There are a lot of unsafe ways to cross streets and main throughways in Miami Shores. Some sidewalks lack visible crosswalks to their adjacent streets and there are no dedicated bicycle lanes, among other things.
“Finding safe routes to cross busy streets is one of our challenges,” said John Camp, a Miami Shores resident who remembered much safer times in the community decades ago. “I want it to be for my daughter what it was like for me growing up.”
Camp is one of five concerned residents who are trying to make the village safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
As of Dec. 2, the unofficial task force of residents can finally say they are a little bit closer to their goal. The Village Council awarded a multi-modal mobility study to review pedestrian and bicycle issues to Kimley-Horn and Associates.
“The task force achieved our goal by getting the council to agree to take on the study,” said Camp.
The mobility study will evaluate the state of transportation in Miami Shores and develop a plan to improve the village’s transportation options. The process to get this study on the books, however, took more than two years.
The committee of residents came together after Miami Shores participated in its first Walk to School Day two years ago, an international movement to get children and adults thinking about alternative ways of transportation to school.
Inspired by the movement, the volunteer group began informally meeting to discuss what a more pedestrian-friendly community would look like.
“We want to create as safe an environment for our kids as possible,” said Patrice Gillespie-Smith, 42, who is one of the volunteer members of the unofficial committee. “Miami Shores is in a great location, [but] there are some areas where the car is the primary mode. At times that can be a little intimidating.”
The group also surveyed a number of Barry University students last year and found that students overwhelmingly supported exploring alternative modes of transportation.
“They would bike to downtown Miami Shores if they had a safe way,” said Roxanne Davies, associate vice president for Mission and Institutional Effectiveness at Barry University, who is also a member of the committee. “I think we have to do these things to create awareness of the safety that’s needed for our young people.”
To lift their initiative off the ground, they reached out to Councilman Hunt Davis, who immediately jumped on board.
“We have a growing population of people who are interested in bicycling and walking,” Davis said. “The bicycle community is really getting more and more active in Miami Shores and that’s something that we want to try continue to promote.”
Davis pitched the idea of submitting a grant application for the study to the Village Council about a year ago.
The task force, he said, would use the grant money to cover the costs of a third party consulting company, who would be responsible for conducting the bicycle/pedestrian study.
By January, the council unanimously decided to commit to endorsing and submitting the application. Grant rules also required the Shores to meet a minimum of 20 percent additional funding, if the grant was awarded, which it was a few months later.
“Right now, Miami Shores is a pretty amazing community, but it’s exciting to think about the possibilities once some of those additional connections are made,” said Gillespie-Smith. “Now were going to have experts tell us this is how you’re going to make that happen.”
According to the members of the task force, the consulting firm will have one year to complete the study and give results back to the council.
“I think it’ll offer us a number of exciting possibilities,” Camp said. “The layout of the village has tremendous potential to be bike and pedestrian friendly.”
His concern, he said, will be the discussion of how to pay for the improvements that the community-wide study recommends.
“We have limited resources,” Camp said. “I think that will be the next challenge that we face, to convince the village council and community at large.”