Bike the Nation: Miami-Dade County Part 2
We previously wrote about the major advances being made to the bike infrastructure in Miami-Dade county in our first Bike the Nation post. It’s clear that Miami is set to have a bicycle renaissance of its own thanks to local support, the true impetus for change. Any given day there is a group ride scheduled, a petition signing at local markets, and countless blogs and twitter streams feeding the movement. Take a look at how Miamians are enjoying their bikes, and their goals and issues in 2012.
Miami-Dade Bike Culture:
Each city, village, town or unincorporated area in Miami-Dade County is rich in people-watching material, entertainment, food, and music. Bike culture is blossoming in unique ways thanks to many of those influences. “We have a lot of people who have moved here from South America, Colombia or Brazil. Colombians are the creators of the ciclovía- so we do get a push from Colombians. New Yorkers, too- they’ve gone through a cycling renaissance. When they come here, they ask, “hey, where is this stuff?” says Collin Worth, the City of Miami’s Bike Coordinator.
Here’s one suggestion. Those who have made Miami-Dade home can attend a Miami Critical Mass ride every last Friday of the month. According to Rydel Deed, blogger and activist, “the growth of the Critical Mass ride on the last Friday of each month (which now averages 600-700 cyclists) is helping raise awareness by letting the public know that cyclists are out here on the streets and growing in numbers.” The rules are simple, and everyone from bicyclists and, less frequently, skateboarders, inline skaters, roller skaters and other self-propelled commuters take to the streets en masse.
Hot Bodies, Sound Infrastructure? The year-round sunshine when most other states are wrapped in winter, and access to water makes Miami a triathlon mecca. Thousands are swimming, biking, and running- and bringing attention to bike riding in the process. Publix hosts the Escape to Miami Triathlon, with 1600 participants. The Nautica South Beach Triathlon hosts 3,000 athletes. Go to Trifind.com for more information. Miami Bike Polo offers healthy, unconventional competition. So, if you’re not that into safety, you might want to take part in Miami Bike Polo. Yes, it’s polo on a bicycle instead of a horse- a cheaper, less dirty version. You’re even encouraged to make your own mallets- a quick DIY tutorial is available on their site. Never seen people play bike polo? Watch a documentary, below.
Bike Tours, like the ones Emerge Miami organizes monthly, are not only fun but also support local businesses. In December, the group offered a “Caffeine Tour” starting in Little Havana (for yummy Cuban cafecitos) and ending at Panther Coffee in Wynwood, home of the Wynwood Art District and great tours by bicycle. Street.Art.Cycle also hosted a tour by bike for around 150 cyclists (video below). Bike and Roll Miami offers both guided and self-guided tours everywhere from South Beach to the Miami River and Little Havana. You may rent bikes from them along with helmets and locks. You can finish off your tour with Miami’s bicycle happy hour. Remember to drink and ride responsibly.
So many bicycle stores offer group rides. Retail stores like Mack-Cycle, which has been in business for 50 years, host weekly team practices for events like the Annual MS Bike Ride for the Cure and the Miami Tour de Cure, a race benefiting the American Diabetes Association. They have outfitted generations with bikes and bicycle gear. Sign up for Mac-Cycle’s MS ride here, South Floridians. Marketing is also getting on two wheels with Green Wheel Marketing Why not? Marketers are ever looking for a fresh take.
Keep a look out, locals. Change is coming, from the resumption of Miami Bike Days and the inauguration of the first Coral Gables Bike Days, to possible bike corrals and the development of bicycle/pedestrian mobility plans from the Downtown Development Authority and the Health District. If you’re in Miami and want a more comprehensive calendar of things to do, visit the Miami Bike Scene.
A FEW GOALS FOR 2012:
Sure, there’s a lot of fun to be had, but there is also a long way to go in making biking a safe and effective mode of travel in Miami-Dade. 2012 brings many opportunities to the area. The City of Miami will attempt to become a bike-friendly city again. They just missed it in 2011, garnering an Honorable Mention. But, as Mr. Worth put it, “Bike Friendly” isn’t just about bike lanes, sharrows, and parking spots. It’s about culture and educational elements, as well.
Listen up, Miami drivers! Dissemination of bike education is a huge goal. It turns out that many drivers don’t know that bicycles may share the lane and don’t have to take to the sidewalk. In some rare instances, bicyclists have been ticketed by local police officers for riding in the road. Says Mr. Deed: “Bike lanes are great but cannot be everywhere due to road widths, on-street parking, etc. Sharrows are the alternative, I really like sharrows, hopefully local government steps up with a proper campaign which informs drivers on what sharrows are and that they are required to share the road. They can paint sharrows all across South Florida, but if motorists don’t understand what it is, then it serves little purpose. Proper enforcement of 3-ft law is also needed.” Visit The Miami Bike Report for a go-to list of local laws.
In a perfect world, bike and pedestrian-minded infrastructure would get as much funding (or more!) than cars. Biking builds community and supports local businesses, in addition to reducing greenhouse gases and making people healthier. There has been some progress towards more government-funding. Since March 2010, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been directing state DOTs and local jurisdictions to “treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.” Still, as the Bicycling and Walking in the U.S.: 2012 Benchmarking Report shows, “the United States overall has great disparities between bicycling and walking mode share, safety, and funding. Twelve percent of trips are by bicycle or foot, yet bicyclists and pedestrians make up 14% of traffic fatalities and receive just 1.6% of federal transportation dollars.”
Funding will continue to be a significant challenge (when isn’t it?) but Mr. Worth finds a way to be in the know with the grant cycle process. “I coordinate with my counterparts at the state level. I have my ear to the ground… New York has 25 people doing the grant process. It’s just me” in the city of Miami. Worth noted that state bike improvements come from the gas tax, which is a standard, set number that doesn’t rise with gas prices. In his and many others’ opinion, there is not enough money coming in from the gas tax. Mr. Hopkins said, “It’s been nice to have the gas tax money to work with, but it was always hard to get it out of the highway departments.” He believes that the public will is incredibly important if communities are determined to improve their streets and sidewalks. “It is certainly true that national legislation, legislation that has provided so many bicycle facilities over the past 12 years, that got the country started on a real effort to improve facilities. More important is public will: If communities are determined to improve their streets and sidewalks, they can do it. Our task now…is just to mobilize at the local level, city by city, and state by state, and start getting things done with local resources. We’re going to have to look very hard and employ other ways to get things done.” And that is what Mr. Worth and Mr. Hopkins are doing: building more advocacy.
SO GET INVOLVED!
Marice Chael of BikeSomi says getting involved is simple. “I say just get out there and do something! There’s so much to do: Organize a bike school bus, “Just pick it up”, clear your sidewalks in front of your homes from shrubs or obstructions, take a bike safety 101 course, have kids learn bike safety.” You can also attend a Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, says Collin. “Things get changed a piece at a time. It’s potholes and sidewalks that got us started,” at the Green Mobility Network, says Mr. Hopkins. “It can be done locally if people care enough about it.” Just do something, because your politicians won’t without your input.