We received the following report from Ali Gonzenbach, an experienced cyclist who was struck by a vehicle in Coconut Grove this week. It shows some questionable police behavior and raises many questions.
On October2, 2012 at 9:20am while cycling I was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Oak Street and Mary Street in Coconut Grove. After fully stopping on Tigertail (which turns into Oak) I signaled my left hand turn onto Mary Street. I was almost out of the intersection when a Black Nissan Murano struck the right hand side of my bike. The vehicle “t-boned” me.
I fell to the ground, but luckily I was only lightly hurt and my bike was not damaged. The driver stopped and two passing cyclists helped me to move my bike to the corner sidewalk. I immediately called 911 and spoke not a word to the driver. While waiting for the responding officer, the driver asked if I was OK and then said “well…” as to indicate there was no need to call the police. I responded, “No, you hit me. This is how it’s done.” An officer arrived within 3 minutes and asked if I was OK. We both relayed what happened, the driver indicating that she did not see me and that she hit me.
The responding officer did not ask the driver for identification, vehicle registration, or proof of insurance. The officer then stated that because there were “no witnesses” there was “nothing she could do.” She stated she “couldn’t write a report.”
Once at home I called the Miami Police Department and inquired as to their policies regarding writing reports for vehicle and bicycle crashes. After emailing the responding officer’s supervisor, he quickly called me. I asked his policy regarding this type of incident and he stated that reports are avoided if no one is injured and there is no damage done because the reports take “about an hour to fill out and this is time when our officers can be on the street.” He also stated that checking identification is up to the officer, in cases where no damage or injury occurred. He was polite and spoke to me for about 15 minutes, but was unable to give me any specific information regarding policy. Luckily, I was aware enough to get the responding officer’s name and badge number, as well as the vehicle tag number for the car that struck me. I am rather incensed that the officer did not even inform me that I could write a report. Rather she stated, “there is nothing I can do.” This is an unacceptable response from an officer whose job it is to protect citizens. It is also curious – to say the least – that the Miami Police Department does not appear to be concerned with enforcing traffic rules.
We can very much understand Ali’s frustration. We don’t want to get too bogged down in the details, but this situation is troubling. We have some questions for the Miami Police Department as this is not the first time we have encountered behavior regarding cyclists and pedestrians who are all too often regarded as second-class citizens (yes, this is incendiary language, but there are plenty of examples to support this). Police work is difficult, we don’t dispute that and police officers obviously have some discretion in the decisions they make.
But police work also must show that police officers and the system in which they work care about the safety of all road users. This is an example of how the safety of a cyclist is not taken seriously and especially important in a place that suffers from what you can call “broken windows syndrome”, where the traffic rules are so little enforced so as to render them almost meaningless. The explanation that it would take too long for an officer to write up a report (they do have ten days to do so) shows how low of a priority this appears to be for the Miami Police Department. That being said, here are some concrete questions for the Miami PD:
- Why did the officer not cite the driver, given that the driver admitted to having made contact with the cyclist?
- Why did the officer not – at the very least – file a crash report?
- What are the standard operating procedures of the Miami Police Department regarding accidents involving cyclists?
- To what extent does the incident as described above (assuming the description is correct) constitute a failure of such standard operating procedure?
We would be grateful to hear from the Miami Police Department. We will email Chief Orosa and post his reply (with his permission only) should one be forthcoming.