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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30 Responses to County, BPAC Propose Immediate Improvements for Rickenbacker Causeway

  1. JM Palacios says:

    They think rumble strips are better than the raised “cookies”? Best treatment is the audible striping, second best might be the cookies. You don’t want rumble strips.

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  2. Tony Garcia says:

    @JM: agreed! Bad idea.

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  3. Craig Chester says:

    JM – There were concerns that the “cookies” could come loose and pose a hazard and they get very slick when wet. The “rumble strip” would only be embedded in the striping at the border of the vehicle travel lane. The rest of the striping I believe was audible striping.

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  4. Felipe Azenha says:

    With each passing day and with every death on the Rickenbacker it becomes even more obvious that the CPWD is completely disconnected from the every day reality of this highway. They are completely clueless as how to plan for anything but motor vehicles. Until the fundamental issue of design speed is addressed cyclists will continue to be killed on the Rickenbacker.

    The dog and pony show with the County has already begun. We play the same reindeer games every time a cyclist is killed on the Rickenbacker Highway….community meetings, increased enforcement, blah, blah, blah and people are still dying.

    The ideas that Jeff Cohen presented are arguably even more dangerous for cyclists. Rumble strips? Ceramic buttons? Really? What a joke! Get a clue CPWD and stop playing with people’s lives. You don’t have to over-engineer this highway to make it safe for all users. The Transit Miami recommendations can be done inexpensively. A bucket of paint and a paint brush is all it really takes for the most part

    These shenanigans are a slap in the face to everyone that bikes, walks and jogs on the Rickenbacker Highway. If things remain as they are or the recommendations that the CPWD is suggesting are implemented we should all be prepared for more deaths sooner rather than later. Don’t be surprised.

    The BPAC should not support rumble strips or those worthless speed notification signs – not necessary if the Rickenbacker highway was properly designed to discourage speeding. Protected bicycle lanes on the bridges is a must.

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  5. Eddie Suarez says:

    Simply sticking a sign saying 35mph, even if it’s flashing saying you’re going 80mph won’t slow you down. The design of the causeway leads to speeding, no matter what the sign says. Enforcement helps but only temporarily, unless the police start treating the causeway like pinecrest where those hunter green cruisers hide in plain site and have a zero tolerance policy.

    Will the buffer zone be taken from the bike lane side or the motorist side?

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  6. Craig Chester says:

    Eddie – It will be taken from the bike lane side. The current lane widths are the minimum 11 feet per county standards for an arterial road. The BPAC requested a variance to lower the lane widths to 10 feet. That application process would take a few months, according to Cohen.

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  7. Robert M says:

    I jogged the entire R Causeway yesterday, along the way I watched how cars were speeding along in my estimation of 70-80 miles per hour. I have also witness zero police presence. If you wish to increase safety on the Causeway this should be the first step taken. Especially if speed traps are set up and enforced. Word gets around. My second observation and have witnessed this in the past runs is that cyclists at times ride in heavy packs without regard bike lanes. This formation helps them alert cars but, does little courtesy to the drivers that are not expecting to be greeted by a large pack of riders in their car lane. I would also like to stress that cyclist although the victim in most cases have a tendency to think they own the road and have come within inches on my running along the shoulder trying to get back on my running path. In my opinion a bit of an elitist attitude-which I can never understand, considering that most of cyclists couldn’t come close to running a marathon- any moron can buy a bike, a pair of tights, helmet and pretend your a Lance Armstrong for a few months. The answer is increased police presence on the bridge with speed traps etc. Yes, barriers will help avoid major collisions and possibly deaths, but, police presence would send a message loud and clear that Miami will not tolerate excessive speeding on the causeway. Moreover, think of the money in speeding tickets it would raise in a short period of time to help pay for the barriers and the extra police presence :)

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  8. JM Palacios says:

    Robert M., before you start calling cyclists elitist and disrespectful for not accommodating your jogging on the shoulder, have a look at the statutes as they pertain to pedestrians. F.S. 316.130(3): ”Where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by other circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular traffic.” I had to explain this to a cyclist who called me concerned about proper etiquette/right of way for joggers in the roadway. So cyclists care, but you are not actually supposed to be there if there is a sidewalk. I as a cyclist will go around you without complaining, even if it forces me into the travel lane. But the law does not support you.

