Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bike advisors struggle for causeway solution

I promised to fill you in on how the Miami-Dade Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) responded to pending changes in toll collection on the Rickenbacker Causeway. For the many bicylists who train on the Rickenbacker, the change is a big safety issue because it will speed the entry of cars onto the causeway. The photo here illustrates how cyclists on training rides between Key Biscayne and the mainland are exposed to cars just leaving the toll gates.

One of two proposals to the County Commission would remove all toll gates, relying on SunPass and photo-assisted mail billing to collect tolls. This option is called open-road tolling, and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) is moving in that direction for roads such as Florida 836. Any motorist who has sat on I-95 on a Sunday, trying to get onto the Rickenbacker, has probably wished for a way to open up the bottleneck that the causeway toll gates create.

The BPAC, generally unwilling to oppose the open-road option because it's the idea of Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, grilled Causeway Chief Michael Bauman closely on June 24 about how to create a turn-around for the cyclists other than the one they're using in the photo above. There was much interest in the tunnel under the causeway, but the consensus that night was that the tunnel, while OK for a rider or two at a time, is way too narrow and maybe not in the right place for the training groups.

David Henderson, the county's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, suggested it might be possible to place a rider crossover under the tall Powell Bridge. With that the BPAC rested on its oars until it can see the mayor's report on the question -- which at the time was to have been presented to the county commission's Transit, Infrastructure & Roads Committee on July 15. Now that meeting has been canceled, however. The commission next meets on July 21. BPAC's next meeting is the 22nd.


Anonymous said...

I went over the causeway yesterday and they had designated the far right tollbooth entrance for BIKES ONLY. Is this part of their experiment/solutions? The EDSA consultants developing the new Virginia Key Master Plan reported that there wouldn't be a traffic problem even with all their new development proposals and 11 parking garages that could accommodate 10,000 cars a day specifically because the causeway would switch over to Sunpass. No one gave their traffic study assumptions any credibility, however. Basically car traffic has to diminish, through alternates: bikes, trolleys, buses, water taxis and one proposal for a solar-powered tour boat.

JHop said...

The bikes-only lane is the causeway staff's response to the large number of bicyclists. It keeps cyclists from having to share a booth lane with cars. On really busy days, though, the bikes get priority only before the heavy motor traffic begins. This started earlier in the year, maybe last winter -- I don't immediately recall.