Politics: Those Flighting Flamingos

By Jeffrey Bradley

“We believe that the public space needs to adequately accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and autos — in that order of priority!”
—Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association

The time has come, the Flamingos said
To explain so many things; like the importance of free parking spots
And the bicycle that brings
The question that won’t away:
“Has NIMBYism wings?”

These Flamingos can be more flighty than fighty. Two of their involvements—backing David Dermer’s disastrous Save the Beach anti-development initiative that harbinged the largest high-rise building assault ever unleashed on the Beach (with fallout still being felt long after the collapse of the boom), and the unequivocal support of Mayor Matti Bower, whose policies have accelerated the balkanization of the City—produced less than stellar results. Now we’re up against the hard cranium of their NIMBYism.

There’s a dissonance emanating from this neighborhood. See, even tho’ the FPNA mission statement clearly puts bicycles ahead of autos in “need of adequate accommodation” (and the cars, rightly, dead last), something got lost in the praxis. In fact, at recent meetings containing several Flamingos we thought we’d stumbled across an anti-bicyclist coven convened expressly to concoct the most bizarre reasoning why there should be no bicycle lanes on Euclid or Pennsylvania Avenues even tho’ these community streets would benefit mightily. We listened while darting nervous glances into shadowy corners seeking the telltale glint of a silver chalice or iron-bound reliquary locked with a hasp. Had the prince of darkness himself appeared—no, Gertrude, not that smarmy political handler—attired in sable-trim cape and ram’s horn headgear, we’d have been out the door like a shot. Still, as the explanations grew more baroque, we recognized the aura as BayLink déjà vu. Back then, people who hadn’t crossed Washington Avenue on foot in 10 years were suddenly hysterical with the possibility of “tripping over wet rails” or getting smooshed by a runaway streetcar or any nonsense that could be concocted on the spot. This time around we’re to understand that after asking for just a 5 ft bike lane, we were “generously” being offered 10—in fact, the whole road!

This is condescending flapdoodle to the point of insult. So we turned the offer down cold as we aren’t human speedbumps to ride the center and slow down traffic. Who wants the cars and trucks backing up behind until the roadrage goes critical mass and the oaths, imprecations and beercans fly? Or, what? We can ride on the sidewalk along with the <ringgg-ringg> Merry Mailman? (Those with opposable thumbs still needing further elucidation see us later)

Maybe “bike lanes” somehow got conflated with developer, a word known to give the tie-dye and ponytail set fits.

Or maybe—favorite excuse—because Carnivora, the giant upper Amazonian tarantula that feasts exclusively on human prey would fit exactly into one of these bike lanes—and then where would we be? (Listen, if you’d been at that Convention Center battle of the superbugs a few weeks back you might not be so quick to pooh-pooh this idea because one look at the slavering, spinning-eyed spider was enough to put Truly Nolan on our speed dial for life.).OK; we’re just kidding about the spider.

A citywide Master Plan that makes clear bicycles are not recreational vehicles and need their own travel lanes is already in play. Yet, piecemeal, NIMBYists in each neighborhood are ridding themselves of this pesky proviso that gets in the way of their speeding SUVs. It’s autocentricity run amok, and the neighborhoods have got it mistakenly into their heads that they can dictate what changes they will and will not have, and damn the rest of the City. This rank parochialism is especially obvious, and painful, when a reputedly forward-thinking enclave such as Flamingo Park leads the pack baying through the underbrush seeking excuses. It kinda begs the term “activism.”

The City should take a page from FDOT’s playbook. Once they’ve decided a course of action, it’s over and it’s done. No shilly-shally butt-kissing; that’s no way to get things done and it’s certainly no way to get things done on time. Because the City won’t cowboy up and tell the neighborhoods to either go way or go all the way in, we’re left with an endless to-and-froing, discrete parts that no longer fit, inevitable costly overruns—the balkanization of the City. Which leaves the boards with too much power and too little expertise, as shown by the hours-long agonizing that ended the bike lane question when the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board finally punted. Into this void steps the neighborhood parvenus, who rely on “gut feeling” to plan what’s best for the roadways.

Here’s how things stand: two local neighborhood avenues–Pennsylvania and Euclid—were slated for bike lanes. Thanks to the intervention of highly-paid consultants and not-so-discrete arm-twisting down at City Hall, our progressive Flamingos have managed to remove lanes from the one (Pennsylvania) and are now trying for a sweep (on Euclid). Essentially, the Board put you, the public, at risk by approving an 11-foot travel lane that will force bicyclists into the middle, from a road where a car and bike can now ride safely side-by-side. If you’re not convinced this is a recipe for disaster, try riding your bike down the middle of Meridian.

Sure, for now, Euclid retains the bike lane. But the Flamingos are ready for that; they’ll claim the bike lanes make it unsafe for pedestrians to cross the street. (If that fails, watch them fall back on the Carnivora ploy.) So, our fidgety Flamingos will no doubt attempt to run the table at next month’s Historic Preservation Board meeting. You’ll know them by their t-shirts emblazoned: “Accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and autos — in that order of priority!”

But the bomb in the basement is the free parking. The Flamingos surely won’t be giving up any of that soon. But you can’t have it both ways. Either you’re activists and mean it when you say “We believe that the public space needs to adequately accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and autos — in that order of priority!” or you’re phony-baloneys making a virtue of NIMBY. For two things are very certain: you’re leaving yourselves 18 feet of free parking on both these streets and if you really desired fewer cars, you wouldn’t roll out the welcome mat in the form of free parking; and, nobody in their right mind would countenance using bicycle riders as human speed bumps!

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