county hearing to explore options for ‘complicated problem’ of bicycle safety on the Rickenbacker | Biscayne Key

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Perhaps putting safety above aesthetics, the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces (PROS) will hold a virtual public hearing on July 15 to discuss immediate options to improve performance. bike safety on Rickenbacker Causeway.

Considerations in the lane reassignment study include opening or widening a lane to and / or from Key Biscayne for cyclists, while another calls for a safety barrier between the right lane for vehicles and the cycle lane.

Gerold Cajina, director of Key Cycling, a 30-year-old store now in the Galleria Mall in Key Biscayne, has said he would be interested in reviewing the proposals, but says it’s a complicated question.

“I think it’s going to be dangerous for the runners when you put in something like barriers,” he said. “Not all riders have the experience (of squeezing harder) on the right shoulder, and then you would probably need to ride single file forever on the pavement, on Saturdays and Sundays, in particular, c that is, when you have the slowest people. Can you imagine six family members, or friends, and having to be in single file, stopping at every stop sign and at every stop sign? traffic light… it will take a while for them to cross, and drivers don’t like it that much.

On bridges, there are already barriers separating pedestrians from cyclists, who should be aware of vehicles traveling at the speed limit of 45 mph, or above.

After a traffic study by the County Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW), four alternatives were developed. One of these is the reallocation of a vehicle lane to provide cycle lanes with larger safety buffers and physical separation.

“To make it a wider path, of course, the drivers are going to scream and cry,” Cajina said. “Everyone pays taxes (for road safety), and we pay tolls. Now the drivers are going to be like, “How come we now have one lane? If you did that, doing a lane and a half, the left side emergency lane should disappear. But I am not an engineer.

Some of these “new” county ideas surfaced in 2012, when the village of Key Biscayne laid the groundwork by then-mayor Frank Caplan, calling for a resolution “urging the county to impose a toll on cyclists for the purpose of installing and maintaining a permanent physical security barrier between cyclists and motor vehicles along the entire length of Rickenbacker Causeway and Crandon Boulevard in Crandon Park.

“Money is money,” Cajina said with a laugh. “I don’t think people are going to pay a toll to ride here – I wouldn’t. But coming to Key Biscayne is safer than (most of) Dade County. Sooner or later one of those drivers will get you there.

The meeting comes a week after Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted to advance a resolution calling for a “request for proposal” or public tender, in which the county could advertise that other bidders contest what is called a longer-range “Plan Z Consortium”. The idea was presented to county officials in March and, according to a memo from Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, has been vetted by architectural and financial officials and is seen as a viable plan.

The public-private proposal, submitted by investment entity Partners Group (USA) Inc., and consultancy entities Zyscovich Architects and J. Kardys Strategies, LLC, calls for “the design, build, finance, l ‘operation and maintenance of a proposed project which provides a solution for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety, development and expansion of parks and waterfront along Rickenbacker Causeway, replacement of the Bear Cut Bridge and improving coastal resilience against sea level rise and maintenance of the Venetian Causeway.

Some commissioners were reluctant to go ahead with the plan as the details, including costs, are kept confidential in order to preserve proprietary aspects so that other bidders don’t just copy the basic work and come to a lower price.

Commissioner Raquel A. Regalado plans to hold a public debate on this issue in the near future to address the concerns of residents of Key Biscayne.

Key Biscayne, sadly, has had its fair share of vehicle-to-bike incidents, a notable case, in fact, which has led to legislation providing tougher penalties for hit-and-run drivers.

While biking on the Rickenbacker Causeway can claim honors for its scenery, biking in Miami in general has ranked 20th in America by assurance.org on ‘Most Dangerous Cities’ for cyclists in 2020, with 16 deaths (none wearing helmets, according to his research) in the past four years. Ten years earlier, Miami was the second city in the United States for bicycle safety in a study by The Alliance For Biking And Walking.

