Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Miami bike plans rolling nicely

Nearly 100 people turned out last night to meet Miami's bicycle planners, hear what they're up to and make suggestions for the city's emerging Bicycle Master Plan. The crowd filling a room at Jose Marti Park community center was a rough cross-section of middle-class urban South Florida -- a mix of professionals in business suits, avid riders in jeans or colorful riding clothes, and some of the young bike-culture crowd you'll see at the unsanctioned alley cat races around town.

The event was announced as the city's first bicycle summit, but with one exception the official representation consisted of people who carry out policy, not make it. The exception was City Commissioner Joe Sanchez, who set the tone for the evening with a call to make the whole city safe and inviting for cyclists.

Mike Lydon of the Street Plans Collaborative, the planning consultant most involved with the Bicycle Master Plan, presented a slide show with examples of some of the street treatments he expects to recommend when the plan is presented in late summer. Some examples are bicycle boulevards on NE 81st Street and a residential street in Buena Vista West, a shared lane marked with "sharrows" on NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood, and bike lanes on NW 14th Street in the Grapeland neighborhood. There were many more but I couldn't see the screen well enough to make notes.

Lydon, a cross-Miami bike commuter who canvassed the city by bike as part of this project, described the paradox the master plan will have to deal with: "You have all these roads designed and dedicated to moving cars, but they are also where all the people are." Calle Ocho comes to mind -- a relatively narrow street in Little Havana with parking on both sides. So many people ride bikes in the neighborhood that merchants got the city to prohibit riding on the sidewalk. It will not be a small thing to redesign streets to serve the people, but the City Commission took a step in the right direction this spring by embracing Complete Streets as a matter of policy.

In the last hour of the meeting, large city maps were spread out on four tables so that riders could mark them up with colorful lines to show where they'd like to ride but find the streets inadequate. Red dots were pasted down at points riders find especially dangerous, such as the M-Path crossing of Bird Road and the intersection of SW 27th Avenue and U.S. 1.

Look for a follow-up meeting in August. Meanwhile, you can check in on the emerging plan anytime you like at the city's new bicycle website.

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