At first, participants butted heads — but there appeared to be at least some limited agreement Wednesday on short-term safety improvements in talks between cycling advocate groups and Key Biscayne residents. The session came after two fatalities on the Causeway last month.
The short-term changes could include new lane striping and some limited installation of barriers known as “lane delineators.” But big changes will have to wait for more funding — only $250,000 is available for safety measures in the current Miami-Dade County budget, officials said. Other ideas included scheduled rides for “peloton” groups of cyclists, and changed traffic patterns at the toll plaza and other intersections.
In the meantime, County police have issued hundreds of citations to both motorists and cyclists as part of an educational effort.
At a personal level, it appeared some of the interactions between cycling advocates were tense.
“It was contentious,” said attorney Lee Marks, a cycling advocate who was at a “breakout session” table with mayoral candidate Fausto Gomez and the County Interim Police Director George Perez. “I think the Key folks eventually understood that cyclists are not going away,” adding that “bad apples” in the cycling community need to improve their conduct.
Gomez said the session featured a “vigorous discussion” of differing viewpoints, but it left a fundamental question unanswered, in his view. “There has to be a decision of what the Rickenbacker is. Is it a transportation corridor, or is it a linear park?”
“We need a budget,” said District 7 Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who along with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava organized the meeting. “This was about finding out what people have an appetite for.”
The meeting did not address the planned replacement of the Bear Cut Bridge or a new version of “Plan Z,” a $500 million renovation of the Causeway rejected by the County in January. Architect Bernard Zyscovich was one of the participants.
No funding sources have been identified for the bridge project, the mayor said. But she said her administration was hoping to “learn some lessons from Plan Z,” which envisioned a private-public partnership anchored by increased toll revenues.
County Transportation Director Eulois Cleckley said reduced speed limits on the Causeway will remain in effect until there are more permanent solutions because of the correlation between lower speeds and reduced injuries. A 45 mph speed limit correlates with 4.7 crashes per mile, while a 35 mph limit is linked to 2.2 crashes per mile, he said.
There were five traffic fatalities on the Causeway since 2014, and four severe injuries, he said, but some involved cars and motorcycles. Still, a recent County analysis did not list the Causeway among the top 50 most dangerous locations.
Regalado, who is hoping the session will lead to momentum for the 2023 budget, hoped that Key Biscayne residents would gain through making sensible compromises.
“The end result?” she asked. “Everyone will be unhappy. People need to be honest about that.”
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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.