Today’s article in the Miami Herald suggests that fire-rescue took too long to arrive to the aid of Christopher Lecanne, the bicyclist that was killed on Sunday morning on Bear Cut Bridge. Although I agree that the response time was not good, there was very little fire-rescue could have done to help Christopher Lecanne.

Unless you are Superman, the chance of surviving an impact at 60 mph is close to zero. The chance of surviving an impact at 45 mph (posted speed limit on the Rickenbacker) is about 10% (see below). So let’s stop pointing the finger at fire-rescue, there is absolutely nothing they could have done to save his life.

The County Public Works Department should be held responsible and liable for this accident.  They designed and approved an unprotected bicycle lane next to a highway where cars often travel in excess of 60 mph. Our most popular cycling route in the county is a ticking time bomb. More deadly accidents will occur. By designing an unsuitable roadway for all users the County Public Works Department effectively gives cyclists a false sense of security. Fast moving cars and unprotected bicycle lanes do not work.  It never has and it never will. I cannot be more emphatic about this point!!!

Of course, Carlos Bertonatti also needs to be held responsible.  There will be more accidents like this on the Rickenbacker Causeway if the fundamental design flaw is not addressed.  Distracted drivers are a fact of life. The very least we can do is give our bicyclists a chance of surviving.  This can be done by designing a roadway which encourages cars to slow down and by putting protective barriers between bicyclists and cars on our bridges.

Let’s point the finger at the County Public Works Department.  They have neglected bicyclists and pedestrians for too long.

Please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email demanding a safer Rickenbacker Causeway @ ecalas@miamidade.gov

22 Responses to Let’s Stop Pointing the Finger at Fire-Rescue; Blame the County Public Works Department

  1. DD says:

    Your comments are asinine, both relative to this particular incident and towards long term cycling advocacy.

    For one, the incident with Carlos Bertonatti has little to do with cycling advocacy. Bertonatti had a 12 year history of reckless, irresponsible driving. He has been cited 10 times for running red lights during that time. He was destined to hit someone, and that someone could have been on a bike, rollerblades, a wheelchair, or just walking/jogging.

    How is the county CPW responsible for that?

    If you want to point fingers at the government, point it at a system that allowed him to rack up 40+ tickets in 12 years plus convictions for assault and battery, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, battery, and fraud without significant penalties.

    Furthermore, your contention that the bike lane should be walled off by barrier is impractical, dangerous unto itself, and will lessen the liklihood of transit by bicycle in this city. Advocating that citizens pressure the PW office to follow this ill conceived plan only serves to dismiss the advice of Transit Miami and, possibly by extension, other advocacy groups.

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  2. Felipe Azenha says:

    DD,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Perhaps you should reread my post? I blamed Carlos and the County Public Works Department. You’re right; the system that allowed Carlos to keep driving is broken too, but that is much more difficult to fix and does not solve our problem even if it were fixed. Cars would continue to fly by bicyclists at 60 mph.

    I am advocating for safer streets; not only for bicyclists, but for pedestrians, the handicap and rollerbladers. I’m also advocating for safer streets for cars. If you wholeheartedly read my post I suggest designing roads that encourage drivers to slow down and not speed up.

    Before you arbitrarily dismiss my suggestions for improving the Rickenbacker Causeway, you need to explain why “a barrier is impractical, dangerous unto itself, and will lessen the likelihood of transit by bicycle in this city”.

    Just saying it’s a bad idea ain’t gonna fly here. You did not make a single suggestion for improvement, so I will assume that you approve of the current road design of the Rickenbacker Causeway which has lead to two deaths in the past three years.

    The Rickenbacker Causeway is dangerous by design. Others will be critically injured if the current design remains. Doing nothing is no longer an option. The County Public Works Department better get their act together before someone else dies out there.

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  3. Grayson Peddie says:

    I couldn’t agree more, although I’m in Orlando, FL.

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  4. E Vey says:

    I have an idea, something that I have been doing in a small way . . .

    Since I think that most of the problems on the road I see are due to poor traffic law enforcement, whenever I see good traffic law enforcement, I drop the Chief an email complimenting him on what he is doing AT A PARTICULAR PLACE AND TIME.

    Generalized mentions don’t mean beans, say things like “I noticed how well your officers were enforcing the law at the intersection of smith st & jones ave on the 24th”

    That gets their attention because of it’s specificity.

    By encouraging stricter traffic law enforcement, you help us all.

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  5. Prem says:

    DD,
    I too would like some idea as to why a separated bicycle lane would be bad?

