A loud thump made onlookers wince. During rush hour this past November 16, at the east end of the Venetian Causeway, a Beach Towing truck flipped an illegal U-turn and smashed into a fit, brown-eyed biker.
The 19-year-old cyclist, Javier Arjona, was "thrown to the ground," according to police reports. It shattered his teeth, broke his right arm, and scraped the skin off of his face. The crash left a large dent in the side of the truck.
An ambulance rushed Arjona to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he sat in a wheelchair, wearing a torn gray T-shirt and looking helpless.
Tow truck driver Raymond Serna Jr. has a less than stellar driving record. During a seven-month stretch, the 27-year-old racked up the following charges: careless driving, failing to yield at a stop sign, no proof of insurance, and no registration. (Robert Switkes, a lawyer for Beach Towing, did not return calls for comment.)
Even so, Arjona got a ticket for "riding in the median lanes."
Although he is partly responsible for the collision (he was riding against traffic), he had few choices: Ride on the sidewalk, merge onto a road with no shoulder, or, as he was doing, cross the street to get to the bike lane headed west. The accident raises questions about safety at an intersection that for years has made cyclists cringe.
The Venetian Causeway is arguably the county's best urban bike ride, with one exception: Heading toward Miami Beach, the bike lane ends abruptly and the road splits. It thrusts cyclists into a chaotic, Hummer-and-scooter-packed South Beach strip with almost no shoulder. It's a dramatic shift from the serene waterfront views and well-marked bike lanes just a few yards west.
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Says Rydel Deed, who runs Miami Bike Scene blog: "When you get there, it's like, 'Oh, shit, what do I do now?'" He wants the city to add a well-marked sign that lets drivers know cyclists may use the full lane. "There's no space to share the road on the bridge, so you have to just take it."
City of Miami Beach spokesperson Nannette Rodriguez adds, "As a driver, you have to allow bikers a three-foot clearance."
Towing companies, take note.