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Walking in Coconut Grove Can Be Dangerous. Who is Paying Attention?

People often say they want to live in Coconut Grove because it’s such a great place for walking. Lately, they may be having second thoughts. 

Concern about the safety of pedestrians in Coconut Grove has been brewing for a long time, but recent incidents have highlighted the risk of just crossing a street. 

Now, after years of complaining, concerned residents are beginning to see some hints of progress. County officials were planning this week to convene a community meeting to address the issue of pedestrian safety. Residents say they are hopeful the issue will finally get the attention it deserves.  

The source of the problem is no mystery. 

“The Grove’s major streets are serving as a pass-through,” says Coconut Grove’s police commander, Daniel Kerr. “The drivers aren’t stopping. They’re in a hurry to go through the Grove to get somewhere else.”

The result: Pedestrians wanting to cross streets like Main Highway and South Bayshore Drive, even in crosswalks, feel threatened and unsafe. 

“I know people who won’t take the chance of walking on South Bayshore to the Fresh Market. They feel that they’re risking their lives,” says Henrietta Schwarz. She is the chair of the safety committee of the South Bayshore Drive Condominium Alliance, a coalition that represents the owners of units in the towers that line South Bayshore from McFarlane Road to Aviation Avenue.

The April 11 accident in which Kate Hamm, a teacher at Ransom Everglades School, was hit in a crosswalk near Commodore Plaza, created a groundswell of outrage. Hamm suffered serious injuries and had to be hospitalized. 

More recently, on May 3, a motorist stopped for a pedestrian at the crosswalk on Mary Street at South Bayshore Drive, and a speeding driver slammed into the stopped car, creating major damage.

“It was just one more example of how current car lane design and poorly planned and enforced crossings cause danger to everyone,” says Mary Munroe Seabrook, co-founder of Friends of the Commodore Trail. The multiuse trail parallels South Miami Avenue, South Bayshore Drive, McFarlane Road, Main Highway, and south Douglas Road.

Along with much of South Florida, Miami is one of the most dangerous places in the country to walk and bike. 

Now, outraged citizens are pushing for meaningful action. Leading the charge on South Bayshore Drive is Schwarz of the South Bayshore Drive Condo Alliance. 

“We don’t understand why the county keeps not listening to us,” she says. “The only thing I’ve gotten after a year of begging them to reassess what they have now that’s not working is for them to propose doing exactly the same thing that’s not working in different locations. We residents have seen multiple cases of people almost getting hit. We don’t want to wait until someone is seriously hurt or dies for them to do something.” 

One specific request was for red blinking lights at the crosswalks. 

“The county has said to us they don’t think we need red blinking lights,” she says. “We’re like, ‘You don’t walk here every day. You don’t see what’s happening. Someone is going to get killed.’”

Diallo Bryan, district director in County Commissioner Raquel Regalado’s District 7 office, has been the liaison between the South Bayshore Drive residents and the county.  On May 2, he responded to a written request from Schwarz for numerous specific improvements on South Bayshore Drive to improve the safety of pedestrians. 

“That was great,” says Schwarz. “We were so happy to get anything. But it doesn’t address the true issues.”

Chris Lunding has lived in a condominium in the building on 27th Avenue that houses the Ritz Carlton hotel since 2014. His unit overlooks the site of the Kaufman Rossin building at the northwest corner of 27th Avenue and South Bayshore Drive. That building, formerly offices, is currently being demolished to make way for a much larger luxury condominium building, the Four Seasons Coconut Grove.

Since the demolition began, the sidewalk adjacent to it on South Bayshore Drive has been completely closed. 

“A lot of people in my building are angry about this,” says Lunding. “They can’t even walk to the Fresh Market to buy groceries anymore. This is just one example of the failure of the county to pay adequate attention to pedestrian safety.”

Lunding, a retired attorney specializing in complex litigation, plans to attend this week’s community meeting on pedestrian safety. 

Schwarz began her crusade for pedestrian safety in 2023. She’s hopeful that county officials are now ready to listen.

Hank Sanchez-Resnik is a cofounder of Friends of the Commodore Trail.

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