About 500 people gathered recently outside one of the only green spaces downtown: the 1300 block of Brickell Avenue. They were the Brickell Run Club, all decked out in running shoes and workout shorts, ready to go for a run.
Once every week they run through the city. Some trips start on the corner of Southwest 13th Street and Brickell Avenue, then stretch past the Rickenbacker Causeway and back. But distance isn't the runners' only challenge. Frankie Ruiz, the club's founder, says it's hard for runners, bikers and pedestrians get through the city on foot.
"Having spent at least the last 10 to 12 years running around these sidewalks and the roads, you start to realize how poorly designed the sidewalks are," Ruiz says. "[Especially] the connection between one block and the other when you're crossing the road."
Ruiz says a lot of the sidewalks and crosswalks around the city are disrupted, or obstacles like signs and bus shelters make it hard to get around.
"If somebody were to come in a wheelchair, a stroller, on a bike, they can't even cross in certain sections of Brickell," Ruiz says.
Mark Spanioli is the director of capital improvements and transportation for the city of Miami. He sees more people using the streets for things other than driving and agrees people need more room.
"A lot of our right-of-ways were built many years ago before the boom we have [now], so we're in kind of a catch-up mode," Spanioli says. "Our population density has grown dramatically and continues to grow dramatically, so it would only be beneficial for us to continue to widen our sidewalks and promote not only a pedestrian movement but a bicycle movement as well."
Ruiz says widening the sidewalks will definitely help.
"If you're in a group of two or three people, you can't [run] side-by-side," Ruiz says. "If there's an oncoming person... sometimes you have to step off the curb, run in the street. Oftentimes you have near-collisions."
But Ruiz wishes there had been better planning sooner and feels like the city doesn't think about pedestrians enough.
"We can't possibly be above all the cars and whatnot," Ruiz says. "But it does seem like we're third or fourth in line when you rate the cars and everything else. Buses are in front of us, everything else is in front of us and then pedestrians."
Spanioli says the City is making an effort to change that mindset. He says there are several projects in the works to make Miami more pedestrian-friendly.
"Flagler Street in downtown [is] the main urban core of our community," Spanioli says. "We're going to be almost doubling the width of the sidewalks there. [And on] South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove, there generally is no sidewalk in various portions of that section, so we're going to be building a 12-foot-wide sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy."
For Ruiz, those projects are a good start.
"I may not be able to enjoy these perfectly designed sidewalks [they'll have in the future]," Ruiz says, "but maybe my kids or their kids will. And I think that's all we really leave behind."