When Commissioner Rebeca Sosa introduced a resolution last month asking FDOT consult with Miami-Dade before it installs new bike lanes, cyclists reacted with fury. Sosa was deluged with calls and emails from advocates convinced the resolution was a sneak-attack to prevent new bike lanes in a town already sorely lacking in that department.
Sosa pulled the item after the outcry, saying her intent was the opposite -- to make sure the lanes that are built went on roads where cyclists would be safe. She's now working with cyclists on a thorny question: Are some roads -- like the MacArthur Causeway -- simply too dangerous for bike lanes?
Sosa's resolution was slammed two weeks ago as a commission vote approached by blogs like Transit Miami and Streetsblog, which took issue with her language that bike lanes "conflict" with local traffic and some small businesses in places like SW 57th Avenue.
"Local storefront businesses should be catering to cyclists for all of the business they bring and revenue they create," Transit Miami's Matthew Toro wrote
But after Sosa yanked the item, she reached out to advocates like Anthony Garcia, a former Transit Miami writer.
"She said, 'I'm not against bike lanes,' but she wants more safety," Garcia says. "She wants the type of road facility that will accommodate cyclists."
When FDOT resurfaces a state road, Sosa says, they automatically add a bike lane to the refinished asphalt. Sosa's resolution pointed out FDOT-installed or planned bike lanes on SW 57th Ave., the Tamiami Trail, and the MacArthur Causeway, are potentially dangerous for cyclists given the volume and intensity of traffic. She wanted FDOT to be more selective about where it put new bike facilities.
"My resolution was to bring attention to the fact that, sometimes, government is arrogant and they don't take the time to sit down and analyze everything," Sosa says. "We need to create safe ways for bikers in Miami. Rather than quantity, we want quality."
Cyclists, after all, have been at the forefront of pushing for safer lanes on the Rickenbacker Causeway, where a number of cyclists have been killed in the past three years.
Garcia says advocates have asked Sosa to amend her resolution to make it clear she doesn't want FDOT to roll back their bike lane policy.
As of 2011, there were 70 miles of bike lanes in the county, according to the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization -- a start, Garcia says, but not nearly enough to protect the number of cyclists who use Miami's roadways. FDOT also needs to think beyond simple painted-on lanes to find ways to protect cyclists on busy roads -- via barriers, separated paths or other ideas.
"We want to evolve beyond bike lanes," he says. "They're not a one-size-fits-all solution."
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Sosa now says she's trying to find a new way to keep bike lanes going without compromising rider safety. For Garcia, the hope is that it's a step to making Miami a more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly city.
"It's not just about cyclists," he says. "Here, it's a livability of the streets issue."