Currently viewing the category: "Rickenbacker Causeway"
Driver hit cyclists from behind.  Notice the windshield. How fast was the driver going?

Driver hit cyclists from behind. Notice the windshield. How fast was the driver going?

I’m really tired of writing this same old story. On Friday morning another cyclist was critically injured on Bear Cut Bridge, the very same bridge where Chistopher Lecanne was killed nearly 4 years ago when a driver hit him from behind.

Crashes like these are preventable if only our elected officials could get their act together and address the public safety crisis that is happening in front of their very own eyes.

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The Rickenbacker Causeway is a microcosm for the greater ills of the county. Case in point: In the past 7 years at least 3 cyclists have been killed and countless other have been critically injured, yet the existing conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway are getting more dangerous (i.e. Bear Cut Bridge), not safer.  Virtually nothing has been done to make the Rickenbacker less dangerous.  How many people need to die before something is done?

Miami Dade County is the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the country for pedestrian and cyclists, yet our elected officials are dragging their feet when it comes to making our streets safer.  All I hear is political grandstanding that changes are coming and in the meantime pedestrians and cyclists continue to be slaughtered on our streets. The entire situation is disgraceful and shameful and collectively Miami Dade County elected officials need to be held accountable.

Click here to send an email to all of our County Commissioners and Mayor Gimenez and let them know what an awful job they are doing when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist safety throughout the County.  This is not just a Rickenbacker Causeway issue, this is a county wide problem that has turned into a public safety crises.

The situation has reached a point that is beyond embarrassing.
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It’s not often that something leaves me without words in Miami. But this does it.

It's hard to believe, but someone at Miami-Dade County has managed to find a way to make the Rickenbacker Causeway even less safe for cyclists. Photo by Ruben van Hooidonk.

It’s hard to believe, but someone at Miami-Dade County has managed to find a way to make the Rickenbacker Causeway even less safe for cyclists. Photo by Ruben van Hooidonk.

Yes, that’s the Rickenbacker Causeway bike lane. Yes, that’s a giant sign blocking it, forcing bicycle riders into fast moving traffic. This is also located on arguably the most dangerous existing segment of the Powell bridge, where cyclists traveling downhill at higher speeds must be aware of merging traffic on the right (and vice versa).

This picture is all the more appalling considering that in the past few weeks alone, safety concerns along the Causeway have become even more urgent. A number of local media outlets again reported on the issue following an ugly incident earlier this month in which a drunk driver struck multiple cyclists. These reports included editorials in the Miami Herald, a WPLG news segment highlighting the dangerous conditions, and a public response from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez only nine days ago.

How in the world can anyone believe that Miami-Dade County is taking this issue with any grain of seriousness? As one commenter on Transit Miami’s Facebook page said, “You can’t complain about the common sense in this town because there isn’t any.”

Sigh.

Our invitation is still on the table for Mayor Gimenez to come out with us for a ride and see the situation first-hand.

Special thanks to Transit Miami reader Ruben van Hooidonk for the picture. See something we should post? E-mail us or let us know on Facebook.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent us an email yesterday in response to our post last week where we questioned his commitment to safety on the Rickebacker Causeway because of several recent crashes on the Rickenbacker Causeway that involved cyclists being struck by cars. As the Mayor noted in his response, we would like to acknowledge that one of the crashes (crash #2 below) that we highlighted did not happen on December 31, 2013 as we had stated. The Mayor’s office correctly pointed out that this particular crash happened nearly a month earlier. Transit Miami, and I personally would like to apologize for this oversight; our source was incorrect and we failed to validate the claim provided to us, perhaps due to our disbelief regarding the circumstances of the original crash that occurred that morning.

As for the third crash, however, while there was no police report (as validated by Mayor Gimenez’s Office), it did occur. In fact, Mayor Gimenez received an email about the hit and run from a respected Miami attorney shortly after the crash occurred.  Transit Miami was forwarded this email and we believe that the source was credible and that the crash was valid (but not reported to Police).

Regardless, our position remains the same: there have been too many crashes on the Rickenbacker Causeway and an insufficient response on the part of our elected officials.  From our perspective, not enough is being done in the short-term to prevent crashes. In his email Mayor Gimenez stated that 1,447 citations have been issued in the past year. To put that in perspective, that is an average of 4 citations per day. As evidenced by this video, which shows at least a dozen cars speeding on the Rickenbacker Causeway within a 5-minute period, there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to enforcement. If we want to send a strong message about speeding, we should issue 20 citations per day, not 4.

We would like to acknowledge that there are some improvements in the pipeline, however most improvements are likely 5-10 years away. More can be done now, but the County fails to recognize that the major flaw of the Rickenbacker Causeway is its design. A facility like the Rickenbacker warrants a grade-separated bicycle lane adjacent to the roadway.  In it’s current design, the Rickenbacker is akin to a highway with a design speed of 50+mph. Unfortunately, until the County can come to terms with this very basic and simple concept, we can expect more deaths and serious injuries on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  From our perspective, the County has done a fantastic job of discouraging cyclists from riding the Rickenbacker Causeway. I no longer ride there and I know of many other cyclists that have quit riding the Rickenbacker Causeway because it is unsafe.

