South Miami

Tree City USA (aka South Miami) also boasts bikes

A Royal Poinciana tree blooms on Souwest 67th Avenue south of Bird Road in South Miami in 2013.
A Royal Poinciana tree blooms on Souwest 67th Avenue south of Bird Road in South Miami in 2013. Miami Herald File

South Miami is well known for its lush landscape and brilliantly bright gardens. Those traits led it to be named a 2014 Tree City USA last month by the Arbor Day Foundation. Even more recently, the city passed a resolution to support the WHEELS bicycle event Nov. 11-15, showcasing the area’s nature-flanked trails.

“We get cyclists from all over the East Coast to come down to South Florida to try out our public transit and our bike trails and really get people riding,” Mayor Philip Stoddard said. “It will make people really aware of what the possibilities are and what we are doing.”

The goal of the WHEELS event is to improve daily life of people who live in South Florida, to help them take advantage of safe, efficient, affordable and sustainable walk, bike, transit or trail transportation. The event will provide an interface for 10,000 cyclists and walkers with transit and trails, including bike rides along a 44-mile trail network including the Underline, South Dade Trail, Black Creek Trail, Old Cutler Trail, Commodore Trail and Rickenbacker Causeway. WHEELS will also hold block parties for residents and visitors between the Miami River and in Homestead.

Commissioner Bob Welsh, who uses his 10-speed to deliver fliers to between 700 and 900 South Miami homes in a single day, said that citizens need to fight for safer bikeways.

“It’s not important to that many people; you don’t see that many bicycle commuters,” Welsh said. “Face it, this is Miami. Everybody drives a car. If you drive a bike to work, like I did for years, you are risking your life. The moral of the story is: If you want to exercise on a bike, fight for Ludlam Trail ... fight for an Underline.”

On Dec. 16, Miami-Dade commissioners voted to send a developer’s plan for the Ludlam Trail to the county’s master-plan process. That decision should bring the matter back in front of the commission in February 2016.

James Corner Field Operations was chosen on March 5 to design the Underline bicycle route and linear park.

South Miami is uniquely suited to host the WHEELS event because of the position of the Underline, which is an integral portion of the East Coast Greenway.

The event also incorporates the annual membership summit of the East Coast Greenway Alliance. The summit will feature the initiator of the Atlanta BeltLine, Ryan Gravel, indicating how South Florida can evolve through green mobility.

WHEELS partners include: Florida Department of Transportation District 6, the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, Miami-Dade Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, Bike 305, Bike SoMi, the Miami Underline, Emerge Miami, the East Coast Greenway Alliance, Green Mobility Network, Dover, Kohl & Partners, and J&B Imports.

Welsh said the WHEELS event will work well for a city that boasts a bundle of bike shops.

[The event] “is one more point that bicyclists come into the city and [it brings in] money,” Welsh said. “Besides Mack Cycle, and South Miami Bike Shop ... we have a couple bike shops around. We have one on the northbound side of U.S. 1. If you have a bike event, you need bike shops to keep the bikes running.”

At its March 3 meeting, the city commission agreed to pass a resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Bicycle Action Committee (BAC). The agreement would allow BAC to use the South Miami logo on bicycle clothing sold by BAC. A portion of the proceeds from the sales will go toward the city’s public biking initiatives.

Miami, Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale all participate in the BAC.

“We’ve done our bicycle master plan already, so now we are going to be starting on a project to make biking safer,” Stoddard said. “We put $25,000 toward the master plan for the Underline. We are putting a lot of effort and equity into making South Miami a good bike city.”

The city was honored for its commitment to effective urban forest management by meeting Arbor Day Foundation requirements of having a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

“Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens in communities like South Miami make smart investments in urban forests,” Chief Executive of the Arbor Day Foundation Matt Harris said in a news release. “Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neighborhoods, along with numerous economic, social and environmental benefits.”

This is the fourth consecutive year the city has achieved the designation.

“It means that we have to keep planting trees,” Welsh said. “And we have to put the fear of God in any landscape company that wants to illegally cut our trees. Every landscape company that comes in has a chainsaw. They have to know that if they break the rules, they could lose their business license.”

“This is a word of warning to people that illegally cut trees: Google Earth is watching you.”