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Regalado on the Underline and Safe Streets

Commissioner interviewed on bikes and walking paths

The Spotlight sat down recently with Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado to talk about a range of issues affecting Coconut Grove, including bike safety and transportation. In September, Regalado attended a groundbreaking event for the third and final phase of the Underline, a 10-mile linear park beneath Metrorail. Phase 2 of the Underline project is nearing completion, with bike and pedestrian pathways stretching from Brickell to Coconut Grove. Regalado represents District 7 on the County Commission, which includes the Grove. Our conversation appears below. Questions and answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Spotlight: The Underline is described as a linear park, but, for the sections that parallel Coconut Grove, the Underline will essentially be an improved version of the walking and biking path that has existed for years. Does the County have a plan in place to capitalize on these improvements by establishing bike lanes and making sidewalk improvements that connect the Underline to Center Grove and the waterfront Commodore Trail?

Regalado: The Underline is an amazing project. Meg [Daly] and the Friends of the Underline have done a wonderful job. This is the first transit project that the county has done on time and on budget, I think, in like 30 years, so let’s start there. For the Grove, it’s a narrow space, so obviously we don’t have the things (like a dog park, pickleball courts, and a skate park) that we have further into Coral Gables and South Miami. We don’t have adjacent parks, but we were able to do two paths, which I think is very important. We have a mobility path, and we have a pedestrian path.

In terms of connectivity, we have been pushing the bayfront piece of it because as you know that has been sitting around for what – 13 years.

Spotlight: You mean the Commodore Trail?

Regalado: Yes, the Commodore Trail. 

Note: The county has committed $16 million to rebuild 1.5 miles of South Bayshore Drive between Darwin St. (near Montys) and Mercy Hospital and make improvements to the Commodore Trail. The City of Miami will soon release a master plan for the remaining sections of the Trail.

Regalado: And we have been able to restart the conversation about a pedestrian bridge at 27th Avenue [where there are bike lanes into the Grove]. Now that we have the Underline, we have to have a pedestrian bridge. It is such a dangerous intersection. So, we are working with the City to see what we can do.

Spotlight: What about 37th Avenue, Douglas Road, and 32nd Avenue/McDonald?

Regalado: I have personally gone to the City of Miami to advocate for bike paths, and it’s challenging. There was a lot of angst over what the County did on 22nd Avenue [where new bike lanes were installed north of U.S. 1]. I get a lot of pushback.

So, I need support, because I am in a minority, and not just a small minority, a tiny minority. When you look at elected officials as a group, you probably find a handful of us who are, like, bike paths, you know? So, the fact that we have been able to get something like the Underline done, despite the fact that they are just not believers, is important.

Spotlight: How do you change that?

Regalado: I think [Friends of the] Commodore Trail is doing a great job of activating people and kind of getting them talking about this more.

Note: Friends of the Commodore Trail has partnered with other community groups and UM’s BikeSafe program to promote another Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day on November 15, with temporary pop-up bike lanes at Coconut Grove Elementary School. Commissioner Regalado pointed to popup bike lanes as a way to win more public support.

If you do a pop-up and the world doesn’t end, people still get to work, they still get home, I think that’s how we prove it. There’s this belief that, oh, we have all this congestion, if you throw a bike lane at it, you’re only going to make it worse. They don’t understand that no, actually, we’re getting people out of their cars. So, we are excited about doing more pop-ups and proving that these things can work together.

And look, the last thing is Link [at 37th Avenue] and now Grove Central [at 27th Avenue). Link has been successful. Sixty percent of the folks who live there don’t have cars.

Spotlight: Those two developments have put high-rise housing next to Metrorail.

Regalado: I live in between Grove Central and Link. We always say, when these two things are open, am I going to be able to get out of my driveway? But right now, at least with LINK, and we’ll see what happens with Grove Central, the people who are moving here are very happy walking and biking. I think that we are starting to show that there is a generational change. 

Although I have to tell you, at one of our meetings, we had a phenomenal group of people who showed up, they called themselves the SOBs—Seniors on Bikes. I really enjoyed their presentation. But they challenged me on this notion that it is just the younger generation. So, I stand corrected by the SOBs. Very excited to work with them.

Spotlight editor Hank Sanchez-Resnik is a co-founder of Friends of the Commodore Trail. Learn more here.

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