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Screw You, Old Man: A Bike Blog Parable

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There’s this guy who lives near me. He’s probably in his sixties, mostly bald, perpetually shirtless. He has a house on Normandy Drive, kitty-corner to my apartment building. The house has a small driveway, and parked in that driveway is this man’s chief joy in life, a white convertible. Most days you’ll see him outside, buffing it.

This man and I have had an ongoing disagreement. I often park in front of this man’s house, where there is a patch of available street parking just big enough to fit two smallish cars.

But always, the man would demand that I park in the middle of that space. “It’s only meant for one car!” he would shout.

“You don’t own this parking!” I would hiss back, figuring he was among these assholes who think that owning a house entitles them to owning the street in front of it as well. Last weekend, my neighbor laid into me harder than usual – “I’m asking you nicely, this time,” he said menacingly. I replied, shall we say, in kind. It was war.

And then, horror of horrors, I realized one night that he had a point: with two cars crammed into this highly-contested spot, he really couldn’t see the street if he was pulling out. It was dangerous. He was right, and I was totally, completely, wrong. I knocked on his door and apologized. We made peace.

But the real culprit here is terrible urban planning. Normandy Drive is a massive, one-way, three lane road heading west -- bigger than plenty of roads in Manhattan. 71st street, its counterpart going east, is just as wide. Put together, the two represent a whopping six lanes of traffic, and cars blow through the neighborhood at fifty, sixty miles an hour, day and night.

Meanwhile, Normandy Village is a dense residential neighborhood with plenty of local stores and restaurants – perfect for walking. There are a ton of people on bicycles, a ton of kids, and it’s one of the few neighborhoods outside of South Beach where people actually get around on foot.

So why the highways running through it? The answer, of course, is that most of Miami was built for cars, not for humans.

The truth is that bicyclists and residents often want the same thing: to be able to get around their neighborhood safely, to have streets which allow cars to move through a neighborhood without putting everyone in that community in danger.

The Bike Blog thinks the answer here is plain: remove a lane of traffic in each direction and put in a bike lane. It would reduce traffic speed, allow the many people already biking on Normandy and 71st to ride safely, and would create a buffer for people pulling out of their driveways -- like my neighbor.

What about your neighborhood? Any changes you'd like to see?

-- Isaiah Thompson

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