Aug 23, 2022 - News

AI design of Ocean Drive looks strikingly familiar

A rendering of a car-free street with bicycles and pedestrians is photographed next to a street occupied by cars and bicycles.

Image courtesy of Zach Katz; Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

This imagined future of Ocean Drive looks a lot like the past.

Driving the news: Zach Katz, an urban-planning advocate from New York, used AI image-generation platform DALL-E to reimagine the South Beach strip as a car-free promenade with open space for bicyclists and pedestrians.

  • The 28-year-old artist and musician created a Twitter page to post redesigned streetscapes for dozens of cities using the AI tool, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick reports.
  • He has racked up thousands of followers and garnered press attention for his creations, which have sparked conversations about street design and mobility.

Flashback: Katz's vision of a car-free Ocean Drive — posted to Twitter in July — resembles the street's layout in 2020, when it was closed to traffic in a pandemic-driven pilot program.

  • The closure, spanning nearly two years, was widely popular, allowing restaurants to expand outdoor seating and giving residents more space to walk, bike and roll down the famed Art Deco promenade.

What they're saying: "We already had this," one Twitter user pointed out.

The latest: The city reopened one lane of traffic on Ocean Drive in January after complaints from some business owners who wanted to make it easier for hotel guests to check in or club patrons to valet their cars.

Yes, but: The reference photo Katz used must be outdated, since it's missing the buffered, two-way bike lane, which just so happens to look a lot like the AI model. The lane was created on the east side of the street when the city reopened it to cars earlier this year.

  • Around the same time, the city also created a two-block pedestrian zone on Ocean Drive designed for walking, biking or other non-motorized transportation.

What we're watching: Miami Beach has longer-term plans and $20 million in general obligation bond money to redesign Ocean Drive to either limit or eliminate vehicle traffic.


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