Speed limits went up to 40 mph along the entire length of the Rickenbacker Causeway Thursday, an increase of five miles per hour for some sections, but below the longtime limit of 45 mph that had existed before a fatal accident in May.
One leading safety advocate said the increase in speed would increase the risk of injury for cyclists and pedestrians, and called for the county to speed up a redesign of the iconic roadway that carries millions to some of Miami’s most popular beaches.
Both village and county police reported no major incidents on the first morning of the increrased changed speeds.
Some Key Biscayne residents had chafed at the slower speeds, which county officials said were needed to improve safety while a longer term plan to separate bicycle and vehicle traffic is pursued.
Mayor Mike Davey had raised the issue with Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and was happy with the compromise.
“It shows that we get more done working with the County, rather than trying to pick a fight over every issue,” Davey said in a statement.
He had argued that having a single speed limit for the entire span from the mainland to the island was more sensible than shifting speeds, which were either from 35, 40, and 45 in various segments before the 30 mph limit that starts within the village. The measure also had support from District 7 Commissioner Raquel Regalado.
But Dr. Mickey Witte, a researcher on injury prevention, said every increase in speed dramatically increases the likelihood of serious injury in a collision.
“The higher speed makes it more deadly. It’s not a step in the right direction,” she said. Witte said that changes in speed need to be matched with permanent safety improvements.
“I don’t think drivers are going to be swayed by a sign as much as they would be swayed by design,” she said.
As for traffic stops, Miami-Dade police spokesman Det. Luis Sierra said there was no increase in citations or speeding. But he said motorists should be ready for more visible enforcement next week.
The county imposed 35 mph speeds for a long stretch near MAST Academy and the Seaquarium after the deaths of cyclists Yaudys Vera and Ogniana Reyes, both from the Kendall area, last May.
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.