Every major city I’ve visited has designated bicycle lanes. World leaders recognize that riding bicycles improves physical health, as well as the health of cities as a whole, since bicycles cut down on traffic and pollution.
When I left for vacation last June, all the major streets in the village of Palmetto Bay were being “improved.” Imagine my disappointment when I returned to find not bicycle lanes, but stenciled pictures of bicycles with street signs glibly declaring, “Share the road.”
To be fair, this issue is not particular to Palmetto Bay, it affects Miami in general. Our streets were never meant to accommodate the number of cars that use the grid each day. Instead of admitting that and widening the north-south streets to two lanes for cars plus one lane for bicycles, local leaders assume it will just figure itself out. How many bicyclists have to be killed or maimed before our community wakes up to the serious danger we face?
In the 1970s, when I was living in Denver, I gave up my car both for my health and to make an environmental statement. My friend Tom Daly and I created a “car cooperative,” which helped car owners with their expenses and provided the “car-less” with access to a vehicle when they needed it.
Almost daily, traffic is slowed because bicyclists are “sharing the road.”
Lately, I have even seen some golf carts obstructing traffic. Too few drivers know how to safely pass our two-wheeled friends, so they wait until there is no car coming in the other direction to pass the bikes. This creates frustration and anxiety for all involved.
It should also be noted that the bicycle-riding community is also guilty of not following the rules of the road.
Slower-moving traffic should stay to the right, but I have seen bicyclists riding two or three abreast, ignoring the line of cars behind them. Additionally, many bicyclists fail to stop at Stop signs and red lights, and often fail to signal a right or left turn.
As members of the Miami community, we must recognize that this issue affects us all.
Too often, we take a fractionalized view of the issue, which leads to a competitive stance, further impeding us from making the necessary strides to make us all safer, no matter which vehicle we prefer.
We have a problem and we can solve it. But it will take all of us working together to make it safe for both drivers and bicyclists to travel the streets of Miami.
Terry A. Bookman, Pinecrest