This is a community commentary by Eli Stiers:

download reyes

Here we go again.  I cannot believe that I am writing about the death of another cyclist on Key Biscayne.  I can hardly summon the strength to repeat the words that have all been said before, in 2006, 2010, and 2012.   This isn’t déjà vu.  This is a recurring nightmare.

First and foremost, our condolences to the family of Walter Reyes, and our prayers are with Henry Hernandez for a speedy recovery.

Miami has suffered another loss of another prominent, upstanding citizen, with another seriously injured.  Another “accident” involving an *allegedly* drunk 20-something, quite possibly driving back to the Key after a night out.  Shades of Michele Traverso and Carlos Bertonatti before him.  Another family in mourning.  Another flood of complaints for local officials.  Another bout of anxiety for Miami cyclists.

To say that this latest tragedy was avoidable is the mother of all understatements.  Anyone who has paid even a passing interest to Transit Miami knows that we have written about this.  Time and time and time again.

The problems with the Rickenbacker are well known.  The solutions are equally apparent.  Years ago, our County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) suggested common sense changes for implementation by the County’s Public Works and Waste Management Department.  Renowned architect Bernard Zyscovich has even laid out an attractive, comprehensive plan, the details of which have been freely shared with the County four years ago, to use as they see fit.

The time to address these obvious concerns has long-since passed, and while we can do nothing to prevent people from making the terrible decision to drink and get behind the wheel, we absolutely can make modest investments to improve the infrastructure on the most popular stretch of roadway for outdoor enthusiasts in Miami – an area where cyclists outnumber cars on any given weekend. 

Miami’s vocal and active cycling community has played its part.  We have signed petitions.  We have organized far too  many memorial rides.   We have held meetings and public forums.  We have pleaded with our County leaders.  We re-wrote Florida law to better protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users from hit-and-run drivers through the implementation of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act.

But advocacy alone cannot fix the underlying problems that continue to threaten the lives of Miamians who bike the Rickenbacker Causeway, every day, for recreation and exercise.   The time for our officials to heed the repeated warnings given to them by the cycling community has passed.  The time to act has long-since passed, and in light of yet another tragic death, in a strikingly similar set of circumstances, this rises to the level of being an emergency.

Because you can expect more deaths.  Cyclists will continue to ride the Rickenbacker.  We will be out there tomorrow morning, without fail, and we will be out there every day from here on out.  We have too few options for cycling in Miami, and the allure of this six-mile stretch of roadway, cutting a wide swath through Biscayne Bay and connecting city dwellers of a growing concrete jungle with tropical paradise, is simply too much to ignore.  Moreover, as the City grows, so will the numbers of people on bikes – which is a good thing!

This is the tipping point.

Without question, the County has made enormous gains towards developing a more bike-friendly Miami since Transit Miami first began shedding a light on these problems years ago.  We have miles of bike lanes, where we once had none.  We have a bike-share program that the City has heavily invested in.  The Underline appears to have a chance.   There is hope.

As for the Rickenbacker, I have sat in numerous meeting with County Commissioners and County Public Works officials who are coming to realize the immense value in reimagining the Rickenbacker Causeway as more like a linear urban park, and less like the high-speed freeway that it appears like today.  The benefits of a protected bike path, narrower lanes of travel, and a reduced speed limit have been acknowledged.

But change is happening much too slowly, and the risks continue to be imminent and deadly.  Furthermore, while change to the Rickenbacker is the most obvious and pressing need, it is largely symbolic of a problem that is County-wide; namely, that the public’s need for better and safer ped/bike infrastructure is rapidly outpacing the actions of the County to address the need.  This latest tragedy was predictable, and is but a microcosm of a much larger problem.  More lives will be lost if we do not act, and act now.

The risks inherent in allowing cars to drive 45 mph within feet of a growing number of cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts is obvious.  The continued failure to address these concerns borders on reckless indifference to the lives of those who simply want to enjoy being outdoors in our fair City.  It is no longer responsible to pursue incremental change.  Widespread change is needed, and it is needed now.

