For the Love of Bayfront Park & Pedal Power

There are so many reasons to love Bayfront Park! Here are ten.

10. Bike Miami Days memories

9. Great place to meet friends for a ride… or a picnic post-ride

8. Bike racks everywhere

7. Miami’s secret hidden urban grotto (shhh! It’s a secret!)

6. Free self-defense classes – don’t touch that bike, bro.

5. Free yoga – good for working out the soreness after a long weekend ride

4. Super bike-friendly (and regular friendly) staff

3. Memories of tris and rides and runs ending in all their race-glory

2. Tim Schmand

1. This (thanks to Tim Schmand):

Image

photo shared by Collin Worth, City of Miami Bike Coordinator

Bayfront Park – that epic urban paradise in Downtown Miami – now uses pedal power to keep its lovely greens, sandy beaches, secret gardens, bike racks, music venues, outdoor yoga studios, public restrooms and all its free, public space clean. How cool is that?

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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.

# # #

A Swedish Car Dealership on Bird Road Used the M-Path as their Private Road … No More

Those of you who regularly use the M-Path in the vicinity of the intersection of Bird Road and US 1 may have noticed that the bike path and the adjacent greenspace just south of the intersection has been used by cars to exit the Volvo dealership located close to that intersection. We have witnessed this several times in the past and heard others say the same thing.

We tried to reason with the dealership after almost having gotten hit a couple of times when their cars used the M-Path as their preferred exit route. They weren’t amenable to any arguments, including the general manager of that dealership. Since we met with Miami Dade Transit officials about the Douglas Road Station (see reports here, here and here, we have been told that speed bumps will go in), we thought we would bring this issue up as well. We were told that something would be done.

MDT is delivering on its promises. Last week we saw construction starting …

This week saw more progress. This will hopefully deter the staff at the Volvo dealership (yes, we blame them more or less fully after seeing three cars leave after closing of business because they apparently can’t be bothered to take the road) from using the M-Path as their preferred exit.

More work may have to be done given that the dealership continues to use the area adjacent to the M-Path as their parking lot and sometimes even the M-Path itself.

Thank you MDT for the work that you are doing on this issue.

PS: We would have preferred a different outcome and not spend public money on this. For one, the dealership people could have been more helpful. But when the general manager – apparently the brother of the owner – conveys you that he doesn’t care about you or what the county says then it seems that all hope is lost on that end. Increased enforcement may have helped in this case, but Miami Dade County PD would have to see this in person and ticket those individuals. We received a somewhat murky response to this suggestion.

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.

Douglas Road Station – back to where things started

A little while ago, we reported on some improvements around the Douglas Road Station, thanks to the engineering people at MDT. This included the installation of speed bumps for buses leaving the station with bus drivers too often ignoring the stop sign and almost hitting the writer of these lines once. This is what it looked like when MDT had done the upgrades.

Douglas Road Station I

This was a welcome development, though at the time we got in touch with the MDT engineering division and pointed out that these bumps were maybe a little steep and wouldn’t make for a comfortable ride for passengers and the driver (the goal is safety, not annoyance).

Less than two weeks after the installation, the situation looked – sadly, but predictably – like this:

Douglas Road Station II

Douglas Road Station II

The impact of the bus on the high bumps caused them to dislodge.

As of last week the speed bumps have been completely removed and the situation is – also predictably and sadly – back to bus drivers running that stop sign.

Douglas Road Station III

Douglas Road Station III

We have contacted MDT engineering and asked whether they will install speed bumps again, but have not heard back from them. We will update this post once we have news. We appreciate steps being taken, but this one seemed to be doomed from the beginning given the design of the bumps that were installed.

 

UPDATE: We just received the following from MDT: they are

“looking at the possibility of putting a more permanent speed bumps at the location. We tested the concept with temporary speed bumps and it was effective. In addition, we will be adding roadway markings and signs to the area.

The second part of this will be follow-up training and enforcement.”

We hope that MDT will actually be implementing a permanent design for this intersection, but the language being used makes us only cautiously optimistic that something will be done. We will continue to monitor the situation.

 

Memorial Ride: Miguel Angel Rocafort

As you may already know, another cyclist died subsequent to being struck by a vehicle earlier this month.

Our friends at SafeStreetsMiami are organizing a memorial ride in honor of Miguel Rocafort.

Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012

Time: 10 am

Location: SW 122 Avenue & SW 128 Street

We hope that many of you will attend the ride, which will go past the location where Miguel was struck. No matter where a cyclist is struck, the cycling community needs to make it known that tragedies like this must no longer be ignored. Please pass this message on to others as well. We hope you can join.

More improvements around Douglas Road station – other measures still outstanding

We wrote before about improvements to the bike and pedestrian safety situation around the Douglas Road station. One hole has been covered with concrete (we would have preferred another tree being put in place), others – which still had trees in them were covered with river stone.

Miami-Dade Transit has now installed speed bumps for the buses leaving the station, some of which used to do that at a rather high speed, disregarding the stop sign. It seems unlikely that this will happen any longer. We are not sure whether these are the right speed bumps, but will defer to the judgment of the MDT engineers for the time being.

