Miami blogger: Drivers don’t — and shouldn’t — stop for pedestrians

By | June 18th, 2012 | 30 Comments
'Lawlessness = Efficiency' equals stupidity

Meltzer’s “lawlessness = efficiency” equals stupidity.

In a June 11 post titled “In Miami, We Don’t Stop for Pedestrians”, Miami Beach 411 blogger Matt Meltzer made the self-evidently stupid suggestion that motorists break the law — for example, by not yielding to pedestrians — to compensate for “pedestrian-biased laws” that, he says, account for Miami’s traffic problems.

In Meltzer’s shorthand: “lawlessness = efficiency”. Here’s an excerpt:

Pedestrians in America seem to have a sort of sense of entitlement on the road. Like for some reason because they’re on foot, cars have to stop for them. Various pedestrian-friendly traffic laws are probably to blame for this, but whatever the cause it’s a pervasive attitude among walkers in this country. But like most things, in Miami we don’t do it like the rest of the country.

Now some would complain and say this makes Miami a dangerous city. I say it actually helps us be more efficient. Traffic here — especially street traffic — is bad enough as it is. And what with the new red light cameras curtailing our trademark “Four to a Red” move, it’s getting even slower. Could you imagine if our drivers had to wait for slow-moving tourists to cross the street too? We’d never get anywhere.

A more pertinent question: Could you imagine if tourists stayed away from Miami Beach in large numbers because they thought they might get hit by a car while crossing a street? Some (fools) will say, “Miami Beach without tourists — sounds like paradise!” Well, I love a quiet beach and hate car-clogged roads as much as the next person, but I’m not under any illusion that Miami Beach would survive without its lifeblood: tourism dollars.

Another question: Could you imagine someone — a blogger for a website that calls itself “The Official Miami Travel Site”, no less — advocating for Miami’s already notoriously dangerous drivers to break the rules of the road and willfully endanger pedestrians in the name of efficiency? Miami is already known as the fourth most dangerous city for pedestrians in the United States. Meltzer, evidently, covets a higher ranking on that list of shame.

As you might expect, Meltzer got a thorough drubbing in the comment section of his post. Transit Miami blogger Craig Chester, a staunch advocate for transforming Miami into a more pedestrian- and bike-oriented city, chimed in several times. Here’s an excerpt:

Wow. Absolutely wow. Clearly Melzter is not a business owner. Um, you can’t to retail at 40 miles an hour. You can’t do retail where people are scared to cross the street. I WANT PEOPLE WALKING SAFELY BY MY BUSINESS. It’s why the best, most vibrant retail areas and cities in the USA are the ones that are are the most difficult to drive in! Lincoln Road, Midtown Miami, West Village NYC, Venice! Rome! Stockholm! This is the most insane, inane, idiotic, anti-human posting I think I’ve EVER read. Cities are for people! Not Cars! Does he not understand how value is created in a city! It’s by human activity. And human activity is incompatible with speeding vehicles.

In response to the torrent of outrage, which included a post by DC.STREETSBLOG.ORG that lambasted Meltzer’s “hateful, almost unbelievable (we’re still not 100 percent sure it’s not a joke) treatise against pedestrians”, Meltzer himself commented that the piece was meant as “entertaining” satire and a “warning to visitors”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his comments:

Lighten up, people. The guy [a previous commenter] nailed it when he said this is a warning to visitors. Told in a much more entertaining way. Kinda like telling people to wear sunscreen or brush up on their Spanish. Did it ever occur to anyone that these cities with worse traffic. Have it BECAUSE they stop for pedestrians so much? Think about it.

What you all don’t get is that I probably cycle more miles a year than most of you combined. But I know my place. I don’t run light, I don’t go out in the road with card. In short, I respect vehicles and givev them the right of way. And this makes life easier forvthe MAJORITY who are in cars. Maybe you pedestrian and cyclists should be more considerate too.

Yes, think about it. Even as Miami is becoming more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, thanks to the indefatigable advocacy of groups like Transit Miami, Green Mobility Network, and Emerge Miami, there is strong resistance to any development that would make one of the most car-centric cities in the country less dangerous to other rightful road users. Indeed, Meltzer took a beating in the comment section, but he also had his supporters: “OMG I love this article … Dont get me wrong I am not going to run down a pedestrian but half the time, especially on the beach they don’t even use cross walks so in my book that means cross at your own risk.”

