Convert Coral Way for Bikes

In recent months, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and District 3 Commissioner Joe Sanchez have shown increased interest in promoting bicycling in Miami. Last March, Mayor Diaz announced the formation of a new Bicycle Action Committee as part of his Green Commission, which Comm. Sanchez chairs.

A month later, Comm. Sanchez joined Emerge Miami’s Saturday Critical Mass ride in a show of support for cycling.

It’s exciting to see political interest in making Miami a better place for bikers – but interest isn’t action. The next question, and it isn't rhetorical, is when Miamians can expect to see actual change.

So far, the Bicycle Action Committee has focused mainly on creating maps of existing bike accommodations – that shouldn’t take too long – and identifying good places for new stuff like lanes, signage, or even ‘bike boulevards,’ a relatively new idea in planning for bikes, in which side streets are refitted to dissuade cars and encourage bikes.

But if the city’s politicos – Commissioner Sanchez, in particular - want to prove what they’re made of when it comes to getting things done, they may have a good chance coming up. Apparently, Coral Way is slated for resurfacing – and that means there’s an opportunity for long-term, permanent changes in how the street works.

The city, in particular Commissioner Sanchez, in whose district the work will be taking place, should push for bike lanes on Coral Way. Here's why:

For one thing, Coral Way connects to stuff. Connectivity is a huge part of making the city more bikeable. One complaint heard frequently among bikers in Miami is that the few lanes and routes that do exist are often small and scattered, making them virtually useless (a good example would be the four-block lane at Sunset Place; a really good example would be the ‘bike lane’ that appear in the middle of the Broad causeway and vanishes again would be another).

Coral Way is ideally situated for bikers – it connects to the 'M-path,' - the bike path running below the Metrorail; to the bike path on Miami Avenue, that in turn connects to the bike lanes on the Rickenbacker Causeway; and Coral Way does something else unique: it goes west – and that means it connects entire neighborhoods currently left out of the picture. Miami, Little Havana, and Coral Gables would be significantly more accessible by bike.

Another reason for building bike lanes on Coral Way is that it, unlike most Dade roads, is pretty. It’s lined with beautiful banyan trees, and a street like that should be treated with a little respect. The alternative to building bike lanes is almost inevitably preserving traffic – there are highways and thoroughfares enough for the westbound driver; let bikers have their turn.

In fact, bikes are already taking their turn on the street - take a spin down Coral Way any weekday afternoon and you'll see bikes anyway, braving the traffic.

In the end, that's the most powerful argument: bikes are there now, and as Miami matures, more are on their way. Build for them now, or suffer the consequences later.

-- Isaiah Thompson