Lowered speed limits and new barricades on the Rickenbacker Causeway were hailed by bike safety advocates as a temporary step one week after a collision took the lives of two cyclists, as new meetings were quickly set to address next steps.
“We are very happy to see that the County, after all these years, is taking an immediate step,” said Kurt Kaminer, a spokesman for University of Miami’s BikeSafe program. He acknowledged the changes are a “stopgap” until more permanent measures on the roadway can be taken.
But not everyone in Key Biscayne was happy with lower speeds, which some described as speed traps.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava ordered safety changes last week. The measures, which went into place Saturday, included dropping the speed limit by five miles per hour in some sections of the roadway: limits are now 35 and 40 mph. But she said the longer-term safety measures are a question of budget priorities.
“This has to be sustained action,” she said. “It’s very expensive because we are retrofitting roads.” She called on the County Commission to prioritize dollars for cycling safety improvements, with only $15 million allocated this fiscal year.
As for re-starting an overall Causeway redesign, such as the now-rejected “Plan Z,” concept, Levine Cava said it will depend on the outcome of meetings with Key Biscayne and other stakeholders.
One such meeting is happening May 31, called by District 7 Commissioner Raquel Regalado. The session will include County Transportation Director Eulois Cleckley, who supervised the weekend changes to the Causeway.
Cleckley said planners are also looking at other technology solutions to separate motorists and Rickenbacker. The City of Miami has used flexible posts in some locations; other cities have used technologies like the “wave delineator” to keep motorists out of bicycle lanes.
In Key Biscayne, reaction to the Causeway changes was mixed. Some residents said the changes ignored longstanding complaints about groups of cyclists occupying full lanes, a practice police say is permitted by Florida law. Several chafed at the lower speed limits.
“Enforce existing laws,” said Fausto Gomez, a candidate for mayor, declining to clarify whether he supported or opposed the newly-lowered limit. Key Biscayne Vice Mayor Brett Moss, who is also running for mayor, said he opposed the lower speed limits and said the County has been lax with enforcement.
“Instead of arbitrarily reducing the speed limit that will do little in protection, the county should put their resources and efforts in stricter enforcement of our laws until a permanent solution is put in place,” adding he had reached out to Regalado.
Council Member Luis Lauredo praised the moves. “I have been trying to turn the Rickenbacker SPEEDWAY into a safe causeway,” he wrote. “Excellent news.”
Mayor Mike Davey declined comment, while acknowledging he too had heard resident gripes about the lowered speeds. A message left for Joe Rasco, the other announced mayoral candidates, was not returned.
A recent study by County staff of the top 50 cycling trouble spots didn’t include the Causeway, although few other locations are as picturesque as the ride over the William Powell bridge and its breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay. The ranking did not indicate a methodology.
Commissioner Eileen Higgins, whose District 5 includes downtown, the Roads, and Brickell, said she wants to take up the cycling safety matter at the next meeting of the County’s transportation committee. The committee, which she chairs, is set to meet June 7th.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include comments from Brett Moss and Luis Lauredo.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.