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Miami Could Learn a Lot from Bordeaux!

Back in July, my hubby and I booked a last minute trip to France in anticipation of our new baby and the imminent halt on our wanderlust. Kudos to my girlfriend who suggested the trip- a wine tour in the hills of Bordeaux! She booked a lovely B&B on the outskirts of the city, and we rendezvoused at Bordeaux's newest gem--the Cite du Vin--a museum dedicated to wine.

Here's a town that bustles with activity.

This museum is a result of the current mayor's flurry of public improvements over a 20-year period. Wine museum shaped like a decanter--check!

Careful placement of wine museum in the seedy industrial edge of town to attract funky new buildings--check! See the cranes!


Creative cafe seating

And this mayor is just killing it! Work your way into town and discover a host of hip and sleek ways to get around. Transportation options that would make Portland jealous. Example one--bike share. Now these bikes are cool. A low profile storage system preserves the beauty of the pavement pattern.


Mayor Alain Juppé's vision for the city developed after years of neglect, congestion and sprawl. Sound familiar Miami? Beginning in 1995, Mayor Juppé created a plan for a new riverside and three light rail lines in the city center and an extensive bikeway system. This UNESCO world heritage site would be cleaned, primped and transformed into the jewel of the country in just twenty short years.

In fact, Bordeaux's Garonne River was considered an industrial wasteland with acres of storage containers and parked cars lining the river banks. Photo courtesy of Jeremie Buchholtz.

But look at it now! Transformed into a space for everyone to enjoy. A simple waterfront walkway with a plain railing system and paired with outdoor seating equals instant karma. Why should the cars be the only ones enjoying the water and the sun?

The seating area is slightly raised and adorned with a precious paving pattern to separate it from the walking path.


​And then there are the trains. The tracks were laid out right in the middle of the existing streets. No need to widen the roads. Check this before and after photo courtesy of Jeremie Buchholtz.

These trains are sleek and cool and quiet and they create fantastic opportunities for those funky little bollards which I see all over french cities, but never in Miami. Here the simple metal posts separate the sidewalk from the active train tracks. And just in can you miss them, there's a dip in road and a rather cute sewer grate before you reach the metal train tracks.

This picture gives a better view of how the bollards visually separate the tracks from the street, and, how they demarcate crosswalks to lead people to the train stop. Also a nice shot to illustrate how the paving pattern changes at the train station. A subtle design shift to alert people that they are entering an important place. It's the train people!

And an interior shot of the station and tracks. It's all about the paving here-- stone and scored concrete aggregate.


​And one of the most clever aspects of this tram system is its dual purpose. That's right. Now you see the train and it's ultra modern station area...

...and now a bike. When the tracks are not being used, why not allow cyclists to use it. This protected bike path is safe from traffic, quiet and easy to navigate. And what a gorgeous city. Beautifully restored architecture...

...and unexpected art. This sculpture is designed as an optical illusion. Fantastic trick of the eye and a playful and modern contrast to the historic buildings.


​And there are other nice embellishments to help people and bikes cross the tracks. Here, small islands in the middle of the road are paired with bollards to create safe little enclaves for crossing. Wide, white stripes are bright and easy for cars to see and delineate the area of the street which is designated for people. I love this picture because it shows people on foot and bikes, coexisting in harmony.


Back by the Cite du Vin, is a fabulous new drawbridge which slides up and down between four iconic towers. It's beautiful, functional and innovative. In Bordeaux, historic and modern work well together.

The waterfront promenade continues with another simple design solution to allow people to walk in an uninterrupted path by the bridge.

Bordeaux is proof that any city can be retrofitted for modern transportation and transformed from a car oriented and neglected environment to one with great public spaces and bustling activity. Careful planning, good leadership, design and time has made Bordeaux a beautiful place for all to enjoy.

Pay attention Miami! Why not start by participating in Miami's Transit Day. Commit with thousands of others to ride transit on December 9th? Do your part. Walk, bike, train and bus. Take the pledge.

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