I think it is fair to say that the County has not been proactive when it comes to truly making the Rickenbacker safer.  The real crux seems to be that the Mayor and his administration do not understand the real problems with the Causeway. They fail to recognize that an unprotected bike lane adjacent to a highway with a design speed of 50+mph is not safe. Yes, there are improvements with the building of wider sidewalks on Bear Cut Bridge, but what about the Powell Bridge were many cyclists have been injured? The proposed improvements are welcome, but they fall short of actually addressing the real problem.  The County can narrow the lanes all they want, but the wide-open perception creates the illusion of a highway.  The Rickenbacker needs to be rethought.

Although I do not ride the Rickenbacker Causeway, I am willing to put my life at risk and would like to extend an invitation to Mayor Gimenez and his family to ride the Rickenbacker Causeway with me, but I sincerely doubt he’ll take me up on the offer. Any logical human being can see that the Rickenbacker Causeway is not a safe place to ride a bicycle - this shouldn’t be the case.

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Below is the email we received from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez:

Thank you for your email.  The safety of all users of the Rickenbacker Causeway is a priority to Miami-Dade County (County).   I have reviewed all the emails received along with the proposed short and long term goals outlined in Mr. Azenha’s posts of January 5, 2014 onwww.transitmiami.com and, most recently, Ms. Fabiola Santiago’s Miami Herald column on January 10, 2014.  We have been working hard to keep the public informed of the improvements being made along the Causeway, but before outlining the County’s efforts, I would like to clarify information regarding the three (3) recent accidents involving cyclists on the Causeway, which have been misrepresented:

1.            The police report detailing the accident that occurred on the William Powell Bridge in the pre-dawn hours of December 31, 2013 indicated that the driver was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and was therefore arrested.  There was no roadway or traffic engineering defect which contributed to this tragic accident.

2.            The second referenced accident occurred on Wednesday November 6, 2013,  not two (2) hours later on December 31, 2013 as reported in Mr. Azenha’s post.  That accident involved two (2) cyclists who were struck by a driver making a left turn into MAST Academy.  The police report indicated that the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the cyclists, and was therefore cited for the accident.  Again, no engineering defect or roadway design created conditions which contributed to the accident.

3.            The third accident was referenced in Mr. Azenha’s second post and Ms. Santiago’s column regarding a BMW striking a cyclist on Monday January 6, 2014 while leaving Key Biscayne.  County staff has not been able to identify any records of an accident report filed by either the Village of Key Biscayne, City of Miami or Miami-Dade police departments for this date and alleged by Mr. Azenha or the other resident who wrote to the Herald.

Unfortunately, there is no amount of roadway design or safety improvements that can be implemented to mitigate a driver’s failure to follow basic road rules or to address reckless, irresponsible behavior on the part of a motorist.

Please be advised that over the last several years, the Public Works and Waste Management Department (PWWM) has taken proactive steps to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety on the Causeway, and other major roadways throughout the County. The County’s commitment to cyclist and pedestrian safety is clearly evidenced by the inclusion of new 14-foot wide bicycle/pedestrian paths at a cost of approximately $8.5 million as part of the ongoing repairs to the Bear Cut Bridge.  To implement these improvements the bridge is being widened by 20 feet.  Additionally, all new roadway improvement projects include dedicated or shared bicycle and pedestrian paths where possible in compliance with the Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) and State and Federal guidelines.

Finally, with respect to the short and long-term goals outlined by Mr. Azenha, the County offers the following:

Short Term Goals for the Causeway

•             Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints – Over the last year the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) has conducted periodic traffic enforcement in conjunction with the City of Miami and Village of Key Biscayne Police Departments.  This has been done utilizing speed control signs and uniformed and motorcycle officers to conduct traffic enforcement and education.  During this period, MDPD has issued more than 1,447 citations and more than 500 verbal warnings.   MDPD will continue its efforts to ensure the safety of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike along the Causeway in partnership with the City of Miami and the Village of Key Biscayne.

•             Reduce speed limit to 35 mph – PWWM proactively reduced the speed limit on most of Crandon Boulevard inside Crandon Park from 45 mph to 40 mph many years ago. Also, based on a PWWM speed study conducted approximately 5 years ago, PWWM requested regular enforcement of posted speeds from the Police Departments referenced above and installed 14 speed feedback signs to assist motorists in self-policing their speed.  In addition, staff reviewed all of the speed limits along the causeway in preparation for the construction of the Bearcut and West Bridges and as a result adjusted the speed limits to 35 mph and 25 mph in the construction areas.

•             Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am - This would not be feasible since the daily placement of cones each weekend would create new falling hazards for bicyclists and present significant maintenance challenges.  Furthermore, the causeway is mostly made up of two lanes going each direction and therefore shutting down a lane during the weekend would cause traffic delays and more safety issues.

•             Better signage – In 2007, PWWM milled and resurfaced the Causeway from the Crandon Marina west to the mainland.  The work included the installation of bicyclist height handrails on the north side of the three (3) bridges and the conversion of the roadway shoulders into bicycle lanes with appropriate bicycle related traffic signage and pavement markings, in compliance with State and Federal standards.    As new federal traffic sign and pavement marking standards are developed, PWWM reviews them to determine appropriate locations for implementation of the new standards.  For example, as a result of updated standards, PWWM modified the markings on Hobie Island alongside the eastbound bicycle lane.  In 2012, PWWM installed wide vibratory lines to alert drivers moving into the bicycle lane.   More recently, new signage has been implemented on the Bear Cut and West bridges and updated frequently based on construction conditions and feedback from the Causeway users including bicycle groups.

