however, motorists may experience traffic delays.

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City of Miami Bicycle Action Update

Update from the March City of Miami Bicycle Action Committee Meeting

Every month, local residents, advocates and Commissioner’s representative meet to discuss progress on the Bicycle Master Plan. If you live in the City of Miami, please tell your commissioner that this is important to you and encourage them to participate! If they already do, your support is still positive.

The City of Miami has been dropping bike lanes and sharrows all over the place. Some of these new facilities have been installed with funding from a special fund at Miami-Dade County – so if you don’t live in the City of Miami but think your neighborhood needs some white paint action, contact Jeff Cohen at jcpe@miamidade.gov.

A few other things on the table:

+The Bike Coalition is bringing back Bike Miami on May 8th! Thanks to a grant from the Miami Downtown Development Authority and the strong support and leadership of City of Miami Bicycle Coordinator Collin Worth, we’ll be helping to coordinate a bicycle block party at Mary Brickell Village. Mark your calendars! The event will close South Miami Avenue to motor vehicles from 9th St to 15th Rd. If you would like to be a sponsor of the event – so that we can better promote it, have more music and other programming – then please contact us at 305.982.7343. Already on board, Mary Brickell Village and the Dutch Consulate. Oh yes, there will be an Orange Parade!

+We’d also like to bring back Bike Miami Rides, a program that encourage recreational cyclists to try commuting by showing the basics of safe road riding.

+The City continues to press FDOT for more safety improvements around Biscayne/Brickell.

+BikeShare! The City is seriously considering bringing DecoBike (or something similar) – we’ll let you know when a formal request for proposals is released.

+Very exciting news – The Virginia Key Mountain Bike Trails are laying out a new advanced trail and plans for a new novice trail are in the works. Get involved with the VKMTB Club on facebook.

And here is a map and list of City of Miami Bicycle Projects. For more information on the BAC and to get involved, please contact Collin Worth.

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The map is clearly unclear- for the pdf version, please email Collin Worth. Thanks.

City of Miami Bicycle Action Committee: Getting Good Works Done.

SFBC Shout Out to Collin Worth and the City of Miami Bicycle Action Committee for getting things done! At this month’s meeting of the BAC, members addressed important issues ranging from grants the City is applying for (fingers crossed), County/City coordination (Don’t miss the meeting this Thursday!), the status of the (never-ending) Virginia Key North Point trails, fundraising (Jerseys coming soon), new and planned bicycle lanes (and sharrows!!), city-sponsored public service announcements (designed by Yours Truly!), Bike Miami Rides and much more. For full details on what was discussed and announced, read on. Continue reading

City of Miami Bike Action Committee

The City of Miami Bicycle Action Committee is getting stronger, more formalized and more focused. At May’s monthly meeting, the group asked member Richard Cahlin to become our official Chair. Bicycle Coordinator Collin Worth will take on the roll of Recording Secretary and will be updating the website, BikeMiamiBlog.wordpress.com more frequently, with the help of members. (In case you missed it, the Bike Miami Days Team has become the Open Streets Project, with their own blog at openstreets.wordpress.com)

Collin gave us some good updates:

  1. The new Director of Capital Improvements, Alice Bravo (formerly of FDOT), is working with the County Water & Sewer Department to get the support we were promised for the Virginia Key North Point trails project. Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff (still the only commissioner to send a representative to the meeting) communicates to us that he is on top of the lobbying effort, as well.
  2. Bike Lanes on NE 2nd Ave remain ‘about to break ground’. Funded by stimulus dollars, we think it may just be the Biscayne Blvd reconstruction that is holding it up. Soon (!?) we’ll have bike lanes from NE 20th to 84th Streets.
  3. FDOT is finalizing/fixing their portion of Coral Way. Bike lanes were striped incorrectly, leading to confusion among road users of the 2 and 4-wheel varieties so FDOT is blocking out the mistaken portions with black paint.

Also, bike racks are coming! Collin worked hard on a grant from the federal government that will fund ALL of the bike racks requested by the City of Miami Bicycle Master Plan. He tells us racks will go up at schools first and promises that they will be the ‘right kind’, as identified in the Plan. Where do you think a rack needs to go in the City of Miami? NOW is the time to email your request to cworth@miamigov.com. He asks that you get your request in by Monday, June 7th.

Bike Miami Days will return in the Fall, probably in September. City of Coral Gables Commissioner Ralph Cabrera wants to partner up with Miami and link the cities. How wonderful would that be?

City of Miami bicycle jerseys will be available in a few months for sale with all proceeds to benefit programs in the City of Miami. The committee asked if we, the South Florida Bike Coalition, would take in the money for these projects and we are cheerfully looking into how that might work.

