Miami Springs has been awarded a $598,000 grant to install a paved bike path that will connect the library to the community center, swimming pool and ballpark.
Plans for the Westward Drive Bike Path show it will stretch nearly a mile running from Flamingo Circle up to Hammond Drive. From there, a striped bike lane will connect to the Ludlam Road bike path.
“This will be a major construction project,” said City Manager Ron Gorland, who added that this stretch of historic road was once a canal.
Westward Drive is of great significance to the town as it was one of its first roads, according to Carol Foster, the city’s grant writer. The road was laid out in 1923 by town founder Glenn Curtiss.
The Transportation Enhancement grant, from the Florida Department of Transportation, will help the city connect its many bike paths. Currently, the city has paths that run along the golf course, Curtiss Parkway, Ludlam Drive and North Royal Poinciana Boulevard. The Westward Drive segment will direct riders to and through the center of town.
“We want to make this city as bike-friendly as possible,” said Mayor Zavier Garcia, who just bought a new bicycle and hopes to encourage residents to park their cars and pedal more about town. “It is a great way to stay in shape and save money and resources.”
Garcia has long been a proponent of bike paths throughout the city. Last spring, he joined with County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa to stave off plans by a company seeking to run a jet-fuel pipeline underneath the Ludlam bike path that would have required uprooting nearly two miles of trees.
“The majority of the tree canopy along Westward Drive will be protected,” said Garcia, who was adamant about keeping the green space intact to protect property values.
Though the Florida Department of Transportation preferred a straight-line bike path, Garcia and other local officials pushed for some “curves” to protect historic oaks and other trees. Though a few nuisance trees may be removed, the city expects to plant 33 new trees and more than 300 bushes.
On top of that, the new bike path is expected to have landscaping and lighting similar to Curtiss Parkway, which Garcia thinks will enhance security as more residents will be walking the path at night.
“Paved trails that connect neighborhoods to recreational facilities and commercial areas give people choices when they go about their daily business,” said David Henderson, an official with Miami-Dade’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Henderson, who has also worked closely with the Florida Bicycle Association and the League of American Bicyclists, feels that traveling on foot or with a bicycle saves money, improves health and builds a stronger community.
Another bicyclist who is familiar with local streets cheers the move and hopes the city will go after more funds to add more bike lanes, off-street paths and racks.
“The road network is well connected with enforced slow streets and it’s a small area with a great town center,” said Collin Worth, the county’s bicycle coordinator, who has led large groups of riders on guided tours through Miami Springs.
Countywide, more and more people are parking their cars and hopping on bikes to go to work, shop and just cruise. Last month, more than 3,000 riders rode from downtown Miami, and along neighborhood streets, to promote bicycling as a practical form of transportation.
Locally, officials are confident that more residents will shuffle between recreation sites, visit the post office and go to City Hall either on foot or by bike.
“The project is expected to start as soon as funds are available,” said City Manager Ron Gorland, who added that completion may take up to a few years due to various approval processes and permitting.
The city will post periodic updates about the bike path, which will not require major city expenditures, on its website: www.miamisprings-fl.gov.