Architect proposes linear park for Rickenbacker Causeway

07/01/2014 12:36 PM

07/01/2014 4:06 PM

The Rickenbacker Causeway linking Miami to Key Biscayne is a road with varying posted speed limits ranging from 25 to 45 mph. But many drivers view the Rickenbacker as an expressway and race their vehicles down it in excess of 55.

Such high speeds endanger other causeway users — like the many cyclists and joggers who populate the bike lanes on both sides of the road. The recent death of one cyclist and injuries to others have sparked widespread discussion about ways to slow down traffic and increase protection for cyclists and pedestrians.

Now, a proposal to reconfigure the causeway radically has been put forward by a prominent Miami architect and avid cyclist, Bernard Zyscovich.

The plan, supported by the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, would essentially turn the Rickenbacker from a road where vehicles speed as if on an expressway to a scenic road through a park with lots of trees and other vegetation separating vehicle lanes from bike and pedestrian paths. The causeway, which now has up to three lanes in each direction, would become two lanes from the mainland to the entrance to the village of Key Biscayne.

“If I had to describe it in just one simple thought, it would be to try and make a safe and secure park out of what is currently a highway,” Zyscovich said in an interview last week at his office in downtown Miami.

The causeway belongs to Miami-Dade County.

The change would begin at the approach to the existing causeway toll plaza from U.S. 1. Zyscovich would turn a space into a bike lane and an adjacent path for pedestrians and joggers. The bike lane and foot path would be separated from vehicle traffic lanes by landscaping such as trees and bushes. The bike lane would be painted green.

After the toll plaza, where the causeway has three lanes in each direction, the road would become two lanes. The third lane would be reserved for the continuation of the separated, landscaped space for the bike and foot paths that would begin at U.S. 1.

The separated bike-foot path would continue through the Crandon Park area to the entrance to the village of Key Biscayne, where no changes are envisaged.

Other than the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee’s endorsement, Zychovich’s proposal has not received any formal, official backing. There is no funding for it, so construction would not begin anytime soon.

Zyscovich said that before embarking on full-fledged construction, authorities should undertake a preliminary project. Zyscovich would like to see delineation of the bike-foot paths with plastic poles similar to those separating the express lanes from the free lanes on Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade.

Were the full-fledged proposal to be implemented, the cost would be $20 million to $30 million, Zyscovich said.

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