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.