 

Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.

 

A white BMW hit a cyclist going out of Key Biscayne at Bear Cut Bridge this morning. The driver didn’t stop. Fortunately, the cyclist was not seriously injured. This is the sixth cyclist in a week that has been hit on the Rickebacker Causeway.

Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.

Here are our recommendations to improve safety on the Rickebacker Causeway:

Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
• Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints
• Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
• Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
• Better signage
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:
• Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
• Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
• Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
• Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.
• A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
• Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

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A total of five cyclists were injured in two separate incidents on December 31-both incidents involved cyclists being struck by cars.

Before we go any further the buck stops with MAYOR CARLOS JIMENEZ- we are holding him accountable for the existing unsafe cycling conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway. There have been too many broken promises by the County and he needs to be held responsible.

The first incident occurred on the William Powell Bridge at 6:05 am . A group of about 20 cyclists were riding up the bridge when a drunk driver struck 4 of the cyclists from behind. Luckily no one was killed, however one of the cyclist suffered two broken ribs. The driver admitted to drinking and driving and was arrested at the scene. He was so drunk that he was throwing up at the scene. See picture below.

Driver was drunk and throwing up.

Driver was drunk and throwing up.

About two hours later another cyclist was struck in front of Mast Academy according to CBS4. Fire Rescue took the cyclist to the hospital and there is no word on the cyclist’s condition. The driver stayed on the scene.

As many of you know, we have been advocating for safer cycling condition on the Rickenbacker Causeway for the better part of half a decade and the County has done virtually nothing to make it safer. There have been at least 3 deaths on the Rickenbacker Causeway and countless other serious injuries that have not garnered any media attention whatsoever, such as this incident involving the drunk driver.

Every time someone is killed on the Rickenbacker, the County comes up with some half-baked idea (i.e. placing mile markers, rumple strips) in a failed attempt to say they have done something to make this urban highway safer; all  the so-called “safety improvements” have proven to be a  complete failure. Quite frankly, I’m tired of all political grandstanding that happens every time a cyclist is killed. 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 Rickenacker Causeway safer for everyone?

Once again, here are our recommendations. They were made nearly 4 years ago:

Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
• Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit and regular DUI checkpoints
• Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
• Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
• Better signage
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway
A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:
• Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
• Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
• Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
• Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.
• A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
• Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
• Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Speeding is clearly an issue that has not been adequately addressed by the County as is clearly demonstrated by this video:

As long as the design speed of the Rickenbacker Causeway exceeds 35 mph we can expect many more deaths and injuries.

impact-of-speed2

btw: Several months ago friend of Transit Miami, June Savage,  invited both Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Xavier Suarez to join her for a bike ride after she met with them because she was nearly run over on Bear Cut Bridge and threatened to sue. Both agreed to ride, but so far have not.  I double-dog dare them to ride and I would invite them to bring their children and grandchildren to join them. After the ride, I’d like to see them to tell the cycling community that the Rickenbacker Causeway is safe for biking and that they would encourage parent’s to bring their children along with them. As an experienced cyclist, husband and father, I no longer ride the Rickenbacker Causeway because I feel it’s too dangerous.

Miami Dade County is  the 3rd most dangerous metropolitan area in the US for pedestrians and cyclists and our elected officials are doing virtually nothing to make conditions safer;  in fact the County is doing the opposite-they are doing an excellent job of discouraging even seasoned cyclists like myself from riding. The whole situation is just embarrassing. There is no leadership at the County level when is comes to making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

My last suggestion:  Call former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  He just launched an urban consulting firm, Bloomberg Associates, which will dish out free advise to communities looking to make their streets safer. We can use all the help we can get.

According to the NYT:

“The organization, to be called Bloomberg Associates, will act as an urban SWAT team, deployed at the invitation of local governments to solve knotty, long-term challenges, like turning a blighted waterfront into a gleaming public space, or building subway-friendly residential neighborhoods.”

 

Click here to send Mayor Carlos Gimenez an email and let him know that the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be made safer for everyone.

 

 

 

(Community Commentary) It’s time for the Lipton Sony Ericsson Open Nasdaq Key Biscayne Grand Prix Miami Masters Tennis Tournament! If you live, work, ride, beach, etc anywhere near the entrance to Rickenbacker Causeway… we recommend bicycling or mass transit. Or, at least, podcasts. With Miami-Dade County Bear Cut Bridge renovations already underway, event organizers are urging drivers to be extra careful. They reached out to TM directly and asked us to share the following with you: In short, organizers suggest you GET THERE EARLY. They don’t want anyone missing their Tennis. Also,

  • Expect new traffic patterns to and from the Crandon Park Tennis Center.
  • Bear Cut Bridge will continue to have two lanes traveling in each direction, just as in past years, however the outermost westbound lane of the bridge will be open to pedestrian and cyclist traffic only. As a result, westbound drivers headed toward Miami may be required to change lanes before crossing the bridge. The eastbound traffic pattern toward Key Biscayne will remain unchanged.
  • Eastbound pedestrians and cyclists will be guided across Crandon Boulevard by a uniformed police officer. Drivers are urged to share the road with additional care.
  • Consider taking the bus! Route B/ 102 will make regular stops at the Tournament’s main entrance, as well as the Brickell Metrorail Station, Brickell Financial District, Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami Seaquarium, the City of Key Biscayne, and Cape Florida State Park.
  • Patrons who park in the Tournament’s General Parking lot, located on Arthur Lamb Road across the street from the Miami Seaquarium, will board free shuttles to the main entrance. Shuttles will run continuously throughout the day and up to an hour after the last evening match has been completed.

