Tag Archives: Miami

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.

Broward drone inventor foresees a future with safer drones

This is a developing story being followed by ElMonzon.com. Check back for updates.

On a rainy Saturday morning, Broward local and Chinese native Max Gaofei Yan presented a unique concept to an audience of attentive Miami Dade College School of Aviation students.

“Today I want to share with you, and would very much like your feedback, on our technology,” Yan said.

Max Yen's XT Flyer. Photo by Tomás Monzón.
Max Yan’s XT Flyer. Photo by Tomás Monzón.

Continue reading Broward drone inventor foresees a future with safer drones

On Graduating from Miami Dade College, Spring 2015

Posing with the family at the Miami Dade College 2015 Commencement Ceremony of the Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses.
Posing with the family at the Miami Dade College 2015 Commencement Ceremony of the Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses.

Just last Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity of graduating from Miami Dade College with my Associate’s Degree! I refer to my graduation – or commencement, I should say – in this manner because accomplishing this feat is something that I wouldn’t have thought possible just over 2 years ago (as I summarized in “The Graduate Slump”). I longed to be enrolled in a post secondary institution and join the rest of my colleagues in the pursuit of a brighter professional future. Indeed, the bombastic celebration of graduates that Miami Dade College Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses hosted at the James L. Knight Conference center on a frisky Saturday morning was the reminder that I and the rest of my colleagues are doing something great. We’re chasing something larger than life itself – our dreams.

I’ve got many people to thank, but I can at least name a few. To begin with, my advisor at the Honors College, Virginia Fuillerat, for her tireless work in ensuring the focus and concentration of otherwise wayward Honors students. Next, my colleagues at The Reporter (Miami Dade College’s student newspaper) through whom I’ve learned so many vital lessons about the world of journalism.Third, my parents and sister, whom have always been supportive of my hectic lifestyle and professional endeavors.  Fourth, my girlfriend, whom at times made me feel more anxious than I should’ve but ultimately helped me develop a tenacity and self-confidence that I wouldn’t trade for anything. She’s a very special person whom I appreciate immensely.

Looking to the future, my professional goals include landing an internship or extracurricular involvement with an organization related to journalism, such as a local newspaper or media station. My academic goals involve learning as much as possible about the world of computer information systems, which will be my major when I enroll at Florida International University in the fall semester of this year. And most importantly, my personal goals involve getting some much needed down time and coming to terms with the fact that the time is now. The time to take advantage of everything the world’s got to offer and to take advantage of the opportunity I have to go find those offers is now.

And I couldn’t be more excited. Here’s to the future!

A Look Back at Miami Dade College’s 2014

This piece was published in the Miami Dade College student newspaper, The Reporter. It’s part of a series of articles I wrote for them between August 2013 and May 2015, now being uploaded in whole to ElMonzon.com.

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A stellar athletic year, an array of cultural events and a host of new College programs made 2014 a productive year for Miami Dade College.

In September, MDC President Eduardo Padrón announced $21 million in grant funding from a variety of public and private sources. Some of these grants included $10 million from the Department of Labor to fund the establishment of a Training and Certification program in Manufactured Construction, a $100,000 grant from Citi Foundation to expand the Small Business Education Program/Grow Miami Initiative and a $50,000 award from AT&T to expand the College’s pre-college advisement programs to ten local high schools.

At the Wolfson Campus, a $2.18 million grant from the Knight Foundation facilitated the Idea Center, an entrepreneurial hub meant to promote student startups and business ideas.

“[We want to] build the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to all students,” said Idea Center executive director Leandro Finol.

The College initiated a new bachelor’s program in information systems technology and supply chain management. The College’s School of Entertainment and Design Technology at North Campus also expanded their bachelor’s degree offerings. John Rhames, a former detective and patrol officer at the Riviera Beach Police Department in Palm Beach County, took over as chief of North Campus Public Safety.

The Book Fair featured a new Florida-centric venue called The Swamp featured events like a conversation between musical icons Questlove and George Clinton and a community outreach project entitled #6WordsMiami. Visitors also saw a piece of the Berlin Wall donated to Wolfson campus by the City of Miami on the 25th anniversary of the dismantling of the Wall.

The College’s Entrepreneurial Education Center, or Meek Center, renovated its library with new computers and newly organized workspaces. Workers completed Hialeah Campus’ seven-floor parking garage featuring more than 1,000 parking spaces and a community multi-purpose room.

“The garage is very aesthetically pleasing and welcoming in its design,” Hialeah Campus President Mattie Roig-Watnik told The Reporter last year.

