Currently viewing the tag: "Rickenbacker Causeway"

4/24/2010

9:15-11:30

34 Miles

This morning a female cyclist rear-ended a Miami-Dade Transit bus on the Rickenbacker Causeway. The cyclist suffered minor injuries and was not taken to the hospital. I don’t have all the details of the accident, but this much I do know: the cyclist was in the bike lane and she rear-ended the bus that was parked in the bike lane/bus stop/shoulder.

This accident highlights another major and possibly deadly design flaw on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  In many instances when a bus pulls over to pick up or drop off passengers, the bus tends obstruct the bike lane. When this occurs, there is major conflict between the cyclist and the bus.  Cyclists are either forced to stop short, or they are forced to enter the roadway in order to overtake the bus. This scenario is very dangerous for cyclists as they must enter the roadway were most cars are traveling between 40-50mph. Cyclists will eventually come out on the losing end of this situation.

A conflict area is created when buses and cars park in the bike lane. Cyclists are forced into the roadway.

Ideally the bike lane should not be used as a bus stop and shoulder. Below is an example of a bike lane that is physically separated from the bus stop. The roadway on the Rickenbacker Causeway needs a similar treatment. Today’s accident followed an earlier incident in which a bus overtook two cyclists only to cut them off as the bus partially obstructed the bike lane in order to pick up passengers.

Source: safecycling.org

I also witnessed:

  • Several hundred cyclists enjoying the morning
  • Hundred of runners and walkers exercising
  • A small army from the Miami-Dade Police Department handing out speeding tickets
  • Most cars traveling between 40-50 mph
  • At least 5 cars traveling in excess of 65 mph on the William Powell Bridge and Bear Cut Bridge. (Speed limit is virtually unenforceable on the bridges)
  • One decoy police car
  • Half dozen runners running in the bike lane

On my morning ride on the Rickenbacker Causeway I saw a small army of police officers from the Miami Dade Police Department handing out tickets to motorists. There were at least two MDPD unmarked cars and a motorcycle enforcing the speed limit.  This is really great.  The MDPD has really stepped-up enforcement and it has not gone unnoticed.

Unfortunately, enforcement is not the sole solution.  We need to design a roadway which discourages speeding.  Even with all the added enforcement, I saw many cars speeding on Rickenbacker Causeway today.

Keep up the great work MDPD! You are part of the solution and we appreciate your efforts.

Sooner or later there will be another cycling fatality involving a motor vehicle on the Rickenbacker Causeway. This is not debatable; it’s just a matter of time.  In order to raise awareness of the inherent dangers of the Rickenbacker Causeway, I will try to briefly document all my Rickenbacker Causeway bike rides. Welcome to The Rickenbacker Report!

4/19/2010

18:00-19:30

25 miles

  • At least 6-7 dozen cyclists
  • 2-3 dozen pedestrians/runners
  • At least 15 cars driving in excess of 50 mph
  • 2 cars parked in the bicycle lane
  • 3 joggers running against the flow of traffic in the bike lane
  • 1 decoy police car

4/21/2010

18:00-19:45

32 miles

  • At least 5-6 dozen cyclists
  • 2 dozen pedestrians
  • 1 black Porsche Cayenne doing about 75 mph up the William Powell Bridge
  • 1 black BMW M3 accelerate to about 65 mph as he passed the decoy police car (the driver was not fooled)
  • 1 silver car doing about 65 mph on Bear Cut Bridge
  • At least 20 cars driving in excess of 50 mph
  • 1 car cut me off as it made a right hand turn
  • 1 jogger running in the bike lane

I’ve seen many accidents on the Rickenbacker Causeway which luckily have not involved cyclists.  Many of these accidents are due to speeding.  Check out this picture of a motorcycle that ended up under the rear end of a truck. Here is an article about a motorcyclist that was killed while drag racing on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Unfortunately cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable users of the causeway. Speed is undeniably a major problem on the Rickenbacker Causeway and it is not being  addressed appropriately. Speed kills. We need to slow down cars on the Rickenbacker Causeway now.

