A new plan is taking shape to try and create a downtown Miami pedestrian priority zone.
The Miami City Commission took a first step Thursday by approving the first reading of an ordinance designed to make walking in downtown a nicer, safer experience.
"A lot of people don't obey the rules of the road and they go right through the pedestrian crosswalk even when there's a pedestrian standing there on the sidewalk waiting to cross," said Robert Coulombe, who works downtown.
The plan first approved by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in August would widen narrow sidewalks and ensure there's an unobstructed pedestrian path of at least 6 feet.
"I know when they try to make the sidewalks wider, I notice a lot of businesses will put more seating and actually block the sidewalks," said Matt Baker, a downtown pedestrian.
On Biscayne Boulevard and First Street there's an intersection with a traffic light but no crosswalk or stop and go sign. The proposal calls for an automatic countdown timer at all intersections.
"The walk signals where it tells you to walk, and tells you to stop, they could get those working because sometimes they’re a little off," said Tavia Brown. She's a New World School of the Arts student who often has to dodge cars while crossing the street.
The proposed speed limit would be no more than 25 miles per hour throughout downtown, with no right turns on red allowed.
It's a work in progress without a real price tag according to Miami City Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff.
"I don't know that there is an exact cost. I’ve heard $300,000 if we do some things and a little more if we don't do others,” Sarnoff said. “There's a funding source from the Department of Transportation, there's a funding source from the county and of course the city, the DDA. It's not so much how much does it cost – it's more the vision.”
One suggestion that's out there – closing Flagler Street to all cars to make it something like a Lincoln Road.
The fact that it's a county road complicates things and not all businesses are on board, according to Sarnoff.
"I'm not sure it is exactly Lincoln Road. I think it may have a little more uniqueness to it,” he said. “So I think you could do some hybrid closings. You could do some openings and closings and that's being explored.”
The affected area starts at Brickell and ends near the Omni.
The downtown business district is the first priority. But the plan still has to go through several more steps to get final approval.