The baseball and women’s volleyball teams had strong seasons. Head baseball coach, Danny Price, was named the Regional Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association for the National Junior College Athletic Association following his 1,200th victory on March 22nd, when the Sharks defeated Palm Beach State College 14-6.

Student life across all campuses offered diverse programming including MDC>AIDS Initiative, a partnership between the College and the Greater than AIDS Campaign.

“On World AIDS Day, all campuses held awareness events to distribute the materials and campaign paraphernalia to students,” said Crystel Lewis, director of Student Life at the InterAmerican Campus. “The morning began with a [livestreamed] lecture by [AIDS United, Inc. President & CEO], Dr. Michael Kaplan … free HIV testing was also held at each campus.”

Vice President Joe Biden addressed one of the largest graduating classes at the Kendall Campus Gymnasium for their commencement ceremony. He recognized the difficult circumstances that many of students present overcame in their studies.

“America is on the cusp of so many innovations that will change the world, and you’re gonna be part of it,” Biden told the crowd.

Electric Electra (250W Review) / September 2014

I bought a beautiful Electra Amsterdam (an Original 3i model) last year, from a Hispanic woman who said she’d bought the bike for her husband who never really used it much. Though the untrue front wheel told a different story – don’t pull a fast one on me, lady! – I immediately fell in love with its faux-European style and accessories, like the dynamo-powered bullet headlight  and the generous rear rack. I perceived a potential in this bike that was accentuated by the heavy steel frame, fantastic padded saddle and the comfortable crank-forward seating position.

I cycle as my main form of transportation, and so upon looking at the Amsterdam, I hastily evaluated its potential for heavy road use. Electra is known for their Townie line of bikes, an absurdly comfortable but not particularly speedy series of whips.

The only speed-minded feature on the Amsterdam is the 700x38c wheels it rides on. The Nexus Inter-3 hub, mated to a 19 tooth sprocket and a 38 tooth chainring, is really very slow, especially when I’m lugging around a lot of weight on the back. To that end, I’ve installed some accessories that make it more commuter-friendly. For storage, I’ve installed a pair of Wald 582 Rear Folding Baskets and a basic Craftsman toolbox zip-tied to the top of the cargo rack. These add a lot of weight to the already voluminous steel frame, meaning an ESGE Double Kickstand was next on the list.

Finally, I installed a 250W front hub electric motor kit sold by Clean Republic, which I really want to talk about. Cycling is great exercise, but using it for transportation on a daily basis throughout Miami’s busy streets and my ten-mile-plus journeys can get a little tiresome. As sad as it is, Miami – and many cities throughout the US – grew up with, and have ended up being very friendly towards, the automobile, making bicycle commuting a doable but challenging alternative.

This inspired me to consider ways of hybridizing the aerobic benefits of cycling with the reliable power of an engine. I initially considered a gas-powered bike, but was turned off by the dubious legality of them on the road. I wouldn’t want to attract police attention on my way to work and school.

So, I turned electric. With a 24V 4.4Ah Lithium battery, Clean Republic’s Hill Topper kit lets me glide along at about 15 miles per hour for a little less than 10 miles without pedaling. With pedaling, the combination of the motor and the Nexus Inter-3 hub fitted with a 19T sprocket and 38T chainring can get up to about 20 mph before spinning out above 100 rpm.

The kit is a fantastic addition that can be installed on any bike with 24″, 26″ or 700C wheels provided the front fork is made of steel and can fit the size and width of the motor. It foregoes fancy pedal assist and throttle mechanisms in favor of a simple button that fully activates or deactivates the motor, which makes sense given the motor’s low torque (compared to beefier 500W and 1000W motors). You won’t shoot out from a standstill despite the lack of an adjustable throttle.

While the kit has simplified short journeys (e.g. my daily one to the Metrorail station), neither the Inter-3 hub nor the 4.4Ah battery are designed for long distances. Shimano’s Inter-3 hub is typically installed on cruiser bikes, and Clean Republic calls its 4.4Ah battery a “Lithium Sprinter”. My plans to transform the Electra into a versatile hybrid vehicle include:

  • adapting a 30AH 24V LiPo4 battery from http://www.pingbattery.com to the kit for increased range (around 60 miles)
  • replacing the Inter-3 with a Sturmey Archer X-RD8 8-speed wide-ratio hub, which (according to Sheldon Brown’s Internal Gear Calculator) can get up 30mph on its highest gear at just 60RPM!
  • replacing the rear rack with a Wald 535GB
  • adding a Wald 257GB Multi-Fit rack to the front
  • adding bright LED headlights while removing the stem mounted bullet headlight and dynamo

Let me know what you all think! More reviews coming soon.