In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Banning bikes not the road to a solution in Key Biscayne

 

fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

Dear Key Biscayne residents,

Pardon me if I don’t understand you.

Yet another drunk driver slams into early-morning cyclists on the Rickenbacker Causeway, and instead of condemning the louse who could have taken a life, you want cyclists banned from riding on a bridge that isn’t even yours?

A sort of miniskirt rape defense for drunk drivers: The cyclists must have been asking for it.

Rake the victim over the coals: Cyclists as traffic law-breakers who put themselves at risk on purpose.

“The cyclists have no regard for traffic laws, move from the right lane to the left lane without looking or signaling and cross three lanes of traffic at the bottom of the bridge in the dark, when there is an underpass for safe transit,” resident Janice Sherman writes me. “I will be sending certified letters to Mayor [Carlos] Gimenez, putting the county on notice that a tragedy will occur on that bridge and it will be caused by cyclists in the roadway. No change in speed limit will avert a tragedy — only the prohibition of bikers on the bridge.”

I’m sure that when people bought their wonderful homes in Paradise the Realtor didn’t point out that property rights end where the sidewalk in front of your house begins (or for condo dwellers and gated communities, where the common areas yield to the road), but here I am to break the bad news.

As storied as Key Biscayne’s beginnings were — conquistador Ponce de León was allegedly there as was Richard Nixon, who cooked up the Watergate break-in at his compound — the municipality is not a private country club.

The causeway, Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne do not belong to Key Biscayne residents — no matter how much you pay in taxes, a number that Sherman thinks is so considerable that it ought to buy them some clout.

Reality check: I looked at the county tax rolls. We all pay taxes, and believe it or not, Hialeah pays more than Key Biscayne.

Not that it should even matter.

The solution to the hit-and-runs on the Rickenbacker and to the drunk and rushed drivers crashing into cyclists for years, way before construction on Bear Cut bridge began, is not to ban a class of people from using the scenic causeway.

You cannot ban cyclists any more than you can ban joggers and pedestrians, whose lives — all over Miami-Dade, I may add — are in the hands of drivers too busy rushing somewhere and distracted by texting, barfing, etc., to stay in their lanes.

What’s wrong with expecting people to drive sanely and safely? What’s wrong with expecting drivers, who are on the power end of the situation, to yield to pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists, in other words, to err on the side of caution?

But no, it’s an all-out war against cyclists in Key Biscayne.

Some of the village readers who wrote after my Saturday column urged meaningful safety measures after the latest spate of cyclist crashes, not only want to ban cyclists from the bridge.

They want cyclists to pay a toll if they do cross the causeway.

“The thousands of bikes that use the Rickenbacker Causeway are vehicles,” Sherman argues. “In addition to being regulated by traffic laws, they also should be subject to tolls. … I can tell you that the residents of this community, who represent a large portion of the county’s tax base, are unanimous in their support of a ban of bikers on the bridge and a toll for non-resident bikers.”

Of course, everyone on the road should obey traffic laws, but charging people on bicycles a toll is not a solution to the recurring accidents due to drunk driving and distractions.

That only essentially serves to keep away one class of cyclists — the working-class riders on budgets.

Having said all that, I understand the frustrations of residents who have one way in and out of home — and that route will be under construction for years to come.

Yes, I’ve been in Key Biscayne and have seen the traffic jams.

And no, I’m not trying to “sanctify” cyclists, as one reader put it. I’m sure cyclists are as flawed and as virtuous as the residents of Key Biscayne.

But condoning or remaining silent about drunk drivers while attacking people engaging in a healthy sport is no road to a solution.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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