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‘Bike to the Ballpark’ event offers cyclists discounted Marlins tickets, police escort

Does riding a bike to a Miami Marlins ballgame sound like a good, fun alternative to driving? But you’re not sure how to navigate safely to the stadium on two wheels? Then fear not.

On Sunday, cyclists can get discounted tickets as cheap as $15 to the afternoon Phillies game and ride with a police escort from downtown Miami to the ballpark, where — should additional enticement be necessary — they will be greeted by Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.

The family-friendly “Bike to the Ballpark” event is the first dry run in a long-in-the-making initiative by the city, the Marlins and cycling advocates to establish an on-street bikeway to the East Little Havana stadium, part of a broader effort to provide fans with appealing alternatives to driving to games.

By the start of next season, advocates and planners hope, a 1.6-mile route marked by signs and pavement striping will connect the stadium to the Government Center Metrorail and Metromover station on the other side of the Miami River. That will make it easy for fans to take their bikes on the train, then safely pedal the short distance to the stadium, they say.

Planners always meant to encourage cycling to games — popular at other urban baseball parks across the country — as part of the transportation scheme for the Marlins’ stadium, which has limited car parking in four city-owned garages. The city parking authority installed covered racks for 145 bikes inside both north-side garages.

But even though bike parking is free, compared to $20 for cars, those racks have gone woefully underused, in part because city and county planners could not settle on a feasible bikeway to the stadium in time for this year’s inaugural season. In the absence of a designated route, busy game-time car traffic has discouraged people interested in cycling to games from doing so, advocates say.

“I’ve been to Marlins games. No one is using the bike racks,” said Eli Stiers, a Miami lawyer and board member of Green Mobility Network, a nonprofit group that is organizing Sunday’s ballpark ride. “But it’s actually very easy to get to the stadium from a central location like Government Center.

“We want to have a good showing to demonstrate this is possible, that it’s not scary, it’s not dangerous,” he said. “And hopefully by next year we’ll have a permanent greenway to the stadium.”

One problem for transportation planners has been the distances from the stadium to the nearest two Metrorail stations, which are too far away for a comfortable walk. The city now provides popular free trolleys from the Civic Center/Jackson Memorial Hospital station to the ballpark.

To connect cyclists to the stadium from Government Center, planners have settled on a route that follows Northwest Third Street to Northwest North River Drive, then crosses the Miami River on the Fifth Street Bridge. On Sunday, the escorted ride will take Northwest Fourth Street directly into the stadium, but city planners say the permanent route might instead use Third and Fifth streets, which are one way in and out of the ballpark.

Eventually, the short bikeway should connect to a planned, city-wide network of on-street bicycle lanes and marked bike routes. The Florida Department of Transportation, for instance, will install a combination of bike lanes and sharrows — chevron-shaped pavement markings indicating that traffic lanes are to be shared by bikes and cars — on nearby Flagler and Southwest First streets as part of a soon-to-start resurfacing project.