By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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There are only 61 miles of bike lanes in the whole county, half of them added slowly over the past five years, according to the Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization. According to the city's bicycle master plan, another 16 miles will be built by 2015. By comparison, the city of Portland, with a fifth of Miami-Dade's population, boasts more than 100 miles of bike lanes.
"I've never seen a city so naked," says Gabrielle Redfern of BASIC, a local cycling activist group. "More people are on the roads, and the friction between cyclists and car drivers is growing every day."
Two days before Luis Meza's death, Rodolfo Rojo would have graduated from Doctors Charter School in Miami Shores. The 17-year-old cyclist, who could usually be spotted wearing a ratty beanie and helmet with his floppy black curls occasionally poking through, had bright prospects. He had just been accepted to Columbia and Cornell.
As he was heading out on Halloween, riding close to the curb on a narrow stretch of North Biscayne Boulevard with no bike lane, a speeding driver fatally struck him. Instead of a diploma, he got a ghost bike at an intersection with a Hess station and Secrets, a strip joint advertising "Girls! Girls! Girls!"
"He was doing what he should have been doing," his mother, Claudia Fernandez, says. "He was wearing a helmet, lights. But that doesn't matter because the city wasn't prepared for him. If I'd known how dangerous it was, maybe I wouldn't have bought him the bike."
City and county officials defend their efforts to improve roads for bikers. In the past two years, they've paid for road safety ads and organized monthly community rides. David Henderson, the county's bicycle coordinator, points out he teaches classes once or twice a year — in English — on road safety.
But even Colin Worth, the city's bicycle coordinator, says there's still a long way to go. He pins the blame on the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). "Their focus is on those large highway projects," he says. "From my perspective, I have to beg and scream to get anything from them. It's an uphill battle."
FDOT spokesman Brian Rick admits there's room for improving the county's roads, but often "the constraints of space and cost preclude the consideration" of bicycle lanes.
Meanwhile, Delfina Meza must leave the apartment she can no longer pay alone. "I replay the events of that day over and over, and I keep thinking maybe there's something else I could have done," she says, whispering, hoping her boy won't hear her talking about his father. "But it's no use thinking about that now."
Disconnected from Miami's bike activists, Luis Meza never got a ghost bike of his own. In its place, Delfina and her son decorated one of the trees near the accident with plastic stars and a bouquet of flowers, where amid the neighborhood's manicured lawns, it now sits withered and forgotten.