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Where Do We Go From Here?

Dear Fellow Cyclists:

I read with great interest your involvement in this past weekend’s memorial ride for Mr. Christophe Le Canne.  I am a native Miamian and grew up cycling Key Bicayne for many years so I know the area very well.  I currently live in Palm Beach County and serve as a National Board Member for the League of American Bicyclists, Executive Director of the South Florida Bike Coalition and as well as Director of Government Affairs of the Florida-based zMotion Club, a 600-member cycling organization in South Florida.

Though the memorial ride was well deserved, I pause with concern over the demand in the paper to create “some sort of barrier or physical separation between motorists and bicycle lanes.” Based upon our collective national experience, such a demand will have adverse and unintended consequences throughout the region and the state.

First, the continued demand for some sort of barrier or physical separation between vehicle and bicycle lanes highlights the stereotype of the cyclist as a ”vulnerable user” of the roadways and that cycling is a dangerous activity that has no place on the public rights of way.  We believe that the more people who elect to ride a bike and leave their cars at home will begin to enlighten the public that cycling is a superior form of transportation, a health benefit, and a mode of mobility that tends to reconnect communities.  A physical barrier on Key Biscayne will undermine that argument.

Second, a barriered bike lane is the antithesis of good public policy.  There is a national movement for “Complete Streets“, and the demand for segregated bike lanes is a push in the opposite direction.

South Florida is undergoing a slow, long effort to change both the behavior of cyclists on the roads and the attitudes of the non-cycling public towards bicyclists.  We are one of the largest metropolitan regions in the entire country and are somewhat unique in our anti-cycling problems due, in part, to the absolute and exclusive reliance upon motor vehicles for personal mobility; there is no real public transportation system and no more land with which to create one.  This, combined with our repeated designing of our roads to move only single-occupant cars as fast as possible, and the conflict between motorist and cyclist over use of limited public right of way is unavoidable, inherent, predicable, and effectively programmed.

Also, a barrier relieves motorists, cyclists, and law enforcement of their responsibility when using (and policing) the roadways.  Cyclists, motorists, and law enforcement officers do not know the laws establishing the rights of cyclists to use the roads, and equally, cyclists do not know (or respect) the laws that govern their behavior when operating a bicycle on the public rights of way. Even with such education, the existing laws have no real ”teeth” to change cyclists or motorists behavior towards each other.

Third, if safety is the issue, the most expedient way to protect cyclists from motorists is to remove cyclists from the Key. The repeated demand for a barrier is going to force the City’s hand to “do something” for the “safety of the cyclists”. The likely outcome of that cry to help - limit bicyclists access on the Causeway. Or, if a barrier is developed (with public money), the public is going to demand that it be the exclusive road used by cyclists and prohibit cycling elsewhere.  A barrier would kill cycling on Key Biscayne as we have historically enjoyed it and will have elevated the motor vehicle to the “supremacy” that our society current views it as.  Cycling on the road is not a right, it is a privilege (very much like driving a car).  It can easily be taken away from us “for our own safety.”

Fourth, and from a practical perspective, a barrier is actually going to cause more accidents than prevent them.  All cyclists, travelled at all different speeds, would all be herded like cattle into a chute which would cause a much larger number of conflict points than the admittedly rare and infrequent car v. cyclist crash.

So, we  have discussed what NOT to do.  What CAN we do to effectuate change?

Up here in Broward and Palm Beach counties, we are doing something about that. We have been working with the zMotion Club under the astute leadership of their president, Pat Patregnani, to support their endeavors to create such change.

This is overwhelmingly an EDUCATIONAL endeavor.  Until the non-cycling public begins to understand that bicycles are absolute rightful and equal users of the roadways, public sentiment will always sway towards keeping cyclists off of the roads, “for our own safety” and so they can get as quickly as possible to their destination, damn be the consequences for the rest of society.  The demand for a separate barrier on Key Biscayne falls right into this argument.

So how does this begin to change?   Rather than fight for separate facilities, help us to spread the word about zMotion’s “Ride Right/Drive Right” campaign and let’s get it into each and every city in Miami-Dade County.