I began biking on the Rickenbacker Causeway about 10 years ago. Back then no one knew who Lance Armstrong was and cycling was not nearly as popular as it is today.  I have seen the Rickenbacker Causeway change significantly since 2000. Ten years ago there wasn’t as much traffic or the number of cyclists we have today. Unfortunately the infrastructure to support these changes has not kept pace with the increased demand by cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.

About 3 years ago the County resurfaced the Rickenbacker Causeway. The resurfacing project was an improvement, but did not go far enough to protect all users.  Today we find ourselves with a bike lane that is adjacent to a highway where many cars regularly travel in excess of 50 mph. Over the years I have witnessed several accidents during my rides. Below is a brief summary:

  • February 2006: Omar Otaola, a 33-year-old cyclist, was killed by a motorist when he swerved to avoid a curb where the bike lane precipitously ended. This accident was caused by a design flaw which forced cyclists into the traffic lane
  • April 2007: Cyclist (name unknown) hit by a car during the tennis tournament (Crandon Boulevard)
  • May 2007: 30-50 cyclists were injured during the resurfacing project due to uneven pavement.
  • January 2008 Cyclist (name unknown) falls and breaks her arm on the William Powell Bridge due to uneven pavement.  I reported the design flaw (uneven pavement) to PWD and it was fixed.
  • January 2010: Christophe Le Canne, a 44-year-old South Miami resident, is killed by Carlos Bertonatti in a hit and run DUI accident. (Bear Cut Bridge)

If you are aware of any other accidents which involved a motor vehicle or a design flaw, please share it with us in the comments section.

Yesterday afternoon I took off the suit and put on the spandex for an afternoon ride on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  This is what I witnessed:

  • About a hundred cyclists enjoying the afternoon
  • Several dozen pedestrians and runners exercising
  • At least 15 cars cruising in excess of 50 mph
  • At least 3 cars doing about 65 mph on the bridges (Motorists love to speed on the bridges, it is very difficult to enforce the speed limit on the bridges)
  • One parked car in the bike lane
  • A Miami Dade Transit bus overtake me, only to cut me off to drop off a passenger.  The bus partially stopped in the bike lane, forcing me into the traffic lane as I passed the bus.
  • A large white van came within 2 feet of me while doing about 50 mph.
  • One decoy police car used to calm traffic

Believe it or not, but this was a particularly calm day on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Conditions continue to remain unsafe for all users; unfortunately cyclists do not have any better or safer options.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  This is what I witnessed:

  • Several hundred bicyclists
  • Hundreds of pedestrians
  • Two Miami Dade Police cruisers enforcing the speed limit
  • At least 7 cars driving in excess of 50 mph
  • Five cars driving in excess of 65 mph on the bridges
  • A SUV swerve into the bicycle lane while doing about 45mph
  • Two cars parked in the bicycle lane
  • A driver aggressively accelerating towards me as I overtook another cyclist. The driver then yelled at me and told me I only belong in the bicycle lane.

It’s been nearly three months since the tragic accident that killed bicyclist Christope LeCanne, yet no additional safety measures have been implemented on the Rickenbacker Causeway. All the dangerous existing conditions still remain there. I would like to remind everyone that over the past 5 years we have averaged about a death every 2.5 years on the Rickenbacker Causeway, in addition to many other serious injures.  Please reach out to County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and ask for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway for everyone.  Commissioner Gimenez is one of our greatest allies, but he needs your support. Please also suggest to him that we close a lane of traffic every Sunday for cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the best South Florida has to offer.

Traffic going to and on the Rickenbacker Causeway this weekend was dreadful. Cars were backed up about a mile on the I-95 and there was bumper to bumper traffic all the way past the roundabout on South Miami Avenue and SE 15th Street. A friend of mine told me it took him more than an hour to drive the 6 miles from Crandon Park to Brickell Avenue.

Traffic backed up on SE 15th Street

Bumper to bumper on South Miami Avenue

Miami Police Department trying to do their best.

