Five Signs Miami Is a Nightmare for Bicyclists

Photo by Karli Evans
A few local politicians are trying to make it safer to ride a bike here. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell has pushed for painted bike lanes downtown, which cyclists love but drivers now blame for screwing up traffic patterns in the area. But anyone who's ever ridden a bike here knows just how necessary protected lanes are: Without them, you truly take your life in your hands when cycling in Miami.

Here's some recent evidence about how dangerous it still is to bike in the Magic City:

1. This nightmare GoPro video of a standard Miami-area bike ride, in which the rider nearly dies a thousand times:

2. One biker got nailed by a car in South Beach, but police issued him a $180 fine:
Jon Ranellone was cycling home in South Beach around 1 a.m. last Friday when a car slammed into him. The accident, in front of the Panera at 14th Street, threw him from his bike onto the asphalt.

But that wasn't the worst part of the ordeal, the video editor says; as he lay on the ground near his mangled bike, police officers handed him a $180 ticket for allegedly riding his bike against traffic in the street. Ranellone says he was using the sidewalk, not the street, and the ticket ignores the fact that he was a victim. 

3. The only causeway semisafe for biking is the Venetian, which has a mechanically unreliable drawbridge and is often closed for repairs:

Via Miami Today:
The Florida Department of Transportation’s study of the Venetian Causeway that began last October to address known structural and functional deficiencies of the 12 bridges that make up the causeway is moving ahead to determine whether to rehabilitate, replace or do nothing to those bridges. The county’s stated aim, however, is complete replacement.

The historic causeway, built in 1926, connects a cluster of 11 man-made residential islands with ten fixed bridges and two bascule bridges.

As recently as last year, the causeway’s West Venetian Bascule Bridge was repaired for $12.4 million, adding 60 years of life to the bridge. It reopened on Feb. 29, 2016. 
New Times warned in 2015 that Venetian closings could lead to more bike deaths too.

4. Miami is one of the deadliest cities in America when it comes to bike deaths:
By all measures, Miami is one of the nation's least safe cities on two wheels. Florida as a whole has the most bicycle fatalities in the nation and has the four deadliest cities for cyclists. (Miami is fourth, after Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando.) Between 2010 and 2014, 47 cyclists died across Miami; another 3,591 were injured.

"In Miami, you have to ride aggressively in order to make yourself seen," says Karim Nahim, manager of the Miami Bicycle Shop, who's been riding in Miami since the '90s. "Any way you ride here, it's dangerous."

South Florida has made improvements in recent years. Miami now boasts an expansive bike-sharing program, a smattering of green bike lanes, and signs that signal to drivers to "share the road." Yet statistically, things are actually getting worse. Across Miami-Dade, fatalities jumped a startling 260 percent between 2012 and 2014, while injuries increased 34 percent. 

5. City of Miami Police spokesperson Kenia Fallat drove her unmarked cop car into a bicyclist Thursday, but the cyclist ended up getting arrested for throwing his bike at the car:

Officer Kenia Fallat, a spokesperson for the Miami Police Department, was driving an unmarked cop car yesterday when she hit 19-year-old Jimmy John's sandwich-delivery bicyclist Mason Morales.

Yet somehow it was Morales who eventually ended up in jail on criminal mischief charges.

According to a police report and an anonymous tipster who sent photos of the crash's aftermath to New Times, Morales was biking at the intersection of NW Miami Court and West Flagler Street, just across from the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. Witnesses, who declined to be named because they feared speaking to the press would affect their jobs, say the unmarked car nailed the biker just before 3 p.m. yesterday.

After Morales was hit, the angry cyclist grabbed his bike and threw it at the car, according to the police and the witnesses. But those who watched the crash say Morales appeared to have no idea he'd been hit by a cop car until Fallat emerged. Fallat then called another officer to the scene, who handcuffed Morales and charged him with misdemeanor criminal mischief for throwing the bike.

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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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