Thursday, May 5, 2011

Think Bike Returns to Miami

Earlier this week, several members of the Dutch delegation came to Miami for a two-day ThinkBike workshop. The purpose of the ThinkBike workshop was to learn from the expertise of Dutch planners.  They came to teach us how we could improve downtown Miami’s bikeability. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the actual workshop, but I was able to get the full download of their thoughts from a co-worker that attended. The feedback I recieved was extremely positive.

Those that participated in the seminar were invited to ride a bicycle through the streets of Miami on Monday afternoon, although not everyone chose to ride. Those that opted not to get on a bicycle included several FDOT officials; I sincerely wished they had taken the opportunity to ride the streets of Miami. Nonetheless I consider it a huge success that four FDOT District 6 officials attended this seminar.  This is a big step in the right direction and a huge success in and of itself.

On Tuesday attendees were divided into groups. Each of the groups was invited to design a bicycle lane on a designated street within the city with the help of Dutch planners.

The Orange Team came up with a bike lane design that will actually be implemented on North Miami Avenue.  Although the plans haven’t been finalized, North Miami Avenue-from NW 14th Street to NW 36th Street-will likely see bike lanes as wide as 6 feet in some sections, with a 2-3 foot soft buffer and perhaps travel lanes as narrow as 10 feet. The County Public Works Department quickly came up with money and support for this project after the plans were presented.

The Blue Team was assigned the task to design a bicycle lane for 14th Street, from North Miami Avenue to the Health District. One of the ideas the Dutch presented for a section of this project was to separate the cycle track from the cars using parallel parking. This is a successful technique already used in New York City, San Francisco and Portland.

It should be noted that some attendees were at first skeptical that bike lanes could be implemented as initially proposed by the Dutch.  By the end of the seminar even some of the skeptics had a change of heart. It was very informative for the FDOT.  Hopefully the Dutch were able to change the FDOT mindset a bit, to “Think Bike” rather than only cars.

Thanks to the initiative of the Dutch Consulate we have been bestowed with a cool concept bike lane in the heart of the city. This is a major North-South bike connection; this is awesome, but a bit concerning at the same time.  Why does it take a Dutch delegation to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to get a bike lane installed in Miami?  Not to sound bitter, but Transit Miami’s recommendations are very similar to what the Dutch have proposed. Unfortunately, progress has been very slow.  Miami should be ecstatic to potentially be getting a world-class bike lane. Perhaps the Dutch brought the spark that will light up Miami with properly designed bike lanes? I hope so, because it is desperately needed in South Florida and the rest of the state too.

Everyone should be grateful for what the Dutch have done for the cycling world; including everything they accomplished in Miami during their short stay here. It sounds like the City of Miami and the County Public Work Department are willing to consider innovative bicycle infrastructure in future projects.  Let’s just hope their can-do attitude doesn’t fizzle in a couple of weeks. Let’s also hope that the FDOT begins to consider some of the ideas the Dutch have presented. The world is changing in front of our eyes. Gas prices are rising and people are driving less. We can’t continue to design roads to move cars faster; bicycles need to be part of the transportation mix.

The Dutch have set the bar for cycling infrastructure.  We should aspire to make cycling as safe as they have. We have plenty to learn from their 40+ years of experience in designing bicycle infrastructure. As the Dutch say “Think Bike”. Hopefully the County Public Works Department, the City of Miami, and the FDOT will pursue innovative projects like the Dutch have already proved to be successful.

3 comments:

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