Mayor Gimenez and County Commissioners, we challenge you to fix the Rickenbacker.  Not in ten years.  Not in five years.  Now.  Before more lives are lost.

 

 

14 Responses to Rest in Peace: Walter Reyes

  1. Jimbo99 says:

    Training for the Dolphin Charity ride. Here’s a suggestion, train on a stationary bike, not like he’s going to become Lance Armstrong by riding Key Biscayne in the dark when the drunks are coming home at 5:23 AM. One really has to question this cyclists judgement for his own personal safety. I don’t mean to be callous, but really 5:23 AM, he should be asleep in his bed. Not riding an area of KB with the equivalent of a lame flashlight for output to be seen. I stop feeling sorry for educated people that have a problem with common sense. Drunk drivers are going to be out there at 5 AM, this is common knowledge. While the Aaron Cohen law is designed to make minimum punishments, it misses the true intent when cyclists are simply stupid.

    Trust me, used to ride NMB to South Beach every other day, if you are riding before the sun comes up that’s a problem, add that if you are riding into a sunrise or sunset at certain times of the day, motorists may be blinded by the sun, long enough to run over a pedestrian/cyclist, even not see brake lights from other cars. And it happens instantly.

       0 likes

  2. Ellen Haas says:

    Nice job blaming the victim who was training for a charity event, using proper equipment. Maybe the drunks and druggies ought to be in their beds, not out killing pedestrians, cyclists, bus bench patrons and other motorists. I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!

       16 likes

  3. Michael says:

    The ignorance and lack of education in this city is astounding. I commend your effort, Eli. We need more people like you.

       0 likes

  4. JM Palacios says:

    Really, Jimbo? First, it’s 5:51 AM and I’ve been up for half an hour here in Hawaii. (Glad I moved here, I feel like it may lengthen my life expectancy as a cyclist!) Who are you to judge when someone should be up in a city that never sleeps? Also, most roadies ride before the sun comes up in order to avoid traffic and the annoyances that brings. And I don’t know about these stationary bikes you speak of. Have you ever driven a stationary car? I ride my bike to get somewhere, even on a training ride. I want to enjoy the view along the way. Sure, we’re all safer of we stay inside our house 24/7, but here at Transit Miami we want to see more safety for those of us who venture out our front door.

       2 likes

  5. Anonymous says:

    As much as I would like to cycle KB in the early AM hours, I choose not to because I fear for my safety. The visibility is poor and yes, there are young drunk drivers. My heart goes out to all the families and friends that have lost a loved one from these tragedies but I have to agree using a stationary bike is the safest route. Everyone knows it is a risk to cycle especially between 4-6am. You are putting your life on the line. Why risk it?

       2 likes

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hey Jimbo, that girl should never had worn that skirt…

       3 likes

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wonder if this “Jimbo” is the same Jimbo Jr. who was drunk and slammed his van into my friend who was cycling on the Virginia Key Road some 10 years ago and got nothing but a slap on the wrist. Perhaps its just a pseudonym that is very very coincidental. Humm…either way, shame on you for blaming the victim and suggesting that we should all be okay with drunk drivers on our city streets. Why SHOULD we expect drunk drivers at any time? We SHOULD expect to be safe in our cities. We SHOULD expect to be able to lead active, health lives at whatever time we choose in our beautiful city. And SHOULD expect all our neighbors and co-dwellers to think the same way. Because if too many think like this “Jimbo99″ fellow…we can all expect this to continue happening. Now Jimbo99, go tell the daughters of that good man that died that there Dad was stupid. I dare you.

       7 likes

  8. IvoSan says:

    During 2014 the only time i felt i love this city was the one time I went biking from mainland to KB’s lighthouse and back. And all people there walking, biking, rollerblading, or enjoying the beach looked seemed to be in the same mood.

    I was considering making it part of my weekly routine, but maybe it is not worth it. I will keep biking in boring industrial parks and use the car to go to KB.

