I want a Pelican, Puffin, Toucan, or even just a Zebra in Miami
February 3, 2016 1:57 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I recently moved to Miami, Florida, having previously lived in more pedestrian-oriented cities. We've learned that many people view driving here as a free-for-all, with little regard for rules, responsibility, or merely trying not to kill anyone. I don't expect to single-handedly change this culture, but I would like drivers to have better awareness of one pedestrian crossing in particular and for cars to actually stop when people are walking in it. What are the things I can do to make this happen?

This is a mid-block pedestrian crossing on a 3-lane one-way street in downtown Miami, along a stretch where drivers tend to be hitting the gas hard as they see open road after negotiating a congested area. Currently there is a painted crosswalk on the street surface, flanked by signs like this. If pedestrians are attempting to cross, drivers are expected to stop about 50 feet before the crosswalk at a separate painted line flanked by signs like this, which don't seem to be noticed and certainly not obeyed, perhaps because one of them is obscured by a tree branch. About 150 feet before that line, drivers should have seen these signs alerting them to the crosswalk they will soon encounter.

None of this matters much because it's obvious that nobody pays attention to any of these signs. They are easy to ignore and they get lost amid the visual clutter of the area, especially at night when they are not well lit. People are often driving so fast they wouldn't be able to notice them anyway.

I'd like drivers to have better visibility of the crosswalk and to make abundantly clear the requirement for them to stop when pedestrians are present, preferably with flashing LED lights that can be activated automatically or manually by pedestrians. A system like this would be great, but even a more basic set of solar-powered crosswalk signs like this would make a difference. Mainly I just want to make sure drivers know they have to stop and that it's rather important that they do so.

What advice can you give me about contacting the relevant government department? Who should I contact and what should I say to get the best results? What's the best way to apply steady pressure if there's resistance or inaction? I can't say that I know how heavily used this crossing is, but it's every day for my wife and I. It's the most direct route from our 850-unit condo towers to the nearest supermarket and for many others in the area it's a good connection to the Miami Riverwalk. Due to an odd configuration of streets, there aren't nearby intersections where it's easy to cross.
posted by theory to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I really, really do applaud your efforts here but I say this as a former, decade-long Miami resident, former Miami reporter and culture vulture: It ain't gonna happen.

I mean, these people drive into each others living rooms. What's a measly crosswalk?

Miami is not a pedestrian-friendly place and it never will be. The entire city design is based on people having cars. If you do a newspaper archive search, you'll see that people have been for oh, 20, 30, 40 years decrying Miami's insensitivity to cyclists and pedestrians.

That being said, you want to start with the folks in Miami-Dade County's Transportation and Public Works division. They should host monthly meetings that are open to the public. Barring that, just go to any county commission meeting and sign up to make your case. Expect to be there for a long time. Bring a cafecito. Good luck.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:11 PM on February 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

One of the towns I frequent has put up those blinky signs with corresponding blinky pavement lights along the crosswalk itself. It's quite effective and I'd contact your local supervisor/alderman/neighborhood elected representative and start lobbying to get some put in. If you can mobilize a significant number of your 850 neighbor residences to join in, even better.
posted by quince at 2:31 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I cant speak to Miami-specific considerations and culture, but there are devices and companies out there trying to solve this issue.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:32 PM on February 3, 2016

For Miami, your best bet is to take video of cars nearly hitting pedestrians in that crosswalk and email it to local news. Repeatedly. Do a montage of near misses (it won't be hard to get good film, it's Miami). Nothing else will work. Even this is a long shot. It's Miami.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:12 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, I used to kind of know something about this space. Thus, I can suggest that a term you might find useful in searching for resources to support your goals is "citizen planner." That can help you find stuff like this: A Citizen Planner’s Tool Box: Alternative Planning Resources

(Full disclosure: A link in that article is to something I collaborated on.)

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:44 PM on February 3, 2016

Best answer: Miami has some button-activated blinky-light pedestrian signs elsewhere in the city. They kinda-sorta work in the sense that the lights give you a chance to aggressively cross the street. Most drivers will stop (really!) when the lights are going and someone is in the crosswalk, unlike where there are no lights/signs. The big problem is the herd mentality. If you can get one person to stop, the rest will fall in line. If you can't, you're out of luck. But as I said, the lights provide enough of an edge that the ped has a chance of bending traffic to their will. (I just stare down the driver as I step out into the street and it works much of the time..it's way harder to keep oneself from getting run over up in suburban Broward)

You want the public works department. I believe 311 can get you the contact info, but prepare to be disappointed in their response. We are on island time, after all. And you want City of Miami, not Miami-Dade, if you're really talking about downtown. Unless it's a state/federal highway, in which case FDOT has to approve anything that is done. (And will probably insist on doing the work themselves at the city's expense if you can get the city to advocate for the blinkenlights)
posted by wierdo at 10:47 PM on February 3, 2016

Oh, and just FYI, the law isn't on your side unless and until you actually step off the curb. That's what I meant about getting out there and making them stop. Drivers have to stop for people in the crosswalk, not people contemplating possibly being in the crosswalk in the near future. Of course, if/when some jackass mows you down, "the law" will be on the driver's side, never mind the crosswalk. Unless you happen to be a LEO or they are drunk, anyway.

Thankfully, most folks don't want to dent their luxobarge because it will cost them an arm and a leg when they turn the car in at the end of their lease, so they settle for honking or otherwise attempting to intimidate peds instead of actually striking them.
posted by wierdo at 10:57 PM on February 3, 2016

When I lived in town and walked to work, I had to cross a very busy/ unsafe street. I used to fantasize carrying a paintball gun. You could try a squirt gun with just water. It would get attention.
posted by theora55 at 10:52 AM on February 4, 2016

Oh Jeebus, don't do that! In Miami that could well get you beaten, if not shot. Lord no.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maybe you could get the city to put in one of those elevated crosswalks that's a bridge crossing the roadway.
posted by yohko at 3:14 PM on February 4, 2016

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