On September 25th the City of Coral Gables will be having a community meeting at the Youth Center (405 University Drive) starting at 6:30pm to discuss adding sidewalks and a bicycle lane along Alhambra Circle from Coral Way to San Amaro Drive. The project stems from the 2014 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and is part of the city’s complete streets resolution.
The Alhambra Circle roadway improvement project is part of a five year capital improvement plan with an estimated cost of $1,291,760 which includes a $597,760 grant. The scope of the project includes reducing automobile lane widths to ten feet to calm traffic, construction of adjacent bicycle lanes, as identified in the adopted Coral Gables Bicycle Master Plan, repave the entire roadway and provide ADA compliant sidewalk connections.
“At the end of the day this is an important public safety project for the City of Coral Gables. For too long the portion of Alhambra, south of Coral Way, has been a danger zone for pedestrians. ” says Robert Ruano who is a resident near Alhambra Circle and is Chairman of Bike Walk Coral Gables. Bringing pedestrian safety to the area is a major component to the project. The city wants to build a safe pedestrian infrastructure to be able to grant pedestrian access to local neighborhood parks such as Betsy Adams Park and Blue Road Open Space.
Sections of Alhambra that don’t have sidewalks will surely get them. That’s because the City Commission passed Resolution 2018-268 which eliminated the concurrency requirements for the construction of new sidewalks along collector streets such as Alhambra, Blue Road, Granada, Riviera, University and Sunset.
When it comes to traffic calming, the city says reducing the vehicular lane width and adding a bike lane slows cars down. Ruano agrees, saying “The bike lanes, which I understand they would propose, would slow down the speed of traffic and would force groups of cyclists to ride in the bike lane, find another street, or risk the chance of a ticket.”
The planned bicycle path will be painted without any physical barriers, which has some residents concerned. “The original grant application was for the construction of striped bicycle lanes” says Jessica Keller, Assistant Public Works Director, adding “there may be segments where protected bicycle infrastructure is an option we will explore”. The city itself promotes protected bike lanes on their dedicated page, https://www.coralgables.com/bike.
However, some say regardless of the lanes being protected or not, this is what the city needs to do to follow the complete streets concept and move forward. “Families may use the sidewalk for cycling, but commuter cyclists prefer the street. Pedestrians are the most unpredictable element on a sidewalk in addition to dogs. Sidewalks are not the ideal place to ride a bike. While a bike lane may not be a protected bike lane, it alerts drivers that its an area they should not go into and slows traffic down.” says Sue Kawalerski who is a longtime resident and avid member of the cycling community.
The community meeting is almost guaranteed to be contentious. In 2018, a similar bicycle lane was proposed on Riviera Drive just south of US-1. A group of 40 residents massed at city hall strongly opposing bicycle lanes on the already busy street. The commission at the time voted in favor of the Riviera Drive neighbors and most hold the same office today; with the exception of Commissioner Frank Quesada whose seat is now held by Commissioner Jorge Fors, Jr.
One of the most criticized components has been the master plan itself. The 2014 Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan cites the main stakeholder groups involved with the creation of the plan as Bike Walk Coral Gables, Gables Bike Day, Mack Cycle, UBike/University of Miami and the Dutch Consulate.
“The only stakeholders included in the master plan seems to have been bicycle related non-profits, a business that sells bicycles and the Dutch Consulate.” says nearby resident Maria Cruz who received notice about the meeting, adding “We’re not Amsterdam, we’re Coral Gables and if we’re going to change and evolve then city employees should ask the real stakeholders, the residents and taxpayers what we want.”
Residents want to see a respectful and transparent process of public input and discourse. Something the city has been working hard at. Their first chance will be at this community meeting.
“Informed effective input is a necessity. This is a different kind me-too movement; you have to build the public right of way with me in mind. Me the cyclist. Me the car user. Me the pedestrian and me the electric scooter user.” said Kawalerski. She believes residents should give input on what the design should look like from the beginning and not the other way around.
A simple Google News search of “bike lanes” shows similar debates are being held nationwide. Let us know what you think about having bike lanes and sidewalks on your street in a comment below.
Click Here for a copy of the 5 year Capital Improvement Plan
Click Here for a copy of the 2014 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan
Click Here for the Riviera Bicycle Path Item Verbatim Minutes
Click Here for a copy of the Community Meeting Notice