Posts by: JM Palacios

While another bicyclist is on life support today after being hit by a car on Davie Blvd., cyclists in Boca Raton took matters into their own hands. Apparently the driver of a Lexus passed them too closely, so they attacked him and damaged his car when they caught up to him at the light. Read and watch a great one-sided story over at the Sun-Sentinel, where they apparently only interviewed the motorist and the cops who arrested one of the cyclists. What is clear from the article is that the motorist honked at them as he approached and then passed them too closely (presumably in violation of Florida’s three foot passing law) and probably even hit one of the bicyclists. Now, even though I have had many incidents with motorists where I felt like punching them in the face, I don’t approve of the bicyclists’ actions here. Neither do I approve of the police taking the side of the motorist against a group of eyewitness cyclists and ignoring the witness reports that a cyclist was hit. At the very minimum, Barish, the “victim” motorist, should be charged with violating the three foot passing law. However, I have spoken with police before about a motorist who passed me too closely; and they refuse to do anything unless they saw it.

I think an issue that this brings up is how useless the three foot passing law is. As long as police refuse to enforce it and motorists don’t know anything about it, what good does it do? I believe we need both motorist education and a change in police policy and practice regarding this and other bicycling related laws. If you have any ideas, share them in the comments.

Anyone a fan of X-Men? Apparently we have some cyclists who believe this is a war and want to strike back. Perhaps they can form the Brotherhood of Cyclists? Others, like myself, want peace between motorists and bicyclists.  Shall we form a group of Wheelmen?

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An SUV driver dramatically interrupted the Mack Cycle Key Biscayne Triathlon Trilogy on Sunday. The Rickenbacker Causeway was supposed to be closed for the race, but the driver of the SUV inched out in the way the pack of racers who were riding about 40 mph. Miguel Tellez, the leader of the pack and one of the area’s best triathletes, struck the SUV and went flying over it. Luckily for Tellez, he survived with a cut on his knee, a gash in his head, and a concussion. Check out the Sun-Sentinel article and photos of the race, plus get a little more detail on the location of the crash at Spokes ‘n’ Folks. A participant in the race also offered a more firsthand perspective at BeginnerTriathlete.com.

This isn’t your usual issue of a one-on-one collision where the standard rules of the road apply. The road was supposed to be closed for the race, yet somehow a car managed to sneak in. We always like to blame the driver, and maybe it was their fault. But where was the police officer whose job it was to keep vehicles off the course?

This reminds me of the incident at a bicycle race last June in Matamoros, Mexico. A photo of that incident at Sports Crackle Pop! shows a cop conveniently pulled out of the way of a drugged motorist who slammed into a pack of cyclists. While I’m grateful that this past Sunday’s incident didn’t kill anyone, I think it shows that Miami’s cops are as good at managing road closures for races as are Mexico’s finest. (EDITORS NOTE: the road closure was handled by the Miami-Dade County Police  and not the City of Miami Police Department.)

And while we’re at it, let me point out a difference between cycle racing and auto racing. Has anyone ever heard of a race car in an event like the 24 Hours of LeMans running into a car that had strayed onto the course in the middle of the race? Yet here you see two examples for a cycle race. Perhaps race organizers and  officials need to rethink how they close roads for events like these.

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The Florida Department of Transportation’s Broward Operations Center is already using the website that you may have just heard about, SeeClickFix. That means that instead of your concerns just getting posted on the site and ignored, you can hope for some action. Transit Miami spoke with Darlene Williams in the complaints department at FDOT, who has dealt with about six or seven issues on the site since April. Not all those could be addressed by FDOT if they were not on a state road, but she pointed out how she has a working relationship with other government agencies in Broward County. Darlene regularly passes on issues that involve city or county roads. You can see an example of that action on issues such as this one. Optimally, we would like to see the cities and counties hop on this bandwagon and create their own SeeClickFix watch areas. But thanks to a proactive FDOT, your issues reported within the Broward County watch area should get noticed.