    I’ve heard some people say that if there was a barricaded bike lane “serious” cyclists would stop using the causeway. I fail to see that as a valid argument in regards to safety.
    Perhaps they think the lane is too small to accommodate group riding? Well…would it appease them any if this fantasy, barricaded bike lane was wider? How wide does it need to be?
    No one will know unless you make suggestions.

    But perhaps your problems lie elsewhere. We wouldn’t know because you haven’t made your case.
    You’ve just whined and moaned a bit.

    Let’s be productive. I think Felipe and most of the others on here are open to discussion on the subject.

    Aside from that I think we can all agree that a system that lets such chronically irresponsible people off with slaps on the wrist is messed up. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

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  6. DD says:

    Felipe, let me respond to your comments.

    “I blamed Carlos and the County Public Works Department.”

    I don’t agree that County Public Works Department or any road design was responsible for this particular incident. Carlos is 100% to blame in this case. Only judicial or police action (putting him in jail for priors or catching him speeding/drunk driving) would have prevented it – not road design. This is why I have not made any suggestions regarding radically redesigning the entire length of the KB roadway.

    In the previous death, there was a clear issue with the design of a specific feature of the roadway – it jutted out too far into the roadway/bike lane. Clearly, this was the responsibility of the road designer and you would have been right to take CPW to task for that. But that case has nothing to do with this death. Incidentally, were you advocating for the removal of that roadway feature before that death?

    You say that you are advocating for safer streets for all. A noble cause and a great idea. I have no problem with that.

    But, it does seem that you have a prior agenda against CPW and you are using this current tragedy to point the finger at them improperly. I don’t support politicizing Christophe Le Canne’s death like that. Nor will getting on CPW for something beyond their responsibility help in making future requests that are within the scope of their responsibilty.

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  7. Adam says:

    I fail to see how a barricade would not have prevented this accident?

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  8. Felipe Azenha says:

    DD,

    Thank you for your communicative tone; this is a much better way to have a
    respectable two-way dialogue.

    You are clearly well-versed on the previous death that occurred about 400
    hundred yards away from Sunday’s incident. We can both agree that there was
    a very specific feature of the roadway that contributed (speed also
    contributed) to the cyclist’s death (an island jutted out too far into the
    bike lane). Regrettably, I never pointed-out this design flaw to the CPW.
    However, this incident became the catalyst that inspired me to advocate for
    better road design.  Let me assure you that I did take the CPW to task for
    the bicyclist’s death. After the accident the repair was made in about a
    week.  Incidentally the CPW only fixed that specific road feature.  I had
    to point it out to the CPW that there were several similar features on the
    Rickenbacker Causeway that posed a similar risk; they were eventually
    removed.

    Please take a look at my post regarding the Macarthur Causeway ( http://www.transitmiami.com/2009/11/15/dangerous-by-design-the-macarthur-causeway/) which is
    under the jurisdiction of FDOT. You will find that the same specific
    feature which was responsible for the bicyclist’s death three years ago on
    the Rickenbacker Causeway is present here(it has since been removed since
    my post).

    I do not have an agenda against the County Public Works Department per se,
    but I do have an agenda against poor road design. It just so happens that
    the County Public Works Department and FDOT design their roads with only
    motor vehicles in mind. Their autocentric work is obvious in 99.9% of their
    roads.

    It is 100% the responsibility of the CPW to design streets that take all
    users into account. So yes, they are very much responsible for the
    cyclist’s death on Sunday morning. The current road design guarantees
    others will be killed.

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  9. DD says:

    I agree with and commend you for advocating for changes in road design where there are specific issues at hand. If there are other objects jutting out into the road/bike lane that could potentially cause a death similar to the prior one, it is important to have those addressed.

    But broadly blaming CPW for the Le Canne/Bertonatti incident will diminish the responsiveness of CPW to other issues that are within their domain and ability to respond to.

    Carlos Bertonnati by all accounts and history was putting lives in jeopardy every time he got into a car, particularly when he was intoxicated and/or texting. It was only a matter of time before he killed someone with his vehicle and it could have happened anywhere. He has been cited for running red lights/stop signs 10 times during his driving career – meaning he’s done it probably 10-20x more than that. He could just as easily have plowed into someone at an intersection.

    There is no feature of the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway that specifically caused Le Canne’s death. The only link that Bear Cut Bridge or Key Biscayne had with this particular incident was the unfortunate fact that Carlos lived there.

    Government can not cure, fix, or solve every problem every time.

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  10. Felipe Azenha says:

    It is the responsibility of goverment to insure the public’s safety. Speed (and Carlos) killed the bicyclist. Next time it may be a distracted driver with a clean driving record. If the the design of the rickenbacker remains as is, others will be killed. Are you proposing we do nothing and allow bicyclists to risk their lives everyday? You still have not provided any suggestions for reducing the chances of being hit by a car or surviving an impact with a car.

