Pier Raccuglia is no wimp when it comes riding bicycles. On Saturday mornings, he dons a bright white spandex suit and launches into an 80-mile loop stretching from Kendale Lakes to Pinecrest. He looks yanked from a Tour de France calendar on his $10,000 Canondale SystemSix, the tricked-out Porsche of the peddling world.
So it means something when the muscular 42-year-old says, "I am horrified of buses." He has good reason to be. Last January 3, the Puerto Rican-born hotelier was cycling through the intersection of Biscayne Boulevard and 14th Street when he noticed a Miami-Dade Transit bus tailgating him. It was just after 9 a.m., and the street was nearly empty. "All of a sudden, I hear this big, loud noise. The next thing I remember, I am on the sidewalk screaming in pain."
The bus sideswiped Raccuglia, threw him to the ground, and pinned him into the gutter, according to court documents. It crunched the bones in his right foot, totaled his bike, and left him immobile for five months.
Last week, he filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming the bus operator acted like a meth-head trucker: She drove aggressively, even crazily, with no regard for the smaller vehicles around her.
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His lawyer, Mark Kaire, has worked three cases in which Miami-Dade buses have injured cyclists in a ten-year span.(In a separate incident, three weeks ago, a private bus ran over a biker named Jerry Rosen's legs on Ocean Drive.)
"It was pain like you've never felt," Raccuglia remembers. "What pissed me off -- pardon my French -- is that the driver didn't get out of the bus to help me. And she never apologized."
Miami-Dade spokesperson Marie Bertot declined to comment, citing pending litigation. The county should better train its transit employees, Kaire says. "They drive behemoth vehicles with no regard for cyclists. If you drive around in circles long enough, it does something to your brain."