Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mixed results on South Beach bike lanes

We have an update today, from Gabrielle Redfern of BASIC, following last week's Miami Beach meeting about planned bike lanes on several of the city's streets.
  • Prairie preserved.
  • 28th Street lost.
  • 34th Street lost.
  • Meridian: Maybe.
That is the scorecard of bike lanes from the City’s own Bicycle Master Plan that were discussed at Monday’s Capitol Improvement Projects Oversight Committee. Former commissioner and current Oversight Committee Chair Saul Gross stated he would not favor removing the bike lanes already on Prairie Avenue in Central Bayshore, but reminded Staff that the Commission was clear about not adding asphalt to roads during resurfacing to accommodate bike lanes.

(I have to wonder to myself, how does this man, known for a savvy political career filled with solomonic acts of compromise, think roadways are built? Bike lanes with no asphalt? It reminds me, especially this time of year, of ideas of making bricks with no straw. But I digress….)

The Basis of Design Report (BODR) for Central Bayshore Neighborhood was on the agenda. (A BODR is a Commission-approved narrative on current conditions and desired outcomes that guided the plans of this project to where it is today: at 100 percent drawings and out to bid. So to be discussing it now, and to change it, will require Commission approval, among other delaying issues.) The neighbors quibble with Staff over the interpretation of terms in the BODR. Neighbors are correct in saying that their neighborhood BODRs contained no mention of bike lanes. But that does not mean The City did not commit to building these much-needed alternative transportation options when projects involving those streets finally make their way to construction.

(The issue to the neighbors is too many cars going too fast on “their” neighborhood streets. My solution: If we get more folks riding their bicycles on the same streets, that means less cars, going slower, because there are so many bicycles -- so what is the problem?)

Part of the problem is that only one of those neighborhoods BODRs, the last one passed, West Avenue, mentions Bike Lanes. So who is right and what gets done or what gets taken out at the last minute?

Cue the Bicycle Master Plan, adopted in draft by the City Commission in the fall of 2007. I always believed that this document, also blessed by Commission vote, was intended as an “Overlay” to the 13 neighborhood BODRs. This plan came about after years of personal attempts to coordinate the street improvement projects of the Public Works Department and CIP GO BOND work to build bike lanes. Since the $92 million dollar Bond was passed in 1999, I attended hundreds of neighborhood workshops and planning meetings asking about bike lanes being incorporated into BODRs, and being told, “That’s a great idea” at one meeting, only to not see them in the plans as the concepts progressed, or told, “We will do one on the next street”. Finally, the City defaulted to bringing in a consultant, and after three years they produced the plan that looked at building a system and forwarding the notion the work required would be done when the neighborhood streets were improved with City projects.

Which brings us back to the bricks with no straw, or the bike lanes with no asphalt. Orchard Park, or part of the Nautilus Neighborhood CIP project was underway when the Bike Master Plan was passed. It took redrawing the plans after construction had started and doing a costly change order to install the lanes in the bike plan during the course of the project. The Commission expressed shock, not at the process, but the price, and proclaimed “No new asphalt for bike lanes unless you come back and ask us specifically.” The Staff took this to mean “No new asphalt for bike lanes” and stopped including them in planned neighborhood work. 28th street? No new asphalt, so no bike lane. Meridian? No new asphalt, so no bike lane. But there may be hope.

The Bike Master Plan called for Bike Lanes on ALL of Prairie, north of 44th Street. However, a secret deal was extracted during the construction of the New Beach High School between then principal Dr. Friedman, neighbors and City Staff that narrowed that road between High-Tide to Dade Boulevard and specifically excluded the bike lane. When the details came out, rather than scuttle the deal over the street, the Commission, specifically Commissioner Gross, promised me personally and on the record, the lane would shift going north at Hi-Tide to Meridian. (It was a compromise I could live with, in hopes of getting the marked lane to continue to Lincoln Road on Meridian, where there is plenty of ROW and asphalt already.) Commissioner Gross, to his credit, reiterated the promised shift on Monday. Bricks without straw.

There is more to this story including the proposed “compromise” of doing a 10-foot path in the green space adjacent to the Par Three Golf Course on 28th street, (more concrete, but no asphalt!), the additional parking added with a 90 degree configuration on 40th Street (more dangerous for bikes) and the notion that removing even a foot of asphalt in roadways and narrowing the travel lanes to 10 feet would make it even more dangerous for bikes, but those battles are still to be fought and won.

I get engaged all the time about biking and bike facilities in Miami Beach. I am an easy target to pick a verbal fight with about this. I feel so strongly about the need for required bike lanes and complete streets in our town because I know it is just the ticket to dramatically and frankly, quite easily, improve our community in so many ways. Until our City shows true leadership in making non-motorized facilities equitable with car transit, we will continue to endure gridlock and discourage folks from utilizing our natural temperate environment and flat terrain for mobility. As a small, urban island, we need all the congestion solutions we can get to ensure a high quality of life and a strong economic future.

Thanks to all who emailed your support, and a special shout out to the "Biking Barrons" who came to the meeting and spoke up for more bike lanes!

'Till next time....


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