Yes, there is still a long road ahead of Miami’s safe-streets advocates. Be careful: Meltzer’s driving on it.

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30 Comments on “Miami blogger: Drivers don’t — and shouldn’t — stop for pedestrians”

  1. 1 Duran said at 1:23 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    There is no doubt that Matt’s post is stupid, but Matt has been doing these kind of stories for years. He writes stuff that pisses people off and enjoys the temporary spotlight. Don’t take anything he says seriously. I’m convinced it’s just one big joke to see how he can get a rise out of people.

  2. 2 Jordan Melnick said at 1:30 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Duran, I wonder how many prospective vistors who stumble upon Miami Beach 411 take Meltzer seriously. Hopefully none. There’s also the fact that Meltzer is not alone in his misguided animosity toward pedestrians (see the comment section of almost any Herald article dealing with cyclists).

  3. 3 Duran said at 1:35 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    I agree, Jordan. I also know from first-hand experience in my daily walk/bus ride commute to work. Even the lack of crosswalks in this city amazes me.

  4. 4 Rima said at 1:42 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    I have come to the conclusion that the post was written to generate traffic to their site. It’s Blogging 101, write a controversial post so people will talk about it. I happen to think that his post is not only controversial, but rather dangerous to humans since it encourages all the wrong things and is not clearly a satire so people could easily take it serious. MiamiBeach411 might get some short term traffic, but in the long term, they have lost respect and support in the community.

  5. 5 Jordan Melnick said at 1:46 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Rima, I agree. As for genre, bad satire is not satire — it’s just bad.

  6. 6 Alex D said at 1:46 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    The more intelligent the conversation the more stupidity like this will be blurred out. Worry not.

  7. 7 LAX2MIA said at 1:54 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    I can’t comment on the MB411 post as it’s already been identified as pretty much cheap entertainment rather than a post to launch discussion, but there’s points on pedestrians that I want to touch on. I grew up in L.A. where people don’t cross the street when it says DON’T WALK even if you’re on Skid Row at 2 in the morning being chased by zombies. So I’m all for pedestrians’ rights, but as opposed to Miami, people in L.A. get ticketed for jaywalking at the drop of a hat. Here it’s a free for all. I live off Biscayne (in a neighborhood called Bayside I just found out) and on the stretch between 65th and 90th the city installed a few crosswalks with blinking lights and signs telling drivers “HEY! Someone is crossing the street”. But still people jaywalk and cross whenever and wherever they feel like it. My favorite is the person that gets off the bus then decides to use the bus as a blocker in order to get halfway across the street. Inevitably they get stuck at the median which puts them in even more danger. So until pedestrians keep their end of the bargain, and maybe better policing and actually issuing jaywalking tickets may be the catalyst for a change in behavior, I can see just a little bit how some drivers can be anti-pedestrian.

  8. 8 Jordan Melnick said at 2:04 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    LAX2MIA, thanks for sharing your perspective. I think there’s a big difference between being miffed at jaywalkers and advocating for driver lawlessness, as Meltzer did. Also, crosswalks are few and far between (literally) in Miami. Considering the blistering heat here, it’s asking a lot for people to walk blocks to find a legal crossing.

  9. 9 SG said at 2:58 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    stupid

  10. 10 Gus Moore said at 4:20 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Jordan,

    I saw the comment you posted on Matt’s article. We are open to a discussion with you, but dropping a link like you did breaks our terms of service. I’m sure you don’t want people coming here, writing a one sentence remark, and dropping a link like that.

    If you would like us to post your comment, I need to speak with you by phone and make sure you’re not just to “drive traffic” like some of your commenters have said about us.

    Being the respected blogger that you are, I also wish that you would have mentioned what Matt and I have said in follow up to his article, or contacted us for a comment, before publishing your opinion. Matt and I have been transparent about why we published the story, and I don’t feel what you said is fully accurate.

    You can reach me at 305-754-2206. Our office is open from 9am to 8pm.

    Gus Moore
    Miami Beach 411

  11. 11 Jordan Melnick said at 5:12 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Gus, your comment initially went to our spam folder, thus the error message for duplication. As for my comment on Matt’s post, it would not have violated our terms of service. I don’t mind if someone includes a link in a comment as long as it is relevant, as mine was. But it is your prerogative to let it through moderation on Miami Beach 411, and I respect that.

