Cycling

Venetian Causeway Set to Close for Nine Months June 1, Stranding Cyclists

Miami gets a lot of well-deserved flak for its molasses-slow move toward becoming a bike-friendly metropolis, but there's one bustling stretch of road that's already full of commuters on two wheels. The scenic Venetian Causeway sees thousands of daily cyclists gliding over the main low-speed link between the mainland and Miami Beach.

But those cyclists are about to be locked out. The causeway's westernmost drawbridge will close June 1 for at least nine months of heavy repairs, Miami-Dade County recently confirmed, and cyclists won't have access in the meantime.

"[It] will be closed to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as motor vehicles," Francis Calderon, a spokesman for Miami-Dade Public Works, tells New Times. "Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists will be able to use the rest of the causeway, except for the area around the bridge (as it will be a construction site) and the bridge itself."

In other words: Bicyclists must find another way across the bay. And without the Venetian, the other options, as any biker will tell you, are terrifying. On both the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle causeways, cars blaze at 80 mph, with no guard rail protecting a shoulder bike lane.

Miami's GLF Construction will tackle the $10 million Miami-Dade County project, designed to fix deteriorating infrastructure of the historic bridge that came to light when a bus punched a hole in the pavement. 

Of course, closing the causeway complicates life for others besides cyclists. Residents on the islands must backtrack to Miami Beach before crossing to the mainland on another causeway. Emergency responders won't have as direct access to homes on the island, either.

In fact, this Thursday between 10 and noon, local cops and medical responders will practice how to handle the closure. "Operation Venetian Rescue" will let first responders test their ability to reach patients on time without the westernmost bridge, says Officer Frederica Burden, a Miami Police Department spokesperson.

As for cyclists hoping to get from SoBe to downtown, their best bet might be hanging up the road bike for nine months and hoping this is one municipal project that gets done on time. 
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink