Amended June 28
A consultant for the Florida Department of Transportation offered a proposed corrective tonight for the dangers that M-Path users encounter crossing Bird Road in Miami. The proposal is to carve out of Metrorail's green swale a new 400-foot turn lane on U.S. 1 for southbound drivers wanting to turn west onto Bird. The arrows on the current lane, which invite drivers to either turn or continue down U.S. 1, would be repainted to show only a "through" arrow. With just one lane of turning cars, the consultant asserted, walkers and bicyclists could more easily tell when it's safe to cross Bird.
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The cyclists hearing the presentation to the county's Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee were incredulous. For years we've been asking for signals and signs to give M-Path users an even break at that crossing, probably the most dangerous on the entire length of the path. What we saw in the drawings tonight was a seventh lane for a six-lane road -- a way to expedite the movement of cars from U.S. 1 onto Bird, where drivers already make that turn way too fast because the angle is something like 60 degrees instead of 90.
Collin Worth, Miami's bicycle coordinator, rose to say that if FDOT proceeds with the plan he will file an objection. "The proposal does not address pedestrian needs," he said. "It's only for autos."
The advisory committee tried to minimize the harm. Eric Tullberg moved that BPAC not approve the plan unless the turn lane was narrowed with a concrete island, and unless a sign was attached to the turn light warning motorists of the nearby path and the path users' right-of-way. That motion failed, after FDOT engineer L-F Chow said there isn't room for any island. Gabrielle Redfern offered a motion advising FDOT to use the $160,000 project cost somewhere else. That one failed.
In my view, Redfern was right. The money will be wasted, spent the way the state is about to spend it. We need to slow the turning traffic, not speed it. We need to make path users more visible to drivers, and drivers more aware to look for path users. The goal should be safety, not throughput.
If we can redesign M-Path crossings for safety, Miamians who want to walk or ride a bike, and don't feel safe, will leave their cars at home and begin to use the M-Path for errands, exercise and daily commuting. We'll have a cleaner, safer, healthier city. Everybody says that's what we want.
One step in that direction actually was taken. When everybody's breathing returned to normal, Javier Betancourt moved a BPAC resolution asking FDOT to study all the intersections along U.S. 1 from downtown to South Miami with an eye toward safety of walkers and cyclists. The motion passed.