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  11. DD says:

    “It is the responsibility of goverment to insure the public’s safety. ”

    Broadly speaking, yes.

    But you are addressing the wrong branch of the government in this case. And, simultaneously, diminishing your and other advocates’ credibility with the branch of government you are trying to have help your cause. Let me give you an example:

    Your headline: “Blame the County Public Works Department”
    Your comment: “Speed (and Carlos) killed the bicyclist.”

    Since Carlos and Carlos alone was responsible for his speed at the time of the accident, these two are incongruous.

    Whether or not the Rickenbacker Causeway is unsafe for cyclists has very little to do with the Le Canne/Bertonatti incident. Carlos is reckless and irresponsible and was driving drunk. He was going to hit someone at some time – that is inevitable and there is nothing CPW could do about it.

    If he had hit a cyclist while plowing through a red light on his way from Space to the Rickenbacker, would you claim that the CPW was at fault? Far more accidents between cars and bikes happen at intersections than between cars and bikes traveling the same direction on the Rickenbacker. Shouldn’t the government know that and do something to ensure our safety?

    “Are you proposing we do nothing and allow bicyclists to risk their lives everyday? You still have not provided any suggestions for reducing the chances of being hit by a car or surviving an impact with a car.”

    No – I’m proposing that you don’t use this incident to blame CPW and road design, when they are not the culprits.

    If there are problems with the road, then identify them and propose reasonable solutions. Pointing fingers at the wrong people is not going to get that done.

    My proposed solution to this particular incident is advocate strongly that Carlos be prosecuted and punished as severaly as the law will allow and to make that punishment as visible as possible. That approach seems to have worked as well as anything, for example, with Dr. Thompson in California who intentionally injured 3 cyclists with his car. I suppose other measures, such as drunk driving stops outside of nightclubs, etc. would also work well, but I have not researched enough to advocate a specific policy.

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  12. Felipe Azenha says:

    DD,

    You say “Carlos and Carlos alone was responsible for his speed at the time
    of the accident” This is where we disagree. Poor road design encourages
    people to speed. So the responsibility needs to be shared by those that
    designed the roadway, in this case it was the PWD and Carlos.

    I just got back from a meeting with the County PWD, Miami-Dade, Miami and
    Key Biscayne Police departments to discuss and prepare for the memorial
    ride this weekend.  The meeting happened to be on the Rickenbacker
    Causeway.  I drove there and my average speed was about 55-60mph. Yep, I
    was driving over the speed limit because the road is designed for me to
    safely drive that fast.  Although the posted speed limit is 45 mph most
    people drive faster than the speed limit because they feel comfortable
    driving that fast. Wide lanes and open, uninterrupted stretches of highway
    encourage people to drive fast. By reducing the width of the travel lanes
    and implementing road calming devices (i.e. speed bumps, traffic circles,
    etc.) we actively reduce the speed on the Rickenbacker. Although more
    enforcement would help, it is not the sole solution. We cannot enforce the
    speed limit 24/7.

    You say “If there are problems with the road then identify them and propose
    reasonable solutions.”

    I have been very clear about the problems with the design of the roadway
    and I have proposed reasonable solutions.  Perhaps you need to reread my
    post and comments.

    Your proposed solution to hang and make an example out of Carlos would
    bring more focus to pedestrian/cycling deaths, but does nothing to address
    the fundamental problem which is that we have bicyclists traveling next to
    cars moving at 60 mph. Nor does your proposed solution do anything to make
    the Rickenbacker Causeway safer in order to insure that more cyclists will
    not be killed. An unprotected bike lane next to a highway is completely
    unsafe and absurd. Bicyclists will always be on the losing side of this
    equation.

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  13. DD says:

    Let me ask this way: what would you do if you were the judge and Carlos got up in court and said:

    “Your honor. I admit that I was drinking and driving. But, I’m not responsible for the death of Christophe Le Canne. The CPW is responsible.

    They provided me with a road that contained wide, open, uninterrupted stretches of highway which encouraged me to drive fast. In fact, the road is so bad, even non-impaired, conscientious people are caused to go 10-15mph over the speed limit.

    Furthermore, even though the cyclist was in the bike lane, the CPW has provided that bike lane next to the Rickenbacker. It is the design of the roadway that is at fault.

    It is 100% the responsibility of the CPW to design streets that take all
    users into account. They are very much responsible for the
    cyclist’s death on Sunday morning. In fact, the current road design guarantees others will be killed.”