    Bicyclists, on the other hand, have the right to the roadway spelled out in statute. If there is a marked bike lane they are required to ride in it, although there are a number of reasons why they might need to leave the bike lane, such as (*cough*) the presence of a jogger, debris, potholes, parked cars, etc. It’s hard to tell from aerials as I don’t ride the Rickenbacker, but the shoulder does not appear to be marked as a bike lane the whole way. In that case bicyclists would be permitted to ride in the lane if they so choose because they are in a peloton or what have you.

    I do agree with you that police presence will help, though. Police departments often say they have more important public safety issues to attend to (i.e. armed robberies and that sort of thing), without considering that motor vehicle related crashes injure and kill a lot more people than guns and fists.

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  9. Eddie Suarez says:

    Craig, that really sucks! So we’re going to have a narrow bike lane now all along the causeway instead of just once you get past the bear cut? So single file riding? No more being able to pass a slower rider safely without having to enter the motorized lane or dodging biscuits or cookies or rumble strips? The causeway should be narrowed down to just two lanes like it is between bearcut and the village then all of the extra realestate could be used for pedestrians, runners, cyclists, beachgoers! I don’t know why we need 3 lanes.

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  10. Craig Chester says:

    Eddie – I believe the buffered bike lane with rumble strip would primarily be applied on the bridges.

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  11. Mickey says:

    Indeed, Craig is correct in all of his follow-up responses re: what was discussed at BPAC last night.

    One exception is that I believe we requested in our resolution re: the re-striping of the bike lanes, that they also be painted a DIFFERENT COLOR, i.e., green or red.

    @Eddie – I raised exactly your points last night. I found it not right that the cyclists are getting penalized in a sense by narrowing the bike lane, while the car lanes are remaining at 11 feet. As Craig mentioned, we have proposed a resolution to have Public Works apply for the variance that would give them permission (if granted by the Powers that Be in Tallahassee) to narrow the motor vehicle lanes on the bridge from 11′ to 10′.

    The rumble strips are embedded in the paint that is on the border of the MOTOR VEHICLE’s lane that is adjacent to the bike lane.

    NOT using the dangerous plastic buttons is best for the safety of cyclists for a number of reasons – if they were to be dislodged, and/or if someone had to avoid debris/glass and rolled over it, it could be seriously dangerous.

    Lastly, it’s my understanding that the new paint design for the bike lane, proposed by Mr. Cohen last night at BPAC, will still allow for cyclists to be able to ride over it if they need to pass a slower cyclist and/or avoid debris in the road, for a few examples.

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  12. Eddie Suarez says:

    Mickey, would we need a variant to remove the entire right lane so the causeway goes from 3 lanes to 2? We could leave the remaining 2 lanes at 11 feet and now we have an extra 22 feet (both lanes in opposite directions) to add buffers, shade trees, make crossing the causeway feasible for beachgoers, slows down traffic, etc…

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  13. Tony Garcia says:

    I agree with Eddie – take an entire lane and make that a protected facility.

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  14. John Voss says:

    Striping is nice, separate bike lanes are nice. Lower speed limits are nice, but you don’t really need all that, what you need is to enforce the laws that already exist. Write up cars that speed, cyclists that roll through reds or take up the center lane and do this for months until it becomes ingrained in the psyche. Won’t they make up the cost in ticket revenue?

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  15. Eddie Suarez says:

    John, what I’ve learned from my expert in the field friends is that enforcement only works while the police are enforcing. Once they stop, the folks return to their old habits. So unless the road goes on a diet, the speeding will commence once the police stop enforcing.

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  16. Felipe Azenha says:

    Design a road that doesn’t need to be enforced. It ain’t the complicated.

    For enforcement to work the Rickenbacker needs to be enforced 24/7 in multiple locations. That is not going to happen. Stop pointing the finger at the police-they have better things to do. CPWD needs to design a road that does not encourage speeding.

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  17. B says:

    I am all for most of the safety improvements. Improved visibility, great; hell, you can even have the third lane. But the 30-35 mph speed limit is going a bit to far. Just put in a few speeding cameras and “strictly enforced” signs so people actually have to drive at 45 instead of 55-60+ mph. Matchstick barriers and narrower travel lanes on the bridges and at the approach to the bridges where the bike lane is narrow and where most accidents seem to occur, as well as increased visibility throughout. Simple, cheap, effective. Longer term we also need more signalized crosswalks (or preferably overpasses), in particular at the bus stops(!!!), especially if we develop recreation facilities on the north side of the Causeway.

