In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Gimenez absent on Rickenbacker cyclist safety

 

fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

If you can’t ride a bicycle along one of the most beautiful recreational areas of Miami-Dade without risking life and limb, then what are we doing living here?

Cycling along the Rickenbacker Causeway into Virginia Key and Key Biscayne has become a game of Russian roulette.

Early morning on Dec. 31, a drunk driver slammed into a group of about 20 cyclists riding east on the causeway. The 22-year-old driver, Diego Carreño of North Carolina, told police he’d been out drinking at a Miami Beach club. He was so intoxicated he was vomiting in his car and on the scene.

“It was hard for him to remain standing,” Raul Echevarria, one of the cyclists who was there and took photos with his phone, told me Friday.

Three cyclists ended up in the hospital, one of them with a head injury.

Same day, two hours later, another cyclist was struck in front of Mast Academy, a place where cyclists are hit so frequently they’ve begun calling it the “Bermuda Triangle.” And again last Monday, a white BMW leaving Key Biscayne hit a cyclist and didn’t stop.

Hear any real concern (versus demagoguery) from public officials who immediately began doing something substantial to improve safety on the Rickenbacker?

Nada.

When it comes to cars hitting cyclists, you’ve got to draw real blood, show the dead body of an exemplary citizen, and hope it’s not a holiday to get anyone’s attention. That’s how accustomed we’ve become to our rank as the third-deadliest metropolitan area in the country when it comes to cyclists and pedestrians being struck by cars.

At a time when global metropolitan areas like Paris, London and New York are embracing cycling as a sport and a transportation alternative, why is sunny Miami-Dade falling behind on safety?

The cycling community, reeling from the most recent spate of injuries, is right to be outraged at Mayor Carlos Gimenez for his lack of leadership on the issue. For starters, a petition to reduce the speed limit on the Rickenbacker to 35 mph has begun circulating on change.org.

“I’m tired of all the political grandstanding that happens every time a cyclist is killed,” said Felipe Azenha, a longtime member of the cycling community and editor of the website transitmiami.com. “I don’t want more bike summits, meetings and broken promises of improvements to come. How many more cyclists need to be killed before Mayor Gimenez does something to make the Rickenbacker Causeway safer for everyone?”

People remember the promises Gimenez made in 2010 following high-profile collisions between cars and cyclists, including the hit-and-run death of a cyclist by a drunk driver.

“All you have to do is go out there any day and you will see people jogging, bicycling, walking with their kids. . . But it’s still not as safe as it could be,” Gimenez said then. “Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an incident, or two or more, for government and authorities to do what needs to get done.”

Years later, little has been done besides putting a speedometer, mile-markers, and rumble strips on the road to alert drivers that they’re moving into the bicycle lane (which also serves as a shoulder for car and bus stops).

It’s time to stop the lip service, come together, and take real action.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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