Perception and a bad business model are roadblocking the Ludlam Trail

Cyclists riding south on the Ludlam Trail cross SW 72 St/Sunset Drive. Photo by Tomás Monzón
Cyclists riding south on the Ludlam Trail cross SW 72 St/Sunset Drive. Photo by Tomás Monzón

On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to ride on a section of the Ludlam Trail, a 6.2-mile piece of land currently owned by the Florida East Coast Railway. It used to host active railroad track, but after the rails were removed, only unkempt grass, trash and rusting signage were left behind.

The land is now a part of a vision to see it transformed into a walking and biking trail that could form a critical part of Miami’s half-baked bike route network.

During the event, which was organized by Florida East Coast Industires and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, locals got the chance to ride a portion of the trail that had been fitted with compacted gravel suitable for fat-tire bicycles. That portion ran from AD Barnes Park to SW 80 ST, running through various commercial and residential portions of unincorporated Miami-Dade and the City of South Miami.

A longer, contiguous piece of the former railroad runs from Robert King High Park near West Flagler St and SW 72 Avenue south to SW 80 ST and about SW 72 AVE.

After riding the trail on a sunny Saturday morning, I must say – paving this trail and formally declaring it as a human friendly mode of transportation would represent a great asset to the community.

Florida East Coast Industires and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy hosted an event on Nov. 7, 2015 which allowed locals to ride a portion of the proposed Ludlam Trail. Photo by Tomás Monzón
Florida East Coast Industires and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy hosted an event on Nov. 7, 2015 which allowed locals to ride a portion of the proposed Ludlam Trail. Photo by Tomás Monzón

The areas the trail runs through are littered with commuters who commute by car by choice. However, that choice is influenced by a lack of alternative transportation infrastructure and the perception that trying to deal with the current, broken system is impossible or calling for too much effort.

I know where those commuters are coming from. If you own a car and can make it to work, school and errands without resorting to a half-baked bike route network that makes you feel like a second-class citizen, it is only logical that you would resort to the automobile.

This reality may make others think there is no demand for safer cycling and walking routes, but to say so is to acknowledge the deadly cycle that’s kept Miami in an alternative transportation rut.

A lack of infrastructure produces a lack of interest in wanting to use it.

The lack of interest, though, makes those with the power of building the infrastructure to think there’s no point in doing so.

A view of the Ludlam Trail looking north from its southern terminus SW 80 ST in Miami, FL. Photo by Tomás Monzón
A view of the Ludlam Trail looking north from its southern terminus SW 80 ST in Miami, FL. Photo by Tomás Monzón

That’s unfortunate, and short-sighted. Any venture in public services involves a period of working to provide the service and waiting for people to pick up on it. A prediction as to how many people will eventually use the service – which in the case of the Ludlam Trail would be a large amount of them – is a better indication of whether it’s worth building the trail.

Supply would create its own demand, in this instance.

I don’t pretend to understand the specifics behind the roadblocks to the Ludlam Trail project, for I’m sure they’re very complicated and difficult to get a grasp of. But I do know that the incorrect perception of the trail’s relevance to the community is being held by the people who have the power to make it happen.

To that end, I congratulate the groups who made Saturday’s ride happen because it’s the only way that the people with the power to make the trail a reality will be convinced it’s a worthwhile thing to invest in. Hopefully those who have the ability to do so break out of the cycle, and do so soon.