    As for your wish that I had mentioned your follow-ups in this post, I did in fact include an excerpt from one of Matt’s comments in addition to the excerpt from his post. I also linked to the original post, where our readers can read the full piece (which I do not believe I’ve misrepresented here) and the full comment thread.

    As for the post itself, it is straight forward and, in my opinion, unredeemable. Whether satire or not, Meltzer is indisputably promoting illegal driving, specifically the dangerous practice of not yielding to pedestrians. As other commenters pointed out, this is not the first time he has expressed similar views. That said, since you feel that I have not been fully accurate, feel free to add clarification in this comment thread.

  12. 12 Craig Chester said at 6:47 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Jordan,

    Great coverage. Check out this article Meltzer wrote in 2011: “In Defense of Miami Drivers”. Is this satire as well? It does not read like it.

  13. 13 Matt Meltzer said at 9:03 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    I cease to be amazed at how few people get what my point here. First, LAXtoMIA is right in that pedestrians need to hold up their end of the deal before we start bitching about drivers. And Miami pedestrians aren’t exactly following rules either.

    Second, and more importantly, my view (and that’s my opinion, guys, not much more) is that traffic congestion is the #1 thing that makes a city unlivable. And Miami, like it or not, will ALWAYS be a car city. You ever try walking from Kendall to Aventura? You ever try taking a bicycle from Country Walk to Surfside? Or how about a bus from Miami Lakes to Pinecrest? We’re set up for cars.

    So once we understand that (and if you don’t understand it you’re living in the same magical world where people expect Miamians to speak English all the time) we must do all we can to make traffic flow quickly. This includes giving cars the right of way, opening up streets, and discouraging development that would cause increased traffic. Why I was an continue to be a HUGE opponent of the casino project downtown. And why I think Brickell may be the worst designed part of the City.

    But that is my opinion. That the city should prioritize the ease of traffic flow. Not vehicular homicide. Not lawlessness. Just enforce laws to the extend that t doesn’t impede traffic. Because traffic is really the owrst part of living here. In my OPINION.

    Finally, I didn’t sit down to write this thinking “Gosh, how can I drive traffic to our site?” I wrote it thinking “How can I get my point across in a way that is entertaining and fun to read.”

    And guess what? I did. If this were written like an illiterate or uneducated person if the words were not put together well and the references went nowhere, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It is precisely BECAUSE the piece was done well that it has caused this much fervor. “Oh my GOd someone with a brain doesn’t agree with ME! Lets rip him to shreds.”

    Stop hating, y’all. When I want to generate traffic I’ll do another story about porn stars. This was just me telling it how I see it.

  14. 14 Carlos Miller said at 9:28 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    As a guy who spent four years writing for Miami Beach 411 and who also personally knows and respects Craig and Jordan, I can see both sides of the issue.

    Yes, the article was satire, but obviously that fact was missed by many people who do not know Matt personally.

    And if that’s happening at the rate it is happening then Matt and Gus have to ask themselves if it was, in fact, a very good job of satire.

    There’s nothing wrong with writing controversial articles, but if the only people defending the article are those associated with Miami Beach 411, then perhaps the attempt of satire failed.

    I saw it as pure satire but I’m a guy who has spent numerous nights with Matt drinking and talking and I know he’s not really like he came across in this article.

    I also know there is a serious group of individuals in Miami who are striving to make it better and that includes Craig and Jordan.

    These are people who truly care about the city and in all honesty, sometimes Matt doesn’t comes across that way in his writing.

    But then again, I know he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. These are the things we discussed on those nights when we pounded endless rounds of drinks.

    Believe me, if he was as truly anti-Miami as he comes across in his writing, I wouldn’t have hung out with him because I’m a loyal native and I will always defend this city.

    As writers, we have to be as honest and true to our voice as possible but at the same time, we can never forget our audience.

    The last thing we want is to have our stories misinterpreted because whether it is deserved or not, it will affect our credibility.

    And unfortunately, that is what happened here.

