The famous cruising strip was off-limits to cars during the pandemic. Now, the city is letting vehicles return with some pedestrian-oriented compromises.
"Like many cities around the world, Miami Beach responded to the Covid-19 crisis by transforming what was once a busy thoroughfare into a car-free space, allowing walkers, bikers and rollerbladers to roam free, and restaurants to expand their outdoor seating offerings." But starting January 24, the city will bring back one-way traffic on a ten-block portion of Ocean Drive, but with some pedestrian-friendly adjustments, reports Sarah Holder. The city is adding two-way bike lanes and keeping one block pedestrian-only.
The transformation of Ocean Drive into a 'slow street' drew both praise and criticism from locals, some of whom expressed the usual complaints about loss of parking and diverted traffic. Yet dire predictions about damage to the strip's vibrant restaurant, nightclub, and luxury car rental industry have not been borne out. In fact, Holder writes, "Resort taxes on food, beverages and room rentals each month of this fiscal year and several months of last have been higher than even pre-pandemic revenues, according to city data published in December 2021." Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League, attributes the rise in revenue to the increase in people walking—and noticing businesses—on the street.
As cities begin to dismantle or adapt pandemic-era open streets programs, Miami is developing a long-term plan to prioritize pedestrians on Ocean Drive and the rest of South Beach, increase open space, and allow limited car access to accommodate local needs.
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