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How Much Do You Walk? Livability In South Florida

Carl Juste/Miami Herald Staff

Have you ever tried to cross US-1 on foot? Both in South and North Miami, all the way through Broward and even in parts of the Florida Keys it’s a harrowing experience. People are driving fast and not expecting pedestrians. It has the feel of an action movie to it and one you’re definitely not starring in.

There are other roads that have this same feel in South Florida. Brickell, Calle Ocho and the Macarthur Causeway are streets you take to get from point A to point B and pray you avoid running into a $200,000 luxury car or uninsured $500 car.

What you might not know is that most of the streets that are a nightmare for pedestrians are all maintained and operated by the State of Florida.

“The state (of Florida) doesn’t use context,” says Craig Chester, contributor to Transit Miami, “they use a standard and a manual, and they are limiting economic potential and walkability.”

Tony Garcia, chairman of the board at the Green Mobility Network goes on to say, “State roads are not designed for pedestrians because pedestrians slow cars down.”

I had never considered this distinction but it’s opened my eyes to the potential the city can have if we collectively put in some effort. The nascent popularity of Wynwood, despite some of its obvious pratfalls like crime, shows the demand for walkable places. People want to walk, at least for shopping, dining and nightlife.

“We can’t have great places without walkable streets,” Chester explains, “and people are starting to vote with their feet.”

In Miami, sometimes people drive three blocks, literally. It’s either the humidity or a pervasive collective consciousness that inspires counter-intuitive laziness. But more likely it’s that Miami is just not a friendly walking city. Is it too much to ask that this change? That we make an effort for this change?

Around three years ago, I was driving 45 minutes each way to my previous job and it was only 12 miles. This is absurd and many South Floridians do it. I made a concerted effort to move within walking distance of my job and my life changed for the better. After I crunched the dollar amount, the amount I saved on gas was negligibly less than the raise in rent.

Unfortunately, many do not have the luxury of working in an office that’s within walking distance of reasonable housing or a place they want to live. And that’s a public transportation issue, a larger and more complex story, but still part of the same narrative.

“It’s a philosophical issue,” Garcia explains, “but [transit and walking] are linked. Let’s not design Brickell like a highway when it’s our urban core.”

Credit floridareview.com
Car2go, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler North America, announced its expansion to the Miami area in 2012.

There are people in Miami working on public transportation issues, such as the website Transit Miami, the activist group Purple Line, and there are very real practical advances in sustainable public options such as the car sharing company Car2Go, the free taxi service Swoop on Miami Beach, and the bike sharing Deco Bike program, which should be unveiling a city of Miami option this year. Despite the fact that these are longer processes, we have to start recognizing success and we have to start acting on what the community needs.

“Miami has a problem with civic engagement,” says Chester, “it’s not sexy and not so Miami.” And he’s right. The constant cry of long time residents frustrated with Miami is that public transportation is broken and there’s nothing to do about it. But you can use all of these new options for starters, as well as put your money into the businesses that are trailblazing South Florida’s alternative options.

Another great way would be to join an advocacy group like the Green Mobility Network. If you see a huge glaring need for betterment of the community, then do something about it.

What other alternative forms of transportation are popping up in South Florida? Where do you walk? Leave a comment below or tell us about it on our Facebook page.