And most importantly, let’s get ALL cyclists to support the organizations who are fight for you every day (FBA, LAB, zMotion, South Florida Bike Coalition, Green Mobility Network, to name a few).

We remain ready, willing and able to work with you in these endeavors. We have also copied the other community “leaders” in Miami-Dade County who share similar concerns.  A small “bicycle summit” of the “thought leaders” in bicycle issues would be a great place to start.

For now, continue to organize yourselves and define the message.  This can be the beginning of the “tipping point” for a true “mobility” culture in South Florida.  But please keep always present and in the forefront that emphasizing the “vulnerable” status of cyclists as users of the roadways only serves as fodder for the anti-cycling crowd to underscore cyclists do not belong on the roadways.

After this past weekend, you have everyone’s attention.

Jeffrey Lynne, Esq
jeffreylynne@bikeleague.org
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8 Comments

  1. Sincere says:

    I lift my bike in agreement with Mr. Lynne, the barrier argument is not even conceivable without adding several additional feet to the bridge as there is needed clearance.
    Drunk driving and speeding is the problem with the Rickenbacker and many other of our roadways, increased enforcement sounds ideal.
    Motorist and bicycle education will go a long way as well. I have seen the work zMotion has undertaken and it is a great start.

  2. @j2dahizzay says:

    Thank you Jeffrey. I believe, with the right leadership, an agenda, such as those you have implied, should be established so when we organize we are asking for a common resolve. Sometimes those in political office look to other examples. Take Long Beach, California and their “sharrows” which have had great success. We need to show our leaders some of these “easier” applications instead of trying to create a budget for infrastructure. I am an advocate of further education, as well. I believe drivers, like most other licensees in FL, should have continuing education. Every 2-4 years professionals are required to get certified training in their industry in order to requalify for licensure. I believe FL drivers should have the same commitment. A simple 2 hour class, taken annually, on responsibilities of pedestrians, cyclists, tractors and even horseback( hello Davie), should be mandatory. And on another note. We just received word that FL will get a high speed rail. Wouldn’t it be great if we petition to have a bicycle/ multi-use(non-motor) path run parallel the whole distance with it?

  3. MrSunshine561 says:

    An annual class is a little far-fetched. Renewal time, however, could provide many opportunities. A short “refresher” test or course to bring everyone up to speed would be terrific. After all, laws and regulations do change.

    In the meantime, enforcement can have immediate effects and education can go a long way in changing attitudes and behavior.

    Finally, I’m glad to see Transit Miami opening up to dissenting views other than in the “comments” section.

    Thank you.

  4. JM Palacios says:

    Well said, Jeff. I was planning to post something regarding design of bicycle lanes and why barrier separated bicycle lanes aren’t the best idea, but I haven’t had enough time lately. You covered many of the good points. Thank you!

    P.S. Fixed your first four links that didn’t have the “http://” in front.

  5. Camilo says:

    Hear, hear!

    Personally, I believe that standards for getting a driver’s license need to be more stringent and maybe even more expensive. Miami has long since reached a point where it’s dangerous to even be a pedestrian in the city, due to the sheer mass of cars on the roads. The simplest rules of the road are completely ignored and unenforced by our drivers (I’m looking at you, no-blinkers). It’s not pretty, but not letting every Tom, Dick, and Harry drive is the first step to safer streets. A likely side effect would be an increase in public transportation use and demand, so who knows where things could lead from there.

