Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A fresh look at Rickenbacker

Updated Wednesday a.m.
Imagine the Rickenbacker Causeway not as a highway but as a waterfront park. That's what Miami architect Bernard Zyscovich did, and when he showed his idea to a citizens' committee tonight the members applauded his vision.

"It's an amazing concept," said Susan Kairalla, a member of the Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Moments later, the panel recommended the Zyscovich proposal to the Metropolitan Planning Organization for inclusion in plans being devised by Miami-Dade Public Works.

The Zyscovich plan has four parts:

  1. Lower the functional classification of the causeway, so it can be treated as a park road and not a highway such as U.S. 1.
  2. Narrow the three-lane sections of the causeway to two motor lanes. The psychological impact of that on drivers would be to slow them down. And with just two lanes all the way from the mainland to Crandon Park, drivers wouldn't be tempted to zoom around to the right and have to merge back when the road narrowed at the Bear Cut Bridge.
  3. Use the "liberated space" from step 2 to create bike- and pedestrian ways separated from the traffic lanes.
  4. Transform the causeway into a park.

The causeway is already a prime attraction for Miami and its visitors. Thousands of runners and bicyclists use it every week. Other pleasure-seekers throng Hobie Beach, swim and kite-surf, travel to dine at the Rusty Pelican or visit the Seaquarium or Crandon Park. Weekend boaters haul their craft to and from the marinas. Then add in the commuting habits of a growing number of year-round residents in Key Biscayne.

The Rickenbacker also is a lightning rod for controversy, following the car-crash deaths of three cyclists on the causeway in the past four years. Safety improvements followed the first two deaths, and the latest one, of Aaron Cohen in February, brought new urgency to further plans for improvement.

Zyscovich said that when he started his self-assigned causeway project he approached it pretty much in terms of bicycle safety. But he wasn't satisfied, in part because his fellow cyclists, however numerous, are only part of the community that uses the causeway for work and pleasure. So he stepped back and looked at what the causeway represents to greater Miami -- a precious recreational asset in and adjoining a city that needs more parks.

At least in concept, Zyscovich was returning to what the causeway's designer, William Lyman Phillips, had in mind. Tony Garcia, who also has advocated a park concept here, notes this Facebook post from the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park.


Tony Garcia said...

The idea to treat the Rickenbacker as parkway and give an entire lane over to cyclists is not fresh or new. It was one of the primary recommendations of the Virginia Key Coalition Master Plan (back in 2009). It may be new to BPAC, but I personally lobbied for these changes numerous times to then commissioner Gimenez, Jeff Cohen and then head of Public Works Esther Callas. Gimenez and his chief of staff Frank Balzebre said that it was the spandex crowd that consistently shot down this idea because they did not want to be ‘caged in’ a bike lane. Soon after he proposed the 25 cent toll. Also, you don’t need to change the functional classification of the road.

Anonymous said...

Glad he had the courage to speak out finally about this plan.

iBikeMiami said...

All we need is permanent law enforcement presence. Police only enforce the speed limit and show its presence when the Sony Ericsson is happening otherwise they are under the trees or parked at Hobie Beach. Narrowing lanes will not prevent drunk drivers to drive in the Causeway, police presence will. We should use the .25c to pay for the permanent police presence.

vey said...

Changing the functional classification of the road will be the most difficult part. FDOT doesn't like to turn over roads to local governments anymore. The City of Tallahassee was able to do get a state highway after many years of work, then emboldened by their success, they began making noises about putting a 6 lane highway on a diet of four lanes with bike/bus lanes and were quickly shot down.
It should be obvious by now that simply painting a white line doesn't stop the drunk, drugged or distracted driver from drifting over that line. Time for some fresh thinking.

Matthew Toro said...

How did we ever deviate from Phillips' 'Paseo de las Americas'?!

Let's bring things back to what they should have been all along!

Thanks for helping remind the public about what the Rickenbacker should have been, but still could be, Tony Garcia!

Blanca Mesa said...

The Facebook article first appeared on my blog, View from Virginia Key. To see more articles on Virginia Key from this 2010 blog, go to www.viewfromvirginiakey.blogspot.com

From the article: "A closer look at Phillips design for the Rickenbacker shows a design for a pedestrian parkway called “Paseo de las Americas,” tree-lined with public plazas at intervals, very much about creating pleasant public spaces and amenities."

I hope we can get back to that along the causeway and within Virginia Key. And beyond that, that the magnificent Biscayne Bay that surrounds and defines the islands, is protected as well.