Florida traffic information is available by calling 511 or visiting www.fl511.com.

You can read more about these traffic modifications in our earlier blog post here. However, wherever you go, be safe. If you witness something that you think should be here, please try and get a photo plus any related information and contact us here.

 

The article comes to us via the South Florida Bike Coalition and was written by Markus Wagner.

 

Miami-Dade County is facing a tricky situation on Bear Cut Bridge. Predictably and sadly, it is choosing to prioritize motorized traffic at the expense of the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. This much became clear at the January 2013 BPAC meeting. Given current plans, it will almost be inevitable that the bridge be close to pedestrian and cycling traffic during construction (except for those cyclists going with traffic, which they are allowed to do).

As many may have heard, parts of the Bear Cut Bridge have become so dilapidated that they have to be replaced. This is not the time or place to go into details why it is that such a situation suddenly springs upon the County – blame is already being passed around. More news reports herehere and here.

The County Public Works and Waste Management Department has gone through several iterations of planning. The latest approach – and the most detrimental to safety for pedestrians and cyclists wishing to enjoy Crandon Park or other destinations on the Key – is to take away the pedestrian and bike path heading east to create more throughput for cars and trucks. The current plans call for re-routing pedestrians and cyclists to the north side of the bridge via a signalized crosswalk by UM’s Rostenstiel campus,  where cyclists and pedestrians going both ways are supposed to share the space. Then, should you desire to return to the south side, you would use the marked crosswalk where pedestrians and cyclists have been constantly ignored by drivers in the past.

 

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If you are now scratching your head, you are not alone. The reaction of BPAC members appeared to be rather unanimous: it was negative. The entire operation does not appear to be well thought out regarding the treatment of pedestrians and cyclists. And that is an understatement. There are so many things wrong with the current plans that it is difficult to figure out where to start. It is unclear how separation between fast and slow cyclists, runners and walkers going in two directions is supposed to be managed. According to the Miami Herald, the County even considers closing the roadway for cyclists and pedestrians entirely. According to Interim County Engineer Antonio Cotarelo the county “would have to figure out if there’s any impact, and how bad it is with traffic, and take whatever necessary action to adjust it or close it if necessary — meaning closing the bridge to all pedestrians and cyclists.” It is apparently perfectly fine for the County to close down the only access for pedestrians and recreational cyclists to Crandon Park entirely while vehicle traffic to and from Key Biscayne is allowed to flow through four lanes, just as before.

What county personnel did not state clearly and were rather guarded about is the following: if current lane usage is to be maintained (two lanes in each direction) and with the existing ped / bike path removed, it will be impossible to maintain the ped / bike path on the northern side once construction begins. It is hardly conceivable that the county – having decided to close down the footpath at this point – will restrict motorized vehicle access once construction begins for purposes of reinstating the foot path.

There was talk of more law enforcement, but when pressed on whether the Miami-Dade Police Department would actually enforce the rules on the unsignalized cross-walk on the east side of the Bear Cut Bridge, the officer present seemed to be taken aback.

It comes down – as is the case so often – to a question of prioritization. If the County wants to go beyond the usual lip service, it is time to step up to the plate. Over the last years, we have seen people get killed on the Causeway and numerous people getting injured. The County under the leadership of Mayor Gimenez has done little to nothing to improve the situation. Along comes a tennis tournament and it appears that the County snaps to attention rather quickly. The bridge is in dire need of repair from everything we can ascertain. There is no doubt about that.

The question is whether the County should prioritize the needs of car drivers at the almost complete disadvantage for families and individuals that want to be pedestrians, runners or cyclists. This episode shows how little the County – and its mayor – support non-motorized traffic. Not only is the situation made more difficult, but rather it is also made more dangerous. And it does not seem to matter to decision-makers. Those decision-makers sometimes take part in bicycle rides when it suits their needs of being elected. When it comes to having to make decisions over whether find a suitable balance that interest seems to wane entirely.

While the county plans are still in flux, the removal of the foot path seems to be the option that the county has chosen. It is also the only way from what we can tell (and we are happy to stand corrected) to not have to close pedestrian and a lot of bicycle traffic. Yet again, the county and its leadership has chosen motorized traffic over the interest of other users. While touting bicycling in other forums and using such opportunities to create the image of being supportive for bicyclists, county leadership on this and many other projects is sorely lacking.

You should let Mayor Gimenez know that you are against current plans(mayor@miamidade.gov). Our attempts to reach out to his office so far have been futile. More voices may be necessary.

 

At yesterday’s meeting of the Miami-Dade Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Jeff Cohen of Miami-Dade Public Works presented a series of short-term safety proposals for the Rickenbacker Causeway that could be implemented over the next few months. With a sense of urgency in the air stemming from the tragic death of cyclist Aaron Cohen earlier in February, concerned citizens and BPAC members voiced their opinions in a spirited discussion lasting nearly two hours.

