Bike Blog: This Man Says Miami's Ahead on Biking. Is He Nuts?

Categories: Bike Blog

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Apology: Somehow, this post got cut short, making it look an obnoxious rant against the very people whose work I meant to highlight. Sorry, Herb!

A few nights ago, the Bike Blog was chatting with Herb Hiller, the Southeast Regional Program Consultant for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. The group’s mission is to “connect all major cities of the East Coast along a continuous, off-road path” – accessible to bikes and pedestrians alike. It’s an ambitious plan, to say the least, but as Hiller (wait, he said to call him Herb) was describing the group’s progress in various Florida counties, he told me something downright CRAZY!

“I view Miami-Dade as outstanding,” he said. “And you will too, when you see it in my terms. . . You’ve got almost the whole county linked.

Wait a minute.

A few nights ago, the Bike Blog was chatting with Herb Hiller, the Southeast Regional Program Consultant for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. The group’s mission is to “connect all major cities of the East Coast along a continuous, off-road path” – accessible to bikes and pedestrians alike. It’s an ambitious plan, to say the least, but as Hiller (wait, he said to call him Herb) was describing the group’s progress in various Florida counties, he told me something downright CRAZY!

“I view Miami-Dade as outstanding,” he said. “And you will too, when you see it in my terms. . . You’ve got almost the whole county linked.”

Wait a minute. Early on in its career, the Bike Blog attended a meeting of BPAC – the Bicycle Pedestrian Action Committee – and had the infinitely depressing experience of listening to an FDOT contractor explain how a bike path on Flagler – a street five lanes wide in some parts – was totally, utterly impossible.

How could any sane person be optimistic not only about getting a continuous trail through Miami-Dade, but along the entire East Coast as well?

Herb’s answer is that it’s all about the small victories. South of the Miami River, he points out, we have trails (not a great one, albeit) – connecting (mostly) all the way from downtown Miami to the keys. “North of the River,” he says, “you just have to piece it together. You have to get people to say okay, I think we have to do this piece, and somebody else says we’ll put money into that. You have to understand that you’re not just putting together two miles and it will never get longer. It will. Any two miles are a very good two miles.”

He points out that I-95 came to Miami piecemeal, one piece at a time.

The East Coast Greenway Alliance was founded in 1991, during a time, Herb says, when there was a lot of enthusiasm for bike projects:

“There was this enthusiasm, this belief, this idealism that people working together could achieve really change the paradigm They could by working together by good demonstrations, good model building, help other Americans see that you don’t have to be caught in your car, that you might want to rethink the way you’re getting around. So this idea formed to make a trail- an off-road, paved trail that would connect East Coast American cities . it was always seen as an urban trail.”

The Alliance doesn’t build trails – it just designates them as part of the greenway, and work locally to support the creation of trails that could be part of the greenway.

Indeed, the Alliance has some impressive statistics behind it. According to its 2006 report, twenty-one percent of the estimated 3,000 mile length – some six hundred and thirty miles, according to the Windows Calculator -- is already completed, designated off-road trail, with an equal amount currently in development. Florida, believe it or not, has 263 completed miles, the most of any state. Herb says that if you add up all the designated trail in Florida (much of it, like the in-progress trail to Key West, has yet to be built) it covers about a third of the state. It’s slow progress, but, Herb assures, progress nonetheless.

Herb Hiller has been a member of the alliance for some time, he says, but only last year became a part-time paid consultant. He lives in south Putnam county. Despite having gone without owning a car since 1977, he now spends a significant amount of time driving around the state (the woman he lives with has two cars), helping line-up trail to designate as part of the Greenway.

“It’s not as if congress has said there shall be a national north/south trail here,” he explains, “It’s question of advocacy very much of an ad hoc nature, and so it takes a particular kind of people to make something like this happen. You’re raising funds, you’re talking to people you’ve never met, you’re plugging into things that are happening.”

Herb will be here in South Florida, speaking at the second meeting of the new group, the Green Mobility Network on September 12, at the Dice House at SW 100th Street and 82nd Avenue.

Happy Monday,

--Isaiah Thompson Isaiah.Thompson@miaminewtimes.com


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