An already approved bicycle and pedestrian path, part of a group of projects approved by voters in November 2018, is in jeopardy due to interference from local politicians.
The short, one-third mile shared-use path, along Chase Avenue and 34th Street, will connect an existing neighborhood greenway on North Bay Road with bicycle lanes on Prairie Avenue, and planned protected-bicycle lanes on Alton Road.
This Wednesday, the Public Safety and Neighborhoods Quality of Life Committee, and its three members: Commissioners Meiner, Fernandez, and Rosen Gonalzez, will discuss this project and potentially delay it further.
After a vigorous public outreach process, including multiple community meetings showed widespread support for the project, staff commenced final design, applied for and received grant funding, and began permitting.
Despite the project moving forward with approvals from the City Commission, Design Review Board, and others, this item was unexpectedly placed on the July 2022 agenda of the Public Safety Neighborhoods Committee.
Since the project’s inception, the residents of a single-family home near the project’s terminus at 34th Street and Prairie Avenue have expressed opposition. Recently, they’ve met with at least two commissioners, who have posted images onto their social media accounts. They also have a yard sign supporting the mayoral campaign of the committee’s chairperson.
In the last year, both the Transportation, Parking, Bicycle Pedestrian and the GO Bond Oversight Committees have issued motions in support of this project. The GO Bond Committee, in its June 22, 2023 meeting, passed a motion of support to move the project forward “expeditiously”.
At a previous Public Safety and Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee’s meeting on May 23, 2023, several contentious claims were made. One member described this path as a “bicycle highway” and that people would be hit by bicyclists. In previous comments the proposed path has been labeled a “path to nowhere” and would have a large impact on the existing tree canopy.
These unsubstantiated claims serve to only spread misinformation. This shared-use path, an east-west link identified in the adopted Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan, would have nowhere near the number of users as the 7-mile beachwalk, which in its busiest sections has thousands of people a day.
Despite the lack of a formal motion or clear directive, staff interpreted the meeting’s outcome as a mandate to explore alternatives to the shared use path along 34th Street.
The memo attached to the upcoming July 12 meeting agenda briefly describe these alternatives. Besides a $50,000 design study, the introduction of on-street bicycle lanes would necessitate the widening of the roadway and modifications to the stormwater drainage system.
This will inevitably lead to further delays, which may be the ultimate goal.
Moreover, the project, previously estimated to cost $1.1 million, is nearly half-funded by an FDOT grant. This grant requires that the project must be completed by June 30, 2024. Any changes to the project would require additional reviews at the City, County, and State levels and delays could potentially lead to a needless waste of taxpayer resources.
While the Commission claims a desire to make the city less car-centric, their actions suggest otherwise.
In the last 12 months, no bicycle lanes have been constructed in Miami Beach, and since 2020 only 1.6 miles of net new bicycle lanes have been added to the network. In addition, the Commission declined to endorse the Baylink Metromover, which will offer a rapid mass-transit link between South Beach and Downtown.
Staff from the Capital Improvement Projects and Transportation/Mobility Department of Miami Beach will provide an update at the meeting on Wednesday, July 12. The meeting starts at 3 PM. Public comment is permitted.