Check out this issue reported on SeeClickFix if you want see an example of the type of public conversation the site makes possible. Coral Gables has a watch area as well, though it’s difficult to see how active the city is in responding. Now we need to get agencies in other counties (like Miami-Dade and Palm Beach) made aware of this site.

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Mr. Clucky Gets His Walking Papers

As if bicycle-riding people didn’t have enough problems, now the bicycle-riding rooster is in danger. The City of Miami Beach is trying to evict Mr. Clucky, the bicycle-handlebar-riding rooster, just for being a farm animal. Read more about it at the Miami Herald and head over to the rooster’s own website for more info on how to fight for his rights.

Photo by Flickr user DCvision2006.

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SunRail was defeated in the State Legislature Friday, 23-16. With it goes the $2 rental car surcharge for Tri-Rail, which most of the South Florida Senators ended up voting against because they said they were worried that local voters might overturn the surcharge. It’s uncertain whether they considered that most locals will not be paying this “tax”, but will definitely benefit from it. Read more at the Palm Beach Post.

Also check out an article at The Ledger that includes Senator Mike Bennet of Bradenton suggesting that the money spent on SunRail would be better spent buying a car for each of the 3,500 riders predicted to ride SunRail the first few years. I know the government is now in the auto business, but really now—how ignorant can you get?

Don’t vote for these guys in the next election.

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bicycle-mask

Biden seems to think that the way to avoid getting swine flu is to avoid the subway, airport, or any form of public transportation; and NYC mayor Bloomberg and others are striving to counter his arguments. With all this back-and-forth, you may be left wondering about the safety of public transit. While there are still no confirmed cases in Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reports that one Broward County sample is currently being tested by the CDC to see if it is swine flu.

We would be the last ones to tell you to avoid public transportation. Use good judgment and keep your hands clean. But we will recommend what you should do if you’re scared to take transit or if you’re feeling a little sick yourself: ride your bicycle. The exercise will help you keep healthy anyway, and you’re in the open air with no worries about sitting beside someone coughing and sneezing.

Whatever you do, don’t switch to driving—even if you’re stuck wondering how you’re going to detour around the Venetian Causeway. We’re working on that.

Photo by Flickr user Bill Liao.

Update 5/1: You probably heard that the one case was confirmed, as reported at the Sun-Sentinel. Broward County Transit posted a pretty generic news release about Swine Flu (or H1N1 as it’s now being called in order to save the innocent pigs). Check it out on their website. The point still remains, just be careful and sanitary and you’ll be fine.

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This is dedicated to those of you who climb on the bus every day to get to work. “Weird Al” Yankovic singing his song “Another One Rides the Bus” to the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. He starts singing at about 1:04 if you want to skip the intro.

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And we thought last year was bad. Tri-Rail’s Year Reprieve is coming to an end, and the news looks dire. Sit back and take a deep breathe, there’s a lot going on if you haven’t caught it already.

First up we’ve been hearing talk of a fare increase, and the amounts have been made official: 25%. So the cheapest one-way fare will rise from $2 to $2.50, while the monthly pass will rise from $80 to $100. The increase has yet  to be approved, so stay tuned for news of  a public hearing which the Sun-Sentinel reports will take place on April 24.

SFRTA, Tri-Rail’s parent agency, is also announcing plans to reduce weekday trains from 50 to 30 and drop weekend service entirely beginning October 5, if no dedicated source is found. Like last year, Palm Beach County has already said they will reduce their funding of Tri-Rail from $4.1 million to $1.5 million, and the great imitators in Broward and Miami-Dade County would follow suit for some strange reason. (Can someone tell them they don’t have to do what Palm Beach County does? They could fund Tri-Rail more and let Tri-Rail just reduce service in Palm Beach County if it comes to that.) No one’s come up with any new ideas for a funding source since last year. The controversial $2 rental car surcharge is still being floated as the solution to their funding woes.