The Miami-Dade Public Works short-term safety proposals for the Rickenbacker Causeway included:

  • A re-striped, buffered bicycle lane, separated from traffic lanes by a two-foot painted buffer zone. Cohen also suggested the application of ceramic “buttons” planted into the bicycle lane striping, which are essentially small raised discs that provide an audible and physical warning to motorists drifting into the bicycle lane. A “rumble strip” could also be applied instead of the buttons, but could take longer to install.
  • A series of lowered speed limits from the mainland toll plazas to the village of Key Biscayne. These limits range from 45mph to 30mph depending on the specefic portion of the roadway
  • Additional electronic speed reduction signs for eastbound traffic.

Example of a buffered bike lane. Portions of the Rickenbacker Causeway could see this soon, with a "rumble strip" near the vehicle lane to alert drifting motorists.

For longer term solutions, Cohen presented a comprehensive 5-year plan for the Causeway during January’s BPAC meeting, which includes a more extensive overhaul of lane and toll plaza configurations.

Miami-Dade County Police began increased coverage on the Rickenbacker Causeway this week, with the allocation of officers for additional radar and DUI enforcement.

But BPAC member Lee Marks thought the proposals did not fundamentally address why exactly the Rickenbaker Causeway continues to be so dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. “The Rickenbacker was originally designed as a highway,” said Marks. “It is no longer a highway – the paradigm has shifted. It is now used as a recreational paradise.” But, as Marks noted, the roadway design is still one of a highway that encourages speeding.

After a lengthy discussion including BPAC members, Miami-Dade Police and the general public (which included Key Biscayne motorists in support of lower speeds), the Committee formally suggested and endorsed a series of improvements that were not necessarily aligned with the suggestions from Miami-Dade County Public Works.

The BPAC resolutions included:

  • A uniform speed limit of 35 MPH from the mainland toll plazas to to the Village of Key Biscayne (essentially the entire lengh of the causeway)
  • Re-striping the shoulder/bicycle lane to include a two-foot buffer zone. Instead of the ceramic “button” style discs – which could pose a hazard to cyclists – the BPAC recommended the audible “rumble strip” in the pavement separating the bicycle lane from traffic.
  • A request to reduce existing vehicle travel lane widths from 11 to 10 feet, which will require applying for a variance to current Federal standards.
  • Additional electronic speed notification signs for eastbound traffic.

Cohen said that national statistics show that these signs are effective in reducing vehicle speeds.

These recommendations only represent changes to the roadway that could begin in the immediate future. For the longer-term, there was virtually unanimous sentiment from BPAC members and the general public that physical separation from traffic is essential to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Said Cohen,”We’re not saying no to anything for the long term. We’re just trying to see what we can do quickly for now.”

More road safety discussions are on the immediate horizion, including today’s Bicycle Safety Summit organized by Miami-Dade County District 7 Comissioner Xavier Suarez and and a public forum called “Safe Streets Miami“, which is in the planning stages. We at Transit Miami urge the County to act quickly to implement a physical separation of bicycle facilities in those locations where none currently exists. We are studying the current five year plan and will provide a more in depth critique in the coming days.

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“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle, Quoted at the funeral of Aaron Cohen by his grand-father Ron Esserman

I have only been a county commissioner for about eight months, but already have a deep scar in my heart from a tragedy that seems, in retrospect, so avoidable.

Aaron Cohen has been wrenched from our lives.  And the sense of loss is overwhelming, despite the wisdom imparted by rabbis and family members.  Because the tragedy happened in my district and because my daughter Annie practices medicine with Jim Esserman (Aaron’s first cousin), the loss hits home in a particularly poignant way.

Was the tragedy avoidable?  I don’t rightly know, but I know we didn’t try hard enough to avoid it.  We know the Rickenbacker Causeway is a narrow, dangerous, treacherous, alluring, spectacularly located and majestic roadway, rising as it does from the shallows abutting the mainland to bring us all (joggers, bikers, motorists) closer to heaven and then quickly deposit us in an island that is mostly unspoiled – as befits a critical wildlife refuge of some 400 acres.

In between the moments of sorrow, my Annie and I discussed the physics of the problem that led to this tragedy or, rather, the unavoidable elements of the circumstance that make this awful accident likely to happen again in the future.

I refer to the simple variable that physicists call “momentum.”  Simply put, a 4,000-pound vehicle, travelling at 45-50 mph, possesses about 100 times the momentum of a biker/bicycle whose combined weight is 150 pounds and who is struggling up the bridge at 12-15 mph.  A collision between two objects, one of which has 100 times the momentum of the other, means that the smaller object will suffer, in displacement and consequent damage, 100 times more than the bigger object.

In the short term, there is only one variable we can change in the above equation – and that is the speed limit for cars.  I consider that reform a no-brainer that should be instituted without delay.  Of course, a reduction in the speed limit needs to be accompanied by traffic management devices (including electronic surveillance) to monitor law-breakers.

The other possible solution is separation.  I think, in that context, that we all agree that a simple painted strip (as exists now) is not enough.  We will have to consider either rubber cones or well-lit corrugated surfaces which alert and deter the motorist from trespassing on the bike lanes.

