In Miami, a Step Forward for Pedestrians

Big news out of Miami last week as the city government approved "Miami 21," which the Congress for the New Urbanism calls "the most ambitious contemporary zoning code reform yet undertaken by a major U.S. city."

How necessary was this reform, which is in large part aimed at making Miami a more pedestrian-friendly city? Well, hear what Miami resident Olga Ramos had to say over the weekend in a post on Streetsblog Network member Transit Miami:

3178512222_dccdb431d4.jpgThe view from Miami’s Brickell Avenue. Photo by leoncillo sabino via Flickr.

Every day I make a choice; a small choice, but an important one none
the less. I choose to walk to work. Even though my company pays for a
much-coveted covered parking spot in one of the most prestigious pieces
of real estate in Miami, I leave the transponder in my car parked in
our apartment building and I choose to use what nature gave me to get
to the office.…

[I]n Miami most people
don’t walk because it is dangerous. During my walk every day, I play a
sort of human frogger that affords me at minimum three near-death
experiences a week. As an adventuresome girl I could deal with that,
however; what really irks me is how rude people are. I have been
crossing Coral Way and Brickell, the crosswalk will be clearly
signaling my right of way and drivers will still regularly yell
obscenities in whatever native language is theirs or just use hand
signals to communicate their disgust.…

But what I really want are two simple things. I want for all of the
crosswalk lights to work (something I haven’t experienced since July)
and I would like for some signage to go up on the traffic signals that
states "Yield to Pedestrians."

If Ramos, a self-described "adventuresome girl," feels that walking the quarter-mile to her office is dangerous (yes, that’s the distance in question), how must older and less nimble residents feel? How absurd is it that such a short walk should be the source of so much stress and risk? Why is it that Brickell Avenue is lined with glittering glass towers that are touted as the latest in modern architecture, but the city can’t keep the pedestrian signals working?

This is part of what I meant last week when I talked about mobility as a basic human right. It’s not that everybody should be granted subsidized flights anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice (as some commenters chose to interpret it). It’s that if people want to leave their apartments and get to work or a friend’s house in their own community, they should be able to do so without fear — even if they don’t, can’t, or won’t drive an automobile.

Miami is taking an important step in the right direction. We look forward to hearing about concrete changes from Transit Miami and other network members on the ground there.

More from the network: Hard Drive reports on how roundabouts are revolutionizing traffic in Oregon. Copenhagenize looks at bicycle-friendly trash cans. And Extraordinary Observations says it should be easier for young people to rent cars — so that they have less reason to own them.

  • Worse are the buildings that may border on a sidewalk or transit stop, but to enter the building one has to navigate around the perimeter (maybe 180° around) to get to an entrance. Usually the entrance is next to the parking lot in the “rear”.

  • Maybe I’m unfamiliar with the particularities of Florida planning, but in what sense does safe mobility require a zoning change? It looks like Miami 21 is a pure real estate formula.

  • Brooklyn

    You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to live in South Florida. Ever.

  • You are making an important point. Instead of “mobility is a right,” maybe we should be talking about “equal rights for all street users.”

    Someone who walks or bikes should has as much right to get around safely as someone who drives, but most planners in America only consider the drivers and ignore the rights of all other street users.

  • Its a little bit too late for Miami. Every tower has been built so the first 5-6 floors are parking. Theres no street level, there are no lobbies. The lobby and pool is found on top of the garage on floor 8.

    On the other hand, they do have the awesome metromover (automated people mover system)

  • And I think its funny that cities where roundabouts (rotaries) have existed for decades are trying to get rid of them because theyre dangerous, while cities without them are trying to add them because they’re safe!

    The whole “chaos” argument in the article is that people dont expect it, and so slow down and pay attention. But guess what, 10 years later people are experts at rushing into the rotary without slowing down. Its hell for pedestrians too. Crossing at the rotary entrances is unsafe, as motorists are only looking left, so the crosswalk is pushed back, meaning a much longer walk. And since you cant walk straight across (one crosswalk), but around, you end up having to cross three streets.

    And if youre a bike and want to go around the rotary to the 2nd or 3rd exit….good luck!

    Rotaries are designed for high speeds, thats why in Massachusetts, all the exits on i-93 north of the city use them. They may seem like a good idea in the west now….but it’s 4 million down the drain come 2015.

  • Charles

    There is a big difference between a modern roundabout and an old-fashioned rotary. The old rotaries were designed to move large amounts of traffic at high speed. Modern roundabouts, properly designed, have much tighter curves. They are designed to slow, but not stop, traffic. Neither is great for pedestrians, but in places that are deluged with vehicles, a roundabout is a good alternative to a road widening because it avoids the need to add space to stack traffic waiting for its turn to move through the intersection.

  • Andrew

    Yes there are different types of roundabouts but essentially all are not friendly or safe to pedestrians. They slow traffic because the car has to go around them. unfortunately as Jass points out the object is to go around as quickly as possible so the speed relative to the environment is fast. Drivers do not have time to look out for peds and bikes. if they were safe, why would it be necessary to divert the pedestrians away from the round part, even putting up barriers and rails to stop the pedestrian entering into the danger zone.

    The other issue with the roundabout is that it provides for traffic to be continuously moving, which is great for the motorist but bad for the pedestrian. In heavy traffic they dont provide breaks for peds to cross and they feed the motorists ego because roundabouts are all for them.

  • J. Mork

    Andrew —

    Have you heard of this guy?



Are Sidewalks Really Necessary?

A lot of big, surprising revelations are happening in the livable streets movement around the country today. Here’s a sample of what Streetsblog Network members are reporting. Miami Adopts Vision Zero Policy: Street safety advocates are elated after Miami officials suddenly announced the city would adopt a Vision Zero policy aimed a reducing the number […]

Trying to Lure Google? Better Have Mixed-Use, Walkable Development

Around the Network today: A mega-employer demands more sustainable development near its headquarters, a city launches bike sharing, and NIMBYs resist sidewalks. Google Wants Mixed-Use Development: Scaledown reports on what Google wants from the city where its global headquarters are located: mixed-use development and residential density. In a letter to the city of Mountain View, […]