Letters from the Issue of February 14, 2008
Whole Lotta Sharing Goin' On
He's been whacked: In response to Isaiah Thompson's January 31 story, "Share the F**king Road": I have been a bike rider in Miami Beach for the past seven years and have had many accidents. 1) In 2002, a bus on Collins Avenue threw me off the sidewalk. 2) In 2005, while I was riding my bike on the sidewalk near Pine Tree Drive, a car came out of a driveway and knocked me down, bruising my shoulder and arm. 3) In 2006, I was riding on Alton Road at 14th Street when a truck turning right sideswiped me and kept going. I broke my left hand and had to have surgery twice to correct my damaged wrist and fingers.
I have filed police reports on all of these incidents, and still these streets have no bicycle lanes. What I have found while riding a bicycle in Miami Beach is that cars and trucks have no regard for pedestrians and cyclists and act as if we're invisible. Unless the law starts to catch these violators, I do not think we cyclists have a chance, which is a shame because I love the feeling of fresh air on my face and seeing the bay from the Venetian Causeway.
They've gone to court: I appreciated "Share the F**king Road." Cyclists in Palm Beach County have taken it to the next level and filed a lawsuit against the state department of transportation for ignoring engineering guidelines and specifications related to the placement of bike lanes along State Road A1A.
Local homeowers don't want bicycles in their otherwise exclusive neighborhoods. But bike lanes would be built on existing state-owned rights of way. We have a long way to go to win the hearts and minds of our own neighbors, let alone the elected officials (and bureaucrats hired to enforce the laws).
He found hypocrisy: Miami is decades behind the times in its approach to bicyclists' needs. The city's new plan, Miami 21, proclaims the town will be bike-friendly and proposes alternatives to driving. Yet the plan outlaws bike lanes on streets posting speeds over 30 mph. And it gets worse: Street widths are to become much narrower in order to make room for wider sidewalks. Goodbye, dreams of dedicated bike lanes, or even reasonably wide streets! (A silver lining for adventuresome types: Urban bike riding in Miami will likely enter the "extreme sport" category.)
Do you know people who refuse to walk because the sidewalks are too narrow? I don't. Yet the city's planning department won't explain how these changes will discourage our dependence on cars.
In speeches, Mayor Manny Diaz now subtly omits his previous claim the plan will incorporate bikes, mass transit, and infrastructure needs. Consultants don't contradict their clients halfway through a multimillion-dollar consulting job, so it's no surprise consultant DPZ isn't complaining. Modifications are expected, but many of Miami 21's major changes were made to benefit the special interests of a few, sacrificing quality of life for most residents.
It's a deeply convoluted plan — exploiting abstract rather than applied theory. The planners use trendy buzzwords like pedestrian-friendly when they can't give rational explanations for glaring inconsistencies. Many residents are now saying Miami 21 is a Catch 22 — and the mayor's use of the term bike-friendly is one of the reasons.
He's found Valhalla: Since 9/11, I have been commuting on my bike from Pinecrest to Brickell and back at night — and, frankly, I found Isaiah Thompson's story ridiculous. How do you write a giant article about bike travel in Miami and completely disregard the fabulous Metropath, which runs at least eight miles along South Dixie Highway? And then not a word about the 25-mile South Dade Busway bike path?
Honestly I could not imagine better resources. Clean, safe, well maintained, barely bisected by streets, and empty (there are times when I ride 12 miles and see maybe two other bicyclists). It's close to hundreds of businesses, and if I get a flat, the train is right above me! And you are complaining? Actually, no, you are ignoring, either because your intent is to mislead or because you wrote a shoddy article. Really disappointing stuff, and slanderous to a place where you actually can commute with ease, which is rare in Florida. I agree with the guy in the article who cursed out the idiot riding slowly in the road on a bike. I don't want to "share the road" with people who are IM'ing and yakking on the phone and sipping coffee and selecting a CD and making dinner reservations. They don't want me in their way either. And a four-inch-wide white stripe doesn't make me feel that much better about it. Thankfully we have those great dedicated bike paths you must have ... missed?
By the way, check out the Snapper Creek Canal path while you are at it — they just put in lights! I didn't read that you noticed, though. I speak from 30,000 miles of experience commuting in Miami. You should be ashamed of yourself. Terrible half-truth journalism. I invite you to accompany me for a weeknight commute down the fantastic Metropath. You might cheer up and write something positive. I should be easy to find: I head south from 1401 Brickell Ave. at 5:30 every night, and I'm the only one doing it!
Via web commentary
And he's obviously thinkin' about a move north: Isaiah Thompson's story about cycling in Miami was spot on. The lack of vision by city/county planners has been criminal. After my car was stolen in 1992, I spent a year Rollerblading roundtrip from the Beach to Flagler St., via the Venetian Causeway; I easily arrived before bus passengers. Unfortunately it took me several minutes to come down from the adrenaline rush acquired by playing "dodgem" with vehicles that refused to yield at red lights or stop signs. I still have scars from those days. However, the real stunner was finding it safer to blade in midtown Manhattan! These small quality-of-life issues prompt many of us to think the nickname "Magic City" refers to the miracle of surviving the day-to-day mayhem that Miami has become.
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