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.
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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