Friday, June 6, 2008

Tony and the Pit of Doom (A Tale of Progress)

It's summer time! So between the sweaty arm pits (don't forget to pack that deodorant stick) and endless hurricane-preparedness campaigns, I thought I'd share a little story of hope from last year.

During one particularly spirited ride home from Downtown Miami, I crossed Alhambra Circle Road (in front of the U of M). If you've ever trekked through this area you probably noticed that the transition from crosswalk to sidewalk to parking lot (a conduit of the M-Path in this instance) is a bit disjointed on the southern side. The only way to avoid the curbed drop into the parking lot is to cut through a small grassy patch near the crosswalk signal.

It's no big deal, but I ride a road bike with skinny tires and my curb-hopping antics are reserved for special occasions. I crossed the street with a bit of momentum and detoured through the grass like I normally would, except I veered a little to the left for some inexplicable reason and found myself descending into the eternal pit of darkness. OK, it was only a hole about one-foot deep, one-foot around and just my front wheel went in - but the interaction of gravity and momentum resulted in a glorious face plant in clear view of rush hour traffic and a handful of UM students. If someone had it on video, the manuever would undoubtedly vault to YouTube greatness.

After a couple of indirect F-bombs that only added humor to the situation, I calmed down and found the hole. I put my foot in it. My foot was now completely hidden in the grass. The thing was completely invisible even standing in it.

Maybe it was because I grew up falling out of trees or something, but somehow I managed to escape relatively unscathed. The same grass that hid this demonic bike trap saved my face, but I stewed at the thought that this damned hole was perfect for swallowing a bicycle tire or an ankle.

After a quick adjustment to the handle bars (always carry a multi tool, kids) I made it home and plopped down in front of my computer, pompously reeling in dismay that such a landmine could exist along MY homeward commute. I found the complaint form on Miami-Dade Transit's website (see contact info). My initial response was not a cheerful one. I decided to sit on it for a few hours before submitting it.

Later that night, I rewrote it from a non-inquisitor's perspective. I concentrated on not sounding like a crazed maniac foaming with disgust and tried my best to express how this thing could do some damage. Someone may actually decide to read it, I figured, so why not. If I sound relatively sincere, something might get done.

In all honesty, I never expected to hear of it again. My only motivation was to say I tried. The thought about making a "China - This Way" sign to stick over it intrigued me, but I would give the county a shot first. I clicked send and imagined the complaint spiraling down a dark, never ending hole of its own.

Why the pessimism?

I, like many fellow Miamians, tend to hold the view of our local government and its departments as "the glass is not half-full, somebody drank it and chucked it against the wall". It seems that Miami has a long way to go as a large-scale metropolis in providing service and basic functions of government to its citizens.

Then my phone rang.

I received a phone call from a Mr. Reynold Monestine of Miami-Dade Transit (again, see contact info) about two days after my submitting my little incident report. His department received my complaint and he wanted to schedule a meeting at the site as soon as possible. After looking around in a mystified state for several moments I realized no, I'm not asleep, and set a date.

The next week I met with Mr. Monestine at Alhambra Circle Rd and showed him the hole. I even posed for a photo while standing in it. As the Property Manager for MDT, he was genuinely concerned and said he'd get it taken care of.

That he did. Though I recommended a ramp be installed in the sidewalk to provide a smooth transition to the parking lot, I knew it was a long shot. The immediate (ahem, cheaper) remedy was to fill the hole with dirt packing the hole and making it visible to pedestrians/cyclists.

Was it a final solution? No. Is it a big deal? Kind of. The small ramp from the sidewalk would be the way to go, but this did make it at least a little safer. Baby steps, people. This an example that people on the "inside" do exist and are listening to our concerns. If you're out and about, see something dangerous or have some sort of incident, report it. Communicate as well as you can and see it through.

If nothing gets done, be persistent. Once there is progress, thank those responsible. They need to know we're out there and Miami-Dade County officials and employees need to know we care that they care.

1 comment:

tjblaze said...

If you can stay calm at the time of the inevitable next, similar incident just pull out the mobile phone and dial 311.

We cyclists need to get in the habit of dialing 311 when we spot a potentially dangerous circumstance on the M-Path. We also need to follow up and give kudos to any bureaucrat who deals with our complaints professionally and efficiently.

One way to get that glass half full and beyond is to just stay in communication with the folks at City Hall.

And...if you want to email but can't quite figure out where - there is always