Friday, February 8, 2008

"Share the F***ing Road"

Cyclists Court Death Daily

It's dangerous, but Miami is getting friendlier to bikes.
By Isaiah Thompson
Published: January 31, 2008 in the Miami New Times

"Before the sun rises over Miami — before the highways swell with traffic and the streets begin to hum with the sound of a million motors turning at once — the first bicycles appear. From the east — the beaches, Key Biscayne — come the racers. Clad head to toe in thousands of dollars' worth of Lycra, they glide along in tight, silent packs, their wheels producing a collective whirring like a hive of wasps set loose. From the west come the construction workers, mounted on cheap, heavy mountain bikes, outfitted with hard hats and packed lunches.

For this brief moment every day, Miami is full of cyclists, rich and poor alike. As the sun peeks over the horizon, and I-95 begins dumping cars into downtown, the bicycles vanish; the city gives itself over to the cars.

At first glance, there is nary a place on God's green Earth better suited to biking than Miami. It's utterly flat, with weather that lets a cyclist pedal year-round without donning so much as a scarf in January. Its streets are wide and, for the most part, arranged in a tidy, easily navigable grid.

But to ride in Miami is to be among the few and the hunted. Florida ranks among the highest in bicycle fatalities in the nation — second only to California — and in 2006, eight cyclists were killed on Miami roads; nearly 400 were injured. Such statistics are nebulous, though; many bicycle accidents go unreported. Even a crash that results in death might not be recorded as a bike fatality if the victim dies at the hospital.

While most of the county's bike planning exists in a cryogenic freeze, Miami Beach's has begun to thaw. The city went from having a single four-block bike lane in 2004 to boasting five bike lanes, four of them within the past year — by Miami-Dade standards, a revolution. The lanes are largely the result of the efforts of local busybody, neighborhood activist, and BPAC member Gabrielle Redfern, who is running for Miami Beach City Commission in the fall of 2009.

A true Miami Beach patriot, she rides the requisite beach cruiser, a bright olive green Trek painted with little flowers and equipped with a pretty reed basket. "I'm a middle-age Jewish lady who's running for commissioner," she explains, pedaling in the slow, comfortable way that people on the Beach do. "I have to ride a respectable bike."

Five years ago, during her first, unsuccessful bid for a commission seat, Redfern raised a stink when Miami Beach was designated a Bicycle-Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists. The city had won only a bronze medal, but even so, Redfern's suspicions were immediately aroused: At the time, Miami Beach didn't have a single bike lane.

According to the league's director, Bill Nester, the city's application — submitted by its former director of environmental resources, Bruce Henderson — boasted of 11 miles of bike lanes. Miami Beach has since been removed from the organization's Bicycle-Friendly roster. The city hasn't reapplied.

"They say it's not safe to ride on Alton Road. But it's not safe because there are no bike lanes. Bicycles will never be transportation vehicles until people feel safe to use them."
As we cruise down Meridian Avenue, a driver revs his car engine and pulls in front of us. The passenger's head juts out the window. "You don't bike in the middle of the fucking road, bitch!" he yells, and the car tears off."

To see the full article go to The Miami New Times

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