Police are investigating a dangerous car-bicycle interaction on Crandon Boulevard as possible road rage, where a video shows a sedan driving into a bike lane as cyclists ride in the main traffic lane. The video, shot in a section of Crandon Park, predates the fatal crash that took the lives of two cyclists May 15 on the Rickenbacker Causeway. But it is reflective of rising tensions between cyclists and motorists over use of the scenic roadway.
In response to the fatalities, County officials ordered lowered speed limits, new barricades, and a heightened police presence.
In the video, a horn honks repeatedly as an Audi sedan crosses into the bike lane. The video was shot Feb. 11 by a female cyclist, Kate McPherson. “This is a normal kind of aggression,” she said. No charges have been filed.
There is little love lost between motorists and groups of cyclists, known as “peletons,” on the island. A new WhatsApp chat entitled “KB v. Causeway” is filled with messages, sometimes angry ones, about usage issues. Mayor Mike Davey was briefly one of the chat’s administrators. He posted a video that tried to address the frustration that has been aggravated by underground utility construction on the roadway.
“We’ve got to work together with the County and the City of Miami. We’ve got to come up with a solution where it’s safe for everybody,” said Davey. He said he did not know he was one of the chat’s administrators and removed himself from that role.
Key Biscayne Police Chief Frank Sousa said tempers are fraying and urged both cyclists and motorists to “share the road responsibly.” Sousa said he had seen the video and many others in the wake of the deaths of two Kendall residents on the approach to the William Powell Bridge.
“That car is a weapon,” Sousa said. “Someone like that can cause a lot of damage and that is not the way to rectify the situation.”
Eli Stiers, a Miami trial attorney and cyclist who is on the board of the Florida Bicycle Association, said many motorists do not know that state law allows cyclists to be in the main travel lane when there are obstructions in a bike lane — including slower-moving cyclists.
“There is no legal requirement for a cyclist to stay in a bike lane at all times,” he said. “We’ve all got to learn to get along. And cyclists have an obligation to not engage in bad behavior like completely blocking access.” Stiers said cyclists should return to the bike lane once they clear an obstruction.
County transportation officials lowered the speed limits on two sections of the six-mile roadway, to 40 mph on the segment between the toll plaza to the Powell Bridge and to 35 from the Powell bridge to the Bear Cut bridge. A spokesman said that while the speed reductions are short-term, they will remain in place until longer-term safety measures can be put in place.
Mayor Davey said he was neither informed nor consulted in advance about the speed limit changes, but did speak with County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Miami-Dade police officials.
“I didn’t think that was the best solution,” said Davey of his call to Levine Cava, who was in Qatar. But he said he wasn’t troubled by the lack of contact before the County made the decision.
“It was an emergency measure, and the mayor was within her rights. Would I have liked to have heard about this before this happened? Of course.” He said the Village was researching whether the County can permanently change the speed limits without an ordinance.
Stiers, the attorney, said the lower speeds are appropriate given the level of usage and the unequal risk to cyclists.
“There is a power dynamic. A cyclist may delay your commute by a few minutes. But a motorist can kill you.” He said he hopes the county will install more permanent barriers to separate cyclists from motor vehicles.
Miami-Dade police said that in the period from May 20 to 24th, officers had issued 200 hazardous moving violations, 60 non-hazardous moving violations, 102 warnings, 13 bicycle citations, and 36 bicycle warnings. Key Biscayne police said its officers issued two citations to motorists Monday.
Meanwhile, City of Miami police continue to investigate the deaths of Yaudys Vera, 48 and Ogniana Reyes, 46. Police initially said they had issued several citations to the driver, but said Tuesday they had been withdrawn while the case is reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office. A heavily redacted crash report indicated that the driver may have been fatigued and that Vera and Reyes were in bicycle lane at the time of the collision.
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.