This letter comes from Esther Calas, P.E., Director from Miami-Dade County Public Works Department in response to a letter from citizen advocate and friend of Transit Miami Blanca Mesa. Here is the exchange:

From Blanca:

The Rickenbacker Causeway should be redesigned to discourage additional vehicular traffic, to slow down existing traffic and to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. The Rickenbacker Causeway is a LINEAR PARK.” This fact should be the primary directive in designing improvements. There should be a coordinated approach within the County Departments to reduce the number of cars to the area parks and beaches. Greater public transportation should be offered — trams and buses that circulate among the state, county and city park facilities, with adequate public transportation shelters and greater frequency. Perhaps some mainland parking lots could be designated as pick up points in neighborhoods or Metrorail station lots.

The unfortunate weekend incident is not an isolated event.  Many more injuries and even deaths will occur along the Rickenbacker unless the policies and plans change.

Esther’s response:

Dear Ms. Mesa:

We in Public Works are also deeply disturbed by this tragic traffic accident.  We are well aware of the unique characteristics of the Rickenbacker Causeway, and agree that the island chain leading to the Village of Key Biscayne has the characteristics of a linear park. However, as you note the Causeway is a principal highway that travels through it and is the only access road not only to those adjacent facilities, but to the Village of Key Biscayne .  For the many different types of users, PWD provides in addition to the main roadway, and off-road non-motorized multiple-use trail for walkers, skaters and bicyclists, in-road bicycle lanes for more serious cyclists who wish to travel at higher speeds without sharing space with pedestrians, and a beach road system for low-speed motor vehicle travel for parking and beach access.

Our staff has reviewed the Bear Cut Bridge this morning and re-reviewed the construction plans for the bicycle lanes as well and have confirmed that the bicycle lanes meet State and Federal requirements.  We have also just received a copy of the traffic accident report and we will make a determination whether any additional engineering measures would be effective for mitigating this type of collision.


Esther Calas, P.E., Director

Doesn’t sound too convincing to me. It is not a matter of whether state and federal requirements are followed. Obviously, those requirements are not preventing deaths, so something is wrong. Anyone have any good ideas they want to share with Ms. Calas and Commissioner Carlos Gimenez?

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9 Responses to County Public Works Responds to Critics

  1. Mike Lydon says:

    Reading the first sentence tells me that Esther Calas falls into the same rhetorical trap as most regarding tragic incidents like this.

    Surely, the tragedy was no “accident,” but a fatal crash where several independent factors, all intentional, compounded to once again expose the dangers of local, state, and national roadway design standards.

    It’s no accident that Bertonatti was under the influence. He intentionally made those decisions.

    It’s no accident that Bertonatti got behind the wheel of his car. He intentionally made that decision, too.

    It’s no accident that cars frequently speed far in excess of the posted speed limit, a limit that is already too high for people riding bicycles to share comfortably with people driving motor vehicles. The County Public Works and State intentionally made policy and design standards that make roadways where one feels just as comfortable driving at 60mph as they do at 45 mph.

    It’s no accident that the bicycle lane, while an improvement over the previous version, is designed in a manner that is less conspicuous and safe than other alternatives.

    It’s no accident that Fire and Police aid were slow in responding to the scene of the crash. Policy, funding, and location decisions were made by community leaders.

    So please, please, please, let’s not call this just another “traffic accident.” It was a crash that resulted from a series of poor, but intentional choices made by countless of individuals.

    Let’s learn from, and honor the victim and his family by making all roads safer and more humane.

    Mike Lydon


  2. brody says:

    Why can’t they acknowledge the amount of bicyclists on the Rickenbacker and set aside space for a barrier between cars and bicyclists? It’s one of the most heavily used causeway by bicyclists and it has such poor safety for cyclists. Please fix it CPW!


  3. KeyRat says:

    I only started reading this blog the other day, because I live on the Key and I wanted to see the perspective from cyclists, so excuse my lack of empathy.

    I was reading the article about separated bike lanes, and if you note the first image used in the article (×225.jpg), you can see that it’s EXACTLY what we have set up on our bridges here. See, the cyclists in that picture are riding in the same lanes we have; they’re not riding on the margin of high speed traffic.

    The thing is cyclists don’t want to use these provided paths; they want to go extra fast and not share the space with anyone (much like cars with respect to cyclists). Now you want to limit the speed that cars are allowed to travel, when the ratio of cars to cyclists must be about 100 to 1? Get out of here! If anything the speed limit is too low; it should be 55mph.

    I applaud the cycling community for trying to make it safer, but please get some perspective. The causeway is primarily a thoroughfare for Key Biscayne residents; it never would have been built had it not been for residential Key Biscayne, and the amount of cars that use it is a testament to what is more important. You can safely ride a bike on the enclosed lanes, through the hidden path in the Bear Cut preserve, etc. It’s not optimized for the speed bike hobby, but it’s there and it’s safe.


  4. kaelsie says:

    KeyRat- you just don’t understand. You will never understand.

    I will try to make it simple:

    Cars and cyclists must share the road. (it is the law)

    Cars go much faster than bicycles.

    What do you lose by lowering the speed limit into the Key? About 2 minutes? What do we gain as a society by lowering the speed limit? Prevent deaths.

    I think those are terms that even a car-centric person can understand.


  5. Carlos Mesa says:

    Was the criminal at Club Space right before he got in his car?


  6. Edwin says:

    She’s just covering her ass when she says they meet federal and state standards. Nothing more.


  7. This is the same kind of inane, irresponsible, uncaring and CYA-ish kind of responses I got when I sent letters to Tallahassee in regards to the Dangerous By Design report. Heaven forbid they accept any kind of responsibility, or that they deign to act beyond the laughable minimums set by our law.


  8. B. Hickmen says:

    Where was the driver right before he killed the biker and drove for 4 miles with a smashed windshield and the bike under his car?

    Was the biker at Club Space?


  9. Pepe Gonzalez says:

    Is it true the driver was at Club Space?


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