  15. 15 Jordan Melnick said at 9:35 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Matt, reasonable people can disagree on whether the city should accept Miami’s status quo as a car city and therefore make easing car traffic its top transit priority or whether it should try to transform the city into a place where car drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists all have the opportunity to move smoothly and safely throughout the city. I’d prefer the latter and I think it’s possible, but that’s only my opinion, and it’s no more valid than yours. That said, advocating for drivers to break the rules of the road and endanger pedestrians — which, no matter how you spin it, is what you did — is not reasonable, commendable, entertaining, productive, or positive in any way. Clearly you stand by your piece. Fine by me. Bloggers shouldn’t try to please everyone all the time. But I think you’re conclusion that few people get your point is wrong. They get it, and they find it deplorable.

  16. 16 Craig Chester said at 10:00 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    Matt,

    You really need to understand what “traffic” is and how and why it exists. May I suggest a book for you – “Traffic – How We Drive and What it Says About Us” by Tom Vanderbilt. It will enlighten you to the REAL causes of traffic and some basic urban planning principles. (Traffic is not slow because of pedestrians). Really, it was a NYT best-seller and your amateurish observations of traffic causation and how to “solve” it will evolve if you read what the experts have to say about it.

    First of all, any city worth it’s salt has a”traffic problem”. There are in fact cities that have solved theirs – they include the likes of Detroit, and Cleveland. In fact, those cities did such a good job with helping vehicles speed around that no one goes there any more. Our country’s (and the world’s for that matter) most favored places are the ones that are the most difficult to drive in. Coincidentally, they also happen to be where people shop, vacation, open businesses and want to live. Any place that prioritizes speeding vehicles quickly becomes a place unworthy of our affection and unworthy of human habitation.

    Seriously take a look at the book. You have to understand why people drive, what really causes traffic, why some cities have it worse than others and why prioritizing single-occupancy vehicles to encourage traffic flow is usually the worst thing to do.

    Craig

  17. 17 swampthing said at 10:15 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    To the meltzers out there who blame the lowly pedestrian instead of endless road work as the prime contributor to vehicular congestion, lock your doors. To Meltzer, quit back-peddling – your irony just got mowed.

  18. 18 Rick said at 11:51 pm on June 18th, 2012:

    I think it’s quite interesting how many folks seriously believe that Matt Meltzer will mow down any pedestrian or cyclist that gets in his way. Or that someone reading his post is going to get the urge to do it themselves. I never knew the guy was a sociopath, but then I never have met him or know him like everyone else apparently does.

    *sigh*

    Rhetoric.

    I think there’s more than enough to go around on this issue, no?

    .

    .

  19. 19 Walkabout said at 12:06 am on June 19th, 2012:

    Meltzer is a clown, why read an article about how traffic makes or breaks a city by a guy who knows little about it. I’ll stick with informative blogs like transitmiami.com (no I’m not affiliated).

    “And Miami, like it or not, will ALWAYS be a car city. You ever try walking from Kendall to Aventura? You ever try taking a bicycle from Country Walk to Surfside? Or how about a bus from Miami Lakes to Pinecrest? We’re set up for cars.”

    lol, nice list of places nobody wants to go. You could make a dumb list like that for Chicago. Miami should already have a great rail in place that serves the main core Upper Eastide > Midtown > Downtown > Brickell > Mid to South Beach > maybe the grove. The plans have been around for this to happen. Fortunately the pedestrian rail perpendicular to Biscayne from the north to downtown is under way.

    Do your homework before writing if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise, continue being a clown trolling for traffic (yes, that’s ironic).

  20. 20 Matt Meltzer said at 2:39 am on June 19th, 2012:

    Oh, I think there are a few more reasons past aggressive drivers why Cleveland and Detroit suck. One or two.

    And I don’t think the satirical point was missed at all. I just think, like with so many things the people who are mad make a much larger point than those who enjoy it or are neutral. As such, the majority who come to my defense are my friends and coworkers. The rest just roll their eyes at the haters and continue on.

    But thank you to Rick and Carlos, who’ve both been reading me for years, for getting the point here.

  21. 21 Lindsey Snell said at 10:19 am on June 19th, 2012:

    I laughed when the DC Streets blog made a fuss over Matt’s (obviously satirical) article…but a Miami blog?! Come on. I was sure living in the 305 required a solid sense of humor.

  22. 22 Maria de los Angeles said at 9:35 pm on June 19th, 2012:

    I have known Matt since his former “White Dade” days and have never thought that his inflammatory editorial would work in other publications unless they targeted that kind of audience and rhetorical approach. He’s a cool guy and consider him a colleague from past work.

