Miami, our driving is killing us — literally.
Our commuters spend more time stuck in traffic every year. Car crashes remain one of the leading causes of deaths across the country. Florida’s streets rank dead last nationally for pedestrian safety. Hit-and-run crashes are so epidemic that the state Legislature recently strengthened criminal penalties for leaving the scene of an accident.
Now imagine a different commute — one where walking, bicycling and public transit form a synchronized and optimized network that swiftly and efficiently transports you exactly where you need to go, exactly when you need to be there. Imagine infrastructure that is all about moving people instead of just moving cars. Imagine beautiful, tree-lined streets and urban bikeways, connecting homes, parks, transit stations, workplaces and schools. Imagine having more choices, to drive when you want, but not being forced into cars for every trip.
Wouldn’t you prefer to live in this kind of city?
The voices demanding better “green mobility” options in Miami-Dade County grow more forceful each day as the gridlock becomes more unbearable — and unsustainable. It’s no wonder that County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava recently called transportation the “lightning rod” issue in our community.
We are going to have to build our way out of the problem, but expanding highways, which will just attract more sprawl and cars, isn’t the kind of building we need. We should accelerate the expansion of transit lines, give our streets a walking/biking makeover and complete a network of safe and attractive trails including the Ludlam Trail and the Underline.
Miami can transform into a seamless, car-optional city, and it’s time to invest in that transition.
But here’s the thing: South Florida can ramp up “green mobility” now, even while we wait for the big, long-range transit projects to be completed. For example, it is already easy for many of us to combine bikes and transit. Try riding your bike to the Metrorail station or Busway stop — it’s probably closer than you think. Take your bike on the train, and use it again on the other end of your trip. Once you try it, chances are you’ll love getting around this way.
In fact, come try it with us: From Nov. 11-14, the WHEELS mega-event will offer residents and visitors an opportunity to reimagine their trips around South Florida. WHEELS, www.wheelsflorida.org, is a five-day celebration of bikes, trails and transit, based in bicycle-friendly South Miami.
WHEELS will host fun activities to expose thousands of South Floridians to a car-free commute. The goal is to demonstrate the pent-up demand for car-free travel in South Florida.
Participants are invited to enjoy free rides on Tri-Rail and Metrorail, a first-ever “bike-in street party” in South Miami, and a conference featuring nationally recognized speakers on urban mobility, including Ryan Gravel, the creator of the Atlanta Beltline, a rails-to-trails project that is transforming that city.
WHEELS will also include organized bicycle rides, group running events, and information on navigating town via transit. Experienced bike/transit commuters will be on hand to mentor folks who are ready to try green mobility.
It’s a matter of competitiveness; Miami employers will lose young, creative workers to other cities that are ahead of us on fostering alternatives to driving everywhere.
WHEELS will last four days, but it could leave a long legacy. We hope it will embolden leaders into reimagining our public streets and galvanize the community around improving the transit system and trails. Miami’s future depends on it.
Victor Dover is a town planner with Dover, Kohl & Partners and chair of the WHEELS nonprofit organization. Leah Weston is a public-interest attorney and WHEELS co-chair.