Miami Beach Throws Wrench (and not a spoke wrench) in Bike Plans

As reported in the Herald (which is so stingy with its online news that the link will be dead by tomorrow - what's up with that?), a majority of Miami Beach City Commissioners voted in the city's neighborhoods committee not to recommend a plan that would put bike lanes on Alton Road and instead endorse one that would feature super-wide sidewalks.

(If this were Canada, we might see bands of renegade bikers painting their own lane.)

The recommendation will be taken into consideration at the next City Commission meeting on May 14.

Of course, the ultimate decision isn't the city's to make -- it's the Florida Department of Transportation's, and that makes things more interesting.

FDOT is obligated by state statue to include bike accommodations where possible. They were recently sued by a Boca Raton bicycling group for refusing to put bike lanes on A1A. They lost - a decision which we hope will scare FDOT into taking bicyclists more seriously.

But right now, the immediate culprit is the city. Miami Beach commissioners have argued the usual litany of nonsense - Alton Road is too busy, there's not enough room on the street, they'd have to remove parking, etc.

The problem is that the city is missing the forest for the trees - or, if you will, the wheel for the spokes. The Beach is packed to capacity with cars, plagued by traffic, and - in case city commissioners haven't noticed - the days of cheap gas are over.

Bicycling, meanwhile, is on the rise: it's on the rise in cities across the country, and it's on the rise here. Whether the city likes it or not, people will use bicycles to get around the beach, and they will (and should) ride in whatever streets they damn well please.

The question is how safe those streets are going to be -- the committee's opinion that bicycles should share the sidewalk, however wide it winds up, is absurd. On a bike, every alley, storefront, driveway, and door is a blind corner; and every pedestrian is an accident waiting to happen.

The Beach can give bikes a lane and ask them to stick to it, or they can sit back and let bikes and cars duke it out for space.

But look out -- one of these days, the bikes might win.

-- Isaiah Thompson

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