Other Florida Cities Sorted By assurance.org as dangerous for cyclists were Fort Lauderdale (18th), Lakeland (10th), Pompano Beach (5th) and Cape Coral (No.1). Two years ago, the Tampa Bay metro area was considered the most dangerous, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Incidents involving cyclists on Rickenbacker Causeway include:

In January 2010, a Miami musician from Venezuela was arrested for a fatal hit and run that killed cyclist Christopher LeCanne, 44, on the pavement. He was riding on the bike path. Carlos Bertonatti, 32, was sentenced to 12 years after facing up to 35 years. Reports show he rode nearly 2 miles with the crumpled bike under his car before the police caught up with him. Authorities later said his blood alcohol level was 0.122, above the state’s legal limit of 0.08.

In March 2012, before dawn, a vehicle struck two cyclists on the cycle path. Aaron Cohen, a father of two, died a day later after suffering a devastating brain injury. Her friend, Enda Walsh, broke her leg. The driver surrendered to authorities but it was 18 hours later, too late to check his blood for alcohol, and he received a 22-month sentence (although reports from the Miami New Times indicated he had later received an extended sentence for violating his house arrest).

Activists, led by fellow cyclist Mickey Witte, were outraged by the lenient sentence and traveled to Tallahassee to secure the new law, called the Aaron Cohen’s Life Protection Act, passed, establishing a mandatory four-year jail sentence for drivers convicted of leaving a fatal accident, and removing any protections that might flow for those who drive under the influence and claim they didn’t know that they had hit someone.

In January 2015, another hit and run near Crandon Park Marina resulted in the death of cyclist Walter Reyes. The other man struck was Henry Hernández, who was initially in serious condition.

In June 2018, Jorge Ruoco, then 50, was hospitalized, apparently with spinal injuries, after being struck on the cycle path. This driver fled.

In August 2019, a motorcyclist was charged with one count of second degree murder in the shooting of cyclist Alexis Palencia, 48, a father of two, on the roadway around 6 a.m.

In June 2020, in Virginia Key, two cyclists collided with a Miami-Dade police car, killing one and the other injured on the access road near the causeway water treatment plant . Some say that journeys in this area can be dangerous in the early morning hours as the sun can blind drivers.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration in 2020 reported that Florida continues to lead the country in bicycle-related accidents and fatalities.

Bernard Zyscovich, architect, urban planner and cyclist, and the man at the heart of the “Plan Z Consortium”, wanted several years ago “to initiate a cultural change” by introducing what he then simply called “Plan Z”, a Separate and partially elevated cycle path that would connect the mainland to the causeway and accommodate future sea level rise. There was no way of knowing if the current proposal reflects this.

Last year, the village council voted 6-1 to go ahead with the 1.5 miles of highly visible green cycle paths on Crandon Boulevard at a cost of $ 300,000. The Boulevard Crandon pedestrian and bicycle safety project encountered opposition from council member Luis Lauredo, who expressed concern about spending money on a sport that is not mainly focused on the needs of residents and the fact that groups of a hundred cyclists, called platoons, would come to the island disrupting traffic.

Part of that cost is a $ 100,000 grant – also taxpayer money, Lauredo pointed out – from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Phase 1A of the county’s nearly $ 2 million Rickenbacker Causeway green cycle lane segment Project began in December and is expected to be completed this month, with improvements to signage and pavement markings from the toll plaza at the east end of the Bear Cut Bridge.

“I was racing, I was riding 12 years ago,” Cajina said. “We have a great place to ride, to run. It’s safer here, but at the same time runners can be very aggressive and take the whole lane. I was one of them, even though I have always been against it.

“But you have drivers who are drunk, or who are having a bad day or a bad morning… The runners you see on Wednesday and Friday mornings in group rides are experienced and know what they’re doing. Then Saturday and Sunday come up, and it’s like they’re a dog in a crate all week, and then they’re released and seem to be doing anything.


The public hearing on July 15 takes place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. To register, click here then click on Service meeting calendar and select Rickenbacker conversion study project n ° 20150118.


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