By David Villano
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By Michael E. Miller
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By Frank Owen
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When Adam Sohn came upon an accident scene on Oakland Park Boulevard Thursday, January 2, he saw a messed-up bicycle and an injured man on the ground. He took a few pictures and posted them to the Facebook page for Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass — a movement of cycling activists who get together for a group bike ride once a month. Critical Mass rides around the world sometimes attract thousands of riders; Fort Lauderdale's has boomed to 200 or 300.
It was only after Sohn posted the picture that he realized the injured man was Critical Mass ride leader Ray Strack. (Well, technically, the organization is leaderless, but Strack has been the guy in front setting the route at the rides since the Fort Lauderdale group began in January 2011.) Strack, a former customs agent, is known for cracking jokes and wearing tuxedos or bow ties during rides. He's been called a "bicycle bodhisattva," "a tough SOB," "a dear friend," "the best dad around," and "a larger-than-life personality [whose] zest for life is so infectious you walk away wanting him as your best friend."
Strack was taken to the emergency room, where he was treated for a fracture of the T9 vertebra in his back. Deep cuts on his head required several staples and stitches. Strack's daughter Emily Denise-Mairéad Strack told New Times he had been riding on the bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway "when he was hit from behind. The driver was a young man around 20; my dad said he didn't even sense any danger. He blacked out, doesn't remember anything."
Emily told supporters on Facebook: "his sense of humor is intact... unluckily they had to shave off part of his signature long hair... Wear your helmet, it saved his life!"
A police report showed that the driver of a red Mazda, Christian Alexander Stewart of Fort Lauderdale, was behind another vehicle and could not see ahead of it. When that vehicle switched lanes, Stewart glanced down to change gears and saw Strack only a second before he collided with him. Stewart was given a citation for failing to exercise due care — a noncriminal traffic infraction.
Bike riders hoped the incident would bring attention to safety issues. Green Mobility Network has called South Florida "one of the most dangerous places in the country for bicyclists and pedestrians." Jim Wolfe of the Florida Department of Transportation told New Times the agency is having internal discussions about revising its policy on bike lanes, increasing the recommended standard width from four feet to five.
Last Friday, Strack's family said he was home but in a great deal of pain. He did not respond to a texted request for comment but posted a Facebook update: "Left home for a loaf of bread on Thursday, grateful to be home alive on the following Monday. What a humbling experience this life is... Our bicycle community is full of life and love, strong and growing stronger. Let's keep up the pressure to make the streets safer for everyone."