    Let’s be realistic here. Rickenbacker is a major recreation area, but remember those who live and work on the Key have no alternative route to get to/from work, and you’ll never be able to change this geographical fact. This is not Biscayne Blvd where you have I-95 a few blocks away. Artificially and unnecessarily reducing the speed limit to 30-35 for 7 miles is bound to foster more bad vibes towards cyclists. Finally, note that most fatal accidents have been due to drunk drivers, which won’t be fixed even if you set the speed limit to 20 mph…

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  18. David says:

    We need to slow the traffic down on the causeway. 35 mph seems reasonable for such a short travel distance for motorists. A narrower bike lane with more paint that is studded or indented with ‘warning’ devices is a movement in the wrong direction that will probably make riding the causeway even more stressful. A buffer zone would be great but it has to come on the outside of the existing bike lane. If we have to wait a few months to get the car lanes narrowed it is worth the wait. Once rumble strips are cut or biscuits are put in place we are probably stuck with them.
    I agree with all the posts that design speed is really the problem here that needs to be addressed. Pedestrian crosswalks with lights that switch as soon as the button is pressed would help. What about a place for cyclists to turn around?

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  19. Felipe Azenha says:

    It will take an extra minute to travel the 7 miles if we reduce the design speed of the Rickenbacker to 35mph. I think everyone that drives on the Rickenbacker on a daily basis can spare two minutes out of their day to make this highway safer for everyone.

    All three deaths in the past 6 years can be attributed to speed-two were alcohol substance related-but in the end speed killed these cyclists. In addition, numerous other people have been struck and critically injured on the Rickenbacker, we just don’t read about it unless someone dies.

    The design speed of the Rickenbacker Highway should be the first thing the CPWD address. After three deaths, I still can’t believe we are pointing the finger at the police. They have more important things to do than enforce the crappy and deadly design of the Rickenbacker Causeway. At this point it is no longer negotiable. CPWD must address the numerous design flaws on the Rickenbacker highway (design speed, and a bike lane that doubles as bus stop and shoulder). We won’t hold the police responsible- they do a great job with the limited resources they have. The responsibility lies with the CPWD.

    Anyone that thinks the Rickenbacker Causeway is safe for cycling has a death wish. I will no longer ride there. The CPWD is doing an outstanding job of discouraging people from cycling in Miami with their callous indifference in their approach to planning for cyclists and pedestrians in Miami Dade County. It is pathetic to say the very least.

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  20. B says:

    Take the “extra” third lane as protected bike lane and properly do the bus stops, 10 feet is plenty of clearance between 45 mph traffic and cyclists, why penalize all Key residents and commuters and still have only a few feet of clearance between cars and bikes? The difference in travel time between design speed of 55 and 35 is more like 6 minutes (EACH time you have to cross, which is often for Key residents), almost doubling the travel time across the causeway. BTW getting hit by a drunk driver going 35 and swerving 3 feet into a bike lane will still kill you, and a drunk driver is not going to notice they’ve crossed over the rumble strips or bumps until it’s too late. If the same drunk driver is doing 45 he’s still not likely to get 10 feet across a physical barrier to hit cyclists in the protected bike area.

    Some colleagues visiting from out of state this week didn’t realize there was a bike lane until they actually saw a group of cyclists half way across the causeway. Clearly, visibility of the bike lanes is a major issue. But merely changing all the signs to 35 mph and putting a thicker wad of paint on the pavement is a pretty pitiful effort and it not going to improve safety much.

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  21. Rebecca says:

    Reducing lane width from 11 to 10? I don’t know how wide lanes usually are in 35mph zones, but 10 feet seems pretty wide to me. Reducing lane widths is the most effective way I can think of to reduce traffic speed. Otherwise, as long as there are no cops around…

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  22. Eddy says:

    Why is paint even being discussed here still? No color of paint, purple, neon green, or pink is going to stop the madness. As someone noted above, the bike lanes are not marked as such on the bridges. There are no signs on the road or stencils on the ground. The county often refers to them as “break down lanes.” If they took the third lane and used half of that for a break down lane and a physical separation that would help. But the speed limit must be changed. To the key residents claiming they’re being penalized: So, cutting your travel time by 6 minutes is worth a death every 2 years? C’mon!!! You won’t be saying that when it’s someone you love that gets run over and left to die there.

    And lastly, the police’s more important thing to do is to keep the public safe. Enforcing the speed limit is part of that, don’t tell me the police has better things to do, because that’s precisely why they’re not there enforcing the cute, useless radars right now.