A few more minor, but equally interesting details include the fact that Tri-Rail will be tweaking their schedules in an attempt to keep their trains on time. The Palm Beach Post reports how they also just dumped their law firm that had helped them lobby for the $2 rental car surcharge. Get this—the firm also lobbied against the $2 rental car surcharge for Enterprise. If the law firm were a Palm Beach County Commissioner, they would be in jail for that!

To combat these forces that seek to effectively shut down our commuter rail service, sign the “Fund or Fail” petition at Tri-Rail’s website. You can scream now.

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The March issue of Popular Science has an intriguing article on some innovative options for human powered transportation. Among these is the Human Car, powered by up to four people riding in it; the Velomobile, a single passenger recumbent tricycle with an aerodynamic fairing to slice through the air; and even a human powered monorail. That last one is pretty far out there, though I don’t know how the magazine missed that someone has already built a concept track. Hit up the Agroventures amusement park to ride it if you ever visit New Zealand.

If you don’t have a hard copy of the magazine available, I highly recommend reading the article at this website.

The video below gives you a chance to see my favorite one, the Velomobile, in action. I have often pondered the viability of an aerodynamic fairing on a commuter bicycle, and it turns out these sleek machines make it possible for an average person to zip to their destination at speeds of 30 mph. Not to mention providing protection from rain and a little more protection from wild drivers in the event of an accident.


Peter Calthorpe, an urban planner working on the California high speed rail project, wrote a very good piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on the lack of transit funds in the current form of the economic stimulus. Check it out—it sounds like something we would say here. We definitely agree that there is not enough funding for transit in the economic stimulus bill. I would take it a step further and point out that there is not enough infrastructure funding in the stimulus bill, period. Infrastructure investment pays off in the long term, while offering jobs in the short term. Of course, between highways and transit, transit spending creates more jobs in both the short term and the long term, besides further stimulating the economy.

Many different figures have been floated as to how many jobs are created per dollar spent on infrastructure. Depending on which source you look at, you might see that for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure, 18,000 or 28,000 or some other high number of jobs are created. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, but the point is it’s high. Yet only about $30 billion of the $900 billion package is being directed at roads, with transit and inter-city rail getting $12 billion. Some of the other money is being directed to places that will do very little to create jobs.

The New York Times points out some of the latest additions to the bill, which include tax credits for home buyers and car buyers. I hate to say it, but this only attempts to feed our way of life for the past 50 or so years. The message it sends is, buy more homes in the suburbs to contribute to suburban sprawl, and buy a new car to drive on all those new lanes that are getting added to our highways. Don’t bother changing commuting habits or moving into the city, there was nothing wrong with our lifestyles that caused the economy to collapse or anything. (Oh, yeah. We bailed out the car industry so now we have to protect our investment. Same goes for the mortgage companies. Bleah.)

That’s totally the wrong message. Our representatives need to take advantage of the opportunity to encourage sustainable development by directing the funds to the places that will make a difference. Among those places are mass transit and high speed rail. If we don’t learn from our mistakes of spending unwisely in the past, we’re doomed to repeat them.

He may not have possession of Air Force One yet, but Obama is riding on what you might call “Amtrak One” on his way from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. today. Retracing the train tour of another famous Illinois president, Obama will be making stops to greet people and celebrate on his way to claim the throne assume the presidency. It sure is more friendly than flying along in a private jet away from everybody else or cruising down the highway with a motorcade isolating him from the rest of humanity.

The Baltimore Sun has a good article on the long history of railroad cars and Presidents. The very car he rides in was used before by other Presidents. The heyday of train-traveling Presidents died off with Eisenhower and the advent of jumbo jets and the interstate system. This symbolic action by Obama brings us hope that he will also resuscitate inter-city and inner city rail as more effective modes of transportation.

Updated 1/17 with picture by Flickr user will.quale. Obama arrived in D.C at 6:30 pm. Read of the stages of his ride at the Detroit Free Press.

