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.
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.
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