(WSVN) - Miami store owners say a county program to promote biking safety is putting their businesses in danger. 7’s Karen Hensel shows us why in tonight’s 7 Investigates.
You see them all over downtown Miami. Brand-new bike lanes where people used to drive and park.
Luis Clemente, store manager, Downtown Lighting Centre: “We started to see, like, they were removing the pavement here, and we thought, ‘OK, we’ve got an improvement here on the street,’ but then we found out it was a bicycle line.”
Three miles of new bike lanes have taken the place of street parking in some areas of downtown. It’s part of a Miami-Dade County project designed to make it easier and safer for cyclists and scooters to get around.
But many downtown merchants say it’s bad for business.
Luis Clemente: “There are many people that have left after 40, 50 years open because of this.”
Luis Clemente manages the Downtown Lighting Centre on North Miami Avenue.
He says his walk-in business has dropped 75% since the bike lanes went in earlier this year.
Luis Clemente: “The only thing keeping us open is a website, not the walk-in people.”
There are public parking lots a block or two away, but business owners here say many of their customers can’t afford to pay to park.
Edgar Polo, owner, L&L Men’s and Boy’s Clothing Store: “They cannot spend, you know, $15 in a parking lot for one hour. They call me and they say, ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go another place.'”
Edgar Polo is closing his clothing store on North Miami Avenue. It has been in his family since 1960.
Edgar Polo: “I’m losing the money every day, so I prefer to close and go.”
Douglas Almendares says his hair salon business has also been cut since the bike lanes went in.
Douglas Almendares, owner, Douglas’ Beauty Salon: “I used to have nine persons working with me, and you can see now I’m alone because everybody is gone, because there’s no business.”
Deliveries are also a problem.
Diego Bolon, merchant: “UPS, USPS, FedEx, Amazon, all of these companies cannot park in front of your business to deliver a package.”
Carlos Cruz-Casas, Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works: “Changes always bring some rocky moments.”
Carlos Cruz-Casas is with Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works. He says the bike lanes are a multi-year project that will connect a growing city to places like Brickell and Miami Beach.
Carlos Cruz-Casas: “There’s still a lot of buildings under construction near the downtown area, so we should be expecting is, moving forward, we have a lot more people walking and biking, and I think this is critical for us to understand that, that’s what drives business.”
County officials believe the bike lanes will eventually bring more walk-in business to downtown shops and restaurants.
But merchants say they need help now.
Henry Suarez, merchant: “I rarely see people using those bike lanes. I think that they should definitely be removed.”
They are now collecting signatures for a petition to ask the county to remove some of the lanes.
Luis Clemente: “This is not going to be the end, because we’re going to fight this.”
Because, they say, if it is the end, it could be the end of their businesses.
The county says it will reach out to the merchants to discuss their concerns.
Karen Hensel, 7News.
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