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Early Thursday morning, my WhatsApp was filled with photos of yet another bike accident in Miami.
A group of cyclists chose what they regard as a safe place to do an interval workout – along Arthur Lamb Jr. Road inside of Virginia Key Park.
As a pair from the group was headed back toward the Rickenbacker Causeway, they were cut off and hit by a car turning into the wastewater treatment facility. The impact was so great that the car’s fender fell off and the windshield was shattered. The cyclist hit the hardest was sent to Jackson Memorial Hospital. He survived, but he was badly injured.
To be hit inside the confines of a park is only a little less crazy than being hit inside your home while on a treadmill. A park should be a pretty safe place to exercise.
Those that know me understand that I love Miami wholeheartedly, even with all of its challenges. But the accident highlights a growing problem in our community – a lack of proactive attention to small details.
Virginia Key is arguably the most utilized urban park for biking in Miami-Dade. Hundreds of cyclists every day include it in their route when riding the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Its main road is also the access road to a large wastewater treatment facility, with trucks and cars entering in the early mornings, when riders are out there. Yet, the road has no markings or signage that might remind drivers that the road is shared.
We’re constantly looking for the next big idea, when small fixes could make a big difference and what we already have is deteriorating. We wait so long to make minor adjustments and enhancements that eventually we need entire overhauls.
Maintenance and frequent, minor improvements aren’t sexy. But the small things, especially when it comes to bike safety, whether it be signage or arrows on the floor or simple green paint, all add up to something meaningful.
They don’t cost a lot, but when they get neglected for years, the cost of making them workable rises, and then you need major political support to get them done – or maybe even a series of tragedies to move that needle.
I am not pointing the finger at any one entity or person. I am simply calling for a change in the way we think of making Miami better. Pilot projects, “quick-builds” and other grassroot ideas, as small as they may seem, are important to see what works and to build momentum for conversations about large-scale projects.
Don’t get me wrong. I am one of the most vocal advocates for just about every multimillion dollar project we have on the table, from Plan Z, to the Ludlam Trail, to the Underline. But it’s hard for Miamians to have vision or appetite for the big projects if they don’t see maintenance and improvement attempts.
I know we can’t do it all, but as citizens we have to do more to let our voices be heard. Some things are quite obvious, but they still need champion voices.
Now, go through the list of shares and likes on the post about this accident. See if any elected official wrote anything on there. I haven’t seen a single one. They wouldn’t accomplish much by ranting on social media, but I am hoping that if they did read it, it will inspire them to press for ways to incrementally make things better.
I will recognize our local officials for the improvements made to the Rickenbacker, such as the green painted bike lanes, rumple strips to alert the driver when they drift and more frequent police presence to deter speeding by cars. Those are examples of incremental changes that brought us up a few years.
But we are still behind. And we can’t wait for a tragedy to make things better.
In today’s extraordinarily competitive environment to retain and attract the world’s best and brightest, those projects are a necessity, not luxuries. Outdoor recreation is a new essential to Miami and paying consistent attention to the small details is what makes recreation safe, appealing and accessible.
I urge Miamians and its leaders to see recreation as a major reason why someone chooses to live in Miami, or even visit. Everything outside in this town should be seen as a priority.
Recreation is part of why you live and part of why you work. C’mon. What’s a city where you can’t enjoy a safe bike ride, or a run or walk with a friend?