Miami Beach Debates Whether to Ban Cars From Ocean Drive

At a municipal meeting last month, one Miami Beach commissioner floated a simple idea in response to growing traffic and congestion concerns: permanently banning cars from Ocean Drive. In a city where Lincoln Road, another pedestrianized street, has become one of its biggest tourist draws, you'd think the idea might have some resonance. But to many in the city's business community, the idea has since become a rallying cry.

"There's no logic to it," Jerry Libbin, president of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, tells Riptide. "If you cut off all the traffic to Ocean Drive, you're basically cutting off the lifeline."

The owners of Ocean Drive mainstays like Mango's and the Clevelander are all vehemently opposed to the idea, Libbin says, because they believe a large number of potential customers would just stay away from the popular strip rather than deal with the headache of trying to find even scarcer street parking.

"To address the congestion makes sense, but to eliminate all cars would severely hurt business," says Libbin, a former commissioner.

The pedestrian-only idea was brought up by Commissioner Jonah Wolfson (who didn't respond to a message from Riptide) during discussion at a meeting last month. According to Libbin, no other commissioners are yet on board; a verbal report on the proposal was given at another meeting last Wednesday, and a study will likely be conducted before the initiative advances.

The chamber of commerce is slated to address the issue at its own meeting next week, when Libbin expects the organization to take a more formal stance.

But the former commissioner's own opinion was already set: turning South Beach's other iconic boulevard into a walk-only zone would be a blow to business.

"If you look at all the cars that are there now," he said, "if you see all those cars -- and to think that they're all going to walk from wherever they're coming?"

Send your tips to trevor.bach@miaminewtimes.com, or follow @trevorbach.

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