Miami: Biking to a Public Place Worth Caring About

Riding a bike in Miami is an act of humility.

  • It is to ride on sidewalks poorly-paved, swerving constantly to avoid bus benches placed right on the pavement and dead palm tree branches strewn across your path.
  • It is to tolerate motorists, many in SUVs, who are in a rush and have no experience dealing with bicycle commuters in this city where there are few.
  • It is to sweat (literally) a 35-minute bike ride — risking your limbs and maybe more — just to get to the library, this massive, uninviting concrete building with so much land but little more than a parking lot and playground outside.

I’ve arrived at the West Dade Regional Library, one of the few places in Miami where you can spend time productively and rewardingly without spending money.

Thankfully, there are people in this library and it’s got an admirable collection of books, but this place has the potential to be so much more. A public library, on the inside and on the outside, should be a safe, pleasant community environment where people and families interact, learn and enjoy themselves.

The strange, rusted metal sculpture on the front lawn is a praiseworthy attempt at art, but it’s not enough if we want to make this library a public space worth caring about.

Outside, we could grow community gardens, where families could come together and do rewarding work that benefits the community. We could plant fruit trees, edible plants and flowers. We could employ senior citizens to teach classes to children about gardening and nature.

Inside, we could host citizen-run workshops that teach people useful things. We could remove the 6 machines at the front of the library for quick, automated checkout and replace them with the real people who once sat there, librarians we used to get to know.

This is a massive public space, with so much potential. Miami’s West Dade Regional Library belongs to us. Why don’t we do something about that?

These simple changes could alter the culture of a community, and it’s a grassroots approach to sustainability. If you care about the place where you live, the things at the top take care of themselves.