    R.I.P Walter

       1 likes

  9. Anonymous says:

    I hope you won’t experience the pain and grief that the Reyes family is going through now. Are you making cases for drunk drivers who know quite well that sensible people ride the KB road in the morning? Why didn’t he call a cab or über?
    You really need to think before opening your mouth next time.

       0 likes

  10. Fix the problem says:

    Cyclist and Drivers need to work together and put pressure on the city and state. As a cyclist and driver I know very well we have all taken risks. Cycling I have ridin in ways that has endangered my self or other and I know as drivers we have all driven with at least one drink under our belt. We are the lucky ones who have not created miss fortune for ourselves or others. KB is the least bike friendly area I know. Especially the strip from bear cut to fire station. And the bridges. I have never seen the police pull someone over for speeding. And gave seen plenty cars with bike racks speeding. Let’s fight to get well lit roads and safe riding lanes.
    I’m angry also and feel the families pain.
    R.I.P Walter.

       2 likes

  11. Becky says:

    So let’s say key biscayne should be a speedway for people who live and visit…get my ferrari and speed past people who are trying to get a breath of air…no….the right hand lane needs speed bumps…how much would that cost?? Get drunk and drive your ferrari over or two of those..instead of a person attempting to enjoy life..speeding back to your a/c ed mansion..take a minute to slow down ..maybe roll the window down and wave hello..by the way.. breathe

       0 likes

  12. Marcos Jimenez says:

    Compare the comments of road rage drivers and the inaction of our government officials to this excellent letter by the Mayor of Boston:

    May 21, 2013
    Dear Fellow Bostonians,
    During the summer and fall of 2012, our city experienced five fatal bicycle incidents that led to
    this report. Through detailed analysis of four years of police report data, City officials will have concrete
    information with which to make the roadways safer for vulnerable users. This document will help us
    smartly apply our resources to continue improving our streets using the “six E’s of bicycle planning”:
    Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement, Evaluation, and Equity.
    Since the City of Boston bicycle program launched in 2007, we have gone from being called one
    of the worst cities for cycling in the country to one of the best. The addition of nearly 60 miles of onstreet
    bicycle facilities, hundreds of new bike racks, and the overwhelmingly successful New Balance
    Hubway bike share program has brought cycling into the mainstream here in Boston. Boston is well on its
    way to becoming a world-class cycling city.
    The bicycle has become a critical part of our transportation system. Boston streets are full of
    people commuting to work and school, families enjoying a weekend ride together, and every type of rider
    in-between. This spirited resurgence of the bicycle has placed our city streets in a time of transition, from
    one dependent upon cars, to one embracing more active transportation options. Transitions can be
    difficult.
    The close-knit community among cyclists continues to impress me. When one member of the
    community suffers from a terrible incident, the degree of separation to all cyclists is not far. We must
    work tirelessly and collaboratively to continue improving the safety of our streets. This report will help
    guide the process of continuing to grow Boston’s vibrant bicycle community.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas M. Menino
    Mayor, City of Boston

       0 likes

  13. Mike Arias says:

    Another lamentable tragedy occurring to a bicyclists that was riding to prep himself physically for a charity fund raising bike event.

    I do not understand why bicyclists do not ride their bikes behind the median divider wall ( unknown exact location of where collision occurred) especially early in the morning or late at night in order to protect themselves from passing motorists ( some whom are unfortunately impaired, fatigued and or sleep deprived, speeding and driving reckless) especially when there are either no pedestrians and or joggers present ( or perhaps only 1 or 2) at those hours.

    Be careful whenever riding a bicycle on a public roadway in South florida at ALL hours and if riding early or late make yourself as visible as humanly possible with the proper lighting, reflective apparel, and wear a safety helmet as well which in a collision or fall occurring could mean the difference between life or death.

    I hope that everyone will be SAFE whenever riding !

       0 likes

  14. car service says:

    I understand where you’re coming from. We need to raise more awareness of the dangers of cycling, not only to cyclists but the car drivers too. I think a course in road cycling for all car drivers would help raise awareness and reduce deaths.

       0 likes

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