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  23. Felipe Azenha says:

    B- Please read our recommendations here:
    http://www.transitmiami.com/uncategorized/transit-miami-recommendations-for-the-rickenbacker-causeway
    I believe you can spare two minutes out of your day to make the Rickenbacker safe for everyone.

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  24. B says:

    @Felipe: I agree with virtually all of TM’s recommendations, except the uniform 35 mph design speed. Get out a calculator, it’s not 2 minutes delay, it’s more like 12 minutes for the speed + a little extra due to the additional crossings (which I am in favor of, BTW). EACH TRIP. I don’t live on KB and only have to get to/from Virginia Key once a day, so it wouldn’t affect me as much. But you can understand what this means if you’re a busy professional living on the Key, or if you have a business that services the Key from the Mainland. Those fatalities every 2 years due to DRUNK drivers would still likely be fatalities at 35 mph, you’d have to go down to 20-25 mph to really lower the liklihood. There’s plenty of space (“extra” 3rd lane, grassy area off to the side) to improve cycling facilities and keep the speed limit at 45, except perhaps on the bridges. Mind you, it should be actually enforced at 45 and/or lanes narrowed to 45 mph design. 45 mph traffic is not a significant hazard to cyclists riding WITHIN a well-marked, separated bike lane that’s several feet from the traffic. I guess we’re just not going to agree on this, but I do hope “most” of TM’s recommendations for the Causeway get implemented, and sooner rather than later!

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  25. Eddie Suarez says:

    Felipe is actually closer to the numbers. It’s about 6 miles from the toll to the first street light in the village. The travel times are:

    6 mins at 60 mph
    6 mins 32 secs at 55 mph
    7 mins 12 secs at 50 mph
    8 Mins at 45 mph
    9 mins at 40 mph
    10 Mins 17 secs at 35 mph
    12 mins at 30 mph

    There you have the travel times from speedy 60mph all the way to a slower 30mph. Comparing just 45 and 35 mph, it’s 8mins compared to 10 mins 17 sec. A delta of 2 mins 17 seconds. So lets call it 5 mins round trip. Not a big deal in exchange for the safety of all users of the Key.

    I used this website for the quick calculations, http://www.machinehead-software.co.uk/bike/speed_distance_time_calc.html

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  26. Craig Chester says:

    B – You don’t have to agree with everything we say, we still love you as long as you’re reading and contributing to the conversation! ;)

    One of the big concerns at BPAC was the County recommendation for a series of different speed limits along the causeway ranging. The BPAC thought this would be too confusing to motorists and the highest speed limit would most likely become the ‘default setting’ for them.

    A 35 mph speed limit will also make the conditions much safer for motorists as well.

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  27. B says:

    OK, I was using 7 miles and comparing 35 to 55 mph speed in my calculations. Thanks for lively discussion everyone, let’s hope something actually gets done!

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  28. howie says:

    We can all agree to disagree on the ultimate long-term solution to the problem (unfortunately there is no perfect solution). But there appears to be a consensus that there is no apreciable down-side to the implementation of the following immediate improvements: [1] a uniform speed limit of 35 mph from the Village to the toll plaza (the difference in travel time for cars will be less than 2 minutes each way because certain portions of that stretch are currently 30 mph, 35 mph, 40 mph, to a maximum of 45 mph, not to mention traffic lights); [2] increased enforcement including sobriety checks eastbound during the early morning hours; [3] restriping the lanes at 10 feet wide to encourage less speeding and provide greater distance (and a greater margin for error) between the cars and the bike lane (especially between the Village and Bear Cut bridge).
    I would expect our police would be supportive, given that they successfully lobbied for the “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to slow down or “move over” when a police officer is occupying the shoulder (ie the bike lane). If a well-marked police cruiser on the shoulder feels vulnerable to passing cars … You get the point.

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  29. sharon says:

    Howie, I agree with your response!! Great Points!!

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  30. Eddie Suarez says:

    B: Can’t use 55 because that’s over the posted speed limit.

    Howie: Well said. I thought the same thing about the move over ticketing campaign. They can make the call when a driver doesn’t move over enough or slow down enough but they can’t make the call on whether the driver gave us 3 feet when passing?

    And, even after all this media attention and the supposed police presence on the Key. BTW, it was rather absent yesterday evening. I’m driving at 45 and being passed by everyone. Then make the U-Turn at the toll parking lot, and again do 45 only to get passed by a “gentlemen” in a green mini who informs me that I am #1 in his book! Yay enforcement! You really do work!!!

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