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Today was my first day back on my road bike since the fatal accident on Bear Cut Bridge nearly three months ago. I don’t think I could have picked a worse day to ride my bicycle on the Rickenbacker Causeway; the Sony Erickson women’s semi-finals.

Here’s what I observed this morning:

  • Hundreds of people riding bicycles
  • Average speed of cars 45-50mph
  • About 10 cars doing at least 65 mph
  • A motorcycle doing about 75 mph
  • A police car (department will remain nameless) overtake another car in the right hand lane while encroaching the bike lane going about 70 mph before the Rickenbacker Bridge. This was a non-emergency, illegal pass; the police cruiser did not have lights on.
  • At least 5-6 cars cut me off as they accelerate in order to overtake me so they could make a right hand turn.
  • A cyclist riding against traffic
  • Safety cones encroaching the bicycle lane rather than encroaching or being placed  in the travel lanes to calm down traffic

Friend of Transit Miami Dana Weinstein recently wrote an editorial for the Miami Herald to commemorate Bike Month. Although Dina commutes with her two children to school on bicycles, she does not suggest that inexperienced cyclists/parents follow her lead. She says, “It really takes someone with almost a death wish to walk or bike”.

Part of me agrees with Dina.  Ever since Christophe Le Canne was killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway in January, I have come to view bicycling as a dangerous activity.

I love biking; it is part of who I am. I used to be fearless and after my stint in the Peace Corps I biked with 2 friends from Guatemala to Panama. Bicycling brings me great joy, but I no longer feel safe biking in Miami. What I feel is vulnerable. This is particularly true on our causeways, where bicycle lanes are placed next to cars which are moving at 45-75mph without any sort of hard or soft barrier to protect cyclists (i.e. Rickenbacker Causeway and MacArthur Causeway).  When I do bike now, I choose roads where the design speed of the roadway does not exceed 25-30 mph.  Even when bike lanes are present, such as the Coral Way bike lanes, I do not use them because cars are moving at 45-50mph. I prefer taking a side street were traffic moves slower.

Perhaps I am just getting old. Or perhaps now that I am married I am aware of the tremendous loss I would leave behind if I suffered the same fate as Christophe Le Canne. But the lack of proper bicycle infrastructure in Miami has been forcing me recently to drive my bicycle up to Oleta River State Park so that I may get the exercise I enjoy.  I feel defeated that I have been relegated to biking in a park.

In the interest of full disclosure, I still ride my bike (in my suit) to work everyday. Although it is only about 6 blocks away I have way too many close calls on a regular basis.

Is this the way we must live? My hope is that we can develop streets for all users in South Florida.

A special “thank you” to the County Public Works Department for relocating the Christophe Le Canne Ghost Bike.  The County Public Works Department has been working with the cycling community to find an appropriate place for the ghost bike. I think most will concur that they have found an agreeable location. Please send Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email to thank her. (ecalas@miamidade.gov)

Photo Courtesy: Miami Bike Scene

Photo Courtesy: Miami Bike Scene

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The Miami Dade Police Department has provided Transit Miami with their Rickenbacker Causeway enforcement statistics for 2009 and January 2010.  As you can see below the Miami Dade Police Department has been enforcing their jurisdiction on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  They are issuing approximately 7 hazardous moving violations per day to motorists. Enforcement is clearly present. What we need is a roadway that is designed to discourage people from speeding. Even with police enforcement motorists continue to speed on the Rickenbacker Causeway. More enforcement may help, but is not the ultimate solution. Designing a roadway for all users is the answer.

2009
Month Hazardous 1 Moving Violations Non-Hazardous2 Moving Violations Verbal Warnings Total
January 136 97 67 300
February 227 142 108 477
March 252 76 117 445
April 257 102 97 456
May 257 138 151 546
June 218 119 83 420
July 203 75 93 371
August 147 85 86 318
September 174 89 153 416
October 216 168 112 496
November 222 90 97 409
December 115 99 113 327
Total 2009 4,981
Total 2009 Hazardous Moving Violations 2,424
Average 2009 Hazardous Moving Violations Issued Per Day 6.64
2010
January 270 120 120 510
Average January 2010 Hazardous Moving Violations Issued Per Day 8.71
1. Hazardous violations are those which have the immediate potential for bodily injury
and property destruction; for example, running a red light or stop sign, or careless driving
2. Non-hazardous violations are those not likely to expose persons to injury or result in property damage;
for example, expired tag or defective equipment.

