Few things piss off Brickell residents more than a blocked sidewalk. The closures have almost become a fixture of the neighborhood, where creeping construction and runaway development have put a squeeze on pedestrians, who often are forced to walk on busy streets.
That was the case this past Wednesday, when local influencer Juan Marcos Rancano stopped to record a video of a mother pushing her child in a stroller along SW Seventh Street toward SW First Avenue. Within seconds, they were met by orange cones and netting. A fence to the right blocked their path around; to their left was oncoming traffic. Directly across the street was another sidewalk closure.
"So what is she going to do?" Rancano asks in the video. "This is ridiculous, straight-up ridiculous."
Without hesitating, the woman lowered the stroller onto the street and hugged the edge of the road, just a few feet from the spot where a white SUV had just whizzed by. She maneuvered around the closure in a few seconds and pushed the stroller back onto the sidewalk near the corner.
Shortly after the incident, Rancano published his post on Instagram, where he tagged businesses and advocacy groups in the area, as well as Miami Commissioner Ken Russell and Mayor Francis Suarez. Rancano's account, Brickell Living, has some 110,000 followers, but Rancano says even he was surprised by the response. The video has now been viewed more than 33,000 times and drawn nearly 300 comments, most of them expressing frustration at what seems to have become the new normal in Brickell.
"This is not just in construction areas," one person wrote. "This is all around Brickell and downtown. Try walking straight from Brickell Avenue north and see what it's like for a pedestrian in the heart of Miami."
"Love my neighborhood but it has room for improvement for pedestrians," another user commented.
"Highly appreciate this post as I couldn't cross the street with my newborn son and his stroller to go into Brickell City Center. It was too much of a risk!" another person posted.
"Brickell has become practically uninhabitable for pedestrians," someone else wrote.
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This is something I don’t usually post on our main feed, but at this point, I think we seriously need to address this issue as a community. The ridiculous construction on 7th Street and SE 1st Avenue is a result of poor planning. The county (or the city) needs to provide a SAFE alternative route for pedestrians. Instead, they decide to work on two sidewalks on opposite sides of the street at the same time. As is, this street is dangerous and has a continuous flow of traffic making it extremely difficult for pedestrians to cross. Imagine if you were on a wheelchair. It would be impossible to safely cross this street. Commissioner @KenRussellMiami, @EileenHigginsMiami, @francisxsuarez, @downtownmia, @cityofmiami, @centralcivilconstruction what can we do to resolve this issue today? The residents of this neighborhood are tired of playing Frogger and dodging cars to cross this street. I know there are a ton of local businesses that share this sentiment: @ckomiami, @americansocial_brickell, @blackbirdordinary, @move_lift_live, @miami_history, @brickellhomeowners. I encourage you to share your experience with this street in the comments. #BrickellLiving
A City of Miami spokesperson tells New Times that the sidewalk closure was due to 5G wireless installation and that SW Seventh Street is a state-owned road that's beyond city jurisdiction. However, one of the advocacy groups Rancano tagged in his post — the Brickell Homeowners Association — appears to have had success moving city officials into action. According to Abby Apé, the association's community outreach director, the group reached out to various city officials, including members of the Miami Police Department, who later went in person to free up the sidewalks on both sides of the street.
But Rancano and other residents insist this isn't a one-off situation — far from it. Rancano says the viral Instagram video is part of a larger social media initiative he began a few months ago using the hashtag #ProjectCrosswalk. Brickell residents have submitted photos and videos of unsafe intersections and blocked sidewalks, which are then reposted to one of Brickell Living's permanent Instagram stories.
With motorbikes running rampant on Brickell streets, electric scooters being tossed in the middle of public walkways, and 5G installation constantly tearing up sidewalks, pedestrians feel less and less like their neighborhood is built for them.
"I actually live and experience this every day," Rancano says. "Brickell streets can be really unsafe for pedestrians. I've had a few occurrences where I've almost been hit by cars. I'm pretty healthy and can walk on my own two legs, but imagine someone handicapped. What happens then? I love my city, but I need to call it out when it's not doing enough for its residents."
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Miami historian and Brickell resident Casey Piket says he has lost count of the number of unsafe intersections and blocked sidewalks.
"I've driven and walked by construction projects that shut down sidewalks on both sides of the street for years," he says. "I know that's part of the building process, but it feels like we're stuck in a revolving timeline of pedestrians being forgotten about."
A spokesperson tells New Times the city is "sensitive to the challenges that come along with Miami's continued growth, whether in Brickell or elsewhere."
"There are numerous utility maintenance and infrastructure projects required to keep the City operating smoothly and the City works to balance the need to maintain and build infrastructure with the impacts to our residents. To that end, there are numerous coordination meetings that take place with contractors and utility companies to minimize project impacts," the city wrote in a statement. "Because there is so much going on, we do encourage residents to report any issues by dialing 311 or calling our Resilience and Public Works office at 305-416-1200."