    I used to write for 411 and also take exception to this article mainly because the target audience — the naive tourist — may completely misunderstand the tongue in cheek aspect of the tone and delivery — which doesn’t end up in some kind of bullet-point practical travel advice on how to cross Miami Beach streets. I also don’t see the point in comparing Miami to other cities. It is Miami. You’re traveling to Miami.

    By the way, I have not driven a car since January and my life has not been threatened any more by being a humble pedestrian. I don’t ride bikes though … maybe that makes a difference.

  23. 23 bill said at 10:58 pm on June 23rd, 2012:

    “Duran, I wonder how many prospective vistors who stumble upon Miami Beach 411 take Meltzer seriously.”

    Those are exactly the kinds of people we don’t want here.

    Meltzer’s piece was satire. Anyone who couldn’t figure that out shouldn’t be allowed to own a computer.

  24. 24 Jordan Melnick said at 9:59 am on June 24th, 2012:

    Bill, if Meltzer’s piece was satire, it was self-satire. Draping his piece in the cloak of literary genre doesn’t change the fact that it was amateur (at best), and neither the ridiculous spin that people don’t “get” it nor the fact that it started a conversation redeems it in the least.

  25. 25 Lindsey Snell said at 11:21 am on June 24th, 2012:

    Are you kidding?

    http://www.miamibeach411.com/news/don-aronow

    http://www.miamibeach411.com/news/miami-marlins-logo-unveiling

    Matt is a great writer. He’s serious when he needs to be, and you all live in a banana republic which necessitates the occasional use of satire and parody.

  26. 26 Vernon said at 11:30 am on June 24th, 2012:

    The real issue is, Meltzer agrees with his own “satire”, as evidenced in many previous forum comments and his own article “In Defense of Miami Drivers” http://www.miamibeach411.com/news/in-defense in which he ignores facts like 43,000 crashes in Miami-Dade which led the state and almost the whole USA, which is primary reason we pay some of the highest insurance premiums in the country. So it’s “satire” he claims, but he also agrees with it. So he deserved the slamming.

  27. 27 Jordan Melnick said at 11:31 am on June 24th, 2012:

    Lindsey, the term “banana republic”, as I understand it, refers to a place with corrupt politics. Few would deny Miami fits into that category, but what does that have to do with Meltzer’s promotion of illegal, dangerous driving?

  28. 28 Maria said at 2:49 pm on June 24th, 2012:

    Bill, it’s a travel info website, 411 Traveler’s Helpline. This arricle really isn’t truly helpful for the traveler new to Miami. 411 also has a huge travel forum where I helped answer questions for nearly 7 years. Satire is pointless and insensitive. It doesn’t cater to the needs of 411’s customer.

    Satire has its place but not here. How is a piece like this clear and practical for a traveler? And this wasn’t even good satire… just some kind of masturbatory piece that belongs on a personal site not a corporate site with real custoners.

  29. 29 Matt Meltzer said at 12:36 am on June 25th, 2012:

    Maria, you know, you’ve always been a solid defender of mine even back in the White Dade days. When I REALLY wrote some offensive stuff. Why all the hate now?

    This is the kind of stuff I was brought in to write. They liked my style on the old blog and wanted it on their site. Aned they give me the creative license to do this, despite the backlash. And that is why MB411 is such a great company to work for.

    If they want nice “5 Best Places to Get Take Out Sushi” articles on the site, generaqlly they have other writers who do those. It’s not my role there, never has been and never will be. I may do those types of stories once in a while, when asked, but it’s not really what I”m there to do.

    Lindsey and Bill. thank you both so much for pointing out the obvious – that people need to stop taking themselves so seriously. And, yes, I”ve written some more-serious, good stuff for the site. Again., that’s why they keep me around. Because they know if they want a well-researched story on a famous crime, or a well-covered event, I can do that too. But on a slow week in Summer? This adds some spice. So again, thank you to Bill and Lindsey.

  30. 30 Maria de los Angeles said at 3:37 pm on June 26th, 2012:

    Matt, I think I made my point very clear. It’s not about you, but about where it’s posted and the audience that’s targeted and whether or not satire was appropriate for that audience. I already discussed that with Gus in the comments section at 411.

    Anyway, I think everyone will appreciate the link below. Gator on the gulf coast knows how to use crosswalk.

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151889287340192&set=a.10150403637625192.622804.418163055191&type=1&theater


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