We have some good Rickenbacker Causeway news to report this week.

A Transit Miami Shout-Out goes to Commissioner Carlos Gimenez. Commissioner Gimenez has proposed a resolution to conduct an analysis of the current expenditure of toll revenue generated by the Rickenbacker Causeway and to develop a work plan to allocate 25 cents of every toll collected to projects promoting pedestrian and bicyclist safety along the Rickenbacker Causeway. This proposed resolution will go to the full County Commission next month.

This is a great fist step Commissioner Gimenez! Keep up the good work. Commissioners Jose Diaz, Sally Heyman, and Rebeca Sosa co-sponsored the resolution.  Please contact Commissioner Gimenez and thank him for his initiative.

The Miami Police Department also deserves a Transit Miami Shout-Out. Ever since the deadly accident on Bear Cut Bridge last month, the Miami Police Department has been noticeably present on the Rickenbacker Causeway.  They have stepped-up enforcement in a major way; increased enforcement plays an important role to ensure the safety of all users on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Thank you MPD!  Keep up the great work. Check out the pictures of the MPD in action on the Rickenbacker Causeway this morning

Officers from the Miami Police Department lined up to catch speeding motorists.

Slow down pretty girl in the Porsche Cayenne. What’s your rush?

The ghost bike which was placed on Bear Cut Bridge in memory of Christophe Le Canne has been removed.  We are not sure who removed it, but please return it to its rightful place.

This Sunday at 2pm, cyclists will ride once again for Christophe Le Canne - this time in solidarity with New York City cyclists and non-profit TIME’S UP!, who have organized a ride of their own at the same time in Brooklyn. Local cyclist and TM friend Eddy is organizing this ride to start at Government Center and stop at both Le Canne’s memorial site and that of cyclist Omar Otaola, who died on the Rickenbacker in 2006. You can see the route here and RSVP on Facebook here.

As MiamiBikeScene’s Rydel points out, this is an opportunity for those of us who missed the last ride to take part.  We’ll update this space with any new information.

Hit and Run driver Carlos Bertonatti is set to go to court on Monday at 8:30am.  Undoubtedly, he will be surrounded by both fans and cyclists. Bertonatti will face Judge David Miller at the Justice Building (1351 NW 12th Street) in Room 3-2.

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Please check out the editorial in the Miami Herald regarding the accident which occurred on the Rickenbacker Causeway two weeks ago that killed bicyclist Christopher Le Canne. Three residents ring in with their opinions.

Michael Muench from Miami calls for improvements to the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway, which include physically separated bicycle lanes. Physically separated bicycle lanes may not necessarily be the best solution as Mr. Muench suggests. One thing is for sure, as long as we insist that it is OK to have a highway next to a bicycle lane accidents will occur.  Road design certainly contributed to the accident and will continue contributing to future accidents.  We cannot allow the current roadway design to remain. Major improvements need to be made; the current design is too dangerous for all users of the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Bruce Nachman from Miami, correctly points out that the Fire-Rescue response time needs to be improved.  Unfortunately, this will not solve the underlying problem.  If a pedestrian or bicyclist is hit by a car going 60 mph the chances of surviving are less than 10%.

Lastly Janis Ball from Miami Lakes is outraged by the fact that the driver was set free on bail. Carlos Bertonatti should never have been driving in the first place, but to set bail so low for such a horrific crime is unacceptable.  We need to start taking hit and run crimes a lot more seriously.

If you believe that the design of the Rickenbacker Causeway contributed to the accident please send Mrs. Esther Calas, Director of the County Public Works Department, an email asking for a safer Rickenbacker Causeway @ ecalas@miamidade.gov

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