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  14. DD says:

    And, again, I have not said that things are perfect on the Rickenbacker and I am not against changes to the Rickenbacker that make it safer. I encourage those changes that are reasonable for all parties involved, and those parties involved include cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, residents of KB, and the taxpayers.

    I am opposed to:

    -blaming those not responsible for this incident
    -using a tragedy such as a cyclist’s death for political grandstanding and agenda grinding
    -knee-jerk reactionary measures in response to an incident such as this one
    -walling off cyclists to the roadway, which was Felipe’s original suggestion

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  15. DD says:

    Let me ask one more question:

    About 2 years ago, a group of cyclists were riding on McArthur Causeway when a cab driver plowed into them. The cab driver had been on an all-night shift and fell asleep at the wheel, causing him to veer into the cyclists.

    Was that also the DPW’s fault? What actions did Transit Miami take following that accident?

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  16. Felipe Azenha says:

    DD,

    Unfortunately, bad design is not a punishable offense; it should be. If it were, I’d be a billionaire by now.

    It’s seems like you are really making an extra effort to discredit me. So I’ll address each one of your points.

    -blaming those not responsible for this incident. (Poor road design undeniably played a part in this accident. PWD designed the roadway)

    -using a tragedy such as a cyclist’s death for political grandstanding and agenda grinding
    (I have no political agenda. I am simply a concerned citizen who wants to make our city a safer place to walk and bike)

    -knee-jerk reactionary measures in response to an incident such as this one
    (Quite frankly, proper bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is long overdue in our city. I have no qualms about using this incident to highlight how undeserved bicyclists and pedestrians are in this city)

    -walling off cyclists to the roadway, which was Felipe’s original suggestion
    (You are splitting hairs. I have made it very clear that I am for protected bicycle lanes on our bridges only, I agree that this was not clear in my initial post)

    Again, this forum should be used to make suggestions for improvement. I don’t have the magic answer and never claimed I did. You sir/madam, still have not made one suggestion for improvement.

    As for your question regarding the MacArthur Causeway accident, poor road design also contributed to that accident. The same design flaw (island jutted out too far into the bike lane) that killed a cyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway a few years ago was present on the MacArthur Causeway near where the accident occurred.

    I was not blogging for Transit Miami at the time of the MacArthur Causeway accident, but I can assure you that FDOT got an earful from me. The MacArthur Causeway is a designated bicycle route as well; it is also a disaster waiting to happen. It seems like FDOT and the PWD like to encourage people to bike unsafely on highways. This is wrong on so many levels.

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  17. DD says:

    I am not trying to discredit you. I am trying to get you to stop blaming the government entity for this particular incident, because it

    1-is inaccurate
    2-defers responsibility away from the killer
    3-makes the government less likely to help in issues that they are responsible for

    Even you are not sure what your point is:

    Headline: “Blame the County Public Works Department”
    Comment: “Speed (and Carlos) killed the bicyclist.”
    Comment: “Poor road design undeniably played a part in this accident. PWD designed the roadway

    The only tie in to this distorted logic is that somehow the Rickenbacker _caused_ Carlos to speed and your proof of that is that you yourself sped on the Causeway to get to a meeting. How does that make any sense? How does it explain the fact that no matter how fast he was going in a straight line, speed did _not_ cause Carlos to drive into the bike lane?

    Another thing: in your initial post, you say “They designed and approved an unprotected bicycle lane next to a highway where cars often travel in excess of 60 mph. Our most popular cycling route in the county is a ticking time bomb. More deadly accidents will occur. By designing an unsuitable roadway for all users the County Public Works Department effectively gives cyclists a false sense of security. Fast moving cars and unprotected bicycle lanes do not work. It never has and it never will. I cannot be more emphatic about this point!!!”

    Then in your post above, you say that you are “for protected bicycle lanes on our bridges only”

    Which one is it? If it’s only for the bridges, which constitute a small fraction of the 7 or so miles of the Rickenbacker and don’t represent the parts where cars are most likely to go 60mph, how will CPW be any less liable when a driver slams into another cyclist near Crandon Park?

    Earlier, you referenced an article on the McArthur crash, but it did not link to the correct article. Can you please repost? Your assessment that that crash was attributed to a jutting roadway island “near where the accident occurred” is contrary to what I had read in the media and heard from the cyclists involved. I’d like to learn more.

    If you want my suggestions, they would be as follows:

    1. use your vast resources, powers of persuasion, and bully pulpit to prod and influence the DA and prosecutors prosecute Carlos to the full extent of the law and to make sure that he is never allowed in a motor vehicle again. Let’s be very clear that he is the culprit in this case.