Douglas Road Station

This is a welcome improvement from a safety perspective and we are thankful to MDT for doing this. Other improvements include wider curb cuts so that pedestrians and cyclists don’t have to squeeze into a somewhat narrow space on either side at this crossing. Moreover, we have been promised that MDT will make it impossible for cars to use the M-Path to leave the Volvo dealership at US 1 / Bird Road, which they do in a daily basis in addition to encroaching on the path regularly. We will keep you posted on when these measures will be put in place.

 

New train service planned connecting South Florida and Central Florida – FEC reply

As many of you know, there is talk about a new train service connecting South Florida cities from Miami going north with Orlando, with a potential expansion to Tampa and Jacksonville. This would be a long overdue use of tracks that are largely already in place (though it seems that some upgrades are necessary to accommodate higher speeds), with a short and not inexpensive portion having to be built between Cocoa and Orlando. We won’t recall the disastrous decision by the Florida governor, apparently following questionable advice by an anti-rail think tank, but we are glad that a privately owned company jumps in to fill that void.

We at the SFBC asked ourselves to what extent this new service will accommodate bicycle transport. While maybe not designed as a commuter train service between, say, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, there are plenty of reasons to think that people will use the trains for that very purpose. We are of course still hoping that there will be commuter rail service between Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Moreover, what if you want to take a train to Orlando and want to take your bike along?

Here is the answer from the FEC, which is behind this project:

“We appreciate your interest in the project. We recognize the need to include these types of amenities and when we begin meeting with rolling stock providers, we will get a better idea of what is possible. You are one of several folks that emailed a similar question so we recognize it as a need for the overall system.”

We encourage you to send a message to info@AllAboardFlorida.com as this project is still in the planning stages. Let them know that you would like to see rail cars that accommodate bicycles. It really should be a no-brainer, but you never know.

FDOT’s South Florida Commuter Travel Survey – What to make of it?

A lot of us saw the bike / ped blogosphere light up when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced that they would conduct what they call the “South Florida Commuter Travel Survey”. We at the SFBC put forth an announcement on our Facebook page.

At first glance this is a very good idea – commuting is of course not tied to car travel. Or so one would think.


Because FDOT seems to think so. This is nothing new to anyone who ever has engaged with FDOT – their car-centric approach at the expense of all other modes of transport (public transit, biking, pedestrian, etc.) permeates all their thinking. This became most evident when you actually took the survey.

You are first asked to name the beginning and endpoint if your commute. So far, so good. Then you are shown a map which allows you to change the route according to your personal preferences. That would have been nice had there been an option to indicate that one travels by bike or public transit or walks. Google Maps on which this is based allows for that – it is not clear why this was not included.

What follows are a number of questions that again put the car in the center of interest, without regard to other modes of transportation, followed by questions about one’s personal traits.

Calling this survey car-centric is an understatement. And by doing so FDOT treats everyone else as zeros. They do not count, are unimportant as commuters.

– What about the person who uses a bike to get to work and uses a bike path?
– What about the person living in Hollywood taking the train to Miami? Or the person living in Kendall taking the bus / metrorail?
– What about the multi-mode user coming to Miami from Fort Lauderdale by bus and bike?
– What about the person who walks to her workplace?

At a time when mileage driven per person decreases, at a time when public transit, biking and walking are in higher demand than before, at a time when urban density increases, conducting a survey like this shows how backward looking FDOT and its contractors are.

None of these users count for the purposes of FDOT, they are nothing more than zeros in the car-centric universe in which FDOT seems to operate.

This could have a number of reasons:

1. The contractor which this task was given to (Gannett Flemming; one can ask whether this not overly complicated task was a good fit for outsourcing, but that is a different question) did not take account of anyone not traveling in cars and had discretion to not include modes of transportation other than cars. This would make Gannett Flemming look bad.

2. FDOT approved this survey as it was handed to them. That would make both FDOT and Gannett Fleming look bad.

3. Gannett Fleming proposed to include modes other than cars, but FDOT decided not to follow through with this. This would make FDOT look bad.

Neither of the options 1.-3. are attractive, but one is likely close to what happened.Conducting such surveys makes sense if they are forward-looking. We are afraid that FDOT missed another chance to change – yet again.

We have contacted Gannett Fleming about this omission of a large portion of commuters and are waiting for their reply. We will keep you posted on whether, and if so how, they respond.

Worst Sign Ever? Fixed by Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade County is ON this week. County Public Works’ Jeff Cohen told a packed crowd at Green Mobility Network’s first annual Safe Streets Forum that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to making the Rickenbacker safer for people who ride including designating a full right lane to exclusive bicycle use on Saturday mornings. But, earlier in the week, we saw this sign as we were going for an evening ride on the Venetian Causeway and it really, um, irritated us. The issue had been brought up at the previous week’s BPAC meeting, but the signs were still flashing this four days later:

Seen on the Venetian Causeway (no more)

So we called Miami-Dade County’s Causeways Division and now those same signs read “CAUTION UNEVEN PAVEMENT; YIELD TO PED/BIKES”. One may still need to be fixed as we post this, but we have been told that the wording will be switched as well.

Is it frustrating that we had to report this? Sure – but it got fixed quickly once the message reached the right person. We are happy to be a part of that and hope you, too, will take a moment to call 311 and/or your commissioner whenever you see something that makes cycling unsafe (or at least most of the time).

Thanks for all you do.

PS: You can cc: us whenever you email a commissioner if we can help track the progress.