  6. Gary says:

    I completely agree with you on the barrier issue. No barriers.
    Another issue that may help the cyclist in South Florida is to unite all the different groups as one voice somehow.
    The two things that seem to matter more in the political world the most are Money and Voters. If you do not have the Money use the Voters. The more groups representing thier own interests in the same field shows the politicians here that we do not truly represent a cohesive message or goal.
    If the leaders of the various cycling groups in Miami-Dade and in Broward could coordinate with one another and work together this would be the biggest move in the right direction at this time.
    No matter what kind of bike you own or what type of cycling you do we all want the the same thing. Safer streets for everyone. Not everyone that gets on a bike wants to go as fast as they can. The largest portion of the cycling community is being left behind, the family who wants to bike together or join others on a ride they can bring thier children on. The cycling community has to be a bit more inclusive and inviting to all riders.
    Jim Sayer from Adventure Cycling was in Florida recently and he stated it all starts locally, support your local advocacy groups by becoming a member if you want your voice to count. Look at this issue quickly: You have someone who just got back into cycling and see’s the need for advocacy to make things safer. You have so many groups here in Miami-Dade alone that want this person to become a dues paying member. With the economy now, who do they give thier money to? Who do they give thier time to? How confusing is this?
    Andy Clarke from the League of American Bicyclist also stated that we should not keep the focus on bikes vs cars. This issue is much larger than that. If we could enlist the support of other groups with similar interests like MADD or the AAA. Just read the comments on articles about cyclist being hurt or killed from the Herald or Sun. You always have the angry cyclist vs the angry motorist. It never solves the problem when each side has such a one-sided view point (whether either view point is right or wrong).
    I don’t know if these things I have mentioned are feasible, but I feel in my heart that these issues are what will always keep more from happening sooner for the cycling community and for others who want to use the roads from outside of an automobile or want the roads safer for all users.

  7. Felipe Azenha says:

    Mr. Lynn brings up some excellent points.

    I would like to make it very clear to our readers that I do not support protected bicycles lanes throughout the city. There are, however, certain roads that we should consider protected bicycles lanes for; particularly where the design speed of the roadway exceeds 50 mph. I agree that rather than protected bicycle lanes, a better solution would be a “complete streets” approach, which would include reducing the design speed of the roadway. Often times this is an expensive solution and involves redesigning/restriping the entire roadway to discourage speeding. Protected bicycle lanes are also an expensive solution which also involves restriping; there is no easy solution. Sharrows are a good option.

    The Rickenbacker Causeway and the MacArthur Causeway are two roadways which could benefit from protected bicycle lanes should the design speed of the roadway remain as is. When I suggest a protected bicycle lane, I do not mean to suggest a 5 foot protected bicycle lane. I agree this is dangerous. But imagine a 12 foot bicycle lane. This lane would be as wide as a car lane, well marked, so that slower bicycle traffic remains to the right and faster bicycle traffic remains to the left. Imagine a wide greenway connecting our parks on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

    Most people are dissuaded from purchasing a bicycle due to the perceived dangers associated with cycling on the road. Unfortunately, we do not have any real safe places for inexperienced bicyclists and children to ride a bicycle. By providing a safe place for inexperienced bicyclists to ride, this could be a stepping stone for people to feel more comfortable riding on the road. I for one would not want my child riding on the road in South Florida. After last weekend’s accident, I don’t feel comfortable riding on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

    I think it is highly unlikely that a demand for a protected bicycle lane on the Rickenbacker Causeway would lead to government prohibiting bicycles on the Causeway. Not only would there by a bicyclist uprising, but should the County succeed in prohibiting bicycles on the Rickenbacker Causeway, the problem would simply be shifted to the MacArthur Causeway, as this would most likely be the default playground for bicyclists, which happens to be even more dangerous than the Rickenbacker Causeway. Government would not be addressing the problem; they simply would defer the problem to a later date.

    Again, a protected bicycle lane may not be the best solution, but I don’t think we should dismiss the value of protected bicycle lanes so quickly. If (a big if) we had an endless pot of gold, a comprehensive protected/semi protected greenway system that connects our causeways would be pretty awesome. It doesn’t hurt to dream a little bit, so let’s not limit ourselves.

    Mr. Lynn and the South Florida Bicycle Coalition have done excellent work, especially educating bicyclists and drivers. Education is fundamental and we look forward to collaborating with the SFBC and zMotion’s “Ride Right/Drive Right” campaign. We are together in this struggle to educate the non-cycling public so that they understand that bicycles are absolute rightful and equal users of the roadways.

  8. Jeff Lynne says:

    The proverbial “tipping point” is approaching!

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