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The New River and sailboats are inseparable. With naught but drawbridges in their way east of I-95 and Tri-Rail’s New River bridge, sailboats frequent that part of the river. Even the mighty US-1 bows to the sailboats by tunneling beneath the river.

A threat looms on the horizon, however. Passenger rail service on the Florida East Coast (FEC) corridor could mean a 55′ bridge over the New River, limiting the height of sailboat masts. According to a Sun-Sentinel blog post, Mayor Jim Naugle, a supporter of the FEC project, laid down the law, saying, “Thou shalt not restrict navigation.”

I fully agree with his desire to protect boat traffic. I was at a public meeting for the Sunrise Blvd. Bridge over the Middle River and saw the majority of attendees voice their support for a drawbridge to replace the current low fixed span. Despite the added costs, I would agree with them as well. When you see all its canals and rivers, you can understand why Fort Lauderdale claims the title “Venice of America”. But if they do not keep these canals open to boats, they cannot accurately keep the title.

Fort Lauderdale should vigorously protect the navigation rights of boaters. They must realize, though, that it comes at a cost. Just as a tunnel was constructed on US-1 at a much higher cost, a tunnel could be constructed on the FEC tracks for passenger service. The thing is, when the state cannot foot the bill for it, the city must be willing to pay for the expense. Throw another tax on the rich sailboat owners if you must. I’m sure they would rather pay more and keep their river open.

Photo by Flickr user scottlenger.

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This news is a few days old, but we wanted to post it in case anyone didn’t see the article in the Miami Herald. A bus driver hit a bicyclist and didn’t even bother to stop, ignoring the cries of his passengers.

The bicyclist escaped with some scrapes as an early Christmas present. Fortunately for him and the rest of us, the driver has been suspended, so we have one less bus driver out there trying to maim bicyclists. He’s still getting paid, though. MDT wouldn’t want to let him miss that hefty salary paid by your sales tax.

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The American Public Transportation Association released figures Monday on third quarter growth in public transportation. Tri-Rail ranked as the second fastest growing commuter rail system in the country with a whopping 32.9%. Public transit use overall jumped 6.5% between July and September across the country, while automobile use shrunk by a much larger 4.6%. More people reduced their driving because the actual number of vehicle-miles is much higher to begin with than the passenger-miles for public transit. So these 4.6% who reduced driving are not all switching to public transit, but also carpooling and combining or eliminating trips. Few bothered to point out that aspect of our new transportation habits, as the released figures don’t include those changes. Personally, I know many coworkers who have started carpooling this year.

Read the Miami Herald article on the subject here. One phrase in the article that nearly makes me shiver with delight is that “meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry is on the verge of collapse…” While I wish it were the case, the statement is rather sensationalist. If they declare bankruptcy they will not be collapsing, just restructuring.

Meanwhile, gas prices continue to drop, so we can only hope these changes last.

In Chicago, Thomas Lynch slammed on the brakes of his truck in front of some bicyclists in order to make them crash into them. Why am I posting this? Because he’s from Florida. Fort Lauderdale, to be specific. Read the article here. More importantly, read the 75+ comments from many people who thought the bicyclists deserved to crash. And we thought Miami Herald or Sun-Sentinel commenters were bad!

I’m surprised we don’t have more of this intentional harm around here, although I am pretty certain I experienced some last week. I was riding in an undesignated bicycle lane coming up to a red light, slowing down, when the passenger in a truck I was passing opened his door right in front of me. Needless to say I went down, luckily with little more than a scraped knee due to my low speed. Since the truck had just passed me and I was wearing a neon yellow jacket, I found it hard to believe that he didn’t know I was there. I was ready to punch the guy in the face but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Next time I will probably call the police just to see if they’ll give the guy a ticket. They may try to give me a ticket instead, but it’s worth a try. So check your mirrors if you ever open a car door on the road. This is the second time I’ve been doored that way and I won’t let the next person get away with it, intentional or not.

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