    2. use similar powers of Transit Miami to figure out how government can best keep drunk drivers off the road. I made this suggestion a few posts ago, but have not done sufficient research to put forth a concrete plan of action (nor should it be my job to do that – that is the gov’t job).

    3. without pointing fingers at CPW for the Le Canne/Bertonatti incident, present your concrete recommendations on Rickenbacker design improvement to CPW for comment and follow up action. I would certainly agree with your suggestions for the removal of any hazardous road devices. I agree broadly with any efforts to calm traffic speeds, but I’m not clear enough on what your recommendations are to agree or disagree with them.

    Thank you for your concern and for your actions. I am glad that a citizen group is trying to look out for all manors of transportation in this city.

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  18. Felipe Azenha says:

    D.D.

    This will be my last comment to you.

    I’ll try to make it as clear as possible:
    1) The PWD is responsible for designing a road which is unsafe for bicyclists to use.
    2) If we choose to maintain the same road design which encourages people to speed, then we should consider protected bicycle lanes (this is not the best option).
    3) Should we choose to change the road design to encourage people to slow down, then we should only put protected bicycle lanes on our bridges. The bicycle lanes should be improved as well.
    4) Regarding the MacArthur Causeway, the main stream media did not cover the design of the causeway, much like they have avoided covering the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway. It is much easier to point the finger at a single person. Please see my email below which was sent to FDOT and the CPWD regarding this accident.

    Dear Fellow Citizens,
    This past weekend 11 cyclists were injured on the MacArthur causeway when a taxi cab driver ran into them. Although the taxi cab driver has admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, it would be easy to blame him solely for the accident. As an avid cyclist myself I choose not to ride on the MacArthur Causeway due to safety concerns, even though it is designated with signage as a Bicycle Route . Unfortunately in Miami-Dade County it seems we promote bicycling on only the most dangerous streets and highways for bicyclists and leave the safest ones unmarked.

    Sunday’s accident on the MacArthur Causeway shares a frightening similarity with an accident that killed the bicyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway nearly two years ago. Both accidents, although two years apart and on different causeways, occurred where a curb obstructed the shoulder/designated bicycle lane, forcing bicyclists into the right hand lane and into the path of motorists. This is poor road design for causeways that are considered designated Bicycle Routes.

    Miami-Dade County needs a Master Bike Plan urgently. I have lived here for the past 8 years and the entire time there has been a lack of bicycle infrastructure development. The Rickenbacker Causeway is a case in point:

    Little progress has been made to Miami’s most popular designated bicycling route, the Rickenbacker Causeway, even after a cyclist was killed nearly two years ago. This lack of progress has come at the expense to the personal safety of local cyclists. During one phase of the road construction project over 50 bicyclists were injured in a weekend due to poor planning by the Pubic Works Department during their resurfacing project. This project needed to be completed in 6 months, not two years and without multiple injuries.

    According to Mrs. Calas, Director of the Public Works Department, the MacArthur Causeways falls under the jurisdiction of FDOT and not the PWD. I believe Miami-Dade County needs to address this issue with one voice. It is my opinion that the Macarthur Causeway needs to either be improved dramatically so that all users will be safe (including pedestrians) or the designated Bicycle Route sign needs to be removed, as its existence only promotes bicycling along an unsafe highway, that quite frankly, is not designed to ensure the safety of bicyclists.

    Please let me know how I can help Miami Dade County improve its bicycling infrastructure. We need safer bicycling routes urgently before others are injured due to negligence.

    Sincerely,

    Felipe Azenha

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  19. Genaro Gonzalez says:

    It has been published that the driver who killed the biker was at the all night all day club called Club Space. Is that true?

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  20. Rickenbacker Parkway says:

    WHY BLAME! All of your stories are slander. I want to hear a real solution or idea not more complaints

    Add an extra 2-3′ onto the shoulder and add some diagonal paint stripes between the road and bike lane to seperate the two more visually. It’s a real solution, feasible, step in the right direction. BTW, add this not only to Rickenbacker include the Julia Tuttle, JFK, Aventura and other causeways- I mean Parkways.

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  21. Felipe Azenha says:

    Rickenbacker Parkway,
    We are not slandering.We are only pointing out who is responsible for designing a dangerous roadway for all users.
    That being said, I like your idea, but still feel like the speed limit needs to be reduced and the roadway needs to be designed diffrently to discourage speeding.
    You are absolutely right, this problem is not unique to the Rickenbacker, all our causeways need to be improved to ensure the safety of all users.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Rickenbacker – do you even know what slander means? Probably not. Your comments only serve to backup what Felipe is saying.

       0 likes

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