Downtowners peddle plan to ease path for pedaling — and walking
By Ashley D. Torres
Following the city's lead, Miami's Downtown Development Authority is to work with the Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization to craft a plan to improve area cycling.
The authority's Bicycle/Pedestrian Mobility Plan will follow up on a city bicycle master plan of October 2009 but it's also to target pedestrians, said Javier Betancourt, authority deputy director. The plan is to be done by October.
"The bottom line is to develop a list of short- and long-term improvements for improving mobility for people who walk and bike in the downtown area," said David Henderson, Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization got involved when the authority asked it for funding. The plan will detail finances as well as suggestions for improvement, Mr. Henderson said.
A recent consultant's study for the development authority reveals that downtown's population soared 81% in the past decade, multiplying area pedestrians and bikers.
Current bike lanes in and around the downtown area are on Second Avenue from Southwest Eighth Street to 15th Road, 15th Road from Coral Way to South Miami Avenue and South Miami Avenue from 15th Road to 25th Road.
"We recognize downtown more than any other place really should be more bike friendly," said Mr. Betancourt.
Currently, the city is working with the county to place shared-use lane markings, known as sharrows, in all streets and avenues from Miami Avenue to Biscayne Boulevard and from Northeast Third Street to Southeast Third Street with the exception of Southeast Second Street, said Collin Worth, the city's bicycle coordinator. The city also plans to stripe more sharrows along Brickell Bay Drive from 15th Road to Eighth Street and 15th Road from the Miami Avenue circle to Brickell Bay Drive.
"We are looking at more bike lane opportunities and working with the county to add more striping," said Mr. Worth.
The Florida Department of Transportation hasn't yet accepted use of sharrows on the streets it controls such as Brickell Avenue, Biscayne Boulevard, Southwest Seventh Street, Southwest Eighth Street and Southeast Second Street from Biscayne Boulevard to Interstate 95, said Mr. Worth. A key component of the plans is to have more roads connecting north and south through downtown.
City renovations to the Miami River Greenway will also benefit cyclists by widening sidewalks and adding more benches, trash cans and shade trees, Mr. Worth said.
In the meantime, area bikers continue to face challenges.
"The primary problem and the reason we [bike] on the weekend is the conflict between cars and bikes," said Jack Lowell, Flagler Real Estate Services vice president and a downtown bike rider.
Both bicycle plans address the conflict between bikers and motorists by planning more sharrows in the area. These lanes allow motorists to be aware that the roads are shared with bikers and shows cyclists where they should be riding, said Mr. Worth.
But with more bike lanes due, Mr. Worth said, the city is coordinating with the Miami Parking Authority to ensure that the impact on parking is minimal.
"The plan doesn't really take away parking and it's not going to change anything but to create more awareness for motorists," said Mr. Worth.
Adding locations to park bikes has also been a key component of the bicycle plans.
Recently, the city received $275,000 from the Florida Department of Health to go toward adding bike sharrows and installing a few hundred bike racks in area parks, public places and schools.
"Once you have infrastructure there it will really encourage people to use it and feel safe," said Mr. Worth.
To encourage people to bike, the city aims to bring back Bike Miami Days, a neighborhood event that closed streets exclusively for bikers. The development authority has been a partner in the past. The city is now looking for funds for the next Bike Miami Day, and Mr. Worth said he hopes one will be held downtown in October.
"I think the city is making a continuous effort to make things more bike friendly," Mr. Lowell said, "but there is still a way to go."