Saddle Up, Miami… You Can Do It – Javier A. Betancourt

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Javier A. Betancourt, Executive Director; Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT)

A year and a half ago, I began commuting to work on a bike, and I’ve never looked back.  You heard me… I am one of the few, the proud, some might say crazy, people that prefers two wheels to four. 

What at first began as a simple effort to lead by example by practicing what I preach as an urban planner and advocate for alternative transportation, quickly became a transformative lifestyle change.  Much to my surprise, I began to enjoy, and actually prefer, riding my bike to work; so much so, that half-way into the year, I got rid of my car for good. 

On some days, I ride all 10 miles directly to Downtown Miami from my home west of Coral Gables.  On others, I ride 4 miles to the nearest Metrorail Station, and take the train in the rest of the way.  Either way is preferable to stewing in traffic in a single occupancy vehicle. 

And the benefits have been enormous!  I’m saving a ton of money — upwards of $600/month — on transportation expenses; I’m in the best shape of my adult life; my stress levels are down significantly; I feel more in tune with the world around me; and I can take pride in knowing that I am doing my part for the environment. 

But as those reading this might guess, commuting to work by bike is not without its challenges.  Yes, you often sweat, especially during the summer months (although it’s not as bad as you might think); yes, it sometimes rains (although it’s not as often as you might think); yes, it’s not ideal for attending meetings away from the office (although it’s not as limiting as you might think); and yes it’s not particularly safe (although not as scary as you might think).   But on balance, all of these challenges are far outweighed by all of the benefits, and in any case, can be easily overcome.

Worried about sweat?  Well, my office building has a gym with a shower; so I keep all of my dress clothes at work, and shower and change when I get in.  No shower in your building… find a gym nearby!

Worried about rain?  I keep rain gear with me at all times, and slip it on when there’s a light rain.  During Miami’s famous tropical downpours, I opt for transit or hail a ride-share, like Uber, Lyft or Freebee.

Worried about meetings?  Once again, the advent of ride-share, like Uber, Lyft or Freebee, allow you to easily and affordably travel to any destination that you can’t reach by bike or transit when you need to.

Worried about safety?  Ok, you have a point.  Miami really does suffer from poor bicycle infrastructure, which poses a significant danger to cyclists. At the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (the organization charged with oversight over the half-penny sales tax for transportation), we have taken recent steps to encourage and support the implementation of a countywide bike network, which would help to serve as first/last mile(s) feeders to our transit system, and provide direct connectivity to major employment centers and schools. 

Many other agencies and organizations are attempting the same.  But progress has been slow, funding is inadequate to the task, and antiquated engineering manuals and ways of thinking are holding back progress.  Simply put, we can do better… we should do better… we MUST do better!

But that aside, I strongly encourage those who can (recognizing that it’s more difficult for some than others) to give biking to work or school a try.  Your wallet, body, mind and soul — not to mention the planet and future generations — will all thank you for it.  So saddle up, Miami… you can do it!!!


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20 COMMENTS

  1. That’s very nice and very commendable.I admire you for your courage and dedication,but here in Miami is very dangerous to play a Russian roulette which is what I call a bike.Too much hate in the mind of many drivers to expose oneself.As you see the young and millennials are always on the hurry and run you over and do not care about road safety on the roads

    • Millennials are not the only ones who drive carelessly. I am a senior citizen and I see all ages not obeying the driving laws here in Miami, including the police!! I too would love to ride my bike to work and I only live 1.5 miles from my job, but I do not trust the driving public.

      • Ellen, have you looked into alternatives like FreeBee mentioned above? It’s an electric, air-conditioned golf cart with windows. It’s available in most municipalities, and it’s FREE (even cheaper than owning and maintaining a bike) lol

  2. Great coverage for a great cause. Javier is doing well for himself and for the environment. Imagine this example setting idea: What if all government employees, public school employees and students; and university students and staff road bicycles to work or used public transportation; example setting and road congestion relief as well as good for the environment.

  3. This is a way of life across the pond in Europe. Obesity is down and they actually have bike lanes the width of car lanes due to the amount of people that commute on bicycle. Way to lead by example Javier! It only takes 1 person to start the change.

    • If I felt I could drive from westchester to the gables every day , I would do it just because I like Javier’s positivity. Also the saving money part sounds great being that my car payment is 396 for a lease 🙄And insurance use 240. Ridiculous. Keep it up

  4. Javier’s piece is pitch perfect, and it’s the perfect pitch for what we desperately need to address our region’s traffic problems. Bicycling for transportation is not for everyone–that’s understood. But it’s a lot more doable than most people think. We need role models like Javier Betancourt to move the needle. Thanks for this great article. We can do it!