SFBC also came up with an idea for a City of Miami public service message campaign that the committee would like to see on those new Clear Channel digital billboards. BAC members generally would rather not have digital billboards but if we get free space, SFBC suggests they say, simply, “Bicycle more.” What do you think?

Each month, the BAC focuses on a particular issue and drafts a white paper on the topic. This month, I was asked to draft the paper on the topic of bike corrals – where on-street parking lanes are converted to high-capacity bike parking through the use of curbs and/or temporary lane dividers, bike racks and signage. It’s not dissimilar from scooter parking and is short-term solution for busy areas. I like the idea of promoting the launch of a demo project for people to look at in one of the city’s denser retail streets.

From Miami-Dade County: Jeff Cohen reports that signs for Bike Route 1 / Commodore Trail off-road leisure path are being finalized to be ready to go up behind City of Miami City Hall. We hope they go up soon! This is a pretty place to enjoy the public waterfront and we think way-finding signage is always important, but particularly on recreational routes that need to nudge sometimes if they are to be discovered.

If you live, work, ride in the City of Miami, we encourage you to contact your commissioner and get involved with the BAC. It’s a great way to serve your community-

City of Miami Bicycle Action Committee Meeting

Today’s meeting of the City of Miami Bicycle Action Committee covered a dizzying number of topics from grants to fundraising, white papers new and old, road projects, mountain biking trails and more. Here’s what you missed:

1) Mack Cycle Love: Local bike shop Mack Cycle and Fitness owner Mary Jane not only serves on the committee, she brought also good news and brownies with her today! Mack Cycle is the group that made yesterday’s Bike Miami Days possible. They donated the City’s first ‘bikeshare’ bicycle and have offered to become the first shop to sell the new City of Miami bike jerseys.

2) Richard Cahlin, another member of the BAC, presented the almost-finished mock-up of the City’s first signature bike jersey. We hope to sell these to raise money for city bike projects. They jersey/short set have not been priced yet, but it looks like $75 per piece with a discount on the set.

3) Bike Coordinator Collin Worth reported on new federal dollars to be directed to installing new bike racks throughout the city. While the Bicycle Master Plan already identifies locations for parking, we will need to do site visits and mark out specific locations and types. Stay tuned for call for volunteers-

View from the (future) Virginia Key North Point Trails

4) Virginia Key North Point Trails finally broke ground on Saturday! The trails will take weeks to clear properly and then funding will need to be identified for staffing and maintenance but… we’re on our way! John Voss of the Everglades Bicycle Club is co-directing the project. Learn more by joining their facebook group, Key Biscayne Bicycle Club, here.

5) Miami-Dade County Project Update: SW 2nd Ave bike lanes are in! This is a very important connector for the 15th Road and Coral Way lanes network, which brings us to…

6) Coral Way Bike Lanes to be fixed! That’s right – many of you have seen the awkward, confusing, non-standard bike lanes on this road that were striped by FDOT. The City has met with them and we are promised that the solid ‘curb returns’ and other problems will be fixed as soon as possible. Great news.

7) Key Biscayne also set for improvements: County Public Works commented, “We’re listening to every blog and letter. We’re not dismissing anything.”

If we're lucky...

8) Other projects in the pipeline include NE 82nd St – to get Share the Road signs from the Bay to Biscayne Blvd. (Thanks to Collin Worth for pushing hard for something better; at least we are getting this)

9) Every bicycle project in City Commissioner Carollo’s district 3 remains on hold. We have no idea why and Collin Worth would not elaborate. I saw the Commissioner at Bike Miami Days yesterday on a very spiffy mountain bike and he was having a great time. Still, it seems the commissioner is not interested in our emails. Please, IF you live in the district (Little Havana area, map here) then please call his office.

10) Bike Miami Days is on hold. Yes, it’s true. Commissioner Sarnoff (again, the only commissioner who sends a representative to the meetings) remains committed to 6 per year but the City has no plans to bring back BMD before the Fall. Budget, tropical storms are the two big reasons.

11) But… Commissioner Sarnoff is working to bring back the Coconut Grove and Downtown Miami bike races! That’s right, we could get a criterium next year! Mack Cycle is already working with partners to host a crit on April 17th… our fingers are crossed and we look forward to working with anyone who wants to make this happen.

12) New White Paper: The BAC drafted a white paper supporting the designation of a percentage of any monies coming from the proposed red light cameras for bike/ped improvements. It’s in draft form right now so if you’d like to review it, please let us know.