Beyond the physics of the problem, beyond the traffic engineering and enforcement, there is the human dimension.  And that brings me back to Aaron, whose name technically means, “tower of strength,” but was further interpreted by the rabbi as referring to someone who loves life and who runs for life.  Aaron Cohen loved to run more than we can imagine.  He loved scuba diving and every kind of water sport; he loved ceramic arts and cycling, and – most of all – he loved his wife and two children.

As described by family and friends, he was special because he found something special to love in everyone he met, regardless of their station in life.  He took time, on the way to the airport, to buy M&M’s so that he could pass them out to the flight attendants.

He was, his sister Sabrina told us, like Elijah, the unforeseen guest for whom we keep the door permanently open, with a cup of wine ready, just in case the prophet visits us.

Perhaps the most appropriate analogy was offered by another rabbi who explained that the whole world is like a narrow bridge.  We must do our best to co-exist in the narrow space. 

We must, as another relative said in her eulogy, think “WWAD.”  What Would Aaron Do?

For myself, I will strive to reduce the chances that such a tragedy will happen again on the Rickenbacker Causeway – which just happens to be where I myself jog.

I will do it because it’s my obligation as an elected official and also because of Aaron – in his memory.

I never met him, but I already miss him as if he had been my best friend.

Commissioner Xavier Suarez represents District 7 in Miami-Dade County.  He represents numerous municipalities including the City of Miami, the Village of Key Biscayne, the City of Coral Gables, the City of South Miami, the Village of Pinecrest, as well as areas of unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

We will be meeting at 8:30am at the Bayfront Park Fountain on Biscayne Blvd & Flagler Street in downtown Miami. Pedals up 8:45am. We will be riding as a group in honor of fellow cyclist Aaron Cohen who was struck and killed by a hit & run driver. The group will ride towards Key Biscayne via Brickell Avenue and up the William Powell Bridge were Aaron was struck. Between 9am-10am the police will have the south side of the Rickenbacker Causeway closed to motor vehicles. Please spread the word to the cycling and running community. It’s unfortunate we have to come together due to a tragic event.

 

This article was first posted two years ago (Febuary 2, 2010) after Christophe Le Canne was killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Since then not a single one of our recommendations has been implemented.  How many more lives must we lose on the Rickebacker Causeway before the County Public Works Department does something to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians? This is not rocket science. An unprotected bike lane adjacent to a highway with cars speeding in excess of 65mph is simply NOT a good idea.

 

The Rickenbacker Causeway is similar to Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive; everyday thousands of people descend upon our beautiful causeway for recreational purposes. This is particularly evident on Saturday and Sunday mornings when runners, walkers, rollerbladers, parents with strollers and bicyclists come in droves to exercise. The Rickenbacker Causeway recently completed a major resurfacing project.  Unfortunately, this resurfacing project only really considered the needs of motorists.

The Rickenbacker Causeway/Key Biscayne already has several parks/attractions. These attractions include:

  • Miami Seaquarium
  • Crandon Park/Tennis Center
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
  • Mast Academy

In addition, the Miami Marine Stadium is slated to be renovated and Virginia Key will be converted into a major urban park, which will also include several miles of mountain bike trails. We have an exhaustive inventory of attractions/parks in close proximity that requires safe connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Pedestrians (runners, walkers, rollerbladers, and parents with strollers) have been relegated to using a multiuse path that has many dangerous intersections.  In addition, this multiuse path is often shared with bicyclists that do not feel comfortable riding in the bicycle lane. The bicyclists’ discomfort is justifiable; the bicycle lane is placed adjacent to the roadway without adequate protection from speeding cars.

Crosswalks on the Rickenbacker Causeway are poorly marked. If and when crosswalks do exist, they are dangerous to cross. Crossing a 6 lane highway is pretty tough to do if you are healthy person. Imagine if you are a parent with children, disabled or an elderly person trying to cross the Rickenbacker Causeway.  You will need Lady Luck on your side.

Most would agree that something needs to be done to improve the safety for all users, including motorists, which often travel at high speeds.

There will be no cheap or easy fix for the Rickenbacker Causeway. Short term safety enhancements need to be made urgently, but at the same time we need to have a long term goal for the Rickenbacker Causeway.  Below you will find the short and long term goals that Transit Miami will be advocating for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway

  • Enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit
  • Reduce speed limit to 35 mph
  • Close the right lane of traffic in both directions on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6:00 am to 10:00am.
  • Better signage
  • Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Long Term Goals for the Rickenbacker Causeway

A major capital improvements project needs to happen and all users must be considered. Below are a few of the major improvements that need to occur:

  • Paint bicycle lanes green (see below: intersections should include peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows)
  • Create a 3 foot unprotected buffer between the roadway and the bicycle lane
  • Major road diet. Narrowing of traffic lanes to discourage speeding (11 foot lane)
  • Proper crosswalks, with stop lights, that can be activated by pedestrians.(see below: off-setting crosswalks)
  • A separate path for pedestrians (pedestrians and bicyclist should not coexist)
  • Consider physical separation as a feature in dangerous areas such as bridges and marked buffers along trajectory of bike lane
  • Motorist and bicyclist education campaign

Our County Public Works Department has a real opportunity to show their residents that they value safe recreation for all users. It should begin with the most popular destination for pedestrians and bicyclists in South Florida.

