We met with staff from Commissioner Gimenez’s office today. The main purpose of the meeting was to establish face-to-face communication; you don’t get everything you want from blogging and e-mailing (obviously).
The Coalition had a lot of questions; here’s the breakdown:
We presented them with key issues that we have been working on and/or that we’ve been asked to work on from you:
- What’s the deal with the police targeting cyclists on the Rickenbacker?
- Safety on the Rickenbacker – perhaps extending the bike lane into normal travel lanes on Sunday mornings as a study
- Will the Commissioner help us with FDOT on the Brickell Campaign?
- Law enforcement: We want more transparency, action targeted at stopping parking in bike lanes and speeding county-wide.
1) We are about to beat a dead horse here so please… wait for it: YOU NEED TO COMPLAIN YOURSELVES. (Wha?) When motorists gets ticked off by cyclists slowing them down, whether it is valid or not, they often call or email Commissioner Gimenez. The Commissioner can’t vouch for them, but he can and does pass on their complaints to the Police, who now have quite a few of these letters and calls. The police protocol is to use targeted action to respond to complaints (in this case, to limit unlawful behavior by cyclists), first by offering warnings and some tickets, then lots of tickets and then (hopefully) getting to the point where people start following the rules. It’s like speed traps – just like speed traps, which is something we have been asking for… but really need to show more public support for.
Two big issues here – and we need your help. If Police target you for breaking the law, please STOP BREAKING THE LAW. If you think you should be allowed to roll through Stop Signs or Red Lights, that is a separate issue. We do not feel that we will get an ‘Idaho Law‘ passed by routinely demonstrating a disregard for the law as it stands now. If you stop, police will stop ticketing the behavior and (bonus!) cyclists get a reputation for listening rather than disrespect. We’re not saying it’s entirely that simple, but this is a big part of how it works. Won’t you try? (Or not – but this is my experience here and I really think it’s worth the effort – Kathryn)
Most importantly, Report motorists’ illegal behavior. After your ride, email – I’m Jane Doe. I was riding passed MAST at 10am and saw two red SUVs racing – it scared me, what are you doing about it? Or, I saw a guy parked in the bike lane and his car did not look disabled. His plate is EB307B and it was at 9:30 on the Powell Bridge.
THE POWELL BRIDGE: Technically, there is no bike lane on the Powell Bridge. The bike lane is absorbed by a breakdown lane so if a car is disabled, that is where it is supposed to go. COMPLAIN – get the public record to show that hundreds of cyclists have witnessed cars parked there and clearly they are not all broken down. Something must be done. This WILL get police addressing this real safety concern. Alternatively, if all these cars really are in distress – or enforcement doesn’t work (unlike with cyclists, right?), then we suggested the bike lane should be redirected into a shared use lane marking on the far right lane. It’s dangerous coming down that bridge at full speed, confined in a bike lane, only to find a truck there – the road design should encourage safety if enforcement doesn’t cut it.
2. Commissioner Gimenez is not interested in closing any traffic lanes/ temporarily expanding the bike lane to overlap traffic lanes/separate either side of the Rick into a bike-only section with cones on Sunday mornings as a study. His primary (and entirely legitimate, we think) reason is that cyclists in the past have vocally responded negatively to such an idea. We concede that it would be a logistic challenge, cost lots of money, potentially impact the special events (including races) on the Rick, etc. So, do we really want it? If we do, let’s organize, do some research into how it would work ourselves and come back to him. We are in and so is the Commissioner if you are. Fair enough?
3. The Commissioner will personally present our letter to FDOT Secretary Gus Pego. Just like he does with issues related to the Police – the Commissioner respects his constituents’ concerns and wants to ensure our voices are heard and opinions, at minimum, respected. (Thanks for being %^& at the public meeting. It so helped! I couldn’t help it…)
4. Transparency, equitable and effective law enforcement, road user education, police education: All good. Gimenez’s staff didn’t know parking in the bike lane was such a frequent issue (Email them!) This issue is increasingly important as more people ride for transportation and recreation. We need dialogue and we want more tickets for motorists who speed, pass too closely and impede bike lanes, among others. An hour into our 1 and 1/2 hour meeting, it was abundantly clear that this face-to-face conversation was a good thing – but we need it with the Miami-Dade County Police Department, too. We’re working together (collaboration, people!) to get a meeting first thing in January and will, as always, keep you in the loop. Please help by keeping us and the Commissioner in the loop, too.
On a personal note, dear reader:
I write this blog because I believe that the Bike Coalition is making a difference – but we are not a coalition, nor a sustainable organization, if we aren’t working with you. Help us by telling us what more we can do together – our leadership team is just a handful of people right now + your part-time staffer (me), but it’s growing. We want your involvement, your suggestions, your rants, too. More than all of that – we want to encourage you, empower you to advocate for yourselves, your road and your right to bicycle – more often and more safely. Stand up and be a role model for better bicycling! There are so many of us! Just think what we can do if we coordinate our efforts! We at the Bike Coalition think bridging gaps between all the different kinds of pro-bicycling groups in South Florida is the most effective way to do this and we aim toward a time when what we’re doing isn’t necessary.
– Yours, Kathryn