This past weekend, eighteen bicyclists received tickets (at $176 a pop) for rolling through stop signs along the Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami’s top training destination for recreational cycling. The South Florida Bike Coalition supports law enforcement of all traffic offenses but here we had to cry foul – What would motivate the Miami-Dade Police Department to assign six of their officers to suddenly target people bicycling?
It turns out that County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez demanded the crackdown after learning that some Key Biscayne residents (his constituents) were frustrated by cyclists
sharing the public roadway in a peloton that reportedly rode in a single mass of 200 riders the previous weekend. Since the early morning riders who train along the Rickenbacker Causeway often do not come to a complete stop at certain intersections (instead they only slow down and roll through after getting a signal from the leader of the group), this was an easy way to give out 18 traffic tickets and many more warnings.
The traffic code does not differentiate between cars going full speed through red lights and cyclists who roll through stop signs on a near empty road at 8am on Sundays, the fine is high: $176. We know many of you already who were caught and we are sad mostly because we want you to ride safely. When pelotons swell from 5-15 to 50-200+ bicycles, they effectively block non-bicycle access to Key Biscayne and dangerously impede emergency vehicles. This behavior is almost always unnecessary and always illegal. We believe that every time you ride, you are a role model and have the opportunity to demonstrate to others that we who ride have respect for the law, the road and others. Still, this crackdown just doesn’t make sense to us and we are concerned that it is part of a growing local law enforcement trend to isolate, intimidate and criminalize people who bicycle.
This is how the South Florida Bike Coalition is responding, as of this morning:
- We are meeting with Miami-Dade Police Captain Singleton to discuss the crackdown and collect data on how many warnings vs. tickets were issued to cyclists and motorists over the weekend and throughout 2010. We hope to illustrate what cyclists are experiencing – that what is needed is increased crackdowns on speeding and careless driving on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
- We are meeting with Commissioner Gimenez‘s staff (and hopefully the Commissioner himself, this to be determined) to discuss his decision to drive such a crackdown so we can better understand it.
- We are collecting stories from those of you who were warned and ticketed so we have as much information as possible.
- We are asking you to call the Commissioner’s office yourself at 305-375-5680 and ask him why he chose to prioritize cyclists rolling through stops over speeding and other traffic offenses regularly seen on the Causeway. We encourage you to ask his staff to take your name and # and follow up with you about what Commissioner Gimenez is doing to ensure safety of all road users in the future. This will make a difference. Please tell us about the response you receive.
The Bike Coalition wants people to ride bikes more often, legally and safely. We will help provide legal counsel to those who are wronged by police or policymakers for/while bicycling. We are not here to defend those of you who break the law; we are hoping to leverage this weekend’s crackdown for increased law enforcement directed toward speeding and reckless driving. You can help.
If you have ideas, suggestions or a story to share with us, please contact us at 305.982.7343 or SFBikeCoalition@yahoo.com.
Ride Safely, South Florida.