  5. I hope Javier follows the rules to be safe. I have a couple of stories regarding “bikers”. Just this morning I was on my way to work on the corner of 27th Ave and 16th Street a biker passed me fast and stopped at the turn left lane, when the traffic light turned green she cut me off moving to the right and I almost hit her. If you are in the left lane you are supposed to go left, not wait for the light to turn green and cut the car that is in the right lane. She did the same on the traffic light on 22nd Ave. I caught up with her on 12th Ave., told her to be careful as she was not being save. Her response was I do not have the money to buy a car like yours what do you want me to do!! Hope you do not get in an accident because as always, it will be the drivers fault not the biker’s Stay safe and GOD bless you – I replied.

  6. About two months ago I too started commuting 5 miles to and from work. It has been awesome. I am less stressed, enjoy my ride to work, and love the health and fitness benefits.

  7. What a great article, so eloquently written. Although riding bicycle around Miami is quite dangerous, I would try this every now and then…I don’t know if I can make it my main source of transportation. Nonetheless, very inspiring! Thank you :-)

  8. Good on ya! I’ve been bike/train/bus/biking it since the MetroRail began service! 30 yrs bike/train/biking it from S Mia to MiamiBch to work. To those who say it’s too dangerous, I’m sorry for y’all cuz the way to go is not in a car. I use Brightline once weekly to FLL(MetroRail to Brightline at Overtown). Can’t beat it. We’re FREE from polluting, generating more heat, traffic, stress, anxiety, wrecks, no parking worries – life at its best!

  9. Maybe in a thousand years when people will be using flying cars or similar vehicles and the roadways below become empty and clear of all vehicles then riding a bike will be safer mode of transportation. However, until then riding a bike is akin to walking through a field littered with land mines hoping not to step on one. I have not ridden a bike ever since while riding on the sidewalk a truck rushing out of a public garage in order to merge with traffic, hit and ran over me sending me to the hospital. He never even turned to look to his right even though that was the direction he was going. He simply looked to his left to look at oncoming traffic. This is how drivers behave. They totally ignore the fact that there are other vehicles or pedestrians on the street. They treat the roads and the sidewalks as their own private roadway that is not shared with anyone or anything. And as I said I was not even in the street. I was on the sidewalk. It made no difference to drivers who do not come to a full stop and look both ways before proceeding. Since I was hit I have never been on a bike as it is not safe. Even if there were designated bike paths it would not be safe as drivers continually ignore those paths as well. Bikes are a good idea on paper or in the future, but for now they are dangerous in the least and potentially fatal at the most.

    • That’s how I was hit once many years ago. I learned more defensive riding from that. It’s a crowded world I say – we must adapt.

  10. Love the skin on the game, Javier. There are many of use across the county who bike to work/school/shop/etc. You may not come across us often but we are secretly rooting for you! Keep pushing the baton forward!

  11. Wonderful article, Javier! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote. It is really inspiring. I live in N Miami and I rode to work from El Portal to downtown (SE 2nd Ave) last month for Bike to Work day. It was fabulous and very easy. Arrived sooner than driving. I also have a work mate who rode from Palmetto Bay to the office. I would like to ride at least 1 day a week but haven’t done so yet.

    Hope to talk to you more about your org’s initiatives. I am a co-founder of the Miami Chapter of BGDB, a grassroots cycling org for women of color.

  12. High five, Javier! My husband and I sold our only car 4 years ago since we were commuting to work on bike 4-5 miles each way. Transit, car share, and convenient car rental fill in any gaps. Sure, it takes a bit more planning ahead, but worth it!
    I only ride my bike on local streets and feel safe most of the time. I bike with confidence, while also being totally aware of my surroundings. Choosing the right bike route is key.
    Keep up the positive messaging!

  13. Awesome..i congratulate you for holdung onto what you believe and sharing.. . everything is possible..as our Lord says.

  14. My wife vetoed the idea of biking from S. Miami to Key Biscayne many yrs ago, although an old colleague of mine rode from Pinecrest to Key Biscayne almost every day until he retired. Now, I save my bike riding for Sunday mornings when traffic is much lighter. My clothes are saturated with sweat after every ride (about the same distance as going to my office), so you’d really need a change of riding clothes as well as office attire and a shower on each end. That is what my biking colleague did as well.

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