If you believe that the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be improved please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email and ask for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway for all users. (ecalas@miamidade.gov)

Peg-a-traking and Chevron arrows

Crosswalk is off-set in the median so pedestrians will be oriented toward oncoming traffic. Source: Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design Manual

I shot this video last Sunday around 1:00 PM. The video speaks for itself.  The County Pubic Works Department recently installed 4 Permanent “Vehicle Speed” Information Signs” at a cost of $ 80,000. What a waste of money. That’s $320,000 that could have gone to restriping and traffic calming on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  Instead we got these “Vehicle Speed Information Signs” that are completely worthless.  Watch as dozens of cars travel in excess of the posted 45mph speed limit during this 5-minute video. I would also like to add that last Sunday I saw about a half dozen Miami Dade County PD cruisers on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Between the enforcement and these ineffective signs it is obvious that speeding continues to plaque the most popular cycling route in South Florida. Note to CPWD: Stop wasting money and design and engineer the roadway to discourage speeding.  THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL REDUCE SPEEDING.

Watch and see for yourself…

If a cyclist or pedestrian is hit by a car traveling in excess of 45 mph, they are almost guaranteed to die.  Speed kills CPWD, you still have done nothing to that effectively address the speeding issue we have on Rickenbacker Causeway. Enforcment isn’t working, nor are “Vehicle Speed Information Signs”.

If you believe that the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway needs to be improved please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email and ask for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway for all users. (ecalas@miamidade.gov).  Tell her that the “Vehicle Speed Information Signs” aren’t working.

 

We just received word that a cyclist was involved in a hit and run accident this morning on the Rickenbacker Causeway. We don’t have all the facts, but it appears a truck hit the cyclist. The cyclist is in stable condition with multiple facial fractures and severe swelling, bruises and cuts. The cyclist was wearing a helmet.

We will follow this story very closely and provide more details as we receive them. We hope the cyclist has a quick recovery.

More to come…

 

It seems like every time a cyclist or pedestrian is killed or seriously injured on the mean and incomplete streets of Miami the knee-jerk reaction by our politicians is more enforcement. This happened on the Rickenbacker Causeway after Christoph LeCanne was killed a year ago.  Miami Dade Police enforcement increased significantly after cyclists pressured County Commissioner Gimenez to do more. Enforcement lasted about two months.

This same old sold song and dance also took place on Brickell Avenue a few months ago. After residents and business rallied for a more pedestrian-friendly Brickell Avenue, Commissioner Sarnoff was quick to ask for additional enforcement on Brickell Avenue in order to address speeding on this poorly designed road.  The crackdown by the Miami Police Department lasted about a month. The FDOT paid lip service by reducing the speed limit by a paltry 5 mph; still excessive for a road that cuts through the heart of Florida’s most densely populated neighborhood. The combined actions of the FDOT and Commissioner Sarnoff seemed to calm some of the outrage, but the FDOT did nothing to address to actual design speed of the roadway. Even with a 5 mph reduction of the speed limit drivers will continue to speed until the actual design speed of Brickell Avenue is addressed. Enforcement is basically fruitless.

Sounds like our elected officials have a winning formula to address voter indignation when someone is killed or critically injured on South Florida streets-temporary enforcement. What a joke. This is slap in the face to everyone that accepts this expensive and infective remedy that politicians ram down our throats as the silver bullet that will change driver behavior.  Enforcement is a temporary solution that doesn’t have a lasting effect.  In order to change behavior we must change the design of our streets. In the short term redesigning our streets may be more expensive (they should have been designed properly in the first place), but in the long term we can prevent deaths and injuries with better designed roads. The impact will be felt immediately; less deaths, injuries and need for enforcement.

Enforcement is Unsustainable. Why must we pay police to enforce traffic laws when they have more productive things to do? This burden falls upon the taxpayers; we have to pay police overtime or hire more police to enforce crappy roadway design. This is preposterous.  When we hire more police to enforce our traffic laws it becomes exponentially more expensive for our municipalities. We are forced to pay the long term costs associated with additional police pensions and healthcare, as well as equipment to enforce the traffic laws (uniforms, speed guns, weapons, patrol cars, motorcycles, gas, etc.). The list goes on.  On the other hand, good design doesn’t require enforcement; a well-designed street polices itself.

Enforcement is Ineffective. Enforcement may temporarily change driver behavior, but motorists know where to expect enforcement and will regress to their bad driving behavior as long as poor roadway design encourages terrible driving manners. As long as we have roads that encourage speeding the “war” against bad driver behavior through the use of enforcement is futile. Theoretically enforcement could work if we had police at every intersection, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We all know that ain’t happening and it shouldn’t.

Our elected officials have to realize that we cannot police and enforce ourselves out of a poorly designed street. Our streets will only become safer if they are designed to accommodate all users (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists). Commissioner Sarnoff, County Commissioner Gimenez, and Mayor Regalado are not doing enough to ensure our safety.  It’s about time they deal with the fundamental problem; incomplete and autocentric streets.  They need to force the County Public Works Department and the FDOT to design complete streets. Enforcement is deceitful at best. It gives the public the impression that our elected officials are acting in our behalf and interest. If they were sincere, our politicians would be lobbying for fundamental changes in the way we design our streets.

Our elected officials must be honest with the voting public. I do think some enforcement is better than no enforcement, particularly on the poorly designed streets in the urban core. But in order for it to be effective there needs to be a consistent (unsustainable) police presence. There must be a serious commitment of police resources until we get the FDOT to design a proper street. It can’t only be a two month crackdown.  Currently we have no enforcement at all around Brickell and the area has become virtually lawless for motorists.  This will certainly change once someone else dies or is critically injured.  It’s just a matter of time.  Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle with no end in sight. I challenge our elected officials to step-up to the plate. Will they accept this challenge? If we can put a man on the moon, we can design complete streets in our own backyard.

You can find our suggestions for improvements below.  We will not be satisfied until these recommendations are implemented. Anything less, will be considered a failure.

Brickell Avenue

Rickenbacker Causeway

Observe what happens when streets are poorly designed and there isn’t enforcement.  Watch as the two ladies almost get hit by the red Cadillac around 20 seconds. This situation could be entirely avoided if we designed our streets with pedestrians in mind.  Due to poor design we put pedestrians into a harms way, and then we create the false expectation that bad driver behavior can be addressed with enforcement. Through bad design we’ve essentially created a need for enforcement.  We should not  design our streets to be enforced.  Good design discourages bad behavior and eliminates the need for enforcement almost entirely.

Happy new year blogosphere! Transit Miami is back and better than ever with a tough agenda on the way for 2011. While we are excited about the coming year we didn’t want to move on without looking back at the top 5 events (in our opinion) which rocked our local planning and transportation world in 2010.

5. FL High Speed Rail

With the Obama Transportation policy reform in full swing, Florida’s Tampa-Orlando HSR link emerged as a big winner, securing over $2 Billion in federal funds and virtually guaranteeing the initial 84 mile corridor’s completion in 2015. Despite the near 100% funding commitment from the feds, this project almost faced a similar fate as the Ohio and Wisconsin HSR plans which were scrapped by incoming Republican Governors late this year. Incoming Republican Gov Rick Scott has pledged to fully evaluate the fiscal viability of the line and is awaiting a feasibility study due in February before deciding whether to accept the federal funds.(barf )

4. Construction begins on the Port of Miami Tunnel

At the end of 2009, things were starting to look bleak for the $1 Billion Port of Miami Tunnel intended to divert truck traffic out of Miami’s downtown streets and onto the highway. With funding in place, the port tunnel quietly broke ground in the summer of 2010, finally bringing the 20+ year old concept into reality. The 1 mile tunnel will link Dodge and Watson Islands, providing the estimated 7,000 trucks and countless other vehicles which access the port daily with new, direct access; reducing congestion, and eliminating much truck traffic that would otherwise use normal downtown streets to get to I95. The tunnel is expected to be completed in 2014.

 

3. Tragedy on the Rickenbacker Causeway

The year got off to a rough start for South Florida Cyclists with the tragic death of Christophe Le Canne on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Le Canne, a 44 year old local cyclist and photographer was killed by a drunk driver on the morning of January 17. His death struck a nerve in growing cycling community. South Florida cyclists gathered like never before in a massive display of solidarity. With an estimated 2,500 cyclists in attendance, the Christophe Le Canne memorial ride (see video below), while tragic, echoed the collective sentiment of cyclists fed up with the status quo. Transit Miami issued a set of design and policy recommendations for the Rick in 2010, and we will continue to meet with elected officials and stakeholders to make the causeway the multimodal parkway we know it could be.

Christophe Le Canne Memorial Ride from rydel high on Vimeo.

2. FDOT heeds Brickell Community Concerns; more must be done

One of Transit Miami’s big projects this year was the campaign to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell. We organized residents, community groups, business interests, and elected officials to come together to speak with one voice to tell FDOT to make Brickell more pedestrian friendly as they move forward with street redesign and drainage improvement plans. We took field trips with FDOT to show them how unsafe they were desiging the road, and we let them square off with community residents and stakeholders in a meeting that left them looking careless and silly. FDOT eventually agreed to lower the speed limit, add several new crosswalks, and include shared-use arrow (sharrow) markings on the outside lane for cyclists – but more still needs to be done.  We are not going to stop until FDOT designs the street to take into account all users, and more than that, places automotive Level of Service at the bottom of a long list of other more important factors (like pedestrian and cyclist safety).

1. Miami 21

After a tumultuous 4 years of public comment,  hysterics, and misinformation, Miami 21 was officially implemented in 2010. We here at Transit Miami joined forces with the City of Miami in 2006 in full support of the plan, working closely with commissioners and city officials to help promote the virtues of a solid, form-based zoning code. The revolutionary work in Miami hasn’t gone unnoticed; since its adoption in May, Miami 21 has been the recipient of numerous awards including the American Planning Association (APA) Florida Chapter Award of Excellence, the American Architecture Award, and the Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award. The code has its issues, including excessively high parking requirements (championed by NYMBY groups) and a general lack of T4 around town, but these are issues we will continue to address in the coming years. We remain committed partners with the City of Miami Planning Department, and look forward to seeing how the code works with our existing transit investments to help Miami get through its urban growing pains.

Here is to a healthy